2013 Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel vs. Wofford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 7. The game will streamed on ESPN3.com, with play-by-play from Darren Goldwater and analysis by Paul Maguire. It can also be heard on radio via the thirteen affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. Danny Reed (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Josh Baker, with Lee Glaze roaming the sidelines and Walt Nadzak providing pre-game, halftime, and post-game commentary.

WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station for the network; the station will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game. 

Links of interest:

My (very brief) review post from Game 1

The Citadel’s game notes

Wofford’s game notes

SoCon weekly release

SoCon media teleconference — Kevin Higgins

SoCon media teleconference — Mike Ayers

The Kevin Higgins Show (YouTube)

There are a lot of things that can be said about the season opener against Charleston Southern, almost none of them positive from The Citadel’s perspective.

First and foremost, I want to focus on the last 65 seconds of the first half.

The situation:

The Citadel led 16-7, but Charleston Southern had scored on its previous possession (a 64-yard TD pass) and then forced a three-and-out from the Bulldogs offense. After a long punt return blunted by a personal foul penalty, CSU had the ball at midfield, first-and-10, with 1:05 to play in the first half. The Buccaneers had no timeouts remaining.

On first down, a sack moved the ball back to the CSU 41-yard line. At that point, head coach Kevin Higgins called his first timeout of the half. Why?

Higgins explained later:

We’re thinking, we’ll call a timeout, go block a punt before the half. We’ve done that for the last three years, used the same kind of strategy, see if we can block a punt or get a drive at the end of the half.

Charleston Southern gained nine yards on its next play, setting up third-and-10 at the 50. The clock kept running, and The Citadel did not use a timeout.

I’m not sure why you wouldn’t call the second timeout if the idea was to have time left to block a punt or set up a return. It wasn’t like it was third-and-1. It was third-and-10.

That decision led to several things, none of which were good for The Citadel. First, CSU essentially got a “free shot” at making a big play on offense with the clock running out, and the Bulldogs were lucky that the Bucs narrowly missed connections on a pass over the middle that would have gone for big yardage (if not a TD).

That incompletion stopped the clock with less than 20 seconds to play in the half. On fourth down, CSU punted. The Citadel did not rush the punter (I went back and looked at the video to make sure). A return was not exactly set up either (a fair catch was called prior to the muff). Why anyone was even back to attempt to catch the punt strikes me as a fair question.

If the timeout had not been called after first down, the half would have ended without a punt even occurring. Instead, the Bulldogs were put in a position to fail with no realistic potential for success.

After the fumble recovery, Charleston Southern had the ball at the Bulldog 19-yard line with 12 seconds left in the half, and no timeouts. The one thing the defense can’t give up in that situation is a TD pass.

Tackle the receiver before the ball gets to him if that’s what it takes to stop the completion. In the worst-case scenario, pass interference would have put the ball at the Bulldog 4 and left the Bucs only one play (possibly two) before the half, which likely would have been a field goal attempt. The defense just can’t let a pass be completed in the end zone there.

I understand you’re asking a player to do something that would probably be against his instincts as a defender. It’s also possible the coaches discussed the strategy (The Citadel called its second timeout after the punt) and it wasn’t properly executed. For those reasons, I’m not bothered as much by the TD play as I am the game management that preceded the punt.

At any rate, the last minute of the first half was the key sequence in the game, and it was badly mishandled by The Citadel.

There were other missteps, too. The Citadel went for two points too early (though that was at least somewhat defensible). The playcalling, particularly on the final offensive series, left a lot to be desired.

The defense let CSU saunter right down the field to open the third quarter, as easy a TD drive as you could want, and gave up the aforementioned long TD pass on a badly blown coverage. There were other forgettable moments, too.

That end-of-half debacle, though…that’s a hard one to shake off.

It was nice of Kevin Higgins to talk about the “great job” Jamey Chadwell and his staff did in preparing for the game, but his comments did not exactly make Bulldog fans feel better. Also, I’m sure Chadwell is a good coach, but he’s the same guy who elected to punt on fourth-and-6 from the Bulldog 34 in the second quarter, with his team down two scores.

Punting from inside your opponent’s 35 in that situation (or almost any situation) is a decidedly sub-optimal strategy. I’m not convinced yet that Chadwell is the Albert Einstein of college football, which makes the whole ‘it was hard for our offense because they used a bunch of defensive fronts’ thing all the more galling.

With all due respect to Charleston Southern, this game wasn’t about the Buccaneers doing anything particularly exceptional. It was about The Citadel handing CSU the contest on a silver platter with fancy trimmings. It wasn’t a “disappointing loss”; it was a disastrous, unacceptable one.

I’ll wait until a later time (perhaps next week) to write about some of the ancillary elements from last Saturday, including the noticeable lack of cheerleaders and the disappointing crowd attendance. I’m very curious to see if there will be any changes in terms of off-field activities.

For example, will the band be allowed to play following the kickoff? Sometimes during the game I forget The Citadel even has a band, to be honest.

This is the seventh time in the last eight years the game between The Citadel and Wofford is being televised over the air (SportSouth, SCETV, etc.) or streamed on ESPN3.com. For the second year in the row, the game is on ESPN3.com, and for the second year in the row the announcers are Darren Goldwater and Paul Maguire.

The Citadel’s 42-20 victory in the season finale against Furman last year was only the second time in the Kevin Higgins era that the Bulldogs had won a televised/ESPN3-streamed game. Goldwater was the gamecaller for ESPN3.com that day too (with analyst Doug Chapman). It would be novel to win two in a row on ESPN3.com.

