2021 Spring Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel vs. Chattanooga, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on March 6, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Dave Weinstein will handle play-by-play, while Jason Kempf supplies the analysis.

The contest can be heard on radio via 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 Lee Glaze

Links of interest:

Cooper Wallace is fast

Ken Feaster, trailblazer

– Game notes from The Citadel and Chattanooga

SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Preview on Chattanooga’s website

The Citadel’s home attendance policies for spring football

– The Citadel releases its fall 2021 schedule

Chattanooga head coach Rusty Wright’s 3/2 press conference

Takeaways from Chattanooga’s victory over the Terriers

Mocs didn’t have to test depth to handle Wofford

Wofford-Chattanooga video highlights

– Chattanooga’s offensive line has experience

– “Live Stats” online platform

I posted links to game notes for The Citadel and Chattanooga above, along with the SoCon’s weekly release. For anyone interested, here are links to this week’s game notes for the other league schools playing:

“Is [the real Bulldogs team] the one that surrendered 28 unanswered points to Mercer in the first half? Or the one that twice stormed back to within one possession in the second half?”

Brent Thompson:

I think it’s the second-half team. I told the guys at the end of the game that what they showed inside of them was what I was most concerned about. You can fix mistakes, but you can’t always build heart and determination into a football team, and we showed some heart in the second half.

The Bulldogs did show some moxie in the second half, and that was good to see. Not every team that fell behind in a game last Saturday showed quite as much determination.

The Citadel is not about moral victories, however (particularly in league play). While the second half gave fans some hope for the rest of the spring season, the first-half performance was not acceptable.

Mercer scored touchdowns on three of its five first-half possessions, averaging 9.7 yards per play on offense. Meanwhile, on six first-half drives the Bulldogs’ offense averaged 2.2 yards per play and gave up a defensive touchdown on a bad pitch.

The second half was definitely a lot better, and something The Citadel can use as a building block. Not counting the end-of-game possession, Mercer’s offense had five drives and went three-and-out on four of them. (The next-to-last drive, a seven-play TD march, was a disappointing outlier.)

The Bulldogs were much better offensively in the second half, which featured several big plays, something that has occasionally been missing from The Citadel’s offensive attack in the last couple of seasons. The Bulldogs had five plays from scrimmage of 20+ yards in the second half, highlighted by Cooper Wallace’s 73-yard TD run. However, the offense also turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter.

It is hard to win any game — much less one in which you trail 28-0 at halftime — when you lose the turnover battle 3-0.

Those big plays, however, hold promise for the future. They arguably demonstrate what Jaylan Adams can bring to the table as the Bulldogs’ quarterback.

The Citadel is obviously going to have to work on pitch plays, and there are other issues that need to be fixed, but the potential is there for the Bulldogs to have a high-octane offense. It just has to avoid self-destructing.

Defensively, my main takeaway was that The Citadel needs to do a better job of tackling. The second half was an improvement in that respect. Pass coverage is something that will require some fine-tuning as well.

Participation report:

The Citadel had 40 players participate in last Saturday’s contest; Mercer had 48. Six of the Bulldogs who played are “true” freshmen.

Chattanooga had 44 players see action in its game versus Wofford. The Terriers fielded 55 players (which is more than I would have expected, given some of Wofford’s roster issues).

Updated career points scored by Bulldogs on the active spring roster:

The Citadel’s listed depth chart for its matchup with Chattanooga, by class. (There was no change in the two-deep from the Mercer game.)

  • Freshmen: 9
  • Redshirt freshmen: 8
  • Sophomores: 2
  • Redshirt sophomores: 12
  • Juniors: 11
  • Redshirt juniors: 5
  • Seniors: 2
  • Redshirt seniors: 0
  • Graduate students: 2

I saw this note while perusing The Citadel’s online game preview:

The Bulldogs scored 28 points in the second half against Mercer. It was the most points in a second half since putting up 35 points in the second half against Samford in 2018.

Ah, Samford 2018. Now that was a game…

Traditional paragraph devoted to nomenclature for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga:

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”.

That blurb is from Chattanooga’s game notes. It works for me (notice that the school nickname is definitely not “Moccasins”).

Here is a breakdown of Chattanooga’s listed depth chart for the game versus The Citadel, by class. UTC is an “old” team, relatively speaking.

