2016 Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. North Greenville

The Citadel at North Greenville, to be played to be played at Younts Stadium in Tigerville, South Carolina, with kickoff at 7:00 pm ET on Thursday, October 6. The game will not be televised.

The game will be streamed by the North Greenville Sports Network. Cole Bryson will handle play-by-play, with Brad McGuffin supplying the analysis.

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, is the flagship station. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

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

Links of interest:

– Game notes from The Citadel

SoCon weekly release

Brent Thompson’s 10/4 press conference, including comments from Joe Crochet and Reggie Williams

FCS Coaches’ Poll

– A hurricane puts The Citadel on the road

– Local talent fuels North Greenville

I had planned on writing most of this preview on Thursday night, and had blocked off time on my schedule to do so. Alas, Hurricane Matthew had other ideas.

I just hope the team is more prepared to play the game than I was to write about it…

At times on Tuesday, I wasn’t sure the game would even happen. It will, though, two days early and in another location, a first-time venue for The Citadel’s football program. Repercussions will last for a while:

Ironically, North Greenville was scheduled largely so the Bulldogs would have a fifth home game at Johnson Hagood Stadium this season. With the game now moved to North Greenville’s Younts Stadium, The Citadel will have only four regular-season home games.

That loss of revenue, and the added expense of an extra road trip, means The Citadel’s budget will take a hit this year.

“We are going to incur additional expenses that were not budgeted for,” said [The Citadel’s director of athletics, Jim Senter]. “When we get to the end of the year, we hope we can absorb that. This is not like a normal (road) game for one night. Because of the emergency situation, we are going to have additional expenses related to busing, lodging and meals. There will be an additional cost for us.”

As for how tickets will be handled:

Tickets purchased for the game will be honored Thursday night at North Greenville. Fans unable to attend will have their ticket honored with an additional ticket in general admission seating at The Citadel’s home game against ETSU on Oct. 29 or can donate their ticket to the Junior Bulldog program, which benefits orphanages and foster families in the Lowcountry.

When was the last time The Citadel’s football team played a road game against a team that was not in Division I? I’m not entirely sure, but I believe the answer to that question is 1977, when the Bulldogs played at Delaware, which at that time was in Division II. The Citadel also traveled to face the Blue Hens in 1974.

The Citadel played three other road games in the 1970s against teams that are now D-1 but were not at that time: in 1970 against Arkansas State (then in the NCAA’s College Division); in 1971 versus Bucknell (also in the NCAA’s College Division); and in 1973 against Illinois State (a D-2 school that year).

Prior to 1970, there are several instances of The Citadel playing schools away from home that were not Division I at the time, but which are now. That was even the case in the post-war period.

Some of these matchups were neutral-site affairs, including games at the Orangeburg County Fair against Wofford (the last of which took place in 1959). The Citadel also played Presbyterian in Savannah in 1963.

The last time The Citadel played a road game against a school that was not then and is not now a current D-1 member (other than those institutions that dropped football)? Well, it’s possible that there hasn’t been such a game.

In researching this topic, I discovered that several games listed in the record book as road contests, notably a series of pre-World War II matchups with Newberry, were actually played at Hampton Park. The exception was a 1921 contest played in Florence (a game that ended in a 7-7 tie).

The record book also lists the 1948 games against Presbyterian and Newberry as having been road games, when in fact both games were played at College Park. That facility was used because the “new” Johnson Hagood Stadium was not ready to open at the beginning of the season. (Incidentally, the cost of the brand-new Johnson Hagood Stadium in 1948? $600,000.)

Thus, if North Greenville never moves up to Division I, this contest will wind up being a decided anomaly.

On October 14, 1891, at the fourth annual meeting of the North Greenville Baptist Association, a momentous decision was made. A committee of nine men was appointed to determine the best location for establishing a high school in the northern region of Greenville County…

…The work of the committee led to the establishment of what is now North Greenville University. Benjamin F. Neves offered ten acres of beautiful rolling land midway between Glassy Mountain to the north and Paris Mountain to the south. By 1892 the first building was completed and ready for occupancy, and North Greenville High School began with the arrival of the first students on January 16, 1893.

The State of South Carolina chartered the institution as North Greenville High School in 1904. The next year the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention assumed control of the school as part of its Mountain Mission School System, a relationship that lasted 25 years. In 1929, the North Greenville Baptist Association again accepted responsibility for the school which had been renamed “North Greenville Baptist Academy” in 1915.

