2019 Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. Samford

The Citadel vs. Samford, to be played at Seibert Stadium in Homewood, Alabama, with kickoff at 3:00 pm ET on September 28, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Curt Bloom will handle play-by-play, while Chad Pilcher supplies the analysis. Brad Gardner will report from the sidelines.

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

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

Internet legend Joshua Roides talks physics, finance, flood tides, and football

Will starting quarterback Brandon Rainey be back this week? Signs point to yes

– Game notes from The Citadel and Samford

– SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Chris Hatcher’s weekly press conference (9/26)

Samford strong safety Nick Barton answers questions at SU’s weekly press conference

– The Chris Hatcher Show (9/25)

Game highlights — Alabama A&M vs. Samford

– Game highlights — Samford vs. Wofford

– Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (9/23)

The Brent Thompson Show (9/25)

The Dogs:  Episode 5 (Charleston Southern)

Game program for Saturday’s contest

This is the now-traditional section where I establish ground rules for writing about The Citadel and Samford, as both teams are nicknamed “Bulldogs”. As to why the powers that be in the Southern Conference did not insist on Samford changing its nickname as a requirement for entry into the league, your guess is as good as mine.

At any rate, in this post, “Bulldogs” refers to The Citadel. The reason for that is simple: I graduated from The Citadel, and this is my blog.

I’ll call Samford “SU”, the “Birmingham Bulldogs”, the “Crimson Bulldogs”, the “Baptist Tigers”, or the “Baptist Bears”.

For those of you reading this who are somehow unfamiliar with the Baptist Tigers/Bears, a quick look at the history of Samford football is in order:

The Howard College [later to be renamed Samford] team was known originally as the “Baptist Tigers”. However, rival Auburn also had “Tigers” as a nickname. Howard’s teams went by “Baptist Bears” until Dec. 14, 1916, when the student body voted two-to-one for the “Crimson Bulldog” over the “Baptist Bears”. Students decided that a bulldog could eat more Birmingham-Southern Panther meat than a bear could.

I’ve said this before, but I really don’t understand why the students thought bears wouldn’t eat as much meat as bulldogs. Were Alabama’s bears back then strict vegetarians? I guess we’ll never know.

Ah, the mysteries of early-20th century university life…

Birmingham-Southern, by the way, is a Division III school (which was very briefly in NCAA Division I about 15 years ago) and a former rival of Samford. The two schools played in the first football game ever contested at Legion Field, on November 19, 1927. Samford (then Howard) won, 9-0.

While Legion Field was obviously close to home, in those days the Samford football program liked to travel. During the 1920s, SU played Duquesne in Pittsburgh (at Forbes Field) and North Dakota (in Grand Forks). There were even out-of-country junkets to Cuba (playing the Havana National University). Later, Samford played games in Mexico City against the National University of Mexico (in 1954 and 1963).

Random fact of no relevance whatsoever: Samford’s law school, Cumberland, was actually purchased from Cumberland University of Tennessee in 1961. That doesn’t happen very often; in fact, in terms of moving a law school across state lines, I’m not sure it has ever happened anywhere else.

I am aware of only two other law schools that shifted to different universities (both in-state) — the University of Puget Sound School of Law, which is now part of Seattle University; and the law school at the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, which is now affiliated with Quinnipiac University.

As opposed to last week, for this post I won’t go through a lengthy list of FCS statistical categories, or update the status in them for other teams of interest. I’ll update those numbers every two or three weeks, though.

I will mention a few things that could have a significant bearing on this game, however.

– The first is time of possession. Not counting the Ivy League schools (each of which has only played one game so far), The Citadel still leads FCS in time of possession, at 36:58.

Samford is last in the sub-division, at 21:12. I believe the Cadet must maintain that type of advantage on Saturday to have a realistic chance of winning the game.

That said, SU is comfortable not having the ball for long stretches. Against Wofford, Samford only had the pigskin for 19:25, but still came away with a road victory.

– Among non-Ivy FCS squads, Samford is 4th in average yards per punt return. SU has returned 10 punts this season for a total of 201 yards. That 20.1 average is easily the best for any team with double digit returns.

– The Citadel is 9th overall in net punting. Samford, one of the many intercollegiate teams with an Australian punter (5’11”, 165 lb. Melbourne native Bradley Porcellato), is 26th nationally.

– Samford averages the third-fewest penalties per game in FCS. The Citadel is tied for 40th in that category.

– SU is 83rd nationally in rush yards allowed per play. The Citadel is 105th.

– As far as passing yards per attempt allowed is concerned, The Citadel is 92nd. The Baptist Tigers are 54th.

Turnover margin: The Citadel is tied for 99th, while Samford is tied for 117th. Each team has only forced two defensive turnovers so far this season (both of SU’s came last week).