The average score between Wofford and The Citadel had been 34-14 in the seven years prior to last year’s game, which was obviously much closer. Among other items of interest, Wofford was penalized for 59 yards in that contest, almost twice as many yards as the Terriers had been penalized against the Bulldogs in the previous four games combined.

However, Wofford did not commit a turnover against the Bulldogs last year. That has been a trouble spot for The Citadel over the past few years against all opponents, one that emerged again last Saturday when the Bulldogs failed to force a turnover against Charleston Southern.

It is hard to judge anything about Wofford based on its game against Baylor, which the Terriers lost 69-3. I believe that Baylor is going to be one of the elite offensive teams in the country this year, and a serious contender for the Big XII title. Very few teams are going to be able to handle the Bears’ speed and general offensive execution; Wofford certainly couldn’t.

If you want to see the Wofford-Baylor game for yourself, you can, and in an extremely handy 50-minute package: Link

Tangent: That video is part of something the Big XII does for all its games that is called “No Huddle”, a concept that is undeniably awesome. All the plays, none of the fluff, loaded up to YouTube the Monday after the games. More of that, please.

Wofford injury report:

There were no major injuries in the Baylor game.

That is in the Wofford game notes. However, from Todd Shanesy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal:

Wofford halfbacks Cam Flowers and Ray Smith, who suffered concussions last week in the game at Baylor, will be tested Friday to see whether they can make the trip to The Citadel…

…Flowers, a third-year sophomore from Damascus, Ga., made his second career start Saturday against Baylor and had four carries for 13 yards. Smith, a true sophomore who is Dorman High School’s all-time leading rusher, had three carries for 15 yards. He was listed as the backup to the other starting halfback, sophomore Will Gay from T.L. Hanna. Octavius Harden, a sophomore from Conover, N.C., was behind Flowers.

Flowers and Smith were two of the eight Terriers who got carries against The Citadel in last year’s game. Gay and Harden also saw action in that contest (Gay scoring a touchdown).

Wofford has plenty of fullback/halfback types, so if Flowers and/or Smith can’t go, the Terriers should still be in good shape. Wofford also returns the two wideouts who caught passes against the Bulldogs (Jeff Ashley and Will Irwin).

Starting fullback Donovan Johnson rushed for 473 yards last season as the backup to now-graduated Eric Breitenstein. A lot of that yardage came from the halfback position, as Breitenstein (understandably) saw the bulk of the time at FB.

The Terriers only returned two starting offensive linemen from last year’s squad, but they’re both good ones. Jared Singleton and Ty Gregory were each named to the SoCon’s preseason all-conference first team. There is still competition for at least one spot along the Wofford line.

Then there is the quarterback position. With one year of eligibility remaining, Brian Kass elected to transfer to Coastal Carolina. With Kass out of the picture, three players have battled for the Terriers’ starting QB spot. James Lawson started two late-season games for Wofford last season and also opened behind center against Baylor. He will likely start against The Citadel, but both Evan Jacks and Michael Weimer are expected to play.

Wofford lost six starters off its defense, but returns preseason all-league pick Alvin Scioneaux at outside linebacker. Free safety James Zotto had six tackles against the Bulldogs last season, tied for the most by a Terrier in that game. Two of Wofford’s starters along the defensive line are back, including second-team SoCon selection Tarek Odom and 6’2″, 290-lb. noseguard E.J. Speller.

Starting defensive end Hunter Thurley (a redshirt freshman) is 6’4″, but listed at just 245 lbs. In general, Wofford’s d-line is undersized (Speller is a notable exception) and the linebackers are tall and rangy.

Kasey Redfern handles all the kicking duties for the Terriers. Will Gay is Wofford’s punt returner and is usually joined on kickoffs by Cameron Flowers, though Flowers’ status will be in doubt up until gametime.

Odds and ends:

– I am not a big fan of Ben Dupree returning punts. I’ll hope for the best.

– Based on the two-deep in The Citadel’s game notes, it appears Tyler Renew may not get cleared by the NCAA in time for Saturday’s game. Shaunn Middleton is listed as Darien Robinson’s backup. Incidentally, Renew was listed in last week’s game notes as the second-team B-Back.

– Nick Jeffreys is listed as the tight end on the two-deep. No other player is listed at the position.

– Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium for Wofford’s past four visits: 11,290 (2005), 14,879 (2007), 15,155 (2009 — Homecoming), 12,316 (2011)

The last time Wofford entered the game against The Citadel with as many questions as the Terriers have this season, it was 2009. That wasn’t an early-season situation, though. In 2009, Wofford suffered through a series of injuries and finished with a 3-8 record.

One of those three victories was a 43-17 win over the Bulldogs, as listless a Homecoming performance from The Citadel as I’ve ever seen in person at Johnson Hagood Stadium. I am not sure what to expect from The Citadel in this year’s game, but it better not resemble anything like that.

I don’t think it will. I expect the Bulldogs to come out fired up and ready to prove something.

That doesn’t mean I expect a victory, though. A win for The Citadel on Saturday night is probably not in the cards.

Having said that: while I’m frustrated, and a little disgusted, and not all that confident the team can recover from its opening-night failure…I’m not giving up on this team. It’s my team, no matter what.

I’ll be cheering them on at Johnson Hagood Stadium this Saturday night, and I hope many other people will be doing the same.

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