2020 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Army

The Citadel at Army, to be played on Blaik Field at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on October 10, 2020. 

The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. Ben Holden will handle play-by-play, while Ross Tucker supplies the analysis and Tina Cervasio patrols 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 Kyle West

The Citadel Sports Network — 2020 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

– Game notes from The Citadel and Army

Not many secrets between the two coaching staffs

Other sports at The Citadel are competing (and doing well!) during the pandemic

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Brent Thompson’s 10/5 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (10/7)

Jeff Monken’s 10/6 press conference

Select quotes from Monken’s presser

– The budget crunch

Mutual respect flows in The Citadel-Army matchup

– Army’s “virtual” game program

I first want to comment on a quote from Mike Capaccio in Jeff Hartsell’s article on The Citadel’s budget issues:

Capaccio reiterated that if the SoCon plays a league schedule in the spring, The Citadel will participate, even though the school did not vote for a spring schedule in league meetings.

“I think we will have football in the spring, but what that looks like, we don’t know,” he said. ”(The league) hasn’t decided on the number of games. They are looking at some tentative schedules, and we should know shortly.”

Capaccio pointed out that the Colonial Athletic Association just announced a six-game schedule for the spring.

“I think you’ll see teams playing four to six games,” he said.

Capaccio said he continues to field calls from teams interested in adding games this fall.

“I could schedule three games today,” he said. “I won’t rule it out, but that’s probably not going to happen.”

While at this point I suspect The Citadel won’t add any more football games in the fall, I have to wonder if Capaccio would be more likely to add a game or two if the Southern Conference releases a spring football schedule with six or fewer games for each school.

For example, let’s say the SoCon slate in the spring is for six games. The Citadel could add one more fall contest and have eleven total games for the 2020-21 scholastic year; thus, the school would not require a waiver from the NCAA (as it would not exceed the FCS games limit for the academic calendar).

This is not an outlandish consideration, particularly given that most observers believe the SoCon schedule will not exceed six games (and could be just four contests per school). I think that makes it all the more important for the league to release its spring slate sooner rather than later.

I would not be surprised if the reason the conference has yet to announce its schedule is because some member schools are hesitant to commit to football for the spring. If that is the case, commissioner Jim Schaus has to give those schools a deadline to make a decision — like tomorrow. 

There are nine schools that play football in the Southern Conference. It would not be a shock if at least two of them don’t compete in the spring. 

Revisiting the past — Part 1

October 12, 1991: The Citadel 20, Army 14

The trip to West Point got off to an uncertain start. After checking in at the team hotel, David Russinko and Bill Melby entered their room at 2 am on Friday, only to discover two people sleeping in it. The two players were quickly assigned another room.

There were apparently no issues with the squad’s arrival at the stadium on Saturday, however. The Bulldogs started fast and held on for the win, beating the Black Knights for the first time. In the first half, two field goals by Rob Avriett were sandwiched around a 28-yard TD run by Jack Douglas; then, Everette Sands scored from two yards out, and The Citadel led 20-0.

Army came charging back, and cut the lead to six points late in the third quarter. However, the home team was ultimately undone by five turnovers. Four different Bulldogs — Jim Wilson, Lance Cook, Geren Williams, and Lester Smith — recovered fumbles, and Shannon Walker intercepted a wayward Army pass. A late-game stop by Derek Moore on fourth down ended the Black Knights’ hopes for a comeback victory.

Revisiting the past — Part 2

September 26, 1992: The Citadel 15, Army 14

For the second consecutive season, the Bulldogs defeated the Black Knights, but this time they didn’t lead throughout the contest. In fact, The Citadel didn’t take its first lead of the game until Jeff Trinh converted a 37-yard field goal with 2:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Everette Sands, who rushed for 174 yards and a touchdown, had a great game, but things were looking grim when C.J. Haynes had to replace an injured Jack Douglas in the third quarter. However, Haynes proceeded to complete 7 of 7 passes for 100 yards, leading two scoring drives, including the one that eventually decided the game.

Cedric Sims scored The Citadel’s second touchdown on a two-yard run. Trinh’s field goal was set up by two pass completions from Haynes to Cornell Caldwell, the second of which came on a fourth down play. Army’s last chance ended when the Bulldogs’ Mike Wideman recovered a fumble. For the sixth time in seven tries, The Citadel had beaten a I-A opponent.

“This is,” Trinh said outside a jubilant locker room, “the happiest moment of my life.”