North Greenville became a junior college in 1934; it was renamed North Greenville Junior College in 1950 (which was shortened to North Greenville College in 1972). High school courses were discontinued in 1959.

The school began offering baccalaureate degrees in 1992, and attained university status in 2006. North Greenville retains an affiliation with the South Carolina Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.

North Greenville fielded its first football team in 1994. It had its first winning season in 1996 (7-3), though consistent gridiron success has been difficult to come by. The program went 0-10 in both 2000 and 2001, but under Mike Taylor finished 10-2 in 2006, its best season by winning percentage to date.

Jamey Chadwell was at NGU for three seasons. In his third year at NGU (2011) he led the team to an 11-3 record, the most wins in school history.

After that season, Chadwell made a somewhat curious move to Delta State for a year before taking over at Charleston Southern in 2013. He was succeeded at North Greenville by Carroll McCray, who helmed the program for one year before leaving for his alma mater, Gardner-Webb. McCray’s replacement at NGU was Jeff Farrington.

Jeff Farrington is now in his fourth season as the head coach of North Greenville. He is also a 1982 graduate of The Citadel.

I was a walk-on at The Citadel, a slow, splitback veer quarterback who couldn’t throw and didn’t have a whole lot of people who wanted me to play football. But The Citadel gave me a chance, and I’m forever grateful. It was a great experience, and I got on the field as a defensive back my last two years.

I was a guy they couldn’t run off, and Art Baker and his staff, guys like Cal McCombs, had a really good influence on me. It was a special place and always has been.

Farrington has been an assistant coach at a wide variety of schools, including several in the Southern Conference. He was a graduate assistant at The Citadel for one year, spent five seasons at East Tennessee State, and was on Bobby Lamb’s staff for nine years at Furman.

Before taking the head coaching job at North Greenville in 2013, he had been the defensive coordinator at VMI. Farrington has also coached at Florida State, East Carolina, Lenoir-Rhyne, West Georgia, and Presbyterian. He assisted Lamb in starting the football program at Mercer, too.

Farrington’s staff has plenty of SoCon connections as well. Defensive coordinator Greg Harris is a VMI graduate. Offensive line coach Nic Cardwell is an Appalachian State alumnus, while defensive backs coach Maurice Duncan played for Furman.

Kicking coach Bob Price is an App State grad who spent 16 years as an assistant coach at Furman. Graduate assistant Jeff Ashley played for Wofford.

North Greenville has been an independent in football for several years (the school competes in Conference Carolinas in its other sports). However, that will change in 2018, when the school becomes an affiliate member (football-only) of the Gulf South Conference.

Members of the Gulf South in football: North Alabama, Valdosta State, West Georgia, West Alabama, Florida Tech, Delta State, West Florida, Mississippi College, and Shorter.

This will only be the second time North Greenville has hosted an FCS school (Charleston Southern made the trip in 2007), but NGU has a lot of experience facing D-1 competition.

One thing that is rather clear when a check of the records is made: North Greenville has been very competitive in most of those matchups.

In fact, the Crusaders have four victories over FCS foes, including a 37-24 win over VMI in 2013, Jeff Farrington’s first season in charge of the program. North Greenville has also beaten Presbyterian (in 2010), Jacksonville, and Austin Peay (with both of those victories coming in 2006).

Some of the losses are almost (if not just) as impressive. Wofford outlasted NGU 42-27 in 2014; Charleston Southern won 28-14 in 2013 and 41-31 in 2010; Presbyterian survived 22-15 in 2008. That aforementioned home game against CSU in 2007 resulted in a 46-33 win for the Buccaneers.

North Greenville isn’t going to be intimidated by playing an FCS squad. If The Citadel isn’t ready to play on Thursday night, the Bulldogs could get embarrassed.

NGU opened the season in front of 3,822 fans with a 24-23 home win over future conference foe West Alabama. The Crusaders were up 10-0, but found themselves behind 23-17 late in the fourth quarter. A touchdown and subsequent PAT with 1:40 remaining gave North Greenville the lead for good.

North Greenville then traveled to Lenoir-Rhyne and crushed the Bears, 45-0. Rochar Witherspoon returned the opening kickoff for a TD, and the Crusaders never let up. Starting quarterback Will Hunter completed 9 of his first 10 passes, and NGU rushed for 179 yards and four touchdowns.

