2019 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Georgia Tech

The Citadel vs. Georgia Tech, from Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field in Atlanta, Georgia, with kickoff at 12:30 pm ET on September 14, 2019. 

The game will be televised on the ACC Regional Network and on ESPN College Extra. It will be streamed on Fox Sports Go and ACC Network Extra. Tom Werme will handle play-by-play, while James Bates supplies the analysis. Lyndsay Rowley 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 “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Ted Byrne.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

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

Check your local listings for TV information. The game will be televised on various regional networks — Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Midwest, etc. It will also be streamed; depending on where you live, you can stream it on Fox Sports Go or ACC Network Extra.

It will also be part of the “ESPN College Extra” package, which is available on some cable/satellite systems.

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

Preview from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bulldogs tight end Elijah Lowe, a native of the Bahamas, talks about the devastation from Hurricane Dorian and how it has affected his family

– Game notes from The Citadel and Georgia Tech

– SoCon weekly release

ACC weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Georgia Tech’s website

Brent Thompson’s 9/9 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/11)

– The Dogs:  Episode 3

Geoff Collins’ 9/10 press conference

Press conference: Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker (9/10)

Press conference: Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (9/10)

South Florida vs. Georgia Tech (condensed game)

Sean-Thomas Faulkner is the reigning SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week

This preview is a little different from most of my other writeups, in that it will not include much in the way of statistics. There are a few reasons for that:

  • I’ve already covered a lot of The Citadel’s relevant stats in my two game reviews so far this season
  • This is an FBS vs. FCS game, which usually doesn’t lend itself well to statistical comparisons
  • Georgia Tech has a new coaching staff with a completely new offense, as you may have heard
  • So far this season, the Yellow Jackets have played #1 Clemson and a South Florida team that now has an 8-game losing streak dating back to last year
  • Two games of stats under a new coaching staff would make it hard to evaluate even if Georgia Tech hadn’t played a dominant team and another squad that is in a major downward spiral

The Citadel’s forward passing was the best that I have seen in any game, anywhere.

Georgia Tech head football coach John Heisman, October 5, 1912

That blurb is from the main game story in The News and Courier after Georgia Tech defeated The Citadel in Charleston, 20-6, during the 1912 season. The first two games in the series between the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs were actually played in Hampton Park; the last eight matchups have been held at Grant Field/Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Note: 20-6 is the correct score for that contest. Georgia Tech’s media guide (and consequently its game notes) incorrectly lists the final as 20-16, a typographical error that is probably several decades old.

The game was tied 6-6 after The Citadel scored a third-quarter touchdown, but Heisman’s charges pulled away in the end. The Bulldogs’ TD came on a pass from team captain John Martin to Hugh Sease.

Sease, a native of either St. George or Orangeburg (sources differ), later transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy. He had a distinguished career in the Navy, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

As for John Heisman, he must have been relatively pleased to see an opponent use the pass to its advantage, even against his team:

Heisman walked away convinced [the forward pass] was the play that would save football from itself. As Heisman wrote, violent scrums based around bruising running plays were “killing the game as well as the players.”

In 1904-5, 44 players had been reported killed in football games, with hundreds sustaining serious injuries. Heisman said the forward pass “would scatter the mob.”…

…Heisman began to forcefully lobby Walter Camp, shepherd of the national rules committee. When Camp did not act swiftly enough, Heisman rallied other coaches and newspaper reporters to pressure Camp and the committee. In 1906, the forward pass was legalized with several constraints that limited its effectiveness. Heisman pressed on, and the restrictions were eventually lifted.

Heisman was the football coach at Georgia Tech from 1904 to 1919, and while there fashioned a record of 102-29-7. That included a retroactive but seemingly undeniable national title in 1917 and, of course, the famous (infamous?) 222-0 victory over Cumberland in 1916.

Besides being the namesake of arguably the most famous award in American sports, Heisman was also an actor of some repute. He is almost certainly the only head football coach to win a national title and perform in a featured role in a Broadway play, though I wouldn’t put it past Les Miles to match him someday.

Speaking of coaches who won a national title at Georgia Tech, I can’t post a preview of The Citadel-Georgia Tech without mentioning Bobby Ross, who was a head coach at both schools.

Ross was 103-101-2 as a college head coach, which may seem mediocre, but that includes his five-year stint at The Citadel (during a very difficult era to recruit at a military college) and his three years at Army (which simply didn’t work out).

In between, he won three ACC titles at Maryland and another league crown (and that national title) at Georgia Tech. Then he went to the NFL and took the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl. He even made the playoffs twice with the Detroit Lions.