Chattanooga, probably because of the number of transfers on its roster, does not list its players in the same way as The Citadel (or Mercer, for that matter). I’ve gone through the two-deep to determine class standing, but it is not necessarily an exact comparison.

  • Freshmen: 7
  • Redshirt Freshmen: 4
  • Sophomores: 2
  • Redshirt sophomores: 7
  • Juniors: 4
  • Redshirt juniors: 8
  • Seniors: 2
  • Redshirt seniors: 10
  • Graduate students (5th year): 1
  • Graduate students (6th year): 2

Clearly, it is safe to assume that some of the redshirt seniors have already graduated, but I listed three players separately as graduate students. One is a grad transfer in his first year in the program (and fifth since entering college), long snapper Bryce Coulson. Another is a grad transfer in his first year in the program — but his sixth since entering college — LB/DE Montez Wilson.

Then there is starting left tackle Harrison Moon, who spent three seasons at Mississippi State (one year as a redshirt) before transferring to Chattanooga in 2018. Moon received a medical redshirt for the 2019 season, and thus is also a sixth-year player.

If you count spring 2021 separately from fall 2020, Wilson and Moon are actually participating in their seventh seasons of college football. Both entered college in 2015.

Chattanooga’s roster includes 27 players who transferred into the program from four-year colleges; 23 of them are currently eligible to compete for the Mocs. There are also three junior college products.

Those transfers from four-year schools began their college careers at the following institutions: Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Austin Peay, Bethel, Cincinnati (two players), Eastern Illinois, Lafayette, Jacksonville State, Louisville (two players), Minot State, Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee State, Northern Illinois, Old Dominion, Purdue, Rhode Island, South Carolina (two players), Tennessee Tech (two players), ULM, Western Kentucky (three players), and Western Michigan.

Transfers have been important for UTC in sustaining its program (and that has been true for a long time, not just during Rusty Wright’s brief tenure as head coach). Fifteen of the four-year school transfers are on the Mocs’ two-deep, as are two of the three JuCos. Eleven of those seventeen players are starters.

It occurs to me that someone reading this might get the wrong idea about why I’ve written about Chattanooga’s transfers. I do so because I’m interested in how programs construct rosters, from a geographical perspective as well as high school recruit/transfer comparisons, and in terms of class numbers.

As I wrote in 2018 (slightly edited):

It shouldn’t matter to its opponents how many transfers Chattanooga has on its roster, as long as they are students in good standing.

Sometimes fans get huffy about this topic, especially when they support schools for which transfers are somewhat unusual, if not rare. It isn’t a good idea to get all high and mighty about this, however, because a sense of righteousness doesn’t really mesh well with intercollegiate gridiron activity.

After all, we’re not talking about a morality play. We’re talking about football.

Now, you could argue that league schools should more or less recruit in a similar fashion, and that isn’t necessarily a bad position to take — except that we’re talking about the Southern Conference. This is a league with a 100-year history of being a mixing bowl of disparate institutions, including the current setup (public and private schools, military colleges, a school without a football program, etc.).

These schools have vastly different missions. Being a member of the SoCon means accepting that fact, getting on the bus, and going to the next game.

Rusty Wright on Chattanooga’s issues with trying to prepare for its spring opener:

We didn’t even cover a live kick until Saturday [against Wofford]. I mean, you talk about holding your breath.

It took UTC’s defense about a quarter to get warmed up against the Terriers, but after that Chattanooga’s D was solid. After Wofford scored on a 12-play, 71-yard drive to open the game, the Mocs did not allow another touchdown in seven possessions by the Terriers (two brief end-of-half drives are not included in that grouping).

Three of those seven Wofford drives were three-and-outs (one was technically a four-and-out). Another was a five-play possession that resulted in an interception by the Mocs. Wofford averaged only 4.3 yards per play on those seven possessions.

Another statistic of consequence: against Mercer, Wofford averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt (sack-adjusted). Chattanooga held the Terriers to 2.2 yards per pass attempt.

Middle linebacker Kam Jones and strong safety Brandon Dowdell combined for 20 tackles. Dowdell, an outstanding player who has twice been selected first-team all-conference, also had a pick. Dowdell serves as UTC’s primary punt and kick returner, too.

