2019 Football, Game 11: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel at Chattanooga, to be played at Finley Stadium/Davenport Field, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on November 16, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Chris Goforth will handle play-by-play, while Scott McMahen supplies the analysis.

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

Chris Beverly made a big play to save the Bulldogs against ETSU

“Jeff’s Take” from The Post and Courier

Ra’Shaud Graham is The Citadel’s team chaplain, by way of Lake City

– Game notes from The Citadel and Chattanooga

SoCon weekly release

“Gameday Central” on The Citadel’s website

General information about the game on Chattanooga’s website

– Brent Thompson’s weekly radio show (11/13)

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (11/11)

The Dogs:  Episode 11

Media luncheon this week at Chattanooga

Rusty Wright’s first season at UTC has been fun to watch

An explanation of what is to follow from your friendly blogger…

This is a shorter-than-usual preview. My apologies for that, but I just got back from overseas, and I also had to get a new computer (as my old one decided to blow up two days before I left the country, which was not exactly great timing).

This is actually the first thing I am writing on my new laptop. I suspect there are a few typos below, both because I am still getting used to the keyboard and also because I am, frankly, completely jet-lagged. I’m not complaining, exactly; it was worth it.

Anyway, I did the best I could this week.

Traditional nomenclature clarification when writing about the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (some of this is a copy/paste job from previous previews, but it still applies): 

The history of Chattanooga’s mascot and nickname is a confusing one. I’ve written more than once about the school’s identity and branding issues over the years.

Chattanooga has a webpage on its varsity sports website devoted to the one big question that has seemingly dominated discussion at the school for decades: What is a Moc?

 The term “Moc” is short for “Mockingbird.” Mockingbirds are fiercely territorial creatures which protect their homes with courage, determination and skill…

Named after legendary football coach A.C. “Scrappy” Moore, Scrappy, the Chattanooga mascot, is a fixture for the Mocs.  A re-design in 2008 puts Scrappy in the image of the State Bird of Tennessee, a Mockingbird.  The mockingbird is known as a fierce protector of its nest and environment. It is sometimes seen swooping down on a dog, cat or predator that may be venturing too close to the bird’s protected territory.   Once described by “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon as “a sledge-hammer wielding mockingbird with a heart of Blue & Gold,” Scrappy symbolizes that competitive passion.

Faced with politically sensitive issues and in need of a stronger core identity to help establish a strong brand as Chattanooga’s Team, the athletics department embarked on a comprehensive identity program in 1996. A new direction for the athletics identity was determined, moving away from the politically incorrect Native American Indian imagery.

The “Power C” and “Cowcatcher logo” are also branding symbols of note at Chattanooga. About a decade ago, the subject managed to even come to the attention of The New York Times.

The official name of the school, meanwhile, is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Per the game notes:

On first reference, it is acceptable to refer to us as the “University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.” After that, we prefer to be called “Chattanooga” or “UTC.” Our nickname is “Mocs,” not Moccasins. Chattanooga is pronounced chat-uh-NEW-guh, commonly mistaken as CHATT-nooga.

In this post, I’ll refer to “Chattanooga”, “UTC”, and “Mocs” when discussing its football program.

One comment on the victory over East Tennessee State two weeks ago:

The inability to properly review Nkem Njoku’s apparent TD catch (either because of a lack of a decent camera angle, or just an outright refusal by the replay booth to review the play) calls into question whether or not the SoCon should even employ replay review.

The lack of consistency among replay review setups in the conference is jarring. That play should have been easily reviewed. The fact that it evidently was not speaks volumes about ETSU’s onsite replay review capability, and it further erodes confidence in the SoCon’s officiating, both at the field and administrative levels.

Some things, unfortunately, never seem to change.

The Citadel and Chattanooga are very closely matched this season from a statistical perspective in league-only games. For example, in SoCon play The Citadel is scoring 34.0 points per game while allowing 28.8 points per contest, while the Mocs are averaging 33.2 points per game while giving up 27.2 points.

UTC has an offensive third-down conversion rate in league play of 45.8%, while The Citadel is at 45.5% in that category. Both are converting 62.5% of the time on fourth down (though the Bulldogs have attempted twice as many fourth-down tries in conference action).

In terms of turnover margin in SoCon games, Chattanooga is +4 while The Citadel is +3.

A few differences: Chattanooga is the least-penalized team in SoCon games, giving up only 38.8 yards per game. (The Citadel is 7th out of 9 teams in penalty yardage.)

The Citadel has the edge in Red Zone TD rate, both offensively and defensively. The Bulldogs put the ball in the end zone 75.9% of the time in SoCon action when they enter the Red Zone, while the Mocs’ offense does so on 66.7% of its trips inside the 20-yard line.

