2016 Football, Game 8: The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State

The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 29. The game will not be televised

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Kevin Fitzgerald will provide play-by-play, while Sadath Jean-Pierre supplies 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, will be 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 for The Citadel and East Tennessee State

SoCon weekly release

– Kailik Williams makes lots of plays

– Myles Pierce is the SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week

– Cody Clark is undefeated as a Bulldog

– SoCon will not have instant replay until at least 2018

Brent Thompson’s 10/25 press conference, including comments from Rudder Brown and Myles Pierce (video)

Brent Thompson’s 10/26 radio show (video)

Hey, it’s that guy Myles Pierce again; this time, a feature

– ETSU is preparing for a “test” against the Bulldogs

– Bucs “gearing up” for The Citadel

– Carl Torbush’s post-game interview after ETSU’s win over West Virginia Wesleyan

– Carl Torbush’s 10/24 press conference

– FCS Coaches’ Poll

At his Tuesday press conference, Brent Thompson was asked about crowd support, and whether or not he thought there was a greater level of excitement among the fans than in years past. His answer:

The one thing I know about The Citadel alums is they are fanatical, and once they start that ball rolling, I think it starts to run out of control a little bit, and that’s awesome for us.

And that’s what we’re trying to create. The fan support is always there and has always been there, but now what I think they are starting to do is they’re starting to drag other people in with them, and starting to get maybe people who are Citadel fans [but] not necessarily alums involved, and that’s what we want.

And that’s how we’re going to fill up Johnson Hagood Stadium — not just by bringing in our own fans and our own alums in there and our own corps of cadets, but it’s more about bringing…the guy down the road that, hey, he’s a good football fan. He wants to see good FCS football and he’s excited about what’s going on in Charleston.

We’ve got plenty of people here in Charleston [who] enjoy football, and they don’t have to travel up the road, and so that’s what we want to do. We want to create a little bit of excitement here in town.

I couldn’t agree more with the coach on this subject. On the one hand, the fact that The Citadel has historically enjoyed an attendance-to-undergrad ratio of 5-to-1 or 6-to-1 (and occasionally 7-to-1) is extremely impressive. There are very few schools around that can make such a claim.

However, over the years I believe the military college has seen a decline in attendance among local football fans without a specific affiliation to The Citadel. I think the primary culprit has been television.

I’ve written about this before, but in the 1960s and 1970s (and even into the 1980s) there was very little televised college football. A big football fan who lived in Charleston might go to Johnson Hagood Stadium to watch the local team play, perhaps bringing along a transistor radio so he could listen to Bob Fulton or Jim Phillips during timeouts. (During live action, of course, he would listen to George Norwig.)

The proliferation of college football on television over the last few decades changed everything, and that affected The Citadel’s attendance. Not winning a great deal for the better part of 20 years didn’t help, either.

Now, however, The Citadel has a quality product to present to the community. While it’s primarily the job of the department of athletics to make that case, alums have to do their part as well — even grumps like me.

We have to tell people what makes going to a football game at The Citadel unique and fun.  That starts with the corps of cadets, of course. The corps is a show of its own that other schools can’t match.

Combine the corps, the tailgating, the usually great weather, and a host of other attractions (flyovers, parachute jumpers, zany contests, the regimental band and pipes, Spike and the cheerleaders, General and Boo) with a really good football team, and suddenly you realize The Citadel has a lot to offer.

The Bulldogs are Charleston’s college football team, and proud of it.

For anyone hoping the SoCon would adopt instant replay for its league football games, the news is not encouraging:

…last week, the SoCon’s athletic directors decided to put off adding instant replay to league football games until at least 2018.

“We just had our fall meetings with the athletic directors, and the subject came up for us to put instant replay in place,” said commissioner John Iamarino. “We were talking about 2017, but the decision by the athletic directors was not to have it in 2017.”

