2018 Football, Game 5: 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 13, 2018.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3, and is also available via ESPN College Extra. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen supplies the analysis. Danielle Hensley is the sideline reporter. 

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. 

Luke Mauro (the new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Cal McCombs. The sideline reporter will be Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/100.7FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and East Tennessee State

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– AFCA Coaches’ poll

– Brent Thompson’s 10/9 press conference

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

– ETSU press conference (from 10/8)

The Citadel offers potent rushing attack

My review of last year’s game between The Citadel and East Tennessee State

Saturday’s game broadcast has been picked up as part of the ESPN College Extra set of games. What that means: if you have DirecTV, Verizon FIOS, AT&T U-Verse, or Spectrum, you may be able to watch the game on a “regular” channel, depending on the extent of the package you have with your respective provider.

On DirecTV, for example, the game will be on channel 793. If you have AT&T U-Verse, check channels 614 through 621; the matchup should be on one of those channels. For Verizon FIOS, the ESPN College Extra channels are 821 through 828. Spectrum’s ECE channels are 505 through 512.

Parents’ Day (actually, a full weekend) activities: Link

My one observation to anyone going to the game, or to any of the other events listed in the link above: it is almost always warmer (and more humid) than you think it is going to be. Keep that in mind.

That said, this is probably the happiest of The Citadel’s three primary “celebration” weekends, at least for the cadets.

The Citadel will go 35 days in between home games. That is the longest the Bulldogs have gone between home games in a season since…last year, when The Citadel also went 35 days between home games.

The Bulldogs also had a 35-day break between home games in 2016, which means that for three years in a row (all early in the season), The Citadel has had an unscheduled long stretch away from home. In all three cases, a bye week combined with a weather issue created the long break in games played at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Note: Brent Thompson likes to refer to the breaks created due to weather systems as “hurrication”.

The Citadel is 1-3. Records of those teams through last week:

  • Wofford:  4-1, one loss was at Wyoming
  • Chattanooga:  4-2, losses to Wofford and at ETSU
  • Mercer:  3-2, losses at Memphis and to The Citadel
  • Towson:  4-1, one loss was at Wake Forest

Against non-FBS competition, the combined record is 15-3, and one of those three losses was to the Bulldogs. Next up is East Tennessee State, which is 5-1 — and the one loss was to Tennessee.

It’s been a very tough slate thus far.

As to the issue of Towson learning how to defend the triple option from Navy’s coaching staff, I have two general observations:

  • I can somewhat understand why Brent Thompson was irritated.
  • It doesn’t matter one bit.

The fact is that the Bulldogs gave up 608 yards of total offense, at a 9.5 yards per play clip, and that was why they lost. Towson scored early and often.

Sure, it would have been nice not to get down big early, and maybe Towson’s special defensive preparation had a role in that. It’s also true, though, that the Bulldogs have fallen behind in every game they’ve played this season, and usually by big margins (21-0, 14-0, 17-7, 21-3). I don’t think Wofford, Chattanooga, and Mercer went to Annapolis to study the option before playing The Citadel.

The one thing I do wonder about is whether or not Navy would have helped Towson out if Thompson had been part of the Paul Johnson “coaching tree”. Ultimately, though, it is of no real relevance.

During his presser, ETSU head coach Randy Sanders discussed the option, and (breath of fresh air alert) actually said there was nothing “dirty” about the offense:

It’s difficult obviously, because you normally don’t have a quarterback that’s doing this. The other thing that’s really difficult to replicate in practice is sometimes the amount of cutting, where the linebackers get cut and the defensive linemen get cut, and just the nature of that offense. It’s certainly legal, it’s not illegal, it’s not “dirty football” or anything like that. That’s just the way they play football with that offense. It’s the part that’s hard to replicate because obviously you have to practice it and your guys have to get used to playing those type of blocks. You don’t want to do it so much that somebody goes into the game limping.

In 2014, when I was at Florida State and we played Citadel in Tallahassee and beat them 37-7. I think a lot of the fans were disappointed, but we scored on I think seven of the nine possessions – the first seven possessions that we had the ball – we scored. We only had it nine times. The two times we didn’t score was late in the game when we were playing a lot of the backups. So, as good as that football team was at Florida State, they (The Citadel) were able to limit us to only nine possessions against our defense. It makes you execute when you get your opportunities and it makes you stay locked in from a mental standpoint. When you get the opportunities to make plays, you have to make them.

We’ll forgive Sanders for not remembering the exact score of The Citadel’s game with Florida State (37-12).

ETSU opened its season with a less-than-scintillating 28-7 victory over D-2 Mars Hill. The Buccaneers then got thumped, not unexpectedly, by Tennessee (59-3).

The SoCon campaign began for ETSU with a 27-24 win at VMI, a game won by the Bucs despite allowing a pick-6 and being called for 142 yards’ worth of penalties. I watched this game on ESPN+; it never crossed my mind that it would serve as the beginning of what is now a four-game winning streak.

The game that may define ETSU’s season was its matchup against Furman. Trailing 27-6 midway through the third quarter, the Buccaneers rallied to tie the game, with the winning points then coming on a safety (yes, really).

The key to that comeback was a change at quarterback. Austin Herink, a three-year starter relegated to a backup role as Temple transfer Logan Marchi had assumed the starting job, entered the contest against the Paladins. The passing stats from the two QBs from that game were as follows:

  • Austin Herink:  9/14, 202 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
  • Logan Marchi:  8/17, 71 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception

East Tennessee State followed that game up with a 17-14 win in Johnson City against Chattanooga. Herink played almost the entire way in that one (and started last week versus Gardner-Webb). ETSU held the Mocs to 3.9 yards per play, and that was basically an even distribution on the ground and in the air (taking out sack numbers, UTC averaged 3.8 yards per rush).

Chattanooga threw 56 passes in that game (not including five sacks) out of 83 offensive plays. Of course, UTC trailed 17-0 entering the fourth quarter, perhaps partly explaining all the passing attempts.

ETSU shut out Gardner-Webb 45-0 last week, basically taking care of business with authority against a bad team. (Incidentally, Gardner-Webb is a 46 1/2 point underdog at home this week to Kennesaw State.)

Of all those games, the Chattanooga contest stands out. ETSU controlled that game by grabbing the early lead and never letting go. To win this week, The Citadel needs to avoid falling behind (yet again).

As mentioned above, Austin Herink (6’3″, 210 lbs.) is again East Tennessee State’s starting quarterback, a role he filled for each of the last three seasons. Herink, a native of Cleveland, Tennessee, began his collegiate career at Middle Tennessee State.

Running back Quay Holmes (6’1″, 216 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman from Powder Springs, Georgia. Holmes has eight rushing touchdowns this season, and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He also has 15 receptions so far this year, second-most on the roster.

Wide receiver Keith Coffee (6’4″, 190 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Miami, leads ETSU in catches with 20.

Quan Harrison (5’10”, 182 lbs.) was a second-team all-SoCon pick last year as a return specialist. Oddly, he is not listed as a returner on ETSU’s most recent two-deep. However, Harrison is one of five Bucs with 10 or more receptions.

Brent Thompson made a point of praising the East Tennessee State offensive line, both in his press conference and on his radio show. As a collective, they are big. The average size of the projected starters: 6’4″, 306 lbs.

Matt Pyke (6’2″, 302 lbs.), the starting center, was a preseason second-team all-SoCon selection. The senior from Clinton, Tennessee has started every game in his career with the Buccaneers.

East Tennessee State normally lines up in a 3-4. There will be adjustments, to be sure, with the Bucs facing The Citadel’s triple option attack.

Defensive end Nasir Player (6’5″, 271 lbs.) is a redshirt junior from Columbia, South Carolina (he went to Ridge View High School). Player was a first-team all-conference choice after last season. He is yet another outstanding defensive lineman in a league full of them.

Besides playing football at Ridge View, Player spent one year on the school’s lacrosse team. I’m far from an expert on that sport, but he had to have been one of the larger high school lacrosse players around.

ETSU has another impact player on the other side of its d-line in Jason Maduafokwa (6’3″, 270 lbs.). He was very active in last year’s contest versus The Citadel.

Linebacker Dylan Weigel (6’0″, 221 lbs.) has led the Buccaneers in tackles in each of the last three seasons, and leads them this year. He was named the SoCon defensive player of the week last year after the Bucs’ game against The Citadel, in which he made 19 tackles.

Jeremy Lewis (5’10”, 180 lbs.) is a junior cornerback who currently ranks third on the roster in tackles. He also has one of ETSU’s seven interceptions.

J.J. Jerman (5’10”, 170 lbs.) was a second-team all-league pick after the 2017 season. The senior from Seymour, Tennessee is 7 for 10 on field goal tries this season. Last year, he made two 51-yard field goals, so he has a strong leg, and a fairly accurate one as well.

Marion Watson (6’2″, 160 lbs.) is in his fourth season as ETSU’s regular punter. His career long punt is 59 yards, which came in 2015.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high in the upper 70s. Winds will be out of the northeast at around 5 mph.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 5-point favorite over East Tennessee State, with an over/under of 49.

The over has hit in all four of The Citadel’s games this season.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Wofford is a 7-point favorite at Furman; Samford is a 19 1/2 point favorite over VMI; Chattanooga is an 8-point favorite at Western Carolina; and Yale is a 4 1/2 point favorite over Mercer.

Those lines are all as of Thursday afternoon. I emphasize this because there has been some surprising fluctuation in some of the FCS spreads this season, including games involving SoCon teams.

– Also of note:  Alabama is a 27 1/2 point favorite over Missouri. There is no line on Charleston Southern’s game against Virginia-Lynchburg (a non-D1 school; the Dragons play in the NCCAA).

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 54th in FCS. East Tennessee State is ranked 55th, exactly one spot behind the Bulldogs.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have an 71% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 28, ETSU 21.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey:  Elon (7th), Towson (9th), Colgate (15th), Wofford (20th), Kennesaw State (22nd), Yale (32nd), North Ca rolina A&T (35th), Chattanooga (39th), Mercer (42nd), Furman (43rd), Samford (48th), Western Carolina (69th), Charleston Southern (76th), South Carolina State (97th), Presbyterian (99th), VMI (105th), Gardner-Webb (112th), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads: North Dakota State, James Madison, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, and Illinois State.

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Penn State, Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan, and Washington. UCF is 12th, Texas 13th, Florida 15th, Kentucky 16th, North Carolina State 18th, South Carolina 20th, Texas A&M 25th, Duke 26th, Missouri 30th, Appalachian State 37th, Virginia Tech 43rd, Army 46th, Georgia Tech 49th, Wake Forest 52nd, Florida State 57th, Virginia 63rd, Tennessee 75th, Toledo 76th, North Texas 80th, Georgia Southern 82nd, Air Force 84th, North Carolina 95th, Navy 96th, Coastal Carolina 101st, Liberty 119th, Old Dominion 120th, Charlotte 127th, and UTEP 130th and last.

– Among East Tennessee State’s notable alumni:  Kenny Chesney (yes, ETSU is the school he actually attended), soldier/author R. Alan King, and Union Station bass player Barry Bales.

As I have written before (and will probably write again), Bales has one of the best jobs in the world, as he gets to listen to Alison Krauss sing on a regular basis.

– East Tennessee State’s roster includes 43 players from Tennessee. Other states represented on its squad:  Georgia (21 players), Ohio (8), Alabama (7), North Carolina (6), Virginia (6), South Carolina (5), Florida (3), and one each from Connecticut, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

While ETSU has five players who hail from South Carolina, none of the Buccaneers are graduates of fabled football factory Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This is an undeniable error in recruiting philosophy that will have an extremely negative long-term effect on East Tennessee State’s football program. Donnie Abraham is understandably shocked and upset, and may even feel betrayed.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47), Georgia (28), Florida (9), North Carolina (5), Texas (5), Tennessee (4), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

– This week’s two-deep is similar to the one released for the Towson game. There are a few changes, however. Lane Botkin is now listed as the starting punt retuner. Dijon Profit is listed as a potential starter at wide receiver. On defense, Joshua Bowers appears on the depth chart this week, while Jay Howard is listed as a potential starter at cornerback.

One caveat to the listed depth chart: Brent Thompson said during his presser that Khafari Buffalo was “doubtful” for the ETSU game. It would be the second consecutive contest missed by the junior from Sumter, who was injured while making an outstanding interception against Mercer.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 7-5 for games played on October 13. The Bulldogs are 5-2 at home on that date. A brief review of five of the twelve contests, as we go into the Bulldogs’ Wayback Machine:

  • 1962:  The Citadel won at Vanderbilt, 21-6, its first victory over an SEC opponent. Sid Mitchell scored a rushing TD and threw two big passes to Charlie Brendle, while Nick DeLoreto and Mike Lane added scores of their own to the final tally (with Lane rushing for a 15-yard TD one play after intercepting a Vanderbilt pass). The game turned on a huge goal-line stand by the Bulldogs, led by Gene Dice. The Citadel intercepted four passes on the day, including two by Joe Cannarella.
  • 1973:  In the first of two huge comeback victories that took place on October 13, The Citadel roared back from being down 20-0 to stun Chattanooga at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 28-20. Andrew Johnson scored three times; Gene Dotson rushed for 100 yards and scored the go-ahead two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. He also threw a 14-yard TD pass to Bob Willis. A fumble recovery by Ronnie Gibson after a muffed punt set up the Bulldogs’ first score. At the time, it was the largest deficit overcome by The Citadel for a victory in school history.
  • 1984:  Robert Hill threw two TD passes to Victor Frazier as the Bulldogs upset Western Carolina in Cullowhee, 34-33. Frazier finished with 5 catches for 133 yards, while Hill added a touchdown toss to Eric Reddish; his three TD passes made Hill the Bulldogs’ career record-holder in that category. Hill got injured during the game, though, which led to Kip Allen stepping in and throwing an 18-yard TD pass to Lee Glaze. On defense, Billy Morgan recovered two fumbles, but The Citadel’s victory wasn’t safe until Joel Thompson intercepted a would-be two-point conversion attempt with 24 seconds to play.
  • 2007:  The Citadel trailed Furman by 20 points in the second quarter, 17 points in the third quarter, and 10 points in the fourth quarter — but wound up winning in overtime, 54-51. Duran Lawson’s 486 yards of total offense set the school record. Lawson was ably assisted on the day by Tory Cooper (140 yards rushing, 83 yards receiving, 3 TDs), Andre Roberts (122 yards receiving, including a 62-yard TD), and Ta’Mar Jernigan (95 yards receiving, including a 29-yard touchdown).
  • 2012:  The most recent game played by The Citadel on October 13, a 45-31 Parents’ Day victory over Western Carolina, is probably best remembered for a special teams tackle made by Vinny Miller. I wrote about the game (and that hit).

– The Citadel first played East Tennessee State in 1966, winning 3-0. Cal McCombs was named the South Carolina State Defensive Player of the Week for his work during that contest. Now, of course, McCombs is in his first season as the radio analyst for the Bulldogs.

– Last year’s loss to Mercer broke a string of five consecutive Parents’ Day victories for The Citadel. Overall on Parents’ Day (since 1953), the military college has a 35-30 record.

The Citadel can win on Saturday. The Bulldogs must start well (for a change), avoid offensive turnovers and limit the big plays on defense.

There should be a very good crowd backing the home side. I hope the team can feed off that energy. A win could propel The Citadel to a very solid season. A loss…well, it could be a long year.

We’ll see what happens. I am vaguely hopeful.

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