Okay, back to this year — not that anyone really wants to return to 2020, for any reason. However, we must…

Army is 3-1. The Black Knights mauled Middle Tennessee State, ULM, and Abilene Christian, while losing a tough game to nationally ranked Cincinnati. A potentially interesting game against BYU was postponed for COVID-related reasons.

All three of Army’s victories have come at home, as Michie Stadium is getting plenty of use this season. Before the BYU postponement, the Black Knights were scheduled to play eight home games. In addition to the game against the Bearcats (which was played at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati), Army is playing UTSA and Tulane on the road, and Navy in Philadelphia.

While Army is known for its triple-option offense, the Black Knights’ defense has arguably been the star unit this season. Opponents are averaging just 4.95 yards per play, which is 17th-best nationally. That number actually improves to 4.44 yards per play against FBS-only opposition, which ranks 9th overall.

Much of that defensive success revolves around Army’s stinginess against the run. The Black Knights are allowing only 2.62 yards per rush, 10th-best nationally. Against FBS squads, that number drops to 2.29 yards per rush, 4th overall.

Army is tied for 9th in FBS in turnover margin, and is 19th nationally in 3rd down conversion against (32.7%). Opponents have gone for it on 4th down six times against the Black Knights, converting three times.

In the Red Zone, Army has allowed four touchdowns on ten opponent trips. 

Offensively, Army is averaging 6.10 yards per rush, fifth-best in FBS. The Black Knights are converting exactly 50% of their 3rd down tries (26 for 52), and are six for ten on 4th down attempts.

Army’s offense in the Red Zone has scored touchdowns on 66.7% of its chances (10 for 15). 

The Black Knights have had 37 rushes of 10 yards or more, by far the most in FBS (SMU is second in that category, which I thought was interesting). Army also leads the nation in runs of 20+ yards (17 of those), 30+ yards (8) and 40+ yards (5).  

A quick rundown on some key Army players, starting with the offense:

Christian Anderson (6’1″, 195 lbs.) is a junior from the Bronx. Anderson has started at quarterback in each of Army’s four games, but was injured against Abilene Christian and may not start (or play) this week. Against ULM, Anderson rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Jemel Jones (5’10”, 210 lbs.), a sophomore from Texas, replaced Anderson in the game versus ACU and rushed for 149 yards and two TDs. He threw the ball fairly well, too (4 for 7 for 52 yards and a touchdown). Jones also holds on placekicks.

A freshman from Dallas, Georgia, Tyrell Robinson (5’9″, 180 lbs.) is fast, as in SEC speed fast, not service academy fast. He is a true gamebreaker and the Bulldogs cannot let #21 loose in the open field (or in a closed field, for that matter). He is averaging 12.7 yards per carry (!) and is also a threat as a punt returner.

Army’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 291 lbs.

Defensive performers of note:

Jon Rhattigan (6’1″, 245 lbs.) is a linebacker from Naperville, Illinois. The senior leads the team in tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee State. He is nicknamed “Jonny Nation”.

Strong safety Marquel Broughton (5’10”, 213 lbs.) is second on the team in tackles. The sophomore from Lawrenceville, Georgia intercepted a pass and forced a fumble versus ULM.

Cedrick Cunningham Jr. (6’0″, 215 lbs.) is a native of Cassatt, South Carolina. The junior free safety was named the Chuck Bednarik Award Player of the Week for his efforts in Army’s win over Middle Tennessee State, a game in which he had seven tackles, including a sack and forced fumble.

Nolan Cockrill (6’3″, 280 lbs.), a junior from Centreville, Virginia, had six tackles against ULM and a sack versus Abilene Christian. He has also broken up two passes this season, something not necessarily expected from a noseguard.

A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, Landon Salyers (6’1″, 180 lbs.) is in his first season as the regular placekicker for Army. He has been the kickoff specialist since 2018. So far this year, the senior has made all 3 of his field goal tries, with a long of 43 yards.

Zach Harding (6’5″, 220 lbs.) holds down the punting duties for the Black Knights, as he did for most of last season. The junior from St. Peters, Missouri has a career average of 47.8 yards per punt and has never had one blocked.

Odds and ends:

– While Army is occasionally referred to as the Bulldogs of the Hudson, for this post I elected to call the football team exclusively by its official nickname (Black Knights) in order to avoid confusion.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in West Point, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny and breezy, with a high of 67 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel (as of October 7) is a 29-point underdog at Army. The over/under is 47½.

The line actually opened at Army -31½, but both the spread and the total have fallen slightly since the initial posting.

