2015 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern

The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 26. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Kevin Fitzgerald providing play-by-play and Sadath Jean-Pierre supplying the analysis.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

Preview of Charleston Southern-The Citadel from The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Charleston Southern

SoCon weekly release

Big South weekly release

Mike Houston on the SoCon teleconference

Jamey Chadwell on the Big South teleconference

Mike Houston’s 9/22 press conference (with comments from James Riley and Eric Goins)

The Mike Houston Show (radio)

The preview in The Post and Courier largely focused on the future of the series between The Citadel and Charleston Southern.

It is a topic that is vaguely reminiscent of last year’s kerfuffle over basketball scheduling between the two schools (along with the College of Charleston). It’s not quite the same thing, though there are obvious parallels.

Like the hoops situation, local media has seized on this issue, with carryover on Twitter. And like the hoops situation, the issue has been largely misrepresented.

There are two entities that appear to desperately want The Citadel and Charleston Southern to be an annual “rivalry” game. One is Charleston Southern. The other is the Lowcountry media.

Watching Mike Houston’s weekly press conference, I shook my head at some of the questions he was asked. I have to say I am disappointed in certain members of the press corps, who should know better. Houston did a fine job handling quite a bit of nonsense.

First, WCIV-TV’s Scott Eisberg tried to draw a reaction from Houston over the t-shirt Jamey Chadwell wore at the postgame presser after last year’s game, but the coach wouldn’t bite (“I’m not going to get into all that”).

Gene Sapakoff, sports columnist for The Post and Courier, then asked a reasonable question about recruiting, but followed that up with a “please write my column for me” query/comment about alumni interest in the matchup.

Houston correctly observed that alumni care about every game. (On his radio show the next day, Houston reinforced this point by telling a story about an alum who informed the coach in the offseason that the Bulldogs really needed to beat Western Carolina this year.)

Later, Eisberg tried another angle, one that got quickly batted away by Houston:

– Eisberg: “Not a more to lose game, but a lot of people would expect The Citadel to win this game being the bigger school and everything like that…”

– Houston: “I may be wrong, but I think their enrollment is bigger than ours [it is]. I’m pretty sure [about that], so as far as ‘bigger school’, I don’t exactly [know what you mean], because I think they are actually the larger institution.”

– Eisberg: “…[indecipherable noises] budget and stadium, and I mean…tradition of the program and stuff like that.”

– Houston: “Well, they are an FCS program that offers the same number of scholarships that we do. They do a good job coaching and recruiting…”

A couple of minutes after that, Houston concluded his portion of the press conference. James Riley then strode to the podium and (after an initial series of questions from Jeff Hartsell) got this incredible query from Sapakoff:

Jay – James, like coach was saying, um, he kinda implied that they are sort of like an equal, I mean, do you see them as kind of an equal competitor, or something beneath you as far as a smaller school?

Let’s review. In one rambling question, Sapakoff:

  • Asked a player if he flatly disagreed with a statement the player’s coach had just made about an opponent
  • Tried to get a bulletin board comment (when there had been no suggestion that the player had a particular animus against the opponent, or any opponent for that matter)
  • Made an erroneous statement while asking the question
  • Made an erroneous statement while asking the question, after another reporter had already been corrected for making an erroneous statement on the same topic less than five minutes before

Riley, to his credit, didn’t even blink, giving as respectful and polite an answer (“Uh, no, I never take an opponent lightly, no matter who we are playing…”) as could be expected under the circumstances.

Sapakoff then asked Riley to compare Charleston Southern to other SoCon schools, “particularly Furman and Wofford”. Why, I have no idea. Riley, a bit puzzled (and no wonder), noted that they ran different schemes.

The columnist then tried to bait the senior linebacker for a third time with another question about losing to Charleston Southern, and again Sapakoff did not get the answer he seemed to want.

Really, the SoCon should give a special Player of the Week Award to James Riley for handling that absurd (if not contemptible) line of questioning with considerable grace.

The media has a job to do, which is understood by all parties involved. Goading players and coaches in the hopes one of them may make an inflammatory comment is not supposed to be part of that job. It was, collectively, an embarrassing performance by the fourth estate.

Given all that, it seems the perspective of The Citadel when it comes to playing Charleston Southern isn’t likely to get equal time.

So, I’ll explain some of the issues in this post. I’ve discussed a few of these things before, but I’ll go over them again just for the sake of completeness.