I think Ross would be a very solid candidate for enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame, but as it happens, he is ineligible. That is because “modern” coaches have to have won at least 60% of their games to receive consideration. This same stipulation excludes Howard Schnellenberger.

Here are the FBS coaching candidates on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot:

  • Larry Blakeney (Troy)
  • Jim Carlen (West Virginia, Texas Tech, and South Carolina)
  • Billy Jack Murphy (Memphis)
  • Pete Cawthon Sr. (Austin College, Texas Tech)
  • Darryl Rogers (Cal State Hayward, Fresno State, San Jose State, Michigan State, Arizona State)

Nothing against those guys, but does anyone paying attention really think they are more deserving than Schnellenberger and Ross? Of course not.

Tangent #1: if the 1990 season had occurred in a 2019 environment, it is hard to imagine Colorado being anywhere near the top of the AP poll. I think the Buffaloes would have been lucky to finish in the top 5, much less gain a “split” of the national title. That fifth-down game against Missouri would have absolutely been considered an additional loss in this era of endless replays/discussion.

It was a very strange year in college football, with only the ridiculous 2007 season exceeding it in terms of sheer weirdness (in the last 50 years or so, anyway). Absent a playoff, however, Georgia Tech was the most deserving team when it came to recognition as the “national champion”.

Georgia Tech will be familiar with the offense The Citadel will run on Saturday because it’s what the Yellow Jackets used for 11 years.

It’s one of few certainties for Georgia Tech right now under new coach Geoff Collins.

The Yellow Jackets (1-1) used 27 different players on offense and 27 on defense in last Saturday’s 14-10 victory over South Florida. Five walk-on players saw action, Jahaziel Lee played on both the offensive and defensive lines, and 176-pound freshman defensive back Kenan Johnson took snaps at defensive end.

It’s all part of the process as Collins remakes the program.

“This is a monumental transition unlike what’s probably happened in college football in a long time,” Collins said. “Every single day we’re a work in progress in every phase of everything we do.”

Georgia Tech used 61 players in all against South Florida. Against Clemson, 63 Yellow Jackets saw the field.

Geoff Collins isn’t just changing Georgia Tech’s offense. He is essentially trying to establish the Yellow Jackets as Atlanta’s college football team.

Collins has spent much of his time trying to build up Georgia Tech’s brand among the locals. The Yellow Jackets rarely sell out games and have been largely overlooked in Atlanta’s crowded sports landscape.

Looking to change that, Collins has taken up nearly every offer to speak in the community, promoted the Yellow Jackets relentlessly on social media, drawn attention of his love for local favorite Waffle House, and tried to reach new fans by taking his players and staff to games hosted by the city’s pro sports teams.

It’s all part of what he calls the “404” culture — a reference to Atlanta’s area code.

“I love this great city,” Collins said. “We want to embrace it. The elite players in the country should be coming to Georgia Tech to play ball.”

The coach is a native of Conyers, so he has local ties. Collins went to Western Carolina, where he was a linebacker in the early 1990s. This is actually his third tour of duty with Georgia Tech, as he was a graduate assistant from 1999 to 2001, and then served as the tight ends coach in 2006.

Collins was the defensive coordinator for FIU, Mississippi State, and Florida before becoming the head coach at Temple, where he had a record of 15-10 in two seasons. Georgia Tech hired him in December of last year to replace the retiring Paul Johnson.

He has faced The Citadel eleven times as either a player or an assistant coach. His teams have won five times, lost five times, and tied once.

Collins is named after Geoff Hurst, an English soccer star of the 1960s and 1970s who is the only player to have scored a hat trick in a FIFA World Cup final (in 1966, against West Germany).

Tangent #2: Admittedly, Hurst’s second goal in that match should not have counted, but he got a knighthood anyway. The referee and linesman who teamed up to award England the goal have inspired several generations of Southern Conference football and basketball officials.

Georgia Tech’s offensive and defensive coordinators are also familiar with The Citadel.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude was the OC at Coastal Carolina for five years (2012-16). In two of those years, CCU played The Citadel (with the Bulldogs winning the second of those two games in a memorable FCS playoff matchup).

Incidentally, during his press briefing Patenaude mentioned that he would like the Yellow Jackets to be a little more balanced offensively against The Citadel.

Georgia Tech only had 76 yards passing (on 21 attempts) versus South Florida. The Yellow Jackets had 47 runs and 23 pass plays in that contest.

Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker was a defensive back at Furman from 2004 to 2007. Both Thacker and Patenaude came over with Collins from Temple when he took the job with the Yellow Jackets.