Other lines of note this week (as of October 6): Clemson is a 14-point favorite over Miami (FL); Temple is a 3-point favorite at Navy; Notre Dame is a 21-point favorite over Florida State; Jacksonville State is a 6½-point favorite over Mercer; South Carolina is a 13-point favorite at Vanderbilt; Liberty is a 19½-point favorite over ULM; BYU is a 34-point favorite over UTSA; FIU is a 3½-point favorite over Middle Tennessee State; USF is a 4½-point favorite over East Carolina; and Georgia is a 13-point favorite over Tennessee.

– Massey Ratings

Massey projects a predicted final score of Army 38, The Citadel 10. According to the ratings service, the Bulldogs have a 3% chance of victory.

Of the 127 schools in FCS, fifteen announced plans in August to play at least one game in the fall. Massey’s rankings (in FCS) for those teams, as of October 6:

North Dakota State (1st), Central Arkansas (19th), Missouri State (49th), Austin Peay (50th), Jacksonville State (52nd), Chattanooga (53rd), Houston Baptist (57th), Abilene Christian (59th), Eastern Kentucky (63rd), Stephen F. Austin (66th), Mercer (67th), The Citadel (68th), Western Carolina (77th), North Alabama (85th), Campbell (88th).

– Massey’s FBS rankings (as of October 6) for select teams: Alabama (1st), Ohio State (2nd), Clemson (3rd), Georgia (4th), LSU (5th), Florida (6th), Notre Dame (7th), Auburn (11th), Tennessee (13th), Texas (18th), Texas A&M (20th), BYU (21st), North Carolina (22nd), Virginia Tech (30th), Air Force (32nd), Kansas State (39th), Cincinnati (40th), Arkansas (45th), UCF (46th), SMU (47th), South Carolina (52nd), Boston College (59th), Navy (66th), Louisville (67th), Tulane (76th), Army (77th), Georgia Tech (80th), Coastal Carolina (86th), Florida State (87th), Liberty (96th), Georgia Southern (104th), USF (107th), Texas State (115th), East Carolina (119th), Middle Tennessee State (127th), ULM (130th).

There are 130 FBS teams.

– The U.S.M.A.’s notable alumni include astronaut E.E. “Buzz” Aldrin; former Costa Rica president José María Figueres; and actor Mark Valley.

– The Black Knights are 7-2 against The Citadel in the all-time series. Army is 15-1 versus VMI, with the Keydets’ only victory coming in 1981 (the last year in which VMI had a winning season).

– Army’s roster (as of October 6) includes…well, a lot of guys. There are 166 Black Knights listed on the online roster. The state most represented is Georgia, with 28 players, followed by Texas (21 players), California (12), Florida (11), Virginia (10), Maryland (9), New York (8), Pennsylvania (8), North Carolina (7), Illinois (6), Ohio (5), New Jersey (5), Arizona (5), Missouri (4), Louisiana (4), Tennessee (4), Kentucky (3), Alabama (3), South Carolina (2), Indiana (2), Iowa (2), Hawai’i (2), and one each from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Michigan, and West Virginia.

As mentioned earlier, junior free safety Cedrick Cunningham Jr. is from Cassatt, SC. He went to North Central High School in Kershaw County. The other Palmetto State product for Army is sophomore offensive lineman Blake Harris, an Irmo native who attended Ben Lippen.

Both Cunningham and Harris spent a year at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS). In all, 94 of the 166 players on Army’s roster attended its prep school.

Alas, no Black Knight can claim to be an alumnus of South Carolina’s most revered football institution, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. While Army’s coaching staff has undoubtedly made inroads in the southeastern part of the country, it has yet to land a truly prized prospect, one who wears the famed maroon and orange. The absence of such players on the roster make further program advancement difficult, if not impossible.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (59 players), Georgia (19), Florida (10), North Carolina (7), Virginia (4), Texas (3), Alabama (2), Oklahoma (2), Tennessee (2), Pennsylvania (2), and one each from Kentucky, Ohio, Nebraska, and New York.

Defensive lineman Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– Here are the guarantees The Citadel will be receiving from FBS schools over the next few years:

  • 2020: South Florida — $275,000
  • 2020: Clemson — $450,000
  • 2020: Army — $225,000
  • 2021: Coastal Carolina — $315,000
  • 2023: Georgia Southern — $320,000
  • 2024: Clemson — $300,000
  • 2025: Mississippi — $500,000

The guarantee amounts listed above for this season’s games are from a Jeff Hartsell article in The Post and Courier: Link

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 7-7-1 for games played on October 10. The Bulldogs are 1-3-1 in road contests held on that date. Among the highlights:

  • 1914: Before a large crowd at Hampton Park (“both sidelines were pretty well jammed with craning spectators” reported The News and Courier), The Citadel shut out Porter Military Academy, 12-0. Johnny Weeks and Francis Sheppard scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs. The Citadel was shorthanded, due to several players having been badly burned the week before in a game played at Georgia. The groundskeeper in that contest had lined the field with unslaked lime; the substance got wet and soaked through the players’ uniforms, resulting in significant burns for some of them. (Yes, you’re cringing while reading that.)
  • 1942: At the original Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel outlasted George Washington, 14-2. Marty Gold and Andy Victor both scored TDs for the Bulldogs (with Victor adding both PATs). The defense kept the Colonials out of the end zone, with Tom Marcinko a stalwart on D and as the punter (with multiple boots of 60+ yards). Team captain Eddie Overman had a big game, too, and punctuated the victory with a 15-yard sack on the game’s final play. More than 6,000 fans watched the action on a sweltering afternoon.
  • 1964: An estimated crowd of 10,200 at Johnson Hagood Stadium was on hand as The Citadel whipped Richmond, 33-0. The Bulldogs’ defense held the Spiders to just 68 yards of total offense. Head coach Eddie Teague credited Frank Murphy and Ricky Parris for excellent defensive signal-calling, while Mike Addison iced the game with a pick-six. The Citadel had taken a commanding lead thanks to touchdown runs from Ed Brewster and Francis Grant, along with a TD pass from John Breedlove to Punch Parker. Pat Green added two field goals for the Bulldogs.
  • 1970: The Citadel disappointed a Homecoming crowd of 10,000 in Williamsburg, Virginia, by defeating William and Mary 16-7. Jim Leber’s 27-yard field goal in the third quarter gave the Bulldogs their first points of the day, and then Jeff Varnadoe returned two interceptions for touchdowns (the first of which went for 100 yards) to provide the winning margin.
  • 1992: The Bulldogs defeated Chattanooga, 33-13, in front of a nighttime crowd of 19,622 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Jack Douglas rushed for 159 yards and four touchdowns, while Everette Sands added 136 rushing yards to The Citadel’s total of 434 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs’ defense recorded eight sacks, including two each by Rob Briggs and Ed McFarland.
  • 2015: The Citadel walloped Wofford, 39-12, on a soggy day at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Bulldogs’ defense forced two turnovers and held the Terriers to just 2.43 yards per rush. Tevin Floyd had 11 tackles and was named the SoCon Defensive Player of the Week. Dominique Allen rushed for two TDs and threw another (to Brandon Eakins), while Tyler Renew and Reggie Williams also scored.

For the last two decades, many supporters of The Citadel have hoped the program could make another trip to West Point. Finally, the Bulldogs are making the journey, but will play in a (mostly) empty stadium.

Army’s home games at spacious Michie Stadium have been limited to only the Corps of Cadets and game personnel, or roughly 5,000 people for the first three contests against Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Monroe and last Saturday’s affair with Abilene Christian. That, too, will be the case for next Saturday’s game with The Citadel.

That is too bad, but it is how the world is working right now. Perhaps in the near future the two schools could meet once more on the gridiron, with fans actually in attendance. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

In his presser on Tuesday, Army head coach Jeff Monken noted that the two teams are not scheduled to face each other again. Practically speaking, it is probably a tough matchup to schedule from the perspective of both programs.

That said, I would like to see The Citadel play Army and Navy more often. I also think it is worthwhile for the school to occasionally schedule a game in other regions of the country, regardless of whether or not the game is against a service academy.

Brent Thompson, closing his press conference on Monday, was asked where he hoped his team would be by the end of the game on Saturday:

We have proven that we can play. We have gotten a lot better, and I’ve said this every single week, we don’t have exactly the roster that I was expecting. However, I’ve got a bunch of guys out there that are out there [because they] want to play football…every one of them was given a reason or the opportunity not to play this year, so those guys that stayed, those guys that were out there, they got better. We’ve increased our depth…we’ve gained in practice time, we’ve gained in game reps. Unfortunately, it’s come at the expense of some tough losses there. But you know what? That’s okay. Eventually, this is going to pay off for us. We’re going to get better from it. We’re going to build our depth from it, and I know the guys right now who are here, they’ve improved. And that was the whole reason why I wasn’t going to go easy last week [during the bye] and just try and get through the season. We were going to prepare ourselves for the spring season last week, and [prepare] to go out and beat Army this week.

I hope the game on Saturday is a good one. A victory by The Citadel would be a somewhat unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to what has been an incredibly strange 2020 season (assuming that it is actually the last game of the year).

Go Dogs!

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