The Sports Arsenal

2017 Football, Game 10: The Citadel vs. Furman

GREENVILLE — The Citadel Bulldogs, offensively on their best behavior of the fall, scored touchdowns in each of the first three periods Saturday night to breeze by Furman’s Hurricanes 24-6 at Sirrine Stadium…

…A chilly crowd, estimated at 8,000 persons, saw the Cadets dominate play throughout the game.

Dick Guererri got the soldiers moving in the first quarter with a fourth down, five-yard touchdown pass to halfback Billy Hughes. Sophomore Jerry Nettles, who still looks like the hottest article the Charleston ball club has come up with in a long time, directed the other two touchdown drives. Ray Woodworth slammed over from the two for a second-quarter score, and raced four yards for the other.

Employing a weird, semi-I formation on the extra point attempts, the Cadets made good on all three tries. Guererri passed to Hughes for one while Nettles hit Paul Maguire with a pass and ran another on the option.

…Workhorse for the Bulldogs was Joe Chefalo, the Southern Conference’s No. 2 rusher. Joe picked up 60 yards on nine carries…Big Barry Thomas carried six times for 49 yards.

– The News and Courier, October 26, 1958

The Citadel vs. Furman, to be played at Paladin Stadium in Greenville, South Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on November 11, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Bob Mihalic will handle play-by-play, while Sam Wyche supplies the analysis and Scott Cole reports from the sideline.

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.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/95.9FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Links of interest:

– Game preview, The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Furman

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Furman’s website

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked #32 if the poll went that far)

– Brent Thompson’s 11/7 press conference, including comments from Jonathan King and Dominique Allen  (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 11/8 radio show (video)

– Game story from Furman-Western Carolina [played two weeks ago; Paladins had a bye last week]

– ESPN3 replay of Furman-Western Carolina (video)

A quick turnaround for Furman

Freshmen linebackers have been getting it done for the Paladins

– My review of last week’s game against Western Carolina

– Link to ESPN3’s streaming coverage of The Citadel-Furman

Non-football links:

AD Jim Senter is a finalist for the same position at UTEP

Alumnus advances to further action (?) on the TV show “The Voice”

My sort-of preview of the upcoming basketball season for The Citadel

From Jeff Hartsell’s article on Furman’s season:

Attendance at Paladin Stadium is up about 25 percent this year over last, from 5,771 to 7,192 per game.

Furman home attendance this season:

Attendance at Paladin Stadium the last three times The Citadel has been Furman’s opponent:

Future non-conference opponents for the Paladins:

This will be the 40th time Furman and The Citadel have met in the month of November. The two schools have met on the gridiron in October 52 times, and in September on five occasions.

The Bulldogs are 15-23-1 against the Paladins in November, but have won the last four matchups held in the eleventh month. Next season, the two teams will meet on October 27 in Charleston.

This season, Furman is 6-3, 5-1 in the SoCon. After losing three games to start the 2017 campaign, the Paladins have won six straight contests.

Furman is a contender for an FCS playoff berth. The Paladins still have a slim chance at the automatic bid out of the SoCon, although that possibility will evaporate if Wofford wins at VMI on Saturday.

While an 8-3 record would almost certainly be more than good enough to get an at-large bid, I tend to doubt Furman will make the postseason with a 7-4 record. Thus, the Paladins probably have to win their final two games of the season to keep playing. After hosting The Citadel, FU closes its regular season with a matchup at Samford.

Furman’s less-than-great shot at a playoff bid if it finishes 7-4 has almost as much to do with the way the Paladins’ schedule played out as it does the actual losses.

At 0-3, Furman was nowhere near the postseason; then, as the Paladins began their winning streak, they didn’t have a statement victory to make people (including FCS poll voters) really sit up and take notice. Colgate, ETSU, a struggling UTC squad, VMI…it was hard for Furman to get what might be called “poll momentum”.

The last two weeks have been better on that front, particularly the win at Western Carolina. Furman is now ranked in the STATS poll, but is still in the “receiving votes” category in the FCS Coaches’ Poll.

The problem is that a loss in either of its last two games would likely leave Furman out of the rankings in both major polls. While the polls aren’t the end-all and be-all in terms of playoff placement, they tend to drive the narrative, and my sense is historically that has had an effect on the selection committee.

Having said that, there could well be a couple of unranked teams that wind up getting at-large spots; in fact, I think the odds are good that at least one such team will receive a bid. However, a 4-loss team from the SoCon (that may also be the fourth team from the league in the pecking order) is not going to be in a good position.

I could be wrong about all of the above, of course, particularly since there is still a lot of football to be played.

Key stats for Furman after nine games:

Furman Opponents
Points per game 34.4 23.3
Rushing yardage 2187 1245
Average per rush 4.7 3.8
Average per game 243 138.3
TDs rushing 26 13
Passing yardage 1648 2143
Comp-Att-Int 96-155-3 193-292-8
Average per pass 10.6 7.3
TDs passing 14 13
Total offense 3835 3388
Total plays 623 620
Yards per play 6.2 5.5
Kick returns-yards 20-436 32-744
Punt returns-yards 8-21 15-129
Fumbles/lost 14-8 9-7
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 3.6/34.7 7.3/59.9
Net punt average 35.6 39.7
Time of possession/game 30:36 29:24
3rd down conversions 65/130 41/119
3rd down conversion rate 50.0% 34.5%
Sacks by-yards 24-159 5-29
Field goals-attempts 6-9 7-11
Red Zone touchdown rate (26-34) 76.5% (19-32) 59.4%

Statistics of note for The Citadel through nine games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 23.8 19.2
Rushing yardage 2940 1108
Average per rush 5.3 4.0
Average per game 326.7 123.1
TDs rushing 21 13
Passing yardage 758 1587
Comp-Att-Int 43-112-6 142-236-11
Average per pass 6.8 6.7
TDs passing 7 10
Total offense 3698 2695
Total plays 664 512
Yards per play 5.6 5.3
Kick returns-yards 21-402 21-547
Punt returns-yards 18-164 8-55
Fumbles/lost 18/7 12/6
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.6/39.3 3.1/30.7
Net punt average 35.9 33.9
Time of possession/game 34:46 25:14
3rd down conversions 65/142 31/98
3rd down conversion rate 45.8% 31.6%
Sacks by-yards 16-87 5-33
Field goals-attempts 5-13 4-6
Red Zone touchdown rate (20-39) 51.3% (14-20) 70.0%

Rushing yardage accounts for 57.0% of Furman’s total offense. The Paladins actually run the ball from scrimmage 74.3% of the time, however (not including sacks).

P.J. Blazejowski (6’0″, 195 lbs.) has somehow only started 22 career games for Furman, despite the fact that the senior quarterback from St. Augustine has seemingly been on the Paladins’ roster since 1995. Blazejowski may be best remembered by fans of The Citadel for his performance in the 2014 game between the two teams, when he accounted for 382 total yards in a losing effort.

This season, Blazejowski is completing 61.2% of his passes, averaging an outstanding 10.9 yards per attempt, with 14 touchdown tosses against only three interceptions.

Furman has plenty of guys who will carry the ball, from a variety of formations. Blazejowski actually ranks fourth on the team in rushing from the QB position.

The three backs ahead of him on the rushing yardage list are all good, including leading rusher Antonio Wilcox (6’1″, 230 lbs.), who has impressed Brent Thompson. “I really like the way Wilcox runs,” was the coach’s largely unprompted comment on his radio show. The senior had 201 yards and a TD against Western Carolina two weeks ago.

Redshirt junior Kealand Dirks (6’0″, 244 lbs.) has three 100-yard rushing games in his last five contests, while Darius Morehead (5’9″, 180 lbs.), a redshirt freshman from Nashville, is averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

Furman’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 288 lbs. Starting center Matthew Schmidt (6’3″, 290 lbs.) was a preseason first team All-SoCon selection. Schmidt and fellow senior Terrell Bush (6’4″, 298 lbs.), the left guard, have combined to start 62 games for the Paladins.

Eleven different Furman players have caught passes this year. Leading that list (in terms of receptions and yardage) is redshirt senior Logan McCarter (6’2″, 189 lbs.), who is averaging 20.2 yards per catch.

In the 2015 game between the two teams at Paladin Stadium, McCarter actually threw a TD pass, so the Bulldogs need to be aware of that specific brand of trickery.

Thomas Gordon (6’0″, 174 lbs.) is a sophomore from Charlotte capable of making big plays. The sophomore from Charlotte had a 77-yard TD reception against Elon earlier this season. Last year, he caught an 83-yard touchdown pass versus VMI.

Gordon also serves as Furman’s primary kick and punt returner.

Furman has often had impact players at tight end, and that is certainly true this year. Andy Schumpert (6’5″, 202 lbs.) is putting together a strong case for all-conference honors. The senior has seven touchdown receptions this season, including six in his last five games.

Starting noseguard Jaylan Reid (5’11”, 270 lbs.) is a force in the middle of the Paladins’ defensive line. The redshirt junior from Marietta had seven tackles versus Mercer three weeks ago.

Reid, who is the reigning SoCon champ in the shotput, has five tackles for loss this season, and five quarterback hurries as well. Reid had a good game against The Citadel last year, registering six stops and a forced fumble.

Two freshmen linebackers have given Furman a lot of production. Reynard Ellis (6’1″, 227 lbs.) was playing high school football in Birmingham at this time last season. Right now, he is Furman’s second-leading tackler (with 57) and is also one of six different Paladins with at least one interception.

Fellow true freshman Elijah McKoy (6’2″, 218 lbs.) is third on the team in tackles, with 55. McKoy was originally recruited by Furman as a safety.

Free safety Bryan Okeh (6’4″, 212 lbs.) leads the Paladins in tackles this season, with 60. That includes a 14-tackle effort by the sophomore against Western Carolina. There aren’t too many 6’4″ free safeties roaming the secondary for an FCS team.

Strong safety Aaquil Annoor (5’10”, 171 lbs.), a junior from Nashville, was a preseason second-team All-SoCon pick. So far this year, Annoor has two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 1 1/2 sacks.

Furman placekicker Grayson Atkins (5’10”, 184 lbs.) is 6 for 9 on field goal attempts. The freshman had two 46-yard field goals against North Carolina State. Atkins has made all 40 of his PATs.

Jon Croft Hollingsworth (5’11”, 161 lbs.), who was the Paladins’ main placekicker for the previous three seasons, is now Furman’s kickoff specialist. He remains the team’s punter, however.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Greenville, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with an expected high of 51 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 33 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Furman is a 13-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 52 1/2.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Western Carolina is a 2 1/2 point favorite over Mercer; Wofford is a 30-point favorite at VMI; and Samford is a 19 1/2 point favorite over East Tennessee State. Chattanooga is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 16-point favorite against Florida State; South Carolina is a 7 1/2 point favorite versus Florida; Coastal Carolina is a 17 1/2 point underdog at Troy; Presbyterian is a 17 1/2 point underdog at Liberty; South Carolina State is a 2 1/2 point favorite over Hampton; and Charleston Southern is a 5 1/2 point underdog at Kennesaw State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 52nd in FCS (out of 124 teams), a drop of five spots from last week.

Furman is ranked 18th in FCS, falling two places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 213th, while Furman is 123rd.

Massey projects a final score of Furman 31, The Citadel 17. The Bulldogs are given a 14% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 21st (unchanged from last week), Samford is 24th (up nine spots), Western Carolina is 32nd (up three places), Mercer is 40th (down six spots), Charleston Southern is 49th, Chattanooga is 67th (down one spot), East Tennessee State is 71st (down one spot), Presbyterian is 91st, South Carolina State is 97th, and VMI is 116th (down one spot).

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: James Madison, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Western Illinois, and Northern Iowa.

– Since 1911, The Citadel has a 5-8 record in games played on November 11. Four of those five wins came in Charleston; one of them was the memorable 19-7 victory over South Carolina at Johnson Hagood Stadium in 1950.

The only road victory on that date in The Citadel’s football history came in 1972, when the Bulldogs defeated Furman 19-13 at Sirrine Stadium. A few tidbits from that contest:

– Among Furman’s notable graduates are Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, physicist Charles Townes, and journalist Eleanor Beardsley.

– Furman has worn white jerseys in each of its last four games against The Citadel. I’m guessing that the Paladins will don purple tops on Saturday.

– The roster for Furman (per its website) includes 29 players from the State of Georgia. Other states represented: South Carolina (19 players), North Carolina (13), Tennessee (11), Florida (10), Alabama (6), and one each from Massachusetts, Ohio, and Virginia.

The nineteen Paladins from the Palmetto State attended fifteen different high schools. Three players went to Dreher High School in Columbia; Wren High School and St. Joseph’s Catholic School both have two alums on the FU roster.

Shockingly, none of Furman’s South Carolina-based players attended legendary pigskin powerhouse Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. There is no question that Clay Hendrix will be looking to change that; otherwise, Furman’s recent struggles on the gridiron will definitely resurface again.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

– The Citadel’s two-deep for the Western Carolina game includes no changes on offense or defense, the fifth consecutive week that has been the case. On special teams, Cam Jackson and Raleigh Webb are now listed as the primary kick returners. Joshua Roides is listed as the backup at placekicker and punter, while Tyler Davis is the emergency long snapper (which I suspect may have already been the case; it’s just noted on the depth chart now).

It should be noted that Josh LeBlanc did not play last week due to injury and is probably questionable for the game on Saturday. The same is true for Kailik Williams, who was only able to take part in about five plays against Western Carolina. Both are listed as starters on the two-deep.

– Several busloads of cadets, mostly freshmen, are expected to make the trip to Greenville on Saturday to cheer on the Bulldogs. In 2015, about eight busloads of freshmen made plenty of noise while watching The Citadel’s 38-17 victory that afternoon.

This was originally going to be the second road football excursion for the freshmen during the season, but Hurricane Irma put the kibosh on an anticipated trip to Samford.

–  Don Powers, for five seasons the head football coach at The Citadel, will be honored at Western Carolina’s home game this Saturday. Powers, a graduate of WCU, is the latest inductee into that school’s athletic hall of fame.

Most observers expect Furman to win on Saturday, and with relative ease. The Paladins are playing well and have a great deal of confidence, while the Bulldogs are coming off what in some ways was their most disappointing performance in the last three years.

The reasons that Furman should win are many. The Paladins are playing at home; they have won six straight games; the team is motivated because a potential playoff bid is in the offing; the Paladins are also motivated because The Citadel has beaten Furman three years in a row; FU defensive coordinator Chad Staggs knows how to defend The Citadel’s offense and will always stop it; the Bulldogs are coming off a tough loss, and could be without key defensive stalwart Kailik Williams; etc., etc., etc.

I offer one argument against all that. I think it’s a good argument, though.

There are still plenty of players on The Citadel’s roster who have been a part of two league championships. They didn’t forget how to win. They have a lot of pride. They’ve still got a chance to have a winning season, and popping a purple balloon would also be a very enjoyable way to end the SoCon schedule.

I think the Bulldogs will be ready to play on Saturday. I’m sure the Paladins are going to be prepared as well. That’s fine.

Kickoff is just a few hours away.