Iamarino said the athletic directors cited three main reasons for putting off instant replay:

– the logistics of establishing a replay booth with the proper equipment in every SoCon stadium.

– the cost of equipment, software and extra officials.

– adding to the length of time it takes to play games.

Iamarino said the only other FCS leagues without replay that he is aware of are the Ivy League and the Pioneer League.

In my opinion, the last of those reasons cited by the ADs is without merit. Given the amount of “media timeouts” now prevalent in league games that are televised or streamed, there is no reason to eschew instant replay because of additional time added to league contests.

Instead of using three media timeouts in less than an eight-minute span of game time (which occurred in the first quarter of The Citadel’s game against Wofford last week), those media timeouts can be taken during replay reviews.

The SoCon probably needs to have instant replay sooner rather than later, if only to have the same standard officiating procedures as the rest of FCS, but no one should be under the impression that replay will be a panacea. At times, replay has simply added another layer of error to the proceedings.

Sure, you would like to think that with replay, Kailik Williams’ strip/recovery in the first quarter versus Wofford would have resulted in The Citadel gaining possession of the football, but we’ve all seen that kind of play occasionally upheld anyway because of a “down by contact” ruling (or because the whistle blew). Rudder Brown’s catch in the overtime period might have been tagged as “inconclusive”, and Jorian Jordan’s touchdown-that-wasn’t may have suffered the same fate, depending on the mood of the official in the booth.

Replay aside, what really needs to happen is that the league needs to significantly improve its on-field officiating. That is what the conference’s players, coaches, and fans deserve, rather than ludicrous decisions like (just to mention one example) this ridiculous call against Mercer earlier in the season in a game versus Tennessee Tech.

East Tennessee State disbanded its football program after the 2003 season for financial reasons. The decision to eliminate football also led to ETSU’s departure from the Southern Conference.

Now, ETSU football is back, and in a related development, the school is back in the SoCon. While the rest of its sports resumed league competition for the 2015-16 school year, the Buccaneers’s football program spent the 2015 season as an independent before jumping back into gridiron league play this year.

That 2015 campaign was the first in football for East Tennessee State in twelve years, and that showed in the on-field results. The Buccaneers finished 2-9, with wins over Warner and Kentucky Wesleyan.

Some of the losses were painful. Fellow start-up program Kennesaw State beat ETSU 56-16, and the Bucs got hammered by several established D1 schools (losing 63-7 to Montana State, 47-7 to Charleston Southern, 52-0 to Mercer, and 58-9 to St. Francis of Pennsylvania).

Two of the losses were to Division III schools (Maryville and Emory & Henry).

East Tennessee State opened its 2016 campaign with the same opponent it had played to begin the 2015 season, Kennesaw State. The result wasn’t the same, however. ETSU shocked the Owls in Kennesaw, winning 20-17 in double overtime. Kennesaw State had entered the game as a 26-point favorite; the Bucs’ victory was one of biggest upsets so far this season in all of Division I.

The key to the victory for ETSU: the Bucs held Kennesaw State’s triple option offense to 2.9 yards per rush (166 total rush yards).

After a week off, East Tennessee State moved to 2-0 with another surprising victory, 34-31 over Western Carolina. The game was played at Bristol Motor Speedway.

ETSU trailed the Catamounts 21-3, but scored a touchdown shortly before halftime. That jump-started a 24-0 run which gave the Buccaneers a lead they would not relinquish. East Tennessee State ran 87 offensive plays from scrimmage in the contest, averaging 5.4 yards per play.

After those two victories, the Bucs found the going much tougher. East Tennessee State lost four straight games, all in SoCon action, by a combined score of 157-21. The first of those was a shutout loss at Wofford (31-0) in which ETSU only had 76 yards of total offense.

East Tennessee State then lost to Chattanooga and VMI by identical 37-7 scores. The Bucs lost the time of possession battle in both games by a significant margin.