Charleston Southern wants to play The Citadel on an annual basis, possibly for ease of scheduling, partly for recruiting, but mostly to escape being the Lowcountry’s “red-headed stepchild” (a comment Jamey Chadwell made prior to last year’s contest).

All of that is understandable. It is also understandable if Charleston Southern will only play The Citadel in a home-and-home series going forward.

If it is not in the best interests of CSU to play The Citadel only at Johnson Hagood Stadium, then Charleston Southern shouldn’t do so. That’s a perfectly reasonable stance to take.

However, The Citadel has to do what is best for The Citadel. Playing a home-and-home series against Charleston Southern is not what is best for The Citadel.

It is nice that CSU is finally making improvements to its football facility. It should have happened many years ago.

However, The Citadel’s future scheduling is too restrictive to have an annual home-and-home series with Charleston Southern, even if CSU finally has an acceptable stadium.

That is the real problem. Naturally, it hasn’t received enough attention, or has been discounted as a factor — when, in fact, it is a key issue.

FCS schools will play an 11-game regular season schedule every year until 2019 (when FCS teams can schedule 12 games, as was the option in 2013 and 2014). After 2019, there won’t be another 12-game schedule opportunity for FCS programs until 2024.

Beginning next season, the number of SoCon games on the slate will increase from seven to eight, as East Tennessee State begins league play. That leaves three non-conference games per season for The Citadel. One of those three contests will almost certainly always be a “money game” against FBS opposition (unless those games come to an end, but that’s another issue and at least several years down the road anyway).

In 2016, the Bulldogs play at North Carolina. In 2017, The Citadel will play at South Carolina (the second game in three years against the Gamecocks).

This leaves two games on The Citadel’s schedule each year. One of them has to be a “designated home game” — in other words, a game in which the opposing school does not get a return game at its place. That’s to ensure there are at least five home games at Johnson Hagood Stadium every season.

The other game is what I call a “flex game”. It could be a non-conference home-and-home with another FCS school, or a matchup with another FBS program. While the latter possibility may not be as likely, there are scenarios in which The Citadel would take a second FBS game (especially if it were against Army or Navy).

Charleston Southern could play The Citadel every year in the “designated home game” at Johnson Hagood Stadium. However, it would not be in the best interests of The Citadel to hamstring its future scheduling by eliminating the “flex game” to play an annual home-and-home series versus CSU.

The Citadel needs the flexibility of that spot on its schedule to pursue opportunities that could be of significant benefit to the school and its football program, whether a “bonus” money game, a matchup with a service academy, or perhaps a home-and-home with a team outside the region.

It is generally more expensive to play a home-and-home against an FCS school in another part of the country, but there are significant ancillary benefits to doing so. They include exposing the school to a wider audience, and reconnecting with certain parts of The Citadel’s widely-spread alumni base.

That is something I distinctly remember about attending The Citadel’s game at Princeton. It was an excellent public/alumni relations event for the military college. I also remember the surprisingly large contingent of Bulldog supporters who showed up for that contest.

I’ll go further, actually, and say something a lot of people aren’t going to like. The Citadel derives little benefit from playing Charleston Southern, even when the game is played at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

(There are supporters of The Citadel who would say that “little benefit” in the previous sentence could be changed to “no benefit”, and a few who would argue that the series is a net negative for The Citadel. I won’t go quite that far, but it is a point of view that is not without merit.)

If the Bulldogs win the game, it’s because they are “supposed to win”. After all, The Citadel is the “bigger school”, according to our friends in the press corps.

If they lose, it is billed as the triumph of a plucky “smaller school” over a big, hulking, undoubtedly super-evil monster of a football factory. The empire has been defeated! All the ewoks can dance!

In addition, this is not a series The Citadel’s alumni base cares about, by and large.

Yes, I know that Charleston Southern’s football program is not what it was 15 years ago, or even five years ago. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that.

When it comes to generating interest among supporters of The Citadel, though, that doesn’t really matter much, and there isn’t a whole lot CSU can do about it.

When my father graduated from The Citadel, Charleston Southern didn’t exist. When I graduated from The Citadel, it wasn’t called Charleston Southern (and did not have a football team). I think that for many of The Citadel’s alums, there is little familiarity with Charleston Southern’s football program, and next to no enthusiasm about the schools playing each other.

The Citadel has two primary rivals in football, Furman and VMI. Furman and The Citadel have been playing each other for over 100 years, and competing in the same league continuously for more than eight decades. The gridiron series with VMI is almost as long and is between two schools with a good deal in common.