A few select statistics from the last four years of Samford-The Citadel (the period in which Chris Hatcher has been the SU head coach):

Year Score Time of possession 3rd down conversions – The Citadel Big Plays – TC (20+ yards) Big Plays – SU (20+ yards) Yards/Rush – The Citadel
2015 44-25 35:15 6 of 14 5 4 5.9
2016 37-34 OT 38:17 11 for 21 6 3 6.0
2017 14-35 36:52 3 for 13 3 4 3.5
2018 42-27 35:01 9 for 16 6 2 5.9

I might argue the key stat in the table is yards per rush for The Citadel, which is inter-related with third down conversions. That also has an impact on time of possession and big plays. More possession means more plays, and more plays means an increased chance of breaking a long gainer.

In fact, The Citadel has not beaten Samford without averaging at least 5.5 yards per rush since 2010, when it won 13-12. The Cadets only averaged 2.7 yards per rush that afternoon, but prevailed in a defensive struggle. The Citadel scored its first touchdown on a blocked punt (by a noted master of the art, Milford Scott); its other TD was set up by a trick play (a pass by Luke Caldwell to Rickey Anderson that came off of a reverse).

Of note, Bill D’Ottavio has been Samford’s defensive coordinator for the last 13 years (under two different head coaches).

The statistics that follow for Samford are from its last three games. I decided not to include stats from SU’s opener against Youngstown State, because the Crimson Bulldogs started a different quarterback in that contest.

SU lost that game to the Penguins, 45-22. Four turnovers bedeviled Chris Hatcher’s squad, which was also just 2 for 9 on third down conversion attempts.

However, Samford has definitely been a different team (at least offensively) since the insertion of junior Chris Oladokun as the starting QB.

Oladokun, a 6’2″, 195 lb. transfer from South Florida (he started three games for the Bulls last season), began his SU career in the fourth quarter against Youngstown State. The Tampa native completed his first seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown (a 64-yarder on his second throw).

The three games included in the table below:

Samford totals Samford avg. Opponent totals Opponent avg.
Rushing yards 548 182.67 828 276
Rush attempts 103 34.33 157 52.33
Avg. Per Rush 5.32 5.27
Rushing TDs 6 2 8 2.67
Passing yards 876 292.0 571 190.3
Avg./Att. 9.62 6.34
Avg./Comp. 16.8 11.3
TDs 10 3.33 4 1.33
Total yards 1424 474.67 1399 466.33
Total plays 194 64.67 247 82.33
Avg./Play 7.34 5.66
Fumbles – Lost 2-0 3-0
Penalties – Yards 7 for 67 20 for 146
Time of possession
22:07 37:53
3rd Down Conversions 15 of 33 24 of 56
4th Down Conversions 3 of 5 9 of 13
Sacks: Total – Yards 4 for 39 yards 5 for 31 yards

*sack yardage counted in passing statistics

Yes, that 16.8 yards per completion number for Samford is accurate. Oladokun has thrown four passes of 64 yards or more, and has eight other completions of at least 30 yards.

When sack yardage is taken out of his totals, Oladokun is averaging 7.46 yards per rush. Two of his runs have gone for 30 or more yards. He leads the team in rushing yards and TDs (and in passing as well, obviously).

Incidentally, Oladokun (pronounced OLAH-doe-kin, according to Samford’s game notes) was the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week after each of those three games.

For the season, Oladokun is completing 65.6% of his passes, averaging an extremely impressive 10.16 yards per attempt (and that number does include sack yardage against). He has thrown 11 TD passes and been intercepted 4 times.

Not included in that table but worth mentioning: in the three referenced contests, Samford averaged running a play from scrimmage every 21.2 seconds. The Baptist Bears have been progressively faster on offense in each of the last three games — 24.6 seconds per play versus Tennessee Tech, 21.6 seconds per snap against Wofford, and just 18.8 seconds per play versus Alabama A&M.

Also not in the table, but certainly of importance: Samford has scored touchdowns on 10 of 14 times it has been in the Red Zone (this includes all four games).

Offensive players for Samford (besides Oladokun) worth watching:

  • Montrell Washington (5’10”, 170 lbs.): A junior from Canton, Georgia, the wide receiver is averaging 23.6 yards per catch, including an 82-yard TD last week against Alabama A&M. He is also Samford’s primary punt returner, and had a 49-yard runback versus Alabama A&M.
  • Chris Shelling (5’8″, 173 lbs.): Last year against The Citadel, the Lawrenceville, Georgia native had 8 receptions for 82 yards. This season, the senior leads SU in receptions with 15. He had 185 receiving yards, including a 64-yard touchdown, against Tennessee Tech.
  • Robert Adams (6’2″, 190 lbs.): Adams ranks second on the team in receptions this season, with 14. The senior from Montgomery has made one reception of 30+ yards in three of Samford’s four games this year.
  • Nick Nixon (6’6″, 282 lbs.): Samford’s starting left tackle, Nixon was a preseason All-SoCon selection. He is a senior from Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Samford’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’6″, 309 lbs. They are large.