The next game saw Furman pummel ETSU in Johnson City, 52-7. The Paladins led 35-0 at halftime, and wound up scoring 52 points on just 56 offensive snaps, averaging 9.1 yards per play.

On Thursday night of last week, East Tennessee State picked up its third victory of the 2016 season, beating West Virginia Wesleyan 38-7. The Bucs rolled up 323 rushing yards on their D-2 opponents.

East Tennessee State’s reborn program is helmed by longtime college coach Carl Torbush.

Torbush is a Carson-Newman graduate who spent many years as a well-respected defensive coach for a number of different schools, mostly in the south. He has been the defensive coordinator at Mississippi, Alabama, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Kansas, and (most notably) North Carolina, where he was a member of Mack Brown’s staff for a decade. When Brown left for Texas after the 1997 regular season, Torbush succeeded him as the head coach.

What not everyone remembers is that the UNC job wasn’t Torbush’s first stint as a head coach. He actually had the top job at Louisiana Tech for one season, 1987, before resigning to become Brown’s defensive coordinator in Chapel Hill.

In 3+ years at UNC, Torbush had a record of 17-18. He was 3-8 in his one year in charge at Louisiana Tech. Torbush is 5-13 so far at ETSU.

Earlier in his football coaching career, Torbush spent four years (1976-1979) as a defensive assistant at Southeastern Louisiana. During that time, he also served as the school’s baseball coach. Torbush (a former minor leaguer) led the baseball team to a share of the Gulf South conference title in 1978.

Torbush has a staff with a lot of familiarity with East Tennessee State, as four of his assistant coaches played at the school, including defensive coordinator Billy Taylor.

ETSU’s offensive coordinator is Mike O’Cain, who played quarterback at both Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School (where he sported the famed maroon and orange) and Clemson. O’Cain was the head football coach at North Carolina State for seven years in the 1990s, and has been an offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks coach at several other schools, including Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and James Madison.

For three seasons (1978 through 1980), O’Cain served as the running backs coach at The Citadel, under Art Baker.

Next year, East Tennessee State will play in a new football stadium. It is expected to eventually have 10,000 seats, although the first phase of construction will result in a 7,000-seat facility.

If you want to read more about the stadium, or see what it’s supposed to look like, a website has been set up for that purpose: Link

The fundraising committee for the stadium is co-chaired by former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith and country music singer Kenny Chesney.

Both are alums of the school; it turns out that notorious bandwagon fan Chesney is actually a 1991 graduate of East Tennessee State. Who knew?

ETSU saw a dip in season ticket sales this season, with a drop of about 20% from the 2015 season. However, it is quite possible that will change for the better next season, when the team plays in its new on-campus stadium.

Home attendance this season for the Bucs is actually up by 36%, but those numbers include the game at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Some statistics of note for East Tennessee State:

ETSU Opp
Points/game 16.1 30.3
Rushing yardage 953 1294
Rushing attempts 278 298
Yards/rush 3.4 4.3
Rushing TDs 9 17
Passing yardage 953 1416
Comp-Att-Int 104-184-2 111-161-2
Average/pass att 5.2 8.8
TDs Passing 5 11
Total offense 1906 2710
Total plays 462 459
Yards/play 4.1 5.9
Fumbles/lost 4/2 9/6
Penalties-pen yards 42-438 46-442
Pen yards/game 62.6 63.1
Net punt average 33 38.9
Time of poss/game 30:28:00 29:32:00
3rd-down conv 44/104 31/82
3rd-down conv % 42.3% 37.8%
Sacks by-yards 11-57 19-132
Red Zone TD% (14-18) 78% (20-28) 71%
  • The Buccaneers lead the nation in fewest turnovers, with just four in seven games — two lost fumbles, and two interceptions
  • ETSU’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate of 42.3% is 26th nationally
  • Not shown in the table: East Tennessee State is third from last in the country in pass efficiency defense, ahead of only winless Austin Peay and 1-5 Yale
  • Last week, The Citadel faced the #1 team in the nation in net punting (Wofford); conversely, ETSU is 99th in net punting

