2013 Football, Game 9: The Citadel vs. Samford

The Citadel vs. Samford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 2. 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. It is also possible to listen to the game via a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

The Citadel game notes

Samford game notes

SoCon weekly release

The Kevin Higgins Show

Kevin Higgins on the SoCon media teleconference

Pat Sullivan on the SoCon media teleconference

The Dogs are “down, but not out”

Jeff Hartsell’s three points about the Chattanooga game

Game story from the Chattanooga contest

Non-football link: my preview of the upcoming season for The Citadel’s basketball team

Hey, it’s Homecoming! Things you ought to know:

Ye olde Homecoming press release, with schedule of events

The Citadel’s freshman and sophomore wrestlers compete in The Citadel Open, beginning at 9 am on Saturday

The rifle and volleyball squads are both on the road on Saturday

Soccer’s season ended on Wednesday

Oh, and there is also a football game…

First, let me be honest here: I didn’t really follow the Chattanooga game as it was going on last week. This is the time of year when I usually take a break from my regular autumn routine, which is normally A) work and B) obsessing over sports.

Taking a respite from the fall sports season can be helpful, at least for me. As it happens [mondo nerd alert], I saw Mussel-Fishers at Berneval in person instead of watching/listening to The Citadel lose a game it led almost the whole way. I feel good about that decision.

Because I am still catching up with last week’s action in the sports world (including The Citadel’s trip to Finley Stadium), and because of other factors beyond my control, this preview may be a bit more random than usual. I apologize in advance for that.

The rest of the season is going to be tough in terms of game previews, not as much because the Bulldogs are struggling, but because I’m going to be short of time. We live in a busy world.

I have no idea how I’m going to write the VMI game preview; I might just write a one-sentence post: “The Dogs better not lose to VMI.” (It’s not like anything else needs to be said for that game.)

Anyway, below are a few comments on Saturday’s opponent, followed by some friendly advice to alums heading down to Charleston for Homecoming.

Note: “Bulldogs” refers to The Citadel, while “Birmingham Bulldogs”, “SU”, or “Baptist Tigers” will have to do for Samford.

Samford is quite formidable this year. The Birmingham Bulldogs appear to be the best team in the SoCon and would be a major challenge for The Citadel even if the Cadets were having a good season.

Last year, I wrote of Samford:

This is a team with a lot of talented players. The question, I suppose, is whether Samford has enough depth across the board to be a contender for the league title.

Samford finished 7-4 last season, not quite good enough to win the SoCon, but still a very solid campaign. SU could not get past Georgia Southern or Appalachian State last year, and also lost a tough defensive battle at Chattanooga.

In 2013, Samford still has a lot of talented players, but it has made the jump to the top of the conference. SU has already taken care of business against App and GSU, and last week won at Wofford. Only UTC seems to stand in the way of a league title for the folks from Birmingham.

Offensively, Samford has been excellent. Taking Georgia Southern and Appalachian State out of the equation (because the NCAA doesn’t count those two schools in its FCS database), the Birmingham Bulldogs lead the SoCon in total offense, passing offense, and scoring offense, and are in the top 30 nationally in all three of those categories.

Samford’s numbers are skewed slightly by its pace of play, though this season SU is only averaging 67.1 plays per game, down slightly from 71.4 in 2012 and 75.6 in 2011. However, Samford has been much more efficient this year, averaging 6.6 yards per play, a significant increase from the 4.9 yards per play it averaged in 2012.

By contrast, The Citadel is averaging 63.8 plays per game on offense, and 5.7 yards per play. Last week, Wofford ran 82 plays against Samford (with 69 rushing attempts), but only averaged 4.1 yards per play.

Oddly, Samford has had issues in the second quarter this season, being outscored 71-42 in that frame. In the other three periods, Samford has a decisive edge in points.

The Citadel has lost two straight to Samford, and that streak could easily be three; the Bulldogs’ 13-12 win in 2010 was achieved thanks mostly to special teams and inspired D inside the red zone. Samford’s defense has had all the answers for The Citadel’s triple option attack in the three years Kevin Higgins has employed the offense.

In three games against Samford’s “Bear” defensive front, The Citadel has mustered a combined total of 34 points. In those three games, the Bulldogs faced third down on 39 occasions. The Citadel only converted six of them for first downs.

Samford’s D has basically forced The Citadel to beat it by going outside or over the top, and the Bulldogs have been unable to do so with any consistency in any of those games.

In terms of yards per play, Samford defensively has not been quite as good this season (5.3 this year, after holding opponents to 4.8 y/p in 2012). One thing that will probably help Samford’s defense is that The Citadel will be the third triple option team the Birmingham Bulldogs have faced in their last four contests.

Andy Summerlin is Samford’s starting quarterback, and is enjoying his sixth (and presumably final) season of college eligibility. Yes, I said sixth.

Summerlin is 25 years old. He started his career at Memphis, although even his stint there was delayed by a semester:

He’s seven years out of high school, and is listed as a sixth-year senior after being granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA because of injuries. He delayed college enrollment by a semester because of a high school injury.