Under Bill D’Ottavio, Samford has traditionally employed a “bear” front against the triple option attack. Given the linemen at his disposal, I suspect the matchup this Saturday will not be any different in that respect.

Defensive stalwarts for SU include:

  • Justin Foster (6’4″, 286 lbs.): A preseason All-SoCon choice, the defensive tackle is a senior from Anniston, Alabama. He could be a key player in the battle between The Citadel’s o-line and Samford’s defensive front.
  • Nelson Jordan (6’2″, 253 lbs.): Another lineman who was a preseason all-league pick, Jordan is a sophomore from Starkville, Mississippi. Although not listed as a starter on Samford’s two-deep, I would expect Jordan to get plenty of reps on Saturday. He had nine tackles (including a sack) versus The Citadel last season.
  • John Staton (6’1″, 215 lbs.): The middle linebacker currently leads Samford in tackles, with 46. Staton is a junior from Atlanta.
  • Nathan East (6’2″, 221 lbs.): A sophomore from McCalla, Alabama, East ranks second on the team in tackles, with 35. He plays alongside Staton as one of SU’s three starting linebackers.
  • Nick Barton (5’10”, 196 lbs.): Barton intercepted a pass last week. The senior strong safety from Brentwood, Tennessee has been credited with 17 tackles this season (tied for sixth on the squad). Barton said at Samford’s weekly presser that Saturday will be “one of the most predictable games we’ll have all year…we know what they’re going to do, and they know what we’re going to do.”
  • Ty Herring (6’2″, 203 lbs.): Herring, a junior from Fernandina, Florida, starts at free safety for the Crimson Bulldogs. He is fourth on the team in tackles. Last week against Alabama A&M, Herring returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown.

Samford’s placekicker is preseason all-conference pick Mitchell Fineran (5’10”, 183 lbs.). The sophomore from Fort Valley, Georgia has yet to miss a kick so far this season, converting all five of his field goal attempts and going 19 for 19 on PATs.

Last season, Fineran was 13 for 17 on field goal tries, with a long of 46 yards. He did not miss an extra point. Fineran is also Samford’s kickoff specialist.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday at Samford, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny, with a high of 95 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Samford (as of Wednesday evening) is a 2 1/2 point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 63.

When the line opened on Monday night, Samford was a 4-point favorite.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 17-point favorite over East Tennessee State; Wofford is an 11 1/2 point favorite at VMI; Chattanooga is a 6 1/2 point favorite versus Western Carolina; and Mercer is a 6 1/2 point favorite over Mercer.

– Also of note: James Madison is a 13-point favorite at Elon, and Towson is a 35 1/2 point underdog at Florida.

After a week off to recover from its loss to The Citadel, Georgia Tech travels to Temple, with the Yellow Jackets a 5 1/2 point underdog.

Charleston Southern is another team that is getting time to mend after a defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs. The Buccaneers are back in action next week, against Savannah State.

The biggest betting favorite in the FCS ranks is Kennesaw State, a 30 1/2 point favorite over Reinhardt, an NAIA school. Among matches between FCS teams, the biggest spread is 27 1/2, with North Carolina A&T favored over Delaware State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 33rd in FCS (down four spots from last week), while Samford is 43rd.

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 46% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Samford 34, The Citadel 31.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest: Towson is 12th, Youngstown State 13th, Kennesaw State 22nd, Jacksonville State 25th, Elon 28th, Furman 29th, North Carolina A&T 34th, William & Mary 42nd, San Diego 48th, Wofford 56th, Chattanooga 63rd, Tennessee Tech 64th, South Carolina State 71st, Mercer 75th, East Tennessee State 78th, Campbell 90th, Charleston Southern 92nd, VMI 93rd, Alabama A&M 96th, Western Carolina 97th, Davidson 107th, Gardner-Webb 108th, Robert Morris 117th, Butler 125th, and Presbyterian 126th (last).

– Samford’s notable alumni include actor Tony Hale (of Veep and Arrested Development fame, though to be honest I know him best from an episode of Psych); actress and groundbreaking television producer Gail Patrick (who helmed the Perry Mason TV series); and Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper editor/publisher Harold E. Martin.

Martin also had an association with another SoCon school, VMI. He endowed a scholarship there in memory of his son, a student at the military school who was killed in an automobile accident his senior year.

– SU’s roster includes more players from Georgia (43) than Alabama (37). Other states represented: Florida (17 players), Tennessee (9), Mississippi (6), Louisiana (2), and one each from North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri.