Newberry would hand NGU its first loss of the season, a 29-28 setback in Tigerville before 2,928 spectators. The Crusaders trailed 22-10 before mounting a comeback that saw them take the lead with less than five minutes remaining. However, Newberry proceeded to drive the length of the field and scored the winning touchdown/PAT with just 1:09 to play.

North Greenville fell to 2-2 after a 49-35 loss at UNC-Pembroke. The Crusaders trailed 28-7 at halftime after allowing 251 passing yards in the first two quarters. The Braves kept NGU at bay during the second half, leading by at least 14 points throughout the contest.

On Saturday, the Crusaders hammered Mars Hill at Younts Stadium, 56-21, delighting most of the 2,056 fans in attendance. A blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone for a TD gave NGU plenty of momentum early in the game, as North Greenville scored the game’s first 21 points. The Crusaders added a touchdown in the second quarter and three more TDs in the third, rolling up 518 yards of total offense in the process.

Some quick team statistics of note for North Greenville:

NGU Opponents
Points/game 37.6 24.4
Total yards rushing 1213 767
Rush attempts 200 180
Yards/rush 6.1 4.3
Rush TDs 16 9
Total yards passing 957 1200
Completion % 54.2 (144 attempts) 63.6 (187 attempts)
Yards/pass attempt 6.6 6.4
Interceptions 1 5
Pass TDs 7 8
Total offense 2170 1967
Offensive Plays 344 367
Yards/play 6.3 5.4
Fumbles/Lost 7/3 8/3
Penalties/game 9 9
Pen yds/game 81.6 71.6
TOP/game 28:59:00 31:00:00
3rd-down conversion % 40.00 38.96
Red Zone TD% 13-14 (93%) 13-17 (76%)

Things that jump out when looking at those stats:

  • Scoring touchdowns on 13 of 14 trips into the red zone is very impressive
  • NGU passes on 42% of its plays from scrimmage
  • Passing yardage accounts for 44% of the Crusaders’ total offense
  • North Greenville has only committed four turnovers in five games
  • NGU has been heavily penalized — and so has its opponents
  • The difference in rush yards per play from an offensive and defensive perspective is noteworthy

Starting quarterback Will Hunter (6’1″, 190 lbs.) is a redshirt sophomore from Lexington who operates the Crusaders’ zone-read offense out of the shotgun.

For the season, Hunter is completing 54.1% of his passes, averaging 6.56 yards per attempt, with six TD tosses against only one interception. Hunter’s father Tripp is a graduate of The Citadel (like Jeff Farrington, he is an ’82 grad).

NGU has three players who share most of the load in terms of rushing attempts. Ashton Heard (5’9″, 180 lbs.) is a native of Abbeville who rushed for 1,136 yards last season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Simeon Byrd (5’10”, 205 lbs.), who went to Spartanburg High School, has 17 career touchdowns. While Heard and Byrd are seniors, Tracy Scott (6’0″, 195 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman from Greenville who currently leads the team in rushing, and is averaging  7.5 yards per carry. Scott started in the Crusaders’ most recent game, against Mars Hill.

Twelve different players have receptions for the Crusaders. The three leading receivers are a varied lot in terms of size.

Mason Sanders (6’6″, 230 lbs.) is a junior from Boiling Springs who is tied for the team lead in receptions (19). Sanders, who leads the team with 4 TD catches, is joined in the starting lineup by Javon Smith (5’9″, 170 lbs.) and Demajiay Rooks (5’10”, 160 lbs.).

Smith is a junior from Blythewood with 19 catches so far this season, while Rooks is a sophomore from Woodruff with 12 receptions, including a team long of 51 yards. Rooks had a kickoff return for a touchdown last season for the Crusaders, so he’s more than capable of making a big play.

Starting tight end Bobby Foos (6’2″, 225 lbs.) doubles as the team’s punter. The product of Chesnee High School has a touchdown reception this year for NGU.

The starters on North Greenville’s offensive line average 6’4″, 280 lbs. Tackle Casey Stewart (6’2″, 280 lbs.) is a Pickens resident who had 35 “knockdown” blocks last season.

Linebacker Sam Houston (6’1″, 220 lbs.) is an Easley native who is far and away the Crusaders’ leader in tackles this season. He is also the career tackles leader for North Greenville.