Charleston Southern and The Citadel have little in common. One is a private school affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and has existed for just over 50 years; the other is a public military college that will soon celebrate its quartoseptcentennial.

Then there is the fact that The Citadel has never received a major attendance bump when Charleston Southern comes to town, which might come as a surprise to some people.

In seven games between the two schools at Johnson Hagood Stadium, the average attendance has been 13,202. The average game attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium in those years when the schools played? 14,153.

The games versus CSU actually lowered the average attendance numbers for The Citadel for five of the seven seasons in which they were played, including the most recent meeting in 2013.

That is perhaps less of a shock when Charleston Southern’s home attendance numbers are taken into consideration. CSU’s average home attendance through two games this season (caveat: both games were Thursday night affairs) is 3,576.

Last year CSU drew just over 4,000 for its Homecoming game against Presbyterian, the largest attendance it had for any game in 2014 aside from the one against The Citadel, when the announced attendance was 7,954 (but the actual attendance, in my opinion, was closer to 5,500).

That isn’t to say Charleston Southern has no fans. They do, and a few of them really don’t like it when you explain why playing a home-and-home doesn’t work for The Citadel. One of them told me via Twitter that the real reason The Citadel didn’t want to play had to do with an “elitist attitude & inflated self perception. You’re not what u used to be.”

His comment was ‘favorited’ by several CSU players, including starting wide receiver Colton Korn. I don’t know if the players are agreeing with the notion that current Bulldog players have an elitist attitude and aren’t as good as those from teams of the past, if they are just saying that about Bulldog supporters, or both. With Twitter, nuance can be difficult.

Okay, let’s talk about the game on Saturday…

Here is a comparison of The Citadel and Charleston Southern in select statistical categories for the 2014 season.

Incidentally, this will probably be the last post in which I use 2014 as a reference in this section; for the rest of the season, I’ll likely use up-to-date 2015 statistics, because at least by then we’ll have enough games to make those numbers at least somewhat relevant.

As usual, The Citadel’s stats in the table below are for SoCon games only (seven contests). Those opponents: Wofford, Chattanooga, Western Carolina, Mercer, Furman, Samford, and VMI.

For Charleston Southern, I included ten of the Buccaneers’ twelve games. I decided not to include statistics from CSU’s victory over Point, or its loss to Georgia. Those two games weren’t really indicative of how Charleston Southern played over the course of the 2014 campaign.

Thus, the statistics below for CSU are for ten games against the following opponents: Newberry, Campbell, The Citadel, Charlotte, Vanderbilt, Presbyterian, Coastal Carolina, Monmouth, Gardner-Webb, and Liberty.

(Note: I couldn’t come up with defensive red zone TD% numbers for Charleston Southern in 2014. If I eventually find them, I’ll include them in the table.)

 

Charleston Southern The Citadel
Offense yards/pass attempt 7.6 6.8
Offense yards/rush attempt 4.87 5.35
Offense yards per play 5.83 5.56
Offense points per game 27.10 24.86
Penalties per game 7.0 5.3
Offense 3rd down conv % 42.2 46.3
Offense 4th down conv % 43.8 60.0
Offense Red Zone TD% 50.0 66.7
Defense yards/pass attempt 7.4 9.1
Defense yards/rush attempt 4.10 5.69
Defense yards allowed/play 5.50 7.02
Defense points allowed/game 20.0 25.86
Defense 3rd down conv % 31.1 41.5
Defense 4th down conv % 50.0 52.9
Defense Red Zone TD%  — 60.0
Time of possession 34:24 32:40

 

I think that defensive 3rd-down conversion rate really stands out. CSU finished 19th in the category in FCS last year (counting all games).

Just as a point of comparison, Clemson led FBS last season in defensive third down conversion rate, at 27.4%. A rate of 31.1% would have been good enough to finish eighth nationally in that division.

Note: statistics below referencing Charleston Southern’s 2014 season are for all twelve games of that campaign.

Last season, Charleston Southern threw the ball 33.8% of the time in its spread option attack. Passing yardage accounted for 43.2% of the Buccaneers’ total offense.

Through three games this year, CSU’s passing yardage accounts for 33.1% of its total offense; the Bucs are throwing the ball on 31.1% of their offensive plays from scrimmage.

Charleston Southern has a lot of experience on offense, and that includes the quarterback position.

