2015 Football, Game 10: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel at Chattanooga, to be played in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at Finley Stadium Davenport Field, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 14. The game will not be televised. The contest will be streamed on the SoCon Digital Network, with the feed using UTC announcers (Jim Reynolds, Todd Agnew, Will Poindexter).

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 The Citadel-Chattanooga from The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Chattanooga

SoCon weekly release

Mike Houston on the SoCon teleconference

Russ Huesman on the SoCon teleconference

Mike Houston’s 11/10 press conference (with comments from Dominique Allen , Eric Goins, and Quinlan Washington)

The Mike Houston Show (video from his radio show)

– UTC Media Conference (video)

Inside Chattanooga Football (video)

– Preview of The Citadel-Chattanooga from the Chattanooga Times Free Press

– Story from the Chattanooga Times Free Press on UTC preparing for the triple option

Eric Goins is the SoCon student-athlete of the week; Goins has had a very good year

– Story on Quinlan Washington in The Post and Courier; Washington is the reigning SoCon defensive player of the week

– STATS article on the game (with some additional SoCon notes)

FCS Coaches’ Poll

There has been a lot of discussion in the media about how the Big XII has “backloaded” its schedule so that its best teams don’t meet until November. What hasn’t received nearly as much attention is the fact that the Southern Conference has done the same thing.

You have to give SoCon commissioner John Iamarino credit. He arranged the league schedule so that the top two teams would meet for the conference’s automatic bid at the end of their respective SoCon slates.

The Citadel already has clinched no worse than a share of the SoCon title, and is 6-0 in the league. This week, the goal is to win the conference outright, claim the league’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, and become the first team in school history to finish unbeaten in SoCon competition.

I think that angle (the chance to go undefeated in the conference) has actually been underplayed a bit. After all, there have only been three other seasons in which The Citadel lost just one game in Socon play (1959, 1961, and 1992).

Only once has The Citadel finished undefeated in conference action. The year was 1929, and the conference was the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Carl Prause’s squad finished 4-0-1 in the SIAA, tying Furman (0-0) and beating Oglethorpe, Presbyterian, Mercer, and Wofford.

That 4-0-1 mark was not good enough to win the league in 1929, however. The SIAA champ that year, with a conference record of 7-0, was…Chattanooga.

As always, nomenclature has to be established when discussing Chattanooga. The paragraph that follows is a slightly reworked version of what I’ve written about before regarding the school’s branding issues.

Chattanooga has a webpage on its varsity athletics website devoted to the one question that never fails to cause confusion: What is a Moc?

 The term “Moc” is short for “Mockingbird.” Mockingbirds are fiercely territorial creatures which protect their homes with courage, determination and skill.

In the not-so-distant past, “Moc” was short for “Moccasin”, and referred to a snake, or a shoe, or an American Indian (two of them — Chief Chattamoc and, later, Chief Moccanooga). Now, it’s a bird named Scrappy.

Also in the mix, just to add to the fun: the “Power C” and the “Cowcatcher logo”.

In this post, I’ll refer to “Chattanooga”, “UTC”, and “Mocs” when discussing its football program.

The next few sections include statistical team/conference comparisons for league contests only, unless otherwise indicated. Both Chattanooga and The Citadel have played six conference games, against the same opponents (naturally).

What is striking about the Mocs’ SoCon contests is how much more dominant they have been in their two home games. UTC beat Furman 31-3 and Western Carolina 41-13, both at Finley Stadium.

On the road, Chattanooga has victories over Samford (31-21), VMI (33-27), and Wofford (20-17). The Mocs lost last week at Mercer (17-14).

The Citadel has only played two of its six conference matchups on the road, but played very well in both of those contests, winning 44-25 at Samford and 38-17 at Furman. At Johnson Hagood Stadium, the Bulldogs have wins over Western Carolina (28-10), Wofford (39-12), Mercer (21-19), and VMI (35-14).

In six league games, Chattanooga’s offense has thrown the ball 131 times, with six other would-be pass play attempts resulting in sacks. Not counting those sacks, the Mocs have rushed 284 times, so UTC has passed the ball (or attempted to pass) on 32.5% of its offensive plays from scrimmage.

Passing yardage accounts for 38.5% of Chattanooga’s total offense (with sack yardage removed from the total). UTC averages 7.1 yards per pass attempt (again, with sacks/yardage taken into account). For comparison, that is a full yard more per pass attempt than VMI.