Chattanooga’s offense wasn’t necessarily spectacular, but it was consistent, and that was good enough. Drayton Arnold had a fine day at quarterback. He was composed, seemingly never in a hurry, in part because of a good performance from Chattanooga’s experienced offensive line (which allowed one sack on 26 pass plays).

Arnold averaged 8.1 yards per pass attempt, including a TD, and was not intercepted. One of the more important plays in the early part of the game was a pinpoint downfield pass from Arnold to Andrew Manning, a 30-yard completion on a 3rd-and-13 that set up UTC’s first touchdown.

Mocs wideout Reginald Henderson was very impressive. He had seven receptions for 102 yards, and narrowly missed out on a couple of would-be TD catches (the second of which would have been spectacular if his foot had not been just out of bounds).

UTC took advantage of its opportunities, especially after what might have been the key play in the game, a muffed punt by Wofford late in the first half. The Mocs converted that mistake into a go-ahead TD.

Chattanooga did not run the ball all that effectively, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry, but UTC’s running backs picked up tough yards when it mattered (seven first downs via the rush and two rushing TDs).

Note: Besides adjusting for sack yardage, I also did not include in the Mocs’ rushing totals a 23-yard loss on a botched punt late in the game. That was also Chattanooga’s only real miscue in the contest (UTC did not commit a turnover).

Chattanooga went for it a couple of times on fourth down plays in situations where you might have expected a field goal attempt (particularly on a 4th-and-4 at Wofford’s 20-yard line early in the third quarter). One reason for that is UTC’s expected regular at placekicker is out with an injury.

Skyler Wilson, a freshman who handled placekicking duties for the Mocs on Saturday, did make a 26-yarder against Wofford (he missed another effort from 40 yards). Kickoffs were handled by punter Gabe Boring. Incidentally, Boring was the SoCon’s special teams player of the week after he averaged over 50 yards per boot last Saturday (including a 72-yarder late in the contest).

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: partly sunny, and a high of 56°.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Chattanooga (as of March 3) is a 6½-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 46½.

– Other SoCon lines this week (as of March 3): VMI is an 8½-point favorite at Western Carolina (over/under of 63), and Furman is a 9½-point favorite over Samford (over/under of 54½).

A few more games of note in FCS: Gardner-Webb is a 12-point favorite over Presbyterian; Richmond is a 3½-point favorite over William and Mary; James Madison is a 21½-point favorite at Elon; Delaware is a 2½-point favorite over Maine; Grambling State is a 9½-point favorite over Jackson State; North Dakota State is a 20-point favorite at Missouri State; South Dakota State is a 22½-point favorite over Western Illinois; Prairie View A&M is a 19½-point favorite over Texas Southern; Southeastern Louisiana is a 9½-point favorite over McNeese State; Eastern Washington is a 14½-point favorite over Northern Arizona; Incarnate Word is a 13½-point favorite at Lamar; Southern is a 10½-point favorite over Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Northern Iowa is an 8½-point favorite over Illinois State; Albany is a 2-point favorite at New Hampshire (a game being played Friday night); Villanova is a 9½-point favorite at Stony Brook; and Southern Illinois is a 6½-point favorite at Youngstown State.

Last week was a huge week for underdogs across FCS. Twenty of the ranked teams in the FCS Stats Perform Poll played, and eleven of them lost. The games ranged from the shocking (Southern Illinois beating North Dakota State 38-14) to the bizarre (Eastern Washington losing after a made field goal was ruled no good, thanks to a brutal combination of hilariously bad officiating and the Kibbie Dome).

– Three SoCon teams are not playing on Saturday. Mercer had a scheduled bye week, while the East Tennessee State-Wofford game was postponed (likely canceled) due to COVID issues in Wofford’s program.

– Chattanooga’s notable alumni include Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins, writer and literary critic John W. Aldridge, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens.

– The Citadel is 19-32-2 against Chattanooga in the all-time series. UTC has played the Bulldogs more times than any other opponent. The reverse is not true; The Citadel has played five opponents more often than Chattanooga — Furman, Wofford, Presbyterian, VMI, and Davidson.

– Chattanooga’s 93-man roster (per its game notes) includes 32 players from Tennessee. Other states represented: Georgia (28 players), Alabama (12), South Carolina (5), Florida (4), Ohio (3), North Carolina (2), and one each from Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia.

