College Football Week 5, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Tuesday notes and observations, including lines/odds and conference realignment discussion

SoCon weekly release

VMI game notes

The Citadel game notes

Almost one-fourth of VMI’s roster is from the Richmond, VA metropolitan area

VMI “braces to restrict The Citadel’s option”

Broadcast information

VMI at The Citadel, The Military Classic of the South, to be played on Sansom Field at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 2, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and televised on the following TV stations:

  • ECBD (Charleston, SC)
  • WHDF (Huntsville/Florence, AL)
  • WMUB (Macon, GA)
  • WMYT (Charlotte, NC)
  • WWCW (Lynchburg/Roanoke, VA)
  • WYCW (Greenville, SC/Spartanburg, SC/Asheville, NC).

Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Jay Sonnhalter 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. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

Roster review:

– Of the 114 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 62 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (5), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

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

– VMI has 108 players on its online roster. Of those, 74 are from Virginia. As mentioned in an article linked above, 25 of those players are from the Richmond metropolitan area.

Other states represented on the Keydets’ squad: North Carolina (8 players), Pennsylvania (4), Maryland (3), Alabama (2), Georgia (2), New Jersey (2), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (2), West Virginia (2), and one each from Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Ohio.

Defensive lineman Terrell Jackson is from Washington, DC.

While only four VMI players are from Pennsylvania, it should be noted that they include quarterback Seth Morgan and star wideout Jakob Herres. Another wide receiver from the Keystone State, sophomore Julio DaSilva, is on the two-deep as well.

Potential area code confusion: 

From the aforementioned story in The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Keydets from the Richmond area, according to [running back Korey Bridy], will occasionally identify their place of origin by simply saying, “We’re from the four,” as in the 804, the area code for Virginia’s capital.

Charleston, SC is located in the 803 area code. Lexington, Virginia has an area code of 540.

Stats of interest for The Citadel, VMI, and the rest of the SoCon. A few notes:

  • I include sacks in passing yardage statistics rather than rushing, like the NFL (but unlike the official NCAA stats). Hence the “adjusted” tag.
  • There are 128 FCS teams. Five of them are “transitional” schools, but all of them are playing FCS schedules and thus are included in the overall national rankings here. The NCAA separates their stats from the rest of the subdivision for some bizarre reason, but I do not. For the record, the five schools in question are Dixie State, Merrimack, North Alabama, St. Thomas, and Tarleton State.
  • All of these statistics include games played inside and outside the division (in other words, FBS and D2 games are part of the mix). Given that teams have only played three or four games so far this season, this is definitely something to keep in mind.

First, offensive statistics:

Team Yds/Play Rank Adjusted Yds/Rush Rank Adjusted Yds/PA Rank
The Citadel      5.58 50      5.09 39      7.61 19
VMI      5.01 79      5.06 41      4.96 98
Chattanooga      4.54 99      4.68 55      4.36 115
ETSU      6.82 10      6.05 9      8.08 11
Furman      4.79 86      3.27 119      6.63 50
Mercer      6.82 11      6.03 11      8.47 9
Samford      5.94 32      4.18 77      6.94 33
WCU      5.38 60      5.53 23      5.28 86
Wofford      5.48 56      5.08 40      6.14 59

 

Team 3D conv rate Rank RZ TD% Rank TFL allowed/play Rank % Rush plays Rank
The Citadel 43.6% 33 66.7% 51           8.2% 54   80.4% 3
VMI 38.8% 55 78.6% 22           9.1% 69   47.1% 83
Chattanooga 32.6% 86 68.4% 40           7.9% 42   54.7% 40
ETSU 47.1% 15 54.5% 78           5.2% 5   61.8% 18
Furman 39.7% 50 30.0% T121           8.5% 60   53.4% 47
Mercer 51.4% 6 81.8% 15           6.9% 24   67.5% 8
Samford 46.2% 23 65.2% 52           9.0% 67   36.2% 119
WCU 38.8% 54 47.1% 96           6.4% 18   39.5% 107
Wofford 32.5% 87 50.0% T86           6.4% 17   63.1% 15

One oddity in the rankings is that The Citadel is 50th nationally in yards per play despite ranking higher in both of the component stats (yards per rush and yards per pass attempt). That is largely due to the Bulldogs’ 80.4% rush rate; only Davidson and Kennesaw State have run the ball more on a per-play basis.

To further explain: as a group, FCS teams have averaged 5.34 yards per play through September. That number includes 4.64 yards per rush and 6.03 yards per pass attempt, a differential of 1.39 yards. 

However, the overall run/pass play ratio for FCS outfits is almost exactly a 50-50 proposition (50.0015%, favoring pass plays ever so slightly). The Citadel gets “passed” (quite literally) in the yards per play category by teams that throw the ball more often — which, as can be seen, is almost every team in the subdivision.