Though he’s been at three different schools…

To tell the truth, I’m okay with Summerlin still getting a chance to play, but then I tend to lean to the “when in doubt, give the athlete a break” side of the ledger on these matters. It does seem a bit unfair, though, that Summerlin is good to go while The Citadel’s All-American wrestler, Khishignyam Undrakhbayar (better known as “Ugi”), is out of NCAA options after just one year as a competitor. Such are the vagaries of the NCAA.

At any rate, he’s having a fine season, completing passes at a 63.8% clip for an average of over 285 yards per game, with 17 TDs (to eight different receivers) against 7 interceptions. Summerlin has made his share of big plays this year, completing 15 passes for 30+ yards.

Summerlin is joined in the backfield by the outstanding Fabian Truss, one of the elite backs in the SoCon. Truss is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this season (the same as he did last year), and he is also a threat to catch the ball, with 27 receptions, good for 9.7 yards per catch.

Truss is also a great kick returner. He already has two 100-yard TD returns this season. Truss currently leads the nation in all-purpose yardage.

The top receiver for Samford is Kelsey Pope, who has 36 receptions this year, averaging a shade over 15 yards per catch. Against Georgia Southern, Pope had receptions of 58 and 83 yards (the latter for a TD).

Samford’s offensive line is big, averaging 6’3″, 288 lbs. Left guard Kasey Morrison, a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection, has started 30 games in his career.

On defense, expect Samford to stack the middle of the line and deny the give to the B-back. Two key players to watch along the d-line in this respect are DT Jeremy Towns (like Summerlin, a sixth-year player) and noseguard Jeremy Mathis, another experienced lineman (18 starts). Both Towns and Mathis are listed at 290+ lbs.

Middle linebacker Justin Shade is a tackling machine, and he’ll put you down before or after you get to the line of scrimmage. Shade has 90 tackles so far this season; he made 19 stops against Southeastern Louisiana and 15 versus Wofford. Shade has 12.5 tackles for loss, including seven sacks.

His father, Sam Shade, is Samford’s DBs coach. If you have a good memory, you may recall the elder Shade starring at Alabama before playing eight years in the NFL.

One of Sam Shade’s pupils, Jaquiski Tartt, is Samford’s best defensive player, and one of the best defenders in the league (if not the best). So far this season he only has one interception, but Bulldog fans will remember his pick-6 against The Citadel in last year’s contest.

Samford has a solid punter in Greg Peranich, now in his third year of handling the punting duties. Peranich is averaging 43.1 yards per punt, with 16 of those landing inside the 20. Seven of his punts have gone for 50+ yards.

The placekicker for the Birmingham Bulldogs is redshirt freshman Warren Handrahan, who is 11-13 on field goal tries with a long of 48. He has only missed one PAT.

Handrahan chose to wear a bow tie for his personal team picture, however, which automatically makes him a suspicious character.

So you’re an alum about to travel to Charleston for Homecoming weekend. Maybe you’re a season-ticket holder, maybe you go to a game or two each season, or maybe you haven’t seen a game since Johnson Hagood Stadium was renovated.

You probably know that The Citadel’s football team was supposed to be good this year, but instead has a record of 2-6, and is looking at a 3-9 or 4-8 type of season. Perhaps you would like to ask some questions about this, or some other things that are related to athletics.

I’m here to help!

First, however, there is one thing you should not do. It’s hard not to do, because it’s kind of traditional, but don’t do it…

Don’t complain about or blame the corps of cadets for any shortcomings.

Is the corps perfect? No. Was it perfect when you were in school? No, it wasn’t.

There will always be a bum (or two or three) in the crowd — and as a group, they may not show a great deal of enthusiasm about the gridiron festivities. Expect this.

Also expect, though, to find almost all of the cadets to be polite, respectful, smart, and driven. Today’s corps of cadets isn’t as good as it was in your day — it is better.

When you see problems within the corps, keep in mind that those problems are usually symptoms of a larger issue with the school itself. It’s not necessarily a reflection on the student body.

I think I’m lucky in that I am around campus just enough to get a general idea of things, but not enough to become disillusioned. You can get very cynical about The Citadel in a hurry if you’re there too long, as anyone who was ever a senior at the military college can attest.

If you’re not around at all, though, then it’s possible to assume the worst.

This isn’t to say the cadets should be completely immune from criticism; it’s just that some other things need to be fixed first before worrying too much about the corps. Let Leo Mercado worry about the corps.

It also doesn’t do the school any good when it is trying to recruit the best and the brightest, and at the same time some of its alums are whining about the current crop of students. That’s just counter-productive.

The bottom line: don’t go bananas about any slacker cadets. There have always been slackers. Maybe the notion of being a slacker cadet cuts a little close to the bone…

If you’re still with me following that harangue, here are some topics that are worth discussing. I’m assuming that the average alum reading this is the biggest of big shots, someone who knows all the major players at the school in the department of athletics and within the administration in general, and who can get a personal one-on-one with any school official at any time.