Austin Brown transferred from UAB two seasons ago; he started last year’s game against The Citadel and the first two games of this season. Last week, sophomore Kyle Copeland replaced an injured Brown and led the Buccaneers to a 47-7 victory over East Tennessee State.

There is a good chance both will play on Saturday. Brown is completing 46.4% of his passes, averaging 3.25 yards per attempt (the Bucs’ game against Troy hurt him in the yards/attempt category). He has one TD toss and no interceptions.

Copeland is completing a higher percentage of his throws (55.9%), averaging 8.56 yards per attempt, with 3 TDs and no picks. He has also rushed for 115 yards in three games.

However, the primary threat on the ground for Charleston Southern so far this season is running back Darius Hammond. He had 161 yards rushing against Troy (on 23 carries). Hammond is also the Bucs’ punt returner, and he took one back 74 yards for a TD last year versus The Citadel.

The other starting running back, Ben Robinson, had 127 rushing yards and 2 TDs in CSU’s opener against North Greenville. Robinson did not play last week versus ETSU, but is listed as a starter on the current two-deep.

Charleston Southern’s starting offensive line averages 6’2″, 287 lbs. It is a veteran group for the most part.

Left tackle Erik Austell was a preseason All-Big South selection. The right tackle, Benny Timmons, leads all active CSU players in career starts, with 29.

Tight end Nathan Prater is 6’8″, and caught three touchdown passes last season. Prater is from Ninety Six, South Carolina.

He could wear #96 for his hometown, or #68 for his height. Instead, he wears #81. Clearly a missed opportunity.

Prater and starting wide receivers Kevin Glears and Nathan Perera all have something in common besides being pass-catchers for the Buccaneers — they’re all sixth-year players. Perera was an all-Big South pick in 2011 before suffering knee and shoulder injuries.

Another starting wideout, Colton Korn, specializes in moving the chains, with 21 of his 27 receptions last season resulting in a first down. His brother, Willy Korn, is the wide receivers coach at Charleston Southern (and was at one time a well-known high school recruit who had a star-crossed career at Clemson).

Larry Jones III was the Big South Freshman of the Year in 2012 but missed all of last season with a knee injury. Jones has six receptions this season, second on the team to Perera (who has eight catches).

Charleston Southern usually plays a 3-4 defense. Against The Citadel, however, the Buccaneers will probably feature at least two, and probably three fronts. That was the case in both the 2013 and 2014 meetings.

Most of CSU’s experience on defense is concentrated in the secondary and in the linebacking corps.

Weakside linebacker Aaron Brown was an all-Big South choice last season after making 81 tackles. Not surprisingly, he leads the team in tackles this year, with 13 (including three for loss). Brown scored a touchdown against North Greenville in the opener, a 53-yard play that was technically a fumble return after NGU bungled a punt.

Fifth-year senior Zach Johnson is the “spur” linebacker, and no longer will be confused with former teammate (and fellow linebacker) Zac Johnston.

The Bucs have experienced cornerbacks, though preseason all-Big South pick Troy McGowens did not play in the team’s first two games. He did return against ETSU and recorded two sacks. True freshman Shadarius Hopkins has started all three games in McGowens’ stead and is listed as the starter this week as well.

The other cornerback is Malcolm Jackson, a team captain who had four interceptions last season. He is tied for second on the squad in tackles through three games this year.

Another Jackson in the CSU defensive backfield is Corbin Jackson. The free safety has 14 career starts.

Strong safety D.J. Curl has played in 24 games for Charleston Southern. His backup, Larenzo Mathis, returned an interception 87 yards for a TD against ETSU. Last year, Mathis had a blocked punt/TD return against Vanderbilt.

Caleb Batchelor was a regular in the Bucs’ d-line rotation last season. This year, he’s the starting nosetackle. Anthony Ellis, a native of Florida, has started all three games this season at defensive end after playing sparingly as a freshman.

Truett Burns is in his third year as Charleston Southern’s starting punter. He usually employs a “rugby” style of punting, and last season dropped 16 of his 54 punts inside the 20-yard line.

This year, he is averaging 35.2 yards per punt, with 5 of his 13 punts landing inside the 20.

Summerville resident Bryan Jordan is CSU’s placekicker. He is 0-2 on field goal attempts so far this season after serving primarily as a kickoff specialist last year, and also missed an extra point last week. His backup, David Kennedy, was 11-18 last season attempting field goals (including two successful kicks against The Citadel).