Collins and Thacker have experience defending the triple option, as Temple played Army in 2017 and Navy in both 2017 and 2018. The Owls lost in overtime to Army but defeated the Midshipmen twice.

In 2017, Temple held Navy to 4.4 yards per play. The following season, the Midshipmen averaged 5.1 yards per play, but uncharacteristically were considerably more successful via the pass (11.9 yards per attempt) than on the ground (2.6 yards per rush).

The Black Knights averaged 5.7 yards per play versus Temple in their matchup, but needed a 16-yard TD pass with one second to play in regulation in order to force OT.

In all three games, the service academy teams had an edge in time of possession, but it was not an enormous differential.

FCS history of no particular relevance:

  • Collins was 1-1 versus FCS teams in his two seasons at Temple; both games were against ranked Villanova squads (a 16-13 win in 2017 and a 19-17 loss in 2018)
  • Georgia Tech is 33-1-1 against FCS teams; both the tie (in 1986) and the loss (1983) came versus Furman

Geoff Collins, like most coaches, emphasizes turnovers.

Well they come in waves, turnovers do. Coach [Andrew] Thacker and our defensive staff do a great job emphasizing that. They incentivize what we emphasize. And so the turnover board, the turnover graphics to post on social media, all of those things. We start every single meeting in the defensive meeting room talking about turnovers. Showing the plays we get turnovers every single practice. We left two on the table, too. There were two we should have had on Saturday and they just didn’t bounce our way. But that is one of the calling cards of our defense and the thing that stands out is the effort. Interceptions are going to happen. The coverage, or if they get a bad read, or we make a really good athletic play. The ones that I’m the most proud of are the caused fumbles, the effort plays to get to the ball and recover the ball, and I’m really proud of the way the defense is doing that, flying around.”

Oh yes, the turnover board:

It’s a different spin on the “turnover chain”, that’s for sure.

Georgia Tech also doesn’t use a traditional depth chart. Instead, Collins rolls with something called “Above The Line”. It is both a play on the “ATL” moniker for the city of Atlanta and a way to motivate players (at least, that is the intent).

The Yellow Jackets don’t release their “Above The Line” listings for the upcoming game until Thursday; here is the one for the matchup versus The Citadel.

As for some of the players to watch for on Saturday…

Georgia Tech will probably play three quarterbacks against the Bulldogs. Lucas Johnson (6’3″, 215 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from San Diego, started against South Florida, but Tobias Oliver (6’2″, 190 lbs.) and James Graham (6’1″, 192 lbs.) both saw action as well.

Oliver was the starter versus Clemson. The redshirt sophomore from Warner Robins rushed for 876 yards last season despite starting only one game. That was against Virginia Tech, and Oliver rushed for 215 yards on 40 carries versus the Hokies.

Running back Jordan Mason (6’1″, 219 lbs.) rushed for 99 yards on 20 attempts against USF. He had 72 yards on 13 carries versus Clemson (and scored touchdowns in both contests).

Six different players caught passes for the Yellow Jackets in both games. There were a total of eight “Above The Line” wide receivers for the Yellow Jackets when they faced South Florida.

One of those eight players, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Adonicas Sanders (6’1″, 195 lbs.), won a state title as a basketball player at Burke High School in Charleston. He then attended Fort Dorchester in North Charleston for his final two years of high school, where he was part of a state championship team on the gridiron as a junior.

The offensive linemen who started versus South Florida average 6’4″, 304 lbs. However, there could be some changes on the line against The Citadel, as both left guard Mikey Minehan (6’3″, 297 lbs.) and center Kenny Cooper (6’3″, 317 lbs.) were injured early in the game against the Bulls. Georgia Tech had to use redshirt sophomore walk-on William Lay III (6’2″, 305 lbs.) at center for the majority of the game versus USF.

This week, any further reshuffling of the line might prevent an unusual two-way player scenario from re-occurring. Jahaziel Lee (6’2″, 300 lbs.), a senior from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, started at left tackle last week — but he also filled in on the defensive line.

Andrew Thacker explained Georgia Tech’s philosophy on player positions (for this season, at any rate) during the defensive coordinator’s press briefing:

“When we get into those situations, we can be really creative with who we put on the field. We don’t have Von Miller on our team. We don’t have Khalil Mack, so we’re not going to be confined by body types or tradition.”

That is probably a good mindset when you’re in a transition phase like Georgia Tech is right now, but in the long run having a 176 lb. freshman defensive back occasionally line up as a DE (as Kenan Johnson did against South Florida) is not likely to be a sustainable solution.