Here are some questions you might consider asking:

– With last week’s loss to Chattanooga, the Bulldogs are guaranteed to finish with a non-winning record. The Citadel has not had consecutive winning seasons in football since the 1990-92 campaigns.

That stretch of futility, now at 21 years and counting, is the longest such period in the history of the school, going back to the first football season (1905).

Your question(s): is it acceptable for The Citadel to not have any stretch of consistent success on the gridiron? What are the school’s goals on that front?

– You may have noticed that The Citadel isn’t doing a lot of winning in almost any sport as of late. Even the baseball team has had losing seasons in two of the last three years (though that program appears to have rebounded). The basketball team has averaged eight wins per season over the last three years, and has a winning percentage of 26% in SoCon play during that time.

There are several varsity sports (including tennis and golf) that have been particularly non-competitive in recent years.

Your question: given that the school seems to be doing very well overall, why hasn’t that institutional success crossed over into varsity athletics?

– The Citadel’s new (as of this year) long-term strategic plan is called the LEAD Plan 2018, which I wrote about in January. I would urge anyone with an interest in The Citadel to read the plan itself.

Included in the LEAD plan are goals such as increasing membership in the Brigadier Foundation by 25%, funding full scholarships in all sports, and endowing athletic scholarship funds by an additional $5 million.

Your question: is significant progress being made towards accomplishing any of those (or other) goals?

– There is soon going to be a changing of the guard, at least of the canine variety. General and Boo IX are retiring, and will be officially replaced as the school mascots on November 15 by the relentlessly cute G2 and BX.

Donations for care and upkeep of the dogs are always appreciated. The Citadel does not provide any funding for the dogs, which strikes more than a few people as ridiculous, given the popularity of the mascots.

To be fair, I can understand why the school doesn’t allocate funds for the mascot program. What puzzles me is why the powers that be don’t publicize the need for donations more often. I’m sure it’s just an oversight.

It was suggested to me a while back that at least one administrator is afraid that people will contribute to the mascots in lieu of something else. I choose not to believe that; if it were really true, then I would happily wait in line to dump that administrator into a vat of hydrochloric acid.

Your question (if you have some spare cash): would the school be interested in starting an endowment for the mascot program?

– While you were travelling to Charleston on your private jet, you noticed while perusing your favorite college football TV listings page that all six Big South teams will either be on TV and/or ESPN3.com this Saturday. Two of those games will be on regional nets or affiliates.

Meanwhile, Samford-The Citadel will be on ESPN3.com, an online platform. This is the second ESPN3.com appearance for The Citadel this season; the football team will probably get a PPV-only TV appearance at Clemson, but other than that the Bulldogs will not appear on television in 2013.

You probably remember the days when The Citadel appeared on regional TV once or twice per season. You may wonder why the SoCon can’t do a better job of getting its teams exposure, especially when you see what similarly-sized (or even smaller) conferences are able to do in that respect.

Your question: what can The Citadel do to increase its television exposure?

The last few questions should only be asked after you enter the stadium to watch the game.

– Why don’t we have any cheerleaders?

Note: this is a trick question. No matter what answer you get to that question, it will be wrong. There is no correct answer, as The Citadel obviously should have cheerleaders.

– How come the band only plays a few times during the game?

– Is there any reason why the loudspeaker system should play the (truly horrific) pop song “Come on Eileen” instead of having the band play during that time period?

– If the band isn’t going to play, could the school make more money by renting it out for weddings and bar mitzvahs during the game?

– Is it true that prior to the Furman game, the freshmen lined up in the ‘Block C’ formation and started to chant “C-I-T-A-D-E-L”, only to be drowned out by the loudspeaker system as it played a selection from ’80s glam-rock band Poison?

– Is it possible the atmosphere at the stadium is so dominated by the ad-intensive videoboard and the ridiculously loud (and ill-used) loudspeaker system that fewer fans go to the games as a result?

– Is there anyone in the department of athletics brave enough to inform adidas that the name of the school is “The Citadel”?

Okay, I think that’s enough…for now.

Last week, The Citadel started well and Samford started poorly. The Citadel led by 10 points at halftime; meanwhile, Samford’s first offensive possession resulted in a pick-6 for Wofford, one of four turnovers SU had in that game. Ultimately, though, one group of Bulldogs could not hang on for a victory, while the other overcame an early shock to win a critical road game.

The effort in Chattanooga was very good. The team has obviously not quit, which is a credit to the players (and the coaches). Still, effort in itself is not enough, and everyone knows it.

I don’t know how the team will play on Saturday. Samford is a very difficult matchup. I cringe just thinking about the Birmingham Bulldogs’ big-play capabilities, particularly through the air (as The Citadel has been susceptible to those types of passes).

I’ll be there on Saturday, meeting a few old friends and settling in to watch some pigskin. I’m hoping for the best. I’m not counting on it.