Okay, now let’s look at some of The Citadel’s relevant statistics:

The Citadel Opp
Points/game 27.9 17.7
Rushing yardage 2476 949
Rushing attempts 465 225
Yards/rush 5.3 4.2
Rushing TDs 20 10
Passing yardage 384 1199
Comp-Att-Int 22-56-2 92-172-7
Average/pass att 6.9 7.0
Passing TDs 3 5
Total offense 2860 2148
Total plays 521 397
Yards/play 5.5 5.4
Fumbles/lost 10/4 10/7
Penalties/pen yards 36-364 29-287
Pen yards/game 52.0 41.0
Net punt average 37.3 39.3
Time of poss/game 34:31:00 25:28:00
3rd-down conv 57/117 27/81
3rd-down conv % 48.7% 33.3%
Sacks by-yards 19-138 0-0
Red Zone TD% (15-28) 54% (8-14) 57%
  • The Citadel continues to lead the nation in rushing yards per game (353.7) and is 12th in rushing yards per play
  • The Bulldogs are 3rd nationally in time of possession and 9th in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate
  • The Citadel is 9th in scoring defense, 16th in total defense, and tied for 22nd in defensive 3rd-down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs are tied for 9th in turnover margin
  • The Citadel remains the only FCS team not to have had a sack recorded against it this season

East Tennessee runs a spread offense, with roughly a 60/40 run-to-pass ratio. After seven games, the Buccaneers have the exact same number of rushing yards as passing yards (953).

The starting quarterback for the Buccaneers is Austin Herink (6’3″, 206 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Cleveland, Tennessee. He has started all 17 games for the team over the past two seasons.

Herink has completed 58.6% of his passes, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt, with three touchdown tosses against two interceptions. He is not much of a running threat, though he does have three rushing TDs.

Jujuan Stinson (5’9″, 183 lbs.) is ETSU’s top running back, with more carries and rushing yards this season than the next two leading Bucs rushers combined. The redshirt sophomore from Knoxville had three 100-yard rushing games in 2015. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield.

Backup running back Matt Thompson (5’11”, 218 lbs.) is a sophomore who began his college career at…The Citadel. Thompson (not to be confused with the Matt Thompson who played quarterback and wide receiver for the Bulldogs a few seasons ago) is averaging 5.6 yards per rush.

Junior wideout Vincent Lowe (5’9″, 181 lbs.) is a transfer from Old Dominion who leads the Bucs in catches, with 17. Closely behind Lowe in the receptions department is Dalton Ponchillia (5’11”, 186 lbs.), a redshirt senior from Nashville who leads ETSU in reception yardage.

Lowe and Ponchillia also handle punt return duties for the Buccaneers.

East Tennessee State’s projected starting offensive line averages 6’4″, 286 lbs. On his radio show, Brent Thompson described the Bucs’ o-line as “physical, and pretty athletic for big guys”.

Alex Rios (6’5″, 295 lbs.) started the first six games of the season at right tackle, but moved to left tackle for the game against West Virginia Wesleyan. The junior from Tucson is a transfer from Pima Community College.

Left guard Ben Blackmon (6’3″, 289 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman who went to Newberry (SC) High School.

Linebacker Dylan Weigel (6’0″, 220 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection. A redshirt sophomore from Pickering, Ohio, Weigel is far and away the leading tackler for the Buccaneers this season, with 64 stops.

East Tennessee State’s defense suffered a blow when linebacker Kahlil Mitchell was kicked off the team after the Bucs’ loss against VMI. In five games, Mitchell registered 31 tackles (still tied for fourth on the team) and two sacks.

ETSU starts two defensive ends who are both natives of South Carolina. Chris Bouyer (6’2″, 276 lbs.) is a sophomore from Rock Hill, and a product of Northwestern High School. Redshirt freshman Nasir Player (6’5″, 257 lbs.) is from Columbia. He went to Ridge View High School.