In conference play, Chattanooga is fourth in scoring offense (28.3 ppg), third in total offense, and averages 6.0 yards per play, second-best in the league. On the other side of the ball, The Citadel is first in scoring defense (16.2 ppg), second in total defense, and first in yards per play allowed (4.5).

UTC is third in rushing offense and second in rushing yards per play (5.2). The Mocs are fourth in offensive pass efficiency, with three touchdowns against six interceptions.

The Citadel is first in rushing defense and rush yards allowed per play (3.2). The Bulldogs also lead the league in defensive pass efficiency, allowing five touchdown tosses but intercepting eleven passes in conference action.

Nationally, The Citadel is fourth in defensive pass efficiency, with 5 TDs allowed through the air more than counterbalanced by 17 interceptions (all games). Only Southern Utah (4 TDs/17 picks) has a better defensive TD/INT ratio.

The Mocs are third in the SoCon in offensive third-down conversion rate (45.1%). The Bulldogs lead the conference in defensive third-down conversion rate (30.6%).

The FCS leader in defensive pass efficiency and defensive third-down conversion rate, by the way, is South Carolina State.

UTC has gone for it on fourth down on eleven occasions in league play, picking up a first down seven times. On defense, The Citadel has given up eight conversions in thirteen opponent tries.

Chattanooga is second in the league in scoring defense (16.3 ppg, just behind The Citadel). UTC is first in total defense and second in yards per play allowed (4.7). No other league team is particularly close to the Bulldogs and Mocs in defensive yards allowed per play (both Wofford and Western Carolina allow 5.5 yards per play).

The Citadel is first in scoring offense (34.2 ppg), second in total offense, and first in yards per play (6.2).

Chattanooga is second in rushing defense and rush yards allowed per play (3.4). The Mocs are third in defensive pass efficiency, intercepting six passes in league play while allowing six TD throws.

As for The Citadel’s offense, it ranks first in rushing offense, averaging 5.6 yards per rush (also a league best). The Bulldogs lead the league in offensive pass efficiency, though they don’t throw it that often (the VMI game aside).

The Citadel remains second nationally in rushing offense, behind Cal Poly. The team that really stands out in this category, though, is Lamar, which is fifth in rushing yards per game but first in rush yards per play, with an amazing 7.0 yards per carry.

Despite that, the Cardinals are only 4-5, in part because of a leaky defense. Against Central Arkansas, Lamar averaged 9.2 yards per rush — and lost, 35-17.

The Bulldogs are second in the conference in offensive third-down conversion rate (48.2%). Western Carolina took over the league lead in this category after going 10-16 on third down tries against Furman last week.

UTC is third in the SoCon in defensive third-down conversion rate (40.0%).

The Citadel is 2 for 5 in fourth-down tries, while Chattanooga opponents are 6-10 in converting fourth-down attempts against the Mocs.

I put the red zone numbers this week into a separate section because the two teams’ statistics inside the 20-yard line are almost identical, both on offense and defense.

Chattanooga and The Citadel are both 22-27 overall converting red zone possessions into points. The Mocs have scored 15 touchdowns; the Bulldogs, 16.

Both defenses have allowed a 50% Red Zone TD rate. The Mocs have given up 7 TDs in 14 opponent Red Zone opportunities; the Bulldogs, 10 in 20.

The Citadel is +8 in turnover margin (gained 17, lost 9), second in the league. Mercer is +9 after winning the turnover battle against UTC last week 4-1.

Despite the tough day in Macon, the Mocs are +2 for the season in turnover margin, fourth-best in the conference. Chattanooga has gained ten turnovers while losing eight.

On FG attempts, the Bulldogs are 8-10 in the league (23-24 on PATs). Eric Goins was 5 for 5 in FG tries last week, and is now 10-12 overall for the season (long of 45), with no missed PATs.

Chattanooga is 10-11 kicking FGs in conference play (20-20 PATs). Henrique Ribeiro is 12-15 for the overall 2015 campaign (and like Goins, has a long for the year of 45). Ribeiro is 31-31 for the year on extra point attempts.

The Citadel ranks fifth in the conference in net punting yardage (35.0), while UTC is third (36.4). As for kickoff coverage, the Bulldogs are fourth in the league (with a conference-leading 16 touchbacks), while the Mocs are seventh (and a SoCon-low 4 touchbacks).

UTC is last in the SoCon in kickoff return average. The Citadel is first; as I pointed out last week, though, the Bulldogs have only returned seven kickoffs in league contests (for that matter, Chattanooga’s 13 returned kickoffs in league play is tied for second-fewest).

The Mocs top the conference in time of possession, averaging 33:44 per contest. The Citadel is fourth in that category (32:17).

Chattanooga is averaging 70.2 offensive plays from scrimmage per game, with a 2.08 plays-per-minute rate. The Bulldogs are averaging 70.5 offensive plays per game, with a 2.18 plays-per-minute rate (a pace that has remained consistent over the past few games).

The Citadel and Chattanooga are the two most penalized teams in the conference. The Bulldogs have committed the most penalties, while the Mocs have been assessed the most penalty yardage.

UTC will likely catch a break on the penalty yardage front this week, however, as opponents of The Citadel have been docked fewer penalty yards than the opponents for any other school in conference play, an ongoing tradition.

Note: statistics in the following sections are for all games.

Chattanooga quarterback Jacob Huesman (6’2″, 220 lbs.) is completing 66.8% of his throws, averaging 7.33 yards per attempt, with seven TDs against eight interceptions. He throws on average just over 22 passes per game.

Last year against The Citadel, Huesman was 11-17 for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 66-yard TD throw to C.J. Board. The coach’s son also had a 15-yard TD run in that game, a reminder that Jacob Huesman is a fine runner (5.3 yards per carry, 8 rush TDs this season).

Running back Derrick Craine (5’10”, 205 lbs.) currently leads the SoCon in rushing yards per game. Craine, described by Mike Houston as the “hardest-running running back” the Bulldogs will have faced this season, rushed for 135 yards against The Citadel in last year’s matchup.

Chattanooga’s projected starting offensive line averages 6’4″, 297 lbs. The same five players have started all season, but four of them changed positions on the line two weeks ago. Only the center, Jacob Revis (6’3″, 295 lbs.) stayed at the same spot.

Left guard Corey Levin (6’5″, 305 lbs.) was the Jacobs Blocking Award winner in the Southern Conference last season. Right tackle Josh Cardiello (6’3″, 290 lbs.) is a transfer from Georgia.

UTC’s leading receivers are the aforementioned C.J. Board (6’2″, 180 lbs.) and Xavier Borishade (5’10”, 175 lbs.), who also had a big catch against The Citadel last season. Another starting wideout, James Stovall (6’3″, 205 lbs.), has started the last six games for the Mocs and has 21 receptions.

Defensive end Keionta Davis (6’4″, 260 lbs.) is a native of Chattanooga who leads the SoCon in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (11.5). He will be a handful for the Bulldogs.

Davis is joined on the d-line by preseason all-league selection Josh Freeman, a 6’0″, 285 lb. defensive tackle who has started 46 games during his career, more than any other current Chattanooga player.

A.J. Hampton (6’1″, 240 lbs.) is a linebacker who leads the Mocs in tackles, with 65. Fellow ‘backer Nakevion Leslie (5’11”, 220 lbs.) is second on the team in tackles, with 11.5 of those stops for loss. Leslie had ten tackles against The Citadel last year.

Safety Cedric Nettles (6’0″, 220 lbs.) was a first-team All-SoCon pick last year by the league’s coaches and a second-team selection by the media. The other starting safety, Lucas Webb (6’1, 195 lbs.), was Nettles’ mirror in the honors department, as he was a first-team all-league selection last year by the media and a second-team pick by the coaches.

Webb had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown against Furman earlier this season. Another starting Moc defensive back, Sema’je Kendall, also has a pick-6 this year, returning one 28 yards for a score versus VMI.

Dee Virgin (5’10”, 205 lbs.) in his third season as a starter at cornerback. He also returns kickoffs for the Mocs.

I’ve already mentioned Henrique Ribeiro, the preseason all-SoCon placekicker for Chattanooga. Ribeiro kicked a game-winning field goal to beat Wofford, and made four FGs against VMI, a key factor in UTC’s victory over the Keydets. He did miss a 36-yarder against Mercer.

Ribeiro (6’0″, 220 lbs.) is also the Mocs’ starting punter. He is averaging 43.3 yards per boot, with 7 of his 17 punts landing inside the 20-yard line (as opposed to 3 touchbacks).