As mentioned earlier, punter Bradley Porcellato is from Melbourne, Australia.

No member of Samford’s team is from South Carolina, and thus none can claim to be an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. The lack of players from the fabled football factory will unquestionably come back to haunt Chris Hatcher and his cabal of coaches. Why the SU staff would continually ignore the undeniable talent that has worn the famed maroon and orange is simply beyond comprehension.

– 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).

– This week’s two-deep includes a few changes from the previous depth chart. Sam Llewellyn is on the two-deep at A-back, while on defense Sean-Thomas Faulkner has been moved to the “Sam” linebacker spot. Destin Mack takes over as the starting strong safety.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 5-5 for games played on September 28. Highlights include:

  • 1912: The Citadel defeated Fort Moultrie (official score: 1-0) after the soldiers forfeited the game in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 13 and a PAT for The Citadel pending. There was a suggestion that the Cadets had scored the tying TD thanks in part to fan interference. I wrote about this contest back in June, including this quote from the game story in the Charleston Evening Post:

[On] Saturday afternoon, at Hampton Park, despite the protests of the police and other officials, it proved a hard matter for bashful spectators to tell whether the enthusiastic rooters or the elevens from The Citadel and Fort Moultrie were playing the game. This deplorable state of affairs was the cause of the boys from the island forfeiting the game with a technical score of 1-0 in favor of the Cadets, in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Practically every spectator present appointed himself a field judge, and proceeded to interfere with the players throughout the game, in the meantime taxing his lungs in an endeavor to announce decisions to the State at large.

  • 1929: The Bulldogs whipped Newberry 59-0, the largest margin of victory for The Citadel in 16 years. There were 2,000 fans in attendance at (original) Johnson Hagood Stadium. A total of 36 players saw action for the victors, which is actually one more player than saw the field for The Citadel two weeks ago against Georgia Tech. Among those scoring touchdowns for the Bulldogs: Tom “Pop” Wilson, Ed McIntosh, Tom Appleby, Dalton Brasington, Cary Metz, and Julius “Runt” Gray (a 140 lb. quarterback; even social media superstar Joshua Roides weighs more than that). The Citadel had 407 total yards of offense, while Newberry finished with just 47 yards from scrimmage.
  • 1946: The first intercollegiate football game in Charleston in almost four years resulted in a 7-6 victory for The Citadel over Presbyterian. The Bulldogs trailed until midway through the fourth quarter, when Charlie Watson scored from one yard out. Bill Henderson’s PAT was true, and a crowd of 6,500 went home happy. The winning touchdown drive was set up by a punt return by Luke Dunfee; in the rematch one year later, Dunfee would return the opening kickoff 98 yards for a TD against the Blue Hose to set up another Bulldogs triumph.
  • 1963: In poor conditions on a very rainy day in North Carolina, The Citadel muddied up Davidson, 28-6. Joe Cannarella completed his first pass as a Bulldog, and it went for a touchdown to Wes Matthews. Other scorers for the Cadets: Converse Chellis, Nick DiLoreto, Dennis Vincent (all with TDs), and Pat Green (four PATs). The defense held Davidson to just five first downs.
  • 1968: The Citadel beat Lehigh, 28-12, behind 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns by Jim McMillan. The Bulldogs also scored on a TD pass from Tony Passander to tight end John Griest. All four PATs were converted by Jim Gahagan. The Bulldogs’ defense forced three turnovers, two fumbles and an interception by Jackie Zorn.

This has been a somewhat odd series in recent years. I don’t know how else to describe it. The Citadel has had a bit of the upper hand in recent meetings, though it has not always been immediately apparent as to why that was the case.

Samford has blown sizable leads in both of the last two games played at Johnson Hagood Stadium. However, any weird karma from having to play in Charleston won’t apply on Saturday, since the game is in Alabama. In the last matchup at Seibert Stadium, SU dominated the first half and coasted from there.

Four years ago, The Citadel whipped Samford so thoroughly that new SU head coach Chris Hatcher felt compelled to turn to a freshman backup quarterback named Devlin Hodges. It proved to be a good move, although a bit too late for that particular encounter.

As for this Saturday’s contest, both teams should be energized after winning their last two games. Both have good wins to look to for inspiration. In Chris Oladokun, Samford has found a potential talisman at quarterback; Brent Thompson has compared him to Tom Flacco. That is not good news for The Citadel.

However, the Cadets have improved on defense every week. The potential return of Brandon Rainey at quarterback should be a shot in the arm for the offense, too, and Rainey helped lead the comeback victory over Samford last year (with 217 rushing yards and a fine passing day as well).

It should be an intriguing game. I hope it is a productive and successful one for The Citadel.

 

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