Jamey Chadwell expressed some concern about that aspect of the Bucs’ kicking game during the Big South media teleconference.

Long snapper Joseph Smith is from Easley. As I noted last year, Smith began his collegiate career at Delta State, where his coach was Jamey Chadwell. When the coach took the Charleston Southern job, Smith moved back to South Carolina to continue his football career with Chadwell.

As mentioned earlier, Darius Hammond is Charleston Southern’s punt returner. Hammond also returns kickoffs, as does Shadarius Hopkins.

I haven’t written anything about the Georgia Southern game to this point. Usually when I don’t have a “game review” post (which is what generally happens when I don’t attend the contest in question), I discuss the previous game early in the following preview.

I didn’t do that this week because I wanted to jump right into the issues surrounding the Charleston Southern game/series. Also, I don’t really have a lot to say about the matchup with Georgia Southern.

It was a fairly simple contest to analyze. The Citadel made several mistakes early in the game it could not afford to make, and paid for them in full, which tends to happen when facing an FBS squad. Once that ball gets rolling downhill, it’s not going to stop.

I was disappointed in the performance, but I’m also not too worried about it. My only concern is that the players don’t lose any of the confidence they gained in the first two games of the season. I trust the coaching staff to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Odds and ends:

– On Friday, The Citadel will enshrine the newest class in its athletic Hall of Fame. Baseball players Mike Pendleton and Randy Corn will be inducted, as will swimmer Milton Williams and honorary member Dr. John “Turkey” Moore.

They will be joined by Dr. Stephanie McNeill, a track and field star who will be the first woman enshrined in the Hall. Congratulations to all the honorees.

– Charleston Southern has 36 players on its roster from South Carolina, 19 from Georgia, 16 from Florida, two from North Carolina, and one each from Virginia, Texas, and California.

– This will be the second consecutive season that Charleston Southern has played a Thursday night home game in the week before it plays The Citadel.

– The front page of CSU’s game notes mentions that The Citadel and Charleston will not play next season. Just to make sure anyone reading didn’t miss that factoid, it was noted twice on the front page.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 6 1/2 point favorite over Charleston Southern this week. The over/under is 51.

That line really surprised me, to be honest. I would have guessed something like CSU -3, not that I’m a gambling expert or anything.

– Another game at Johnson Hagood Stadium, another somewhat ominous weather forecast. As of this writing, the National Weather Services is projecting a 50% chance of rain in Charleston on Saturday during the day, and 30% at night.

– Speaking of gray, the Bulldogs will be wearing all-gray uniforms for this game. I’m not excited about that, but it was inevitable.

Fans are supposed to wear light blue.

I think the game on Saturday will be competitive and close.

One thing that might be worth watching is time of possession. Both of these teams want to control the ball. Last year, Charleston Southern won that battle.

This year, The Citadel’s defense has to get off the field on third down. Conversely, the Bulldogs’ offense must sustain drives, particularly early in the game (last year on third down, The Citadel was only 4-14).

The Citadel must also avoid the turnover bug that cropped up against Georgia Southern (and to a certain extent in the Western Carolina game as well). That’s even more important in a game in which each team will probably have no more than 12 possessions (the Bulldogs had 10 in last season’s contest).

I don’t have to even discuss the special teams issues The Citadel had in last year’s matchup. That part of the game has to dramatically improve.

I hope the Bulldogs are ready to play on Saturday, rain or shine. Looks like rain, alas.

I’ll be there anyway.

 

2 Responses

  1. After reading your post I can feel good about the science backing up my gut reaction that I hope we never play them again. Making it worse are Chadwell’s comments postgame although maybe he was stoked into making those by Sapakoff. Mostly, I’m just disappointed that we lost to them again.

  2. CSU is increasingly reminding me of ECU. For years ECU was the Rodney Dangerfield of NC college football. The ACC wouldn’t give them a look and the perception was that they were not a good fit alongside Wake, Duke, UNC and NCSU (in years past this was true- the academic reputation at ECU was not in the same ballpark). Ultimately it had nothing to do with football ability- ECU had some good teams- some of which would have won against all the other NC schools. But they always took the low road claiming elitist attitudes from the other NC schools.

    The Big South is heading for a crisis when CCU and eventually Liberty leave. They will likely havbe to rely on some current DIIs to move up to FCS (Valdosta State?) in order to fill schedules. I expect we will hear more about our elitist attitudes form the Baptists when they are struggling to get 8 D-I games and we are playing 12 games, two of which are FBS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: