2015 Football, Game 12: The Citadel vs. Coastal Carolina

The Citadel at Coastal Carolina, to be played in Conway, South Carolina, at Brooks Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 28. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Drew Fellios providing play-by-play and Tom O’Brien 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:

– “Back to playoff business” for The Citadel

– Game notes from The Citadel and Coastal Carolina

SoCon weekly release

Big South weekly release

Joe Moglia on the Big South teleconference

Mike Houston’s 11/24 press conference (with comments from Mitchell Jeter, Tyler Renew, and Joe Crochet)

Notes on The Citadel-Coastal Carolina from the Myrtle Beach Sun-News

“Bulldogs’ offense is rolling in Mike Houston’s second year at helm”, from the Myrtle Beach Sun-News

Tyler Renew is the SoCon offensive player of the week

– Things haven’t always been easy for Renew

SoCon media awards

SoCon coaches’ awards

FCS Coaches’ Poll

– STATS preview of The Citadel-Coastal Carolina

– Ticket website

This is a preview I really didn’t expect to be writing when the season began, to be honest. However, I’m happy to stop eating turkey and dressing for a few minutes in order to scribble a few paragraphs about a previously unscheduled football game.

One big key to this game for The Citadel is for its players and coaches to be emotionally and mentally prepared to play. It probably won’t be easy to come down from the high that was winning at South Carolina, but the Bulldogs will have no chance against Coastal Carolina if their collective mentality is still focused on last Saturday.

One thing is for sure: Coastal Carolina won’t be too impressed by what happened in Columbia last week. If you had any doubts about that, let Chanticleers junior linebacker Alex Scearce put them to rest:

I know they definitely have some confidence after beating big, bad South Carolina, but you watch the game and South Carolina had a few good drives, but it didn’t seem like some of them wanted to be there. It looked like The Citadel wanted it more than they did, so that’s definitely the reason they came out on top. I think they’re going to be real confident when they come in here thinking they can whup up on us physically, but I think this year we’ve been able to handle it OK between the tackles, especially towards the end of the season. So I think it’s going to be a challenging game for them as well.

He doesn’t think the Gamecocks tried very hard, and figures that’s the only reason The Citadel won. Okay then.

In my preview for last year’s regular season game between the two schools, I wrote the following:

Coastal Carolina may not have hired Joe Moglia because it has the FBS in its sights. However, that is the perception in certain circles.

[In this article] Moglia was reported to have said that CCU had only achieved 75% of his vision. Not everyone is sure what the remaining 25% of his vision would be.

Less than 12 months later, Coastal Carolina accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt and move to the FBS.

Because of that, this will be the last time CCU participates in the FCS playoffs. The two seasons to follow (2016 and 2017) will be “transitional” campaigns, with the Chanticleers ineligible for postseason play. Coastal Carolina will begin playing Sun Belt teams on a regular basis in 2017.

This is the second meeting between Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. It will likely also be the two schools’ last matchup on the gridiron for the foreseeable future. That is due to a situation very similar to the one The Citadel now has with Georgia Southern, which I described earlier this season in my preview of the GSU game:

…if Georgia Southern wants to schedule The Citadel again, the military college is going to demand a lot more cash. $175,000 isn’t going to be nearly enough; The Citadel is going to want more than twice that amount of money. Maybe more than three times that amount of money.

In a way, it illustrates a problem Georgia Southern now has as an FBS member when it comes to scheduling home games. Schools that pay FCS schools big bucks for a “guarantee game” can afford to make those payments, because they have large stadiums and huge budgets. That isn’t the case for the folks in Statesboro.

Georgia Southern may have expanded Paulson Stadium, but 25,000 seats is a far cry from the likes of the facilities at Florida State, or South Carolina, or even North Carolina (opponents of The Citadel last year, this year, and next year).

Mike Houston explained his position on the issue in the press conference that preceded the game against Georgia Southern:

You are playing an FBS program that has more resources and scholarships than we have. And if you are playing those kinds of games, there needs to be financial restitution that matches that.

Jim Senter appears to be on the same page as his head football coach. The Citadel isn’t going to play anyone for less than a significant guarantee, something schools with smaller fan bases and/or stadia will not be able to provide.

Coastal Carolina has plans to expand Brooks Stadium to 20,000 seats, smaller than Paulson Stadium.

As for Joe Moglia, it will be interesting to see what he does after the season is over. Moglia is 66 years old; he will be 67 by the time the 2016 season starts.

If he intends to pursue a more high-profile coaching job, it may be now or never. Moglia has been mentioned in various quarters as a potential candidate at Syracuse, though most of those reports originated from a speculative column by Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel (followed up by a Thayer Evans tweet).

Another school that might give Moglia a look is Rutgers, a possibility first broached by college football reporter Bruce Feldman. To me, that one makes sense, though there are a couple of problems with Moglia getting the Rutgers job: A) it isn’t technically open yet; B) there is no more dysfunctional department of athletics in all of major-college sports.

The sections that follow include statistics for the full season for both Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. Each school has played 11 games.

Coastal Carolina is 9-2, with home wins over Western Illinois (34-27), Bryant (31-17), Alabama A&M (55-0), Presbyterian (24-17), Gardner-Webb (46-0), and Kennesaw State (45-13); the Chanticleers have road victories over Furman (38-35), South Carolina State (41-14), and Monmouth (23-20). CCU has lost at Charleston Southern (35-27) and at Liberty (24-21).

The Citadel is 8-3, with home wins over Davidson (69-0), Western Carolina (28-10), Wofford (39-12), Mercer (21-19), and VMI (35-14); the Bulldogs have won on the road at Samford (44-25), Furman (38-17), and South Carolina (23-22). The Citadel’s three losses came at Georgia Southern (48-13), versus Charleston Southern (33-20), and at Chattanooga (31-23).

Coastal Carolina’s offense has thrown the ball 337 times, with 14 other would-be pass play attempts resulting in sacks. Not counting those sacks, the Chanticleers have rushed 401 times; thus, CCU has passed the ball (or attempted to pass) on 46.7% of its offensive plays from scrimmage.

Passing yardage accounts for 55.3% of Coastal Carolina’s total offense (with sack yardage removed from the total). CCU averages 7.69 yards per pass attempt (again, with sacks/yardage taken into account). That yards per attempt number is comparable to Chattanooga among SoCon teams.

Coastal Carolina averages 34.8 points and 443.8 yards per game, with an average of 6.5 yards per play. CCU would have led the SoCon in two of those three categories (Samford averaged 479.7 yards of total offense per game).

Defensively, The Citadel has allowed 21.0 points and 350.5 yards per game, allowing 5.4 yards per play.

CCU is averaging 5.1 yards per rush, gaining 192.2 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs have allowed 156.5 yards per contest (4.4 yards per play).

The Chanticleers have completed passes at a 65.9% clip, with 19 TDs against just 5 interceptions. CCU’s pass efficiency rating ranks 13th in all of FCS.

The Citadel is 24th nationally in defensive pass efficiency, having allowed 7 pass TDs while intercepting 17 errant tosses. The Bulldogs’ opponents have a completion percentage for the season of 58.8%.

Coastal Carolina has converted 42.8% of its third-down attempts, which ranks 33rd nationally. The Citadel has allowed opponents to pick up 36.2% of third down tries (42nd in FCS).

The FCS leader in defensive pass efficiency and defensive third-down conversion rate, by the way, is still South Carolina State, as has been the case for the past month.

CCU has gone for it on fourth down fifteen times, picking up a first down on nine of those attempts. On defense, The Citadel has given up fourteen conversions in twenty-two opponent tries.

Coastal Carolina’s defense is allowing 18.2 points per game (which would lead the SoCon). CCU has given up 403.6 yards per game, with an average of 5.7 yards allowed per play. Both of those statistics would be in the middle of the pack in the SoCon.

The Citadel is averaging 32.1 points and 423.3 yards per game, gaining 6.2 yards per play.

CCU is allowing 4.2 yards per rush (168.4 yards per game). The Chanticleers have allowed 12 TDs through the air while intercepting 6 passes, and rank in the bottom half of FCS in terms of defensive pass efficiency.

The Citadel’s offense averages 344.7 yards per game (2nd nationally), gaining 5.8 yards per carry. The Bulldogs obviously don’t throw the football that often, though they have generally been effective when they have (33rd nationally in offensive pass efficiency, with 5 TD passes against 4 interceptions).

The Citadel remains second nationally in rushing offense, behind Cal Poly.

The Bulldogs have an offensive third-down conversion rate of 49.3%, which is 6th-best in FCS. Coastal Carolina has allowed third down conversions at a 38.7% rate.

The Citadel is 6 for 16 in fourth-down tries, one of the poorer rates in the country, while CCU opponents are only 9-24 converting fourth-down attempts (24th nationally). Sharp-eyed readers may notice that The Citadel converts fourth downs at the exact same rate as CCU opponents (37.5%).

Coastal Carolina’s offense has a 60.8% Red Zone TD rate. The Bulldogs have a defensive Red Zone TD rate of 51.4%. Of the Chanticleers’ 31 Red Zone TDs, 21 have been via the rush.

CCU opponents have a Red Zone TD rate of 70.0%. The Citadel’s offense has a Red Zone TD rate of 60.9%. Of the 28 touchdowns the Bulldogs have scored on Red Zone possessions, 26 have been rushing TDs.

The Citadel is +6 in turnover margin (gained 25, lost 19). Coastal Carolina’s turnover margin is +2 (gained 13, lost 11).

Coastal Carolina is 16 for 21 on field goal attempts (33-33 on PATs). The Citadel is 12 for 14 on FG tries (39-40 PATs).

The Citadel has a net punting average of 36.1; CCU’s is 36.3.

The Bulldogs have 28 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs, while the Chanticleers have 7 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs (though the net average favors CCU).

Coastal Carolina has 2 kickoff return TDs this season and led the Big South in return yardage. The Citadel has averaged slightly more yards per return than the Chanticleers, but has not returned any kicks for a score.

CCU has averaged an excellent 11.7 yards per punt return. The Citadel ranked last in the SoCon in that statistic.

Coastal Carolina has averaged only 27:42 in time of possession per game. The Bulldogs have controlled the clock more, with a per-game TOP average of 31:25.

The Chanticleers are averaging 68.4 offensive plays from scrimmage per game, with a 2.47 plays-per-minute rate, which is not in Samford territory but is still a fairly fast pace. The Citadel is averaging 68.2 plays per game, but with a plays-per-minute rate of 2.17.

Coastal Carolina is averaging 5.8 penalties per game (54.1 penalty yards per contest). Opponents of the Chanticleers are called for slightly more penalties (6.1 per contest, 56.5 penalty yards/game).

The Citadel has been called for 6 penalties per game (50.7 penalty yards per contest). As fans of the Bulldogs know, opponents of The Citadel have largely been penalty-free, particularly in SoCon play. For the season, Bulldog opponents have been flagged 4.7 times per contest (just 36.4 penalty yards per game).

During his press conference on Tuesday, Mike Houston was asked to compare Coastal Carolina’s offense to those of other teams the Bulldogs have faced. He referenced Western Carolina, a team with a balanced (but potentially explosive) offense under the direction of a talented, experienced dual-threat QB.

Alex Ross (6’1″, 205 lbs.) is a native of Alpharetta, Georgia, who has started 40 games for the Chanticleers at quarterback. This season, Ross is completing 66.7% of his passes (8.2 yards per attempt), with 18 TD throws against just 5 interceptions.

Ross has been the all-conference QB in the Big South for three consecutive seasons. In the game last year at Johnson Hagood Stadium, he was 24-32 for 263 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 58 yards in that contest, an example of his mobility.

De’Angelo Henderson (5’8″, 205 lbs.) was named the Big South offensive player of the year earlier this week. The resident of Summerville has rushed for 1,245 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Henderson rushed for 88 yards and a TD versus The Citadel last season. He can also catch the ball, as he is the Chanticleers’ second-leading receiver.

Coastal Carolina’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’3″, 300 lbs. Right guard Sam Ekwonike (6’2″, 350 lbs.) is the biggest member of the group; he is a first-team all-league performer, as is left tackle Voghens Larrieux (6’5″, 290 lbs.).

Right tackle Chase Tidwell (6’5″, 275 lbs.) is a second-team All-Big South pick. Tidwell started his collegiate career as a baseball player at Charleston Southern; he had never been on the field during a high school or college football game until the Chanticleers’ season opener this year at Furman.

Bruce Mapp (6’0″, 210 lbs.) is a first-team all-conference selection who leads CCU in receptions (47) and TD catches (6). He had a big game last year against the Bulldogs, catching 10 passes for 108 yards and a TD.

Wideout Chris Jones (5’11”, 170 lbs.) and slot receiver Tyrell Blanks (5’11”, 165 lbs.) have combined for seven touchdown receptions.

Coastal Carolina generally operates a 4-2-5 defense, but as always, formations can change when teams defend the triple option.

Defensive tackle Jabari Bothwell (5’11”, 290 lbs.) played last year for Coastal Carolina after transferring from Western Michigan. This season, Bothwell made first-team All-Big South.

He has 8.5 tackles for loss among his 64 stops in 2015. Against Kennesaw State (which runs the triple option), Bothwell had 1.5 sacks, 8 tackles (including 2.5 for loss), and blocked a field goal.

Both of CCU’s starting defensive ends were second-team all-league picks. Roderick Holder (6’1″, 235 lbs.) has 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, while Calvin Hollenhorst (6’3″, 235 lbs.) made the conference’s second-team unit for the third consecutive season despite missing three games with an injury.

The aforementioned Alex Scearce (6’3″, 220 lbs.) also made second-team All-Big South. Scearce leads the Chanticleers in tackles with 70.

Coastal Carolina has injury issues in the secondary. Ray Lewis III (5’9″, 195 lbs.) is listed as a projected starter at cornerback on the two-deep; it would be the first career start for the son of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

CCU should have no concerns at the other corner spot, however, as Kamron Summers (5’11”, 185 lbs.) has started 30 consecutive games for the Chanticleers. Summers leads the team in pass breakups, with six.

Placekicker Ryan Granger (5’11”, 175 lbs.) was named All-Big South after making 15 of 19 field goals this season, with a long of 47. Granger, who has not missed a PAT this year (33-33), scored a TD on a fake field goal against Presbyterian.

Masamitsu Ishibashi (5’10”, 170 lbs.) is CCU’s kickoff specialist. He has 7 touchbacks on 69 kickoffs.

Evan Rabon (6’0″, 150 lbs.) is averaging 36.5 yards per punt. Thirteen of his thirty-one boots have landed inside the 20. None of his punts have resulted in a touchback.

The holder for Coastal Carolina is Tyler Keane (5’9″, 185 lbs.). Keane has occasionally run two-point plays from his position. The long snapper is freshman Connor Kubala (6’1″, 225 lbs.).

Kickoff returner Devin Brown (5’8″, 170 lbs.) is a dangerous weapon for the Chanticleers. Brown, who was named the Big South’s special teams player of the year, has returned two kickoffs for TDs this season. The junior has five such returns in his career.

Chris Jones is an excellent punt returner, averaging 11.5 yards per return (with a long of 64).

Odds and ends:

– There are 39 players from South Carolina on the Chanticleers’ roster. Other states represented: Florida (15), Georgia (14), North Carolina (8), Maryland (7), New Jersey (6), Pennsylvania (5), Virginia (4), Connecticut (3), California (3), Massachusetts (2), and one each from Texas, New York, Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There is also one player from Washington, DC, and another from Rome, Italy (reserve tight end Lorenzo D’Angelo).

– Of the eighteen players on the Chanticleers’ roster who began their careers at junior colleges or other four-year schools, seven are listed as starters on this week’s two-deep.

– Coastal Carolina installed artificial turf at Brooks Stadium prior to the beginning of this season. The color of the surface is teal.

– CCU last played at Liberty on a Thursday night, so the Chanticleers have had two extra days to prepare for this week’s game. Of course, that is mitigated to an extent by Coastal Carolina not knowing its opponent until Sunday.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Coastal Carolina is a 1-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 57 (which, coincidentally, was also the over/under for the Bulldogs’ game against South Carolina).

Other lines for FCS playoff games: Chattanooga is a 9.5-point favorite over Fordham; Western Illinois is a 17.5-point favorite at Dayton; South Dakota State is a 3-point favorite at Montana; Southern Utah is a 1-point favorite at Sam Houston State; William & Mary is a 22-point favorite over Duquesne; New Hampshire is an 11-point favorite over Colgate; and Northern Iowa is a 19.5-point favorite over Eastern Illinois.

– Among FCS teams, The Citadel is 8th in this week’s Massey Ratings. Other FCS ratings of note: Charleston Southern, 9th; Chattanooga, 15th; Coastal Carolina, 20th; Fordham, 21st.

The top 5 in the Massey Ratings are (in order) Illinois State, North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Dartmouth, and South Dakota State. Western Carolina is 24th; the Catamounts are ranked higher than one of the at-large teams (Eastern Illinois, which is 25th).

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Conway, according to the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high around 72 degrees.

– Last season, Coastal Carolina hosted a playoff game against Richmond. Attendance for that matchup was 5,601. The game was played on the second Saturday after Thanksgiving.

In 2013, CCU hosted Bethune-Cookman at Brooks Stadium on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and drew 3,007.

I’m guessing there will be more people in the stands this Saturday. The Citadel sold out its ticket allotment of 1,500 by noon on Tuesday.

As of this writing (Thursday night), there were still tickets available from Coastal Carolina: Link

– It appears that many Bulldog fans will be parking in lot “YY”: parking map

That lot is about a half-mile from the stadium, but shuttles will be available.

I’m a bit worried by the current Bulldogs’ lack of postseason experience (particularly when compared to Coastal Carolina), but that concern is largely alleviated by the wealth of successful playoff experience shared by The Citadel’s coaching staff. Still, it’s going to be a little different for the players. Once kickoff rolls around, though, I suspect it won’t matter all that much.

I believe the Bulldogs will be able to move the ball on CCU’s defense. It will be important to finish off long drives with touchdowns, though. That means avoiding fumbles and costly penalties, and making it happen in the red zone.

Dual-threat QBs have given the Bulldogs problems in the past (including last season against the Chanticleers). This year, the defense has done a better job limiting explosive plays, and a really good job forcing turnovers.

However, The Citadel’s D has only come up with one turnover in the past two games. To win this game, Bulldog defenders need to return to their ball-hawking ways.

I’m a little nervous about special teams this week. Devin Brown is a dynamic kickoff returner, and punt return specialist Chris Jones is no slouch either.

The Citadel managed to survive the South Carolina game without giving up a big return, but it was touch-and-go at times. That has to improve against CCU.

I think a large contingent of Bulldog supporters will be in Conway this Saturday. They’re probably going to witness a good, tight ballgame.

I hope the fans clad in light blue go home happy.

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