Wide receiver Jahmar Quandt is from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and had not played organized football before enrolling at UTC. Quandt also attended Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired accredited academic institution in the United States.

Backup long snapper Bryce Coulson is a native of Brisbane, Australia. Coulson is getting a master’s degree in public administration from UTC after playing at (and graduating from) Eastern Illinois.

– As noted, there are five Palmetto State products on Chattanooga’s squad. Wide receiver Kanore McKinnon (listed as a starter on the two-deep) went to Dillon High School before beginning his collegiate career at Georgia Military College. Starting quarterback Drayton Arnold starred at Myrtle Beach High School before starting his college journey at Old Dominion.

Running back Ailym Ford (West Florence High School) was the SoCon Freshman of the Year in 2019, but suffered a knee injury late in that season. He did not play last week for the Mocs against Wofford (but did participate in Chattanooga’s fall matchup against Western Kentucky, rushing for 92 yards on 25 carries).

Based on comments made by Rusty Wright during his Tuesday press conference regarding injured players on his roster, I suspect that Ford will probably not play against The Citadel. (Wright did not specifically discuss Ford.)

Tight end KeShawn Toney, a transfer from South Carolina, played his high school football at Williston-Elko. He will be eligible to play for UTC in fall 2021. Freshman wideout Will Harris went to Walhalla High School.

Alas, none of the Mocs can claim to be an alumnus of South Carolina’s legendary bastion of football supremacy, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. While its relatively close proximity to Atlanta might give UTC a tenuous foothold on a prime recruiting territory, for long-term success Rusty Wright and company must successfully bring in some of those special individuals who have worn the famed maroon and orange. Otherwise, Chattanooga will never rise to the level of an elite program.

– Two UTC players who would otherwise be eligible for spring football have opted out but are still listed on the roster. A third opt-out was a transfer who would not have been able to play on the field this spring anyway.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s game notes) is as follows: South Carolina (48 players), Georgia (15), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Texas (3), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– The Citadel’s football team has an all-time record of 0-0 for games played on March 6. That is tied for the fewest wins, and fewest losses, for any date in program history.

– This week during the 1990 baseball season at The Citadel:

The Bulldogs entered the week 8-1. A scheduled doubleheader at Campbell was reduced to one 6-inning game due to steady rain in the greater Buies Creek metropolitan area. Ken Britt struck out eight batters en route to a 4-0 shutout and his second win of the season. Billy Baker hit a solo homer, and Phil Tobin tripled and scored. Gettys Glaze had 2 RBI.

The Citadel hosted Norfolk State the following Monday afternoon and triumphed over the Spartans, 5-2. Richard Shirer struck out 10 batters in 7 innings and picked up the win. The hitting star on the day was Anthony Jenkins, who went 4-4 with two homers, a triple, and 3 RBI. Attendance at College Park: 66.

The Citadel was 2-0 during the week ending March 6, with a winning streak of nine games. The overall record stood at 10-1.

This will not be an easy game for the Bulldogs. Chattanooga will bring to Charleston an experienced, confident team, one with serious aspirations of contending for the SoCon title.

While no one has doubted the talent on UTC’s roster, there has been some question as to how interested the team (or school) was in playing this spring. All I can say is Chattanooga looked more than interested in competing last Saturday.

The Citadel did, too. The Bulldogs just got off to the worst of starts, and dug themselves a hole too deep to escape. It happens.

I expect a better performance this weekend at home on the peninsula. However, the opponent is going to be tougher. UTC has impact players at a number of positions, and no real weaknesses offensively or defensively (special teams might be a touch more problematic for the Mocs).

For The Citadel to emerge with its first spring victory, it has to win the battle of the clichés. What do I mean by that?

Well, the Bulldogs have to win the turnover battle. They have to run the ball successfully, and stop the run. They have to be strong in the kicking game.

Those are all hoary clichés — but for this game, they’re also true, particularly the bit about turnovers.

The Citadel also needs more of those big plays on offense. Chattanooga has the capability of breaking off long gainers, even more so than it showed against Wofford. At the very least, the Bulldogs have to match that firepower.

A football game in March, at Johnson Hagood Stadium. It is going to be a little different.

Let’s hope the outcome of the game is different this week, as well.

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