Georgia Tech’s star defensive player last week was 6’2″, 210 lb. linebacker Charlie Thomas (conveniently from Thomasville, Georgia). The sophomore, a converted cornerback, was named the ACC linebacker of the week after a nine-tackle performance that included two sacks and a forced fumble.

Redshirt sophomore defensive back Tre Swilling (6’0″, 200 lbs.) intercepted a pass against Clemson, nearly returning it for a touchdown. Swilling is the son of all-time Tech great Pat Swilling, the former New Orleans Saints all-pro defensive lineman.

Swilling’s two uncles also played for Georgia Tech, and were members of the 1990 national championship team. That team also included All-American defensive lineman Coleman Rudolph, whose nephew Thompson Rudolph (6’0″, 195 lb.) is a redshirt freshman DB. The younger Rudolph was a safety and quarterback for Spartanburg High School.

Starting punter Pressley Harvin III (6’0″, 245 lbs.) is a junior from Sumter. He was a second-team all-ACC selection last season despite being, as described in his bio on the Georgia Tech website, “one of the nation’s least-utilized weapons”.

Redshirt sophomore Brenton King (6’0″, 176 lbs.) started at placekicker for the Yellow Jackets last week. He was 2 for 2 on PATs, but missed his only field goal attempt (albeit a 51-yarder). King is also the kickoff specialist.

Against Clemson, Wesley Wells (6’0″, 205 lbs.) was the placekicker, making two extra points. Wells finished last season as Georgia Tech’s kicker, a year in which he did not miss a field goal attempt or a PAT.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Atlanta, per the National Weather Service: partly sunny, with a high of 90 degrees and a 20% chance of showers and/or thunderstorms.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Georgia Tech (as of Wednesday evening) is a 26-point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 57 1/2.

When the line debuted on Monday, the Yellow Jackets were 36-point favorites (and the over/under was 61 1/2). There has been a surprising amount of line movement for the Bulldogs’ first three games.

In this case, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few folks started looking at recent trends involving triple option teams and reacted accordingly.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Furman is a 21-point underdog at Virginia Tech; Wofford is a 10 1/2 point favorite versus Samford; East Tennessee State is a 19-point favorite against VMI; Chattanooga is a 28-point underdog at Tennessee; Western Carolina is a 10-point favorite versus North Greenville; and Mercer is a 6 1/2 point favorite against Austin Peay.

– Also of note: Towson is a 3 1/2 point underdog at Maine; Charleston Southern is a 13 1/2 point underdog against North Carolina A&T; and Elon-Richmond is a pick’em.

South Carolina State is a 24 1/2 point underdog at South Florida.

The biggest favorite in a D-1 matchup this week is LSU, with the line for its game against Northwestern State at 51 1/2 points. In games between FBS teams, the largest spread is 35 1/2, with Auburn favored over Kent State.

In contests between FCS teams, the biggest favorite is James Madison, a 33 1/2 point favorite over Morgan State. I also thought it was worth mentioning that North Dakota State is a 28 1/2 point favorite on the road over a ranked team (Delaware).

Georgetown and Delaware State are both playing non-D1 teams this week, and both are favored by over 40 points. This might be the first time in decades (if not in history) those two programs are both favored by that much in the same week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 196th in D-1 (66th in FCS), while Georgia Tech is 52nd in D-1 (51st in FBS).

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 2% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Georgia Tech 43, The Citadel 10.

The top five teams in Massey’s FCS rankings this week: North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, Princeton, and James Madison.

Dartmouth is 6th. Neither Princeton or Dartmouth have played yet, of course.

The Ivy League schools begin their respective seasons next week. Massey has seven of the eight Ivies ranked in the top 60, which seems instinctively wrong.

Other FCS rankings this week of varied interest: Towson is 16th, North Carolina A&T 27th, Kennesaw State 30th, Elon 34th, Furman 37th, Mercer 46th, Wofford 50th, Chattanooga 62nd, South Carolina State 64th, East Tennessee State 71st, Samford 76th, North Alabama 79th, Western Carolina 92nd, Campbell 95th, VMI 99th, Charleston Southern 100th, Davidson 108th, Gardner-Webb 113th, Presbyterian 125th, and Robert Morris 126th and last.

– Per Bill Connelly’s SP+ ratings, Georgia Tech has a projected margin of victory of 25.7 points over the Bulldogs, with The Citadel given a 7% chance of pulling the upset.

– The Yellow Jackets have only been flagged for four penalties so far this season.

– Georgia Tech’s notable alumni include government official Orson Swindle (who was also a prisoner of war for seven years), dance instructor Arthur Murray, and comedian Jeff Foxworthy.