C.J. Board and Xavier Borishade are Chattanooga’s punt returners, with Board the primary option.

Jacob Huesman holds for placekicks. Sophomore Emory Norred (6’0″, 225 lbs.) is in his second year as the long snapper.

Odds and ends:

– Chattanooga has 48 players from Tennessee on its roster. Other states represented: Georgia (29), Alabama (14), Florida (2), and one each from Virginia and New York.

I believe that is the smallest number of states represented on a roster of any team in the Southern Conference.

– During the SoCon media teleconference, a sportswriter for STATS asked Russ Huesman a question that referenced one of the Mocs’ prior opponents, “Wooferd”.

– At Russ Huesman’s weekly presser, a reporter asked Huesman this question: “For the loser of Saturday’s game, is the season over?”

Huesman answered, “I have no idea.” I thought it was rather polite of the coach to be so non-committal, given the somewhat over-the-top nature of the question.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Chattanooga is a 5.5-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 48.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 3.5-point favorite over Mercer; Wofford is a 2-point favorite over Samford; and Western Carolina is a 36-point underdog at Texas A&M.

VMI is off this week. East Tennessee State, incidentally, is a 29-point underdog at Gardner-Webb.

– Among FCS teams, The Citadel is 13th in this week’s Massey Ratings. The ratings for other league teams: Chattanooga, 17th; Western Carolina, 24th; Wofford, 41st; Furman, 49th; Samford, 51st; Mercer, 65th; and VMI, 81st.

Harvard continues to top the Massey FCS Ratings, followed by Jacksonville State, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Dartmouth. East Tennessee State is 124th, just ahead of last-place Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

– Weather forecast for Saturday in Chattanooga, according to the National Weather Service: sunny with a high of 56 degrees, winds out of the north at 5 miles per hour.

– Saturday is Military Appreciation Day at Finley Stadium.

– I mentioned this was a possibility in my preview of the VMI game, but with the victory over the Keydets, The Citadel’s senior class finished with an 8-0 record in “celebration games” (Parents’ Day/Homecoming). As far as I can tell, they are the first senior class to do so since at least 1953.

– Against VMI, the Bulldogs won the coin toss and elected to defer. It was the fourth time this season The Citadel had won the coin toss. Each time, the Bulldogs have deferred the option to kick/receive until the second half.

Only once this season in a game involving The Citadel has a team won the coin toss and elected to receive (Mercer). On every other occasion, the option has been deferred.

Personally, I think deferring the option is usually the right call. It gives a team the chance to score to end the first half, and then put more points on the board in the second half before the other team gets the ball (and prevents the opponent from having that opportunity).

The decision to defer has been used to great effect by Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots. He has won a few games over the years.

– The Citadel will wear white jerseys and white pants in Chattanooga.

– Attendance for the previous four games at Finley Stadium this season: 15,812 (when Chattanooga’s opponent was Jacksonville State); 9,491 (Mars Hill); 7,630 (Furman); 11,495 (Western Carolina).

I would guess there will be a good crowd on hand for Saturday’s game, helped by a sizable influx of fans wearing light blue. Also sure to make their presence felt: several busloads of freshmen cadets, and apparently a significant number of upperclassmen as well.

I remember last year’s game between the two teams, a 34-14 Chattanooga victory that wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate. That was arguably The Citadel’s most disappointing performance of 2014. Actually, it isn’t arguable — it was without question the most disappointing game of the season.

Have the Bulldogs really improved so much that they can reverse a decisive home loss just one year later?

There is no doubt they are significantly better. The record reflects that, and so does the play of the team. The defense (in particular) has made major strides.

UTC has played better at home this year, though (at least in its two league games at Finley), and also has the experience of a recent game with some similarities.

Last season, Western Carolina and Chattanooga were both undefeated and 4-0 when the two teams met in a game that would all but decide the SoCon’s automatic bid to the playoffs. The game was in Cullowhee, but it didn’t matter. UTC blasted the Catamounts, 51-0.

One difference this season is the Mocs are more up against it than they were last year. The loss to Mercer reduced Chattanooga’s margin for error when it comes to postseason play. How will UTC respond?

All that said, I have a lot of faith in the Bulldogs, as should anyone who follows the team. The coaches and players have earned that confidence.

Saturday afternoon can’t get here fast enough.

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