Tavian Lott (5’11”, 182 lbs.) is a senior cornerback who began his college career at Snow College before transferring to ETSU. Lott is originally from D’Lo, Mississippi.

Fellow cornerback Jeremy Lewis (5’11”, 171 lbs.) is a true freshman who has started the last two games for the Bucs after the incumbent starter, Daren Ardis, suffered an injury.

J.J. Jerman (5’10”, 173 lbs.) is a sophomore who does the placekicking for the Buccaneers. Jerman kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime against Kennesaw State.

For the season, he is 5 for 7 on field goal attempts, with a long of 43 yards. He has yet to miss an extra point in his ETSU career.

Kickoff specialist Landon Kunek (6’2″, 182 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman who went to Spartanburg High School. Five of Kunek’s 24 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks.

East Tennessee State’s punter is Marion Watson (6’2″, 160 lbs.). Nine of his 41 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line.

Domenique Williams (5’10”, 160 lbs.) is ETSU’s primary kick returner. His longest return so far this season is 41 yards.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Spartanburg, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 80 degrees. Yes, it’s almost November and it will be 80 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 33.5-point favorite over Wofford, with an over/under of 45.5.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 5.5-point favorite at VMI; Wofford is a 12.5-point favorite versus Mercer; Chattanooga is a 16.5-point favorite at Western Carolina; and Samford is a 20-point underdog at Mississippi State.

Gardner-Webb (now 3-5 on the season) is a 14.5-point underdog at Liberty. North Carolina (6-2) is off this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 6th in FCS (moving up one spot from last week). East Tennessee State is ranked 92nd (a jump of three spots).

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 37, ETSU 3.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (10th), Samford (11th), Wofford (25th), Mercer (38th), Furman (57th), VMI (61st), Gardner-Webb (66th),Western Carolina (73rd).

The top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, Jacksonville State, and Youngstown State.

– East Tennessee State’s game notes roster includes 37 players from Tennessee. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (7), Virginia (6), Florida (5), South Carolina (4), North Carolina (4), Ohio (3), Alabama (3), and one each from Arizona, New York, Texas, and West Virginia.

– 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.

– Future FBS opponents for East Tennessee State include Tennessee (with the game taking place in 2018), Vanderbilt (2019 and 2021), Appalachian State (2019 and 2024), and Georgia (2020).

– There were no new names on The Citadel’s two-deep this week, the fourth consecutive week that has been the case. There was one slight alteration on the depth chart; the center position for the ETSU game is listed as “Tyler Davis OR Ryan Bednar”.

The Citadel is favored to win on Saturday. It would be a hugely unpleasant surprise for the Bulldogs (and their supporters) if they failed to do so.

However, The Citadel should be wary. East Tennessee State may just be in the second year of Bucs Football 2.0, but there are some talented players on its roster.

ETSU has already pulled off a huge upset already this season, with its stunning victory at Kennesaw State. That’s the same KSU team which is now 5-2 this season, by the way, including a win over Furman in which the Owls scored 52 points.

In other words, the Buccaneers are a capable outfit, and also believe they can win this Saturday — and why not, having already beaten the odds earlier this year.

The Citadel’s players and coaches know a little bit about shocking upsets. After all, the team was a 20-point underdog at South Carolina last season.

The Bulldogs must continue to play as close to mistake-free football as possible on both sides of the ball. I would also like to see the offense pull off a few more explosive plays this week.

That won’t be easy, not with a veteran campaigner like Carl Torbush on the other side. You can bet he’ll have a plan for defending The Citadel’s triple option, and that it will be a good one. ETSU has already muzzled one TO team this season (KSU).

I’m not counting any chickens (or pirates). I’m just hoping for another victory, and another fun afternoon for the home fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Let’s get to 8-0.

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: