Game Review, 2019: Towson

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

WCSC-TV game report (video)

School release

Game highlights (video)

Box score

Let’s look at some of the key stats:

The Citadel Towson
Field Position 21.78 (-15.2) 36.90 (+15.2)
Success Rate 54.05% 49.12%
Big plays (20+ yards) 1 6
Finishing drives** 4.00 5.25
Turnovers 3 1
Expected turnovers 1.72 2.10
Possessions 9 10
Points per possession** 2.33 3.11
Offensive Plays* 74 57
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 4.70 7.63
Yards/pass attempt (incl. sacks) 6.00 8.47
Yards/play* 4.77 8.19
3rd down conversions 11 of 17 (64.71%) 7 of 11 (63.64%)
4th down conversions 3 of 3 0 of 0
Red Zone TD% 3 for 4 (75%) 2 for 4 (50%)
Net punting 49.9 (2) 35.5 (2)
Time of possession 38:11:00 21:49:00
TOP/offensive play 30.96 seconds 22.19 seconds
Penalties 4 for 27 4 for 30
1st down passing 0/1, interception 10/13, 169 yards, 1 sack
3rd and long passing 1/1, 9 yards, TD 3/7, 34 yards
4th down passing 0/0 0/0
1st down yards/play 5.93 8.51
3rd down average yards to go 4.76 8.45
Defensive 3-and-outs+ 1 4

*kneeldowns not included in totals
**final drive for TU not included

I didn’t include the final drive for Towson in the ‘points per possession’ or ‘finishing drives’ categories because at that point in the game, Towson wasn’t trying to score, but rather keep the ball.

Some observations, based on the statistics above:

– Towson was not a particularly effective team on third down last season (38.86%). However, the Tigers were 7 for 11 on Saturday, including a stretch of four straight conversions during an 18-play drive that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth, taking up over seven minutes of game time.

Without that possession, The Citadel’s time-of-possession edge would have been even more lopsided. The Bulldogs’ inability to get off the field on that drive led to a TU field goal.

– The Citadel’s average yards to go on third down was excellent. If you take out the 3rd-and-23 play in the first quarter (that was the end result of the TD-negating chop block penalty), the average drops to 3.62. The Bulldogs had four 3rd-and-1 situations, and five 3rd-and-2 plays.

– The lack of big plays on offense for the Bulldogs was noticeable. Brent Thompson referenced it after the game, according to the game story in The Post and Courier. The Citadel needs to break more long gainers, as grinding out every drive for a score is not realistic (even in this offense).

A few of those big plays have to come via the pass.

– As far as the ‘expected turnovers’ go, The Citadel’s number is probably artificially low, because of the lack of passing. I’m just using the standard formula, but truthfully, I think the “real” expected turnovers for the Bulldogs was 2.50, not 1.72.

– Towson’s expected turnover total is based on the Bulldogs’ five pass breakups, which on average would have led to one interception — but while there were a couple of close calls, I can’t honestly say that The Citadel should have definitely had a pick.

– I suspect Thompson is going to be disappointed with the Bulldogs’ points per possession. The coach would undoubtedly prefer it be about a point higher, on average. (Well, he would really like it to be about 5 points higher on average, of course.)

– The field position edge for Towson was strictly a result of the turnovers.

Other thoughts, mostly random:

– There were not many penalties in the game — at least, called penalties. Towson got away with several false start infractions, as the officiating crew (yes, from the Southern Conference) were apparently unable to see a 6’4″, 360 lb. tackle move early. I guess he was easy to miss out there, being so little.

– It might have been a very different game if Chris Beverly had not forced a fumble near the goal line, with Towson poised to take a 24-7 lead. That was a big defensive play, and a badly needed one.

The Bulldogs probably needed one more play like that in order to win the contest.

– The sequence at the end of the first half was confusing. I went back and watched it on the ESPN+ video, and while the officials/timekeeper didn’t necessarily cover themselves in glory, I think Rob Ambrose might have second-guessed himself with his time management.

I did appreciate the timeout he called when The Citadel had the ball, just before the Bulldogs scored their second touchdown. That was intelligent, as it saved about 40 seconds for Towson’s offense.

However, I believe TU made two mistakes on the ensuing drive, one small, one large:

  • With two timeouts left, the Tigers probably should have called timeout after their first completion of the drive. It would have saved them about three seconds. Admittedly, this situation was messy, thanks to the clock having to be corrected — and that wasn’t the big mistake, anyway.
  • Towson apparently didn’t realize the clock was going to re-start after the first down pickup on the second completion. The receiver clearly didn’t go out of bounds before being tackled, though, and the Tigers lost eight seconds before calling timeout.

It is perhaps harder to argue that a second should be put back on the clock when there is a timeout sticking out of your back pocket.

– I liked the Bulldogs’ uniforms. The slightly elongated numerals were interesting, and I’m a fan of the Block C helmet logo.

It is true that, without an outline, the ‘C’ on the helmet and the jersey numerals could be hard to read in bright sunlight, and also in some of the longer-range TV shots. Still, the overall concept looked good.

– Forty-eight Bulldogs played in the contest. Five of them were “true” freshmen, including one starter — safety Andy Davis.

– The weather obviously put a damper on the attendance (announced at 8,008). On the other hand, it was almost as large a crowd as The Citadel had at Johnson Hagood Stadium for last season’s home opener (8,076), and larger than the home opener in 2017 (7,467).

– I thought the team ran out of the Altman Center and through the Block C a little too quickly. The timing with the smoke release was off. I guess the Bulldogs were really ready to play — either that, or perhaps there was an issue with trying to start the game on time.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I am disappointed in the loss, but not overly upset. It was ultimately a missed opportunity for The Citadel to pick up an impressive non-conference victory, but the season is still young.

One way to look at it: the Bulldogs were in the game and had a chance to win despite a turnover margin of -2, a penalty that wiped out a touchdown, not getting nearly enough pressure on the opposing quarterback, and only producing one big play on offense.

There were positives to be taken from the game, and there are certainly things that need improvement. Considering it was the opening week of the season, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

It does make the upcoming game at Elon all the more important, though. That will be a tough game, too, but The Citadel needs to win one of these difficult non-conference matchups.

As usual, I took pictures. As usual, most of them are lousy. There is a lack of focus in some of them (others actually look decent, clearly an accident). The intermittent rain/drizzle didn’t help, not that it would have mattered.

 

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