– The Ramblin’ Wreck’s roster includes 74 players from Georgia. Other states represented: Florida (10 players), Tennessee (7), South Carolina (6), Alabama (4), Louisiana (4), New Jersey (3), and one each from Arkansas, California, Hawai’i, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. There is also one Yellow Jacket from Belgium, freshman defensive lineman Sylvain Yondjouen.

No member of Georgia Tech’s team is an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. If Geoff Collins is truly serious about recruiting elite players to The Flats, he obviously must make repeat visits to the lower midlands of South Carolina, and do so sooner rather than later. Collins cannot afford to miss out on the incredible gridiron talent perennially suiting up in the famed maroon and orange.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (53 players), Georgia (29), Florida (8), Texas (5), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Virginia, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In addition, there are two Bulldogs with listed hometowns in other countries — junior tight end Elijah Lowe (Abaco, Bahamas), and freshman linebacker Hayden Williamson (Okinawa, Japan).

– The Citadel has a running back named Dante Smith. Georgia Tech has a running back named Dontae Smith.

– There are no changes from The Citadel’s two-deep for the Elon game to the one for the matchup with the Yellow Jackets.

– Sean-Thomas Faulkner has blocked four punts in his last eight games.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 4-1 for games played on September 14. Among the highlights:

  • 1974: The Bulldogs defeated Presbyterian 6-0 in the season opener, with the game played in damp conditions after a downpour just before kickoff (and intermittent showers during the contest). The Citadel’s touchdown came in the third quarter; Gene Dotson from one yard out. The PAT attempt narrowly missed hitting one of the linesmen standing underneath the goalposts. Brian Ruff had 18 official tackles, though it seemed like he had many more, as the P.A. announcer at Johnson Hagood Stadium regularly called out his name on defense. Kemble Farr also had a good game for the Bulldogs (12 tackles). The game story in The News and Courier listed the attendance as both 8,700 (the copy) and 8,000 (the box score), while the media guide claims it was 8,775. I guess nobody knows for sure how many people were there that day. I just know that I was one of them; it was the first football game I ever attended.
  • 1996: The Citadel edged Richmond 13-10 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Stanley Myers rushed for a one-yard TD with 44 seconds remaining for the winning score. Justin Skinner had two field goals for the Bulldogs. Andrew Green and Kenyatta Spruill combined to rush for 249 yards. Attendance: 13,069.
  • 2002: As mentioned above, Stanley Myers scored with 44 seconds left to lift the Bulldogs to victory on September 14, 1996. Exactly six years later, Nehemiah Broughton scored the winning touchdown for The Citadel from one yard out…with 43 seconds to play. Broughton’s TD (his second of the day) capped a 21-play, 91-yard drive that took 7:35 off the clock, including two fourth-down conversions (one at The Citadel’s own 18-yard line). The Bulldogs’ leading rusher on the day was Nate Mahoney (128 yards), while Scooter Johnson added 116 receiving yards (and a TD). Travis Zobel kicked two field goals for The Citadel.
  • 2013: Ben Dupree rushed for 126 yards as The Citadel outlasted Western Carolina in Cullowhee, 28-21. The game featured several odd plays, including an accidental fake punt by Eric Goins that set up a TD. Meanwhile, a would-be WCU punt was fumbled into the waiting arms of Tevin Floyd, who waltzed into the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown return. The decisive play of the contest, however, came with the Catamounts driving for a potential tying touchdown. Brandon McCladdie deflected a pass; the football then ricocheted off the knee of Derek Douglas, and was eventually corralled by Julian Baxter for the game-clinching interception.

According to The Citadel’s game notes, the freshmen members of the Corps of Cadets will be travelling to Atlanta to support the Bulldogs, which is excellent news.

The trip had already been planned, but after last week’s Hurrication I was uncertain whether or not it was still going to happen.

This has been a tough start to the season for The Citadel, which on the whole has not played badly, but doesn’t have a win to show for it. Picking up the initial victory of the season against a Power 5 opponent is a tall order.

It isn’t impossible, though. The challenge is not quite as daunting as the Alabama game was last season, and the Bulldogs acquitted themselves fairly well in that contest.

That said, even with a coaching transition (and a major change in offense), Georgia Tech has the advantage in many areas of this matchup.

The Citadel must begin the game well. A slow start, as has been the case for the Bulldogs in both games this season, would be ominous.

Avoid turnovers, control the clock, and all of the other clichés do apply. One other thing that has to happen, though, is that The Citadel’s offense has to break off multiple big plays. That is practically a must if the Bulldogs want to stay in the game with a chance to win it.

In the end, this is a great opportunity for the Bulldogs. I hope they make the most of it.

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