In a way, it is a shame that he didn’t attend Sam Houston State. I really hope his nickname is “Bearkat”.

Daulton Pilgrim (6’0″, 190 lbs.) is a junior linebacker who went to Daniel High School. He is second on the team in tackles.

Desmond Williams (6’2″, 255 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman defensive lineman from Piedmont. Williams already has two blocked kicks this year.

Another defensive lineman, Anthony Blair (6’3″, 245 lbs.) is the team’s designated sack artist; the junior from Georgetown has 2.5 sacks this year. He had 7.5 sacks in 2014.

Nigel Gay (5’9″, 160 lbs.) is a DB from Newnan, Georgia (not South Carolina!) and has two interceptions so far this season. The senior is also averaging an impressive 8.3 yards per punt return, something to watch on Thursday night.

Earlier, I mentioned that Rochar Witherspoon (5’8″, 160 lbs.) returned a kickoff for a TD against Lenoir-Rhyne. Witherspoon (from Manning) is also a starting defensive back for the Crusaders.

Placekicker Matt Gravely (6’2″, 180 lbs.) is a freshman from Pickens who is 4 for 5 on field goal attempts this season (long of 47 yards). He is 24 for 24 on PATs.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Thursday in Tigerville, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny with a high of 75 degrees. There is a 20% chance of rain on Thursday night, with a low of 62 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 28.5-point favorite over North Greenville, with an over/under of 49.5. However, that line was set before the game was moved to North Greenville.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Chattanooga is an 18.5-point favorite over Mercer; Samford is a 7.5-point favorite at Furman; VMI is a 12.5-point favorite versus East Tennessee State; and Wofford is an 8.5-point favorite at Western Carolina.

Gardner-Webb is a 5.5-point favorite over Presbyterian this week in Boiling Springs. North Carolina is a 2-point favorite at home over Virginia Tech.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 9th in FCS. North Greenville is 72nd among Division II squads.

Massey projects The Citadel to have an 98% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of 41-10.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (4th), Samford (18th), Wofford (26th), Mercer (42nd), Furman (60th), Western Carolina (61st), Gardner-Webb (66th), VMI (67th), East Tennessee State (86th).

– North Greenville’s roster is overwhelming made up of South Carolina natives (as you may have guessed while reading the section on individual players), with 78 Crusaders hailing from the Palmetto State. Other states represented on NGU’s roster: Georgia (9), Florida (3), North Carolina (2), and Ohio (1).

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (23), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Alabama (4), Pennsylvania (4), Texas (4), and one each from Louisiana, Maryland, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, and West Virginia.

– Triple option oddity no more: through three games this season, more Bulldogs had caught passes (eight) than had rushing attempts (seven). However, the number of rushers has finally exceeded the number of pass-catchers, as Evan McField, Grant Drakeford, and Jonathan Dorogy all had rushing attempts on Saturday against Western Carolina.

– North Greenville has had one player make the NFL: Freddie Martino, a wide receiver who has been on practice squads (and occasionally on active rosters) for the Falcons, Eagles, and Buccaneers. He is currently on Tampa Bay’s active roster.

– Joseph Randolph II, a freshman from Jefferson, Georgia, is listed on The Citadel’s two-deep for this week. It is the first time he has appeared on the Bulldogs’ depth chart. Randolph is a 6’3″, 255 lb. defensive tackle.

I am worried about this game, for several reasons. One, North Greenville appears to be a very solid D-2 team, with a lot of quality players who can make a difference on any given night.

Then there is the element of the unknown. How will the Bulldogs react to having to play two days early? How will they perform away from home after anticipating playing a game at Johnson Hagood Stadium?

The Citadel has not played at home since September 10, against Furman. Sure, there was a bye week mixed in between road games, but that’s a long wait for a home game. Then not to have it after all — well, that makes it tougher.

I’m not too concerned about the Bulldogs looking ahead to the Chattanooga game. I’m just wondering about the focus for this game in general.

We’ll see. Dee Delaney seems to have the right mindset, at any rate.

It would not be surprising if a significant number of Bulldog supporters make an appearance at Younts Stadium on Thursday night. I have a feeling that a lot of light blue and white will be on hand, and that’s good.

This game is sort of a mini-bonus for some of The Citadel’s fans in the Upstate. Perhaps a few cadets will make it to the game, too.

Let’s get to 5-0.

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