The biggest discrepancy in on defense. While The Citadel is allowing a defensive red zone TD rate of 56.5%, Chattanooga has given up TDs on 16 of its opponents’ 20 trips into scoring territory (80%).

Some other stuff:

– This is Chattanooga’s 112th season of playing football. This is also The Citadel’s 112th year of fielding a football team.

– Chattanooga’s new defensive coordinator this season is longtime coach Lorenzo “Whammy” Ward, father of former Bulldogs running back Lorenzo Ward (who set the record for most rushing TDs in a Homecoming game last season for The Citadel when he scored four times in the Bulldogs’ big comeback victory over Samford).

– On Saturday, the Mocs and Bulldogs will meet for the 53rd time. This is actually Chattanooga’s longest football series in terms of games played. By comparison, The Citadel has played five different opponents 53 or more times (Davidson, Furman, Presbyterian, VMI, and Wofford). The Bulldogs also have series of 40+ games against Newberry, South Carolina, Appalachian State, and Western Carolina.

I tend to doubt that most fans of either UTC or The Citadel consider this matchup a true rivalry, though. The two schools are not particularly close in terms of geography, nor are they similar in enrollment size or mission. There also haven’t been too many games of consequence for both schools over the years (this season’s matchup being an exception).,

However, UTC’s game notes suggests the “rivalry” is a “hot one”, and “one of the more heated rivalries in the league over the last few meetings.” Of course, Chattanooga’s game notes used the exact same verbiage last year when the Mocs played the Bulldogs…and in 2017…and in 2016, too.

– Saturday will be Chattanooga’s “Military Appreciation Day” game. It was also Military Appreciation Day when The Citadel made the trip to Finley Stadium in 2017 and 2015.

– From Jeff Hartsell’s November 11 column in The Post and Courier, word on a key injury for the Mocs:

Star running back Ailym Ford, a freshman from West Florence who is second in the  SoCon with 1,081 rushing yards, went out with a knee injury early in the game and seems unlikely to play this week.

In his place, graduate student transfer Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks ran for 139 yards and two TDs on 27 carries, and QB Nick Tiano also ran for 100 yards, rushing for one TD and throwing for two.

Among league teams, only VMI running back Alex Ramsey has more rushing yards than Ford, who (as noted in the article) went to West Florence High School.

However, Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks is a formidable back in his own right. The 5’8″, 205 lb. graduate transfer rushed for 1,401 yards and 16 TDs as a sophomore at Albany before missing most of his junior season due injury. Last year, he rushed for 767 yards for the Great Danes.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, per the National Weather Service: sunny and a high of 57 degrees. The low temperature on Saturday night is projected to be 33 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters (as of Friday afternoon), The Citadel-Chattanooga is a pick’em, with an over/under of 55.

Through nine games this season, The Citadel is 5-5 ATS. The over has hit just three times in ten games — but one of those was in the last game, versus ETSU.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Samford is a 9-point favorite at Western Carolina; VMI is a 34 1/2 point underdog at Army; East Tennessee State is a 4 1/2 point favorite over Mercer; and Furman is a 1-point favorite at Wofford.

– Also of note: Towson is a 4 1/2 point favorite at William & Mary, and Charleston Southern is a 14-point favorite at Presbyterian. Elon is off this week.

Georgia Tech is a 6 1/2 point home underdog to Virginia Tech.

In games between FCS schools, the biggest spread is 33 1/2, with Villanova favored over LIU.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 41st in FCS. The Mocs are 51st.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 52% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 28, Chattanooga 27.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest: South Dakota State is 8th, UC Davis 11th, Villanova 15th, Towson 16th, Furman 19th, Monmouth 25th, Central Connecticut State 29th, Wofford 31st, Kennesaw State 34th, Elon 36th, Youngstown State 42nd, North Carolina A&T 52nd, Jacksonville State 55th, South Carolina State 59th, Samford 67th, Campbell 73rd, Mercer 75th, VMI 79th, Charleston Southern 91st, East Tennessee State 92nd, Western Carolina 99th, Davidson 100th, Eastern Illinois 102nd, Gardner-Webb 109th, Presbyterian 124th, and Butler 126th (last).

– Chattanooga’s notable alumni include actor Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins, retired general Burwell Bell, and chemist Irvine Grote.

– Future FBS opponents for the Mocs include Western Kentucky (in 2020), Kentucky (2021), and Illinois (2022). Chattanooga also has a two-game set with North Alabama in the future, and will finish home-and-home series against James Madison and Eastern Illinois.

– Chattanooga’s roster includes 40 players from the state of Tennessee. Other states represented: Georgia (19 players), Alabama (13), Florida (8), Ohio (3), South Carolina (3), and one each from Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, New Jersey, and Mississippi.

Sophomore wideout Jahmar Quandt is from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Palmetto State products (and their respective high schools) on the Mocs’ squad are junior wide receiver Kanore McKinnon (Dillon, followed by two years at Georgia Military College), junior quarterback Drayton Arnold (Myrtle Beach, a transfer from Old Dominion), and freshman running back Ailym Ford (as mentioned earlier, from West Florence).

While there are a few South Carolina natives on Chattanooga’s squad, none are from celebrated gridiron factory Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. Failing to recruit any stars (or even scrubs) from the famed maroon and orange will have negative repercussions for UTC’s football program for many decades to come.

– 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 still leads in time of possession for all FCS teams (35:26 per game), just ahead of Wofford. Chattanooga is 54th (30:07).

– This week’s two-deep for The Citadel appears to be unchanged from two weeks ago.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 6-10 for games played on November 16. Among the highlights from past contests:

  • 1916: Before an enthusiastic crowd of 3,500 at the Orangeburg County Fair, The Citadel defeated Clemson 3-0 in a Thursday afternoon game. Johnny Weeks’ 25-yard field goal in the third quarter proved to be the decisive (and only) score. With the win, the Bulldogs all but clinched a second straight state championship. The 1916 squad, which was 6-1-1 (including wins over both Clemson and South Carolina), was probably the most successful gridiron team at The Citadel in the pre-World War II era.
  • 1929: The Citadel shut out Mercer, 21-0, at the original Johnson Hagood Stadium. Tom “Pop” Wilson broke a scoreless deadlock with a four-yard run in the third quarter. Howard “Red” Whittington scored the other two TDs, the second on a 29-yard pass reception from Julius “Runt” Gray. Ed McIntosh added a number of bruising runs from the fullback position and also kicked all three PATs. The Bulldogs’ defense intercepted four Mercer passes.
  • 1968: The Bulldogs overcame a dubious SoCon officiating decision to upset William & Mary in Williamsburg, 24-21. After the Tribe took the lead following a 22-yard penalty for defensive pass interference on a fourth down play in which a pass was not actually thrown, The Citadel responded with the game-winning drive, with Jim McMillan rushing for a six-yard TD with 1:16 remaining. It was the second of two touchdowns for McMillan, with Tony Passander accounting for the Bulldogs’ other TD. Jim Gahagan added a field goal and three PATs for The Citadel. Red Parker was very happy with the Bulldogs’ victory; it can be safely assumed that Marv Levy, head coach at the time of William & Mary, was not.
  • 1974: In Greenville, The Citadel whipped Furman, 24-0. Andrew Johnson rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns, with Gene Dotson providing the other TD on a nine-yard QB keeper. Steve Bailey added a field goal and three extra points. The defense forced six Paladin turnovers — four fumbles and two interceptions. Among the stars on the Bulldogs’ D that day were David Sollazzo, Ron Shelley, Billy Long, Ellis Johnson, and “the omni-present” Brian Ruff.
  • 1991: The Citadel defeated East Tennessee State in Johnson City, 17-7. Only 3,017 were on hand to see the Bulldogs clinch a fourth consecutive non-losing season, the first time that had happened since 1923-1926. Jack Douglas rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown, with Cedric Sims adding 72 yards and a score. Rob Avriett kicked a 42-yard field goal and converted two PATs. Willie Jones had four receptions for 82 yards. The defense was very strong for The Citadel; Lance Cook had two big sacks, and the Bulldogs forced four turnovers — a fumble recovery by David Russinko and interceptions by Shannon Walker, Torrence Forney, and Kelly Fladger.
  • 2013: The Bulldogs beat VMI, 31-10, scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to break a 10-10 tie. Ben Dupree rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns; the fourth TD was added by Dalton Trevino. Darien Robinson rushed for 115 yards for the Bulldogs. Thomas Warren kicked a field goal and four PATs. Sadath Jean-Pierre intercepted a pass, and the rest of his defensive teammates accounted for seven sacks (with Derek Douglas picking up two of them).

Everything statistically about this game suggests that it should be a close contest, and I see no reason to doubt that.

I am hopeful that a lot of Bulldog fans will be making the trip up to the Scenic City. I won’t be able to be there in person, but I will be there in spirit (at least, I would like to think so). I’ve been to Chattanooga before; it’s a good drive (Atlanta-area traffic being a notable exception to that) and the stadium setup is solid.

The Bulldogs are trying to become the 19th team in program history to win at least seven games in a season. Let’s hope they can move into that relatively rarefied air on Saturday.

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