South Carolina State ranks 49th nationally in yards per play (5.59), one spot ahead of The Citadel, despite ranking behind Charleston’s Bulldogs in both yards per rush and yards per pass attempt. That is because Buddy Pough’s squad has a much more balanced run/pass ratio (rushing on 46.5% of its plays from scrimmage).

There are four FCS teams currently averaging more than 7.5 yards per play. It will not surprise anyone to learn that they are North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, and James Madison. 

South Dakota State leads the nation in adjusted yards per pass attempt (10.23), while NDSU currently is at the top of the adjusted yards per rush category (8.56).

The bottom five in yards per play: Grambling State (2.50, lowest in FCS), Bucknell, Lehigh, Mississippi Valley State, and LIU.

Looking at SoCon teams, it is clear that to date ETSU and Mercer have had the conference’s most efficient offenses, with good-to-excellent numbers across the board. The Buccaneers could stand some improvement in the red zone, but other than that there can be no complaints from the fans of those teams — not on offense, anyway.

Just for clarification, East Tennessee State ranks just ahead of Mercer in yards per play (6.824 to 6.823). The extra decimal place does not appear on the chart above.

I included a column for tackles for loss on a per-play basis, because I thought it was interesting. From The Citadel’s perspective, a tackle for loss on 8.2% of all offensive plays from scrimmage is not really acceptable. Negative plays are drive killers, particularly for offenses that do not produce a lot of big plays.

Defensive numbers:

Team Yds/Play Rank Adjusted Yds/Rush Rank Adjusted Yds/PA Rank
The Citadel      6.96 118      5.56 102      8.52 114
VMI      5.92 79      5.67 106      6.39 64
Chattanooga      4.89 32      4.07 27      5.53 31
ETSU      4.81 27      4.05 25      5.22 22
Furman      5.56 55      4.63 53      6.52 68
Mercer      4.38 14      3.46 12      5.23 23
Samford      5.36 43      5.01 74      5.68 37
WCU      7.02 120      5.72 108      8.45 113
Wofford      5.76 69      5.64 105      5.92 41

 

Team 3D conv rate Rank RZ TD rate Rank TFL/play Rank % Rush plays vs Rank
The Citadel 50.0% 120 55.6% 38      4.7% 125     52.6% 56
VMI 47.8% 112 64.3% 68      6.0% 112     65.9% 2
Chattanooga 33.3% 32 57.1% 41    10.9% 29     44.3% 107
ETSU 40.3% 76 53.3% 29      8.0% 76     35.0% 124
Furman 40.4% 77 72.7% 91      7.4% 92     50.8% 67
Mercer 40.0% 74 55.6% 36      7.0% 98     47.8% 85
Samford 43.6% 91 66.7% 76      6.5% 106     48.6% 80
WCU 45.1% 102 88.0% 122      8.2% 73     52.4% 59
Wofford 43.6% 93 50.0% 26      6.4% 107     55.9% 37

 

Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, and Mercer have the best defensive statistics in the conference through September. The SoCon as a whole has struggled on this side of the ball — take a look at those third down conversion against rates, yeesh. Getting off the field on third down has been a major problem for most of the league’s teams. 

I included the rushing play percentage category for defense, even though obviously that is opponent-driven for the most part. It is a bit curious that VMI has been rushed against (on a per-play basis) more than any FCS team except for Bucknell.  

These numbers for The Citadel will not shock any Bulldogs fan who has been watching the games. The sole highlight, I suppose, is that The Citadel’s defense has done a decent job in the Red Zone. Opponents have largely rushed and passed against the Bulldogs with impunity.

Princeton leads FCS in yards per play allowed, at 2.61 (albeit while only playing two games, against the less-than-stellar competition of Lehigh and Stetson). James Madison and North Dakota State rank second and third. Deion Sanders’ Jackson State squad is fourth, just ahead of Prairie View A&M.

The bottom five: LIU (allowing 8.42 yards per play, worst in the subdivision), Texas Southern, Southern Utah, Central Connecticut State, and Southeast Missouri State.

To be fair to LIU, it has played three games thus far, and all three have been against FBS opponents (FIU, West Virginia, and Miami of Ohio). The Sharks get a well-deserved break this weekend before resuming their season next Saturday against St. Francis (PA).

Some miscellaneous stats:

Team TO margin/gm Rank TOP Rank Penalty yds/gm Rank Net punting Rank
The Citadel -0.33 T76 31:17 51 40.00 26 40.93 14
VMI -0.50 T81 27:52 101 64.00 T94 38.50 31
Chattanooga 0.67 T34 32:34 26 50.00 T49 40.25 17
ETSU 1.25 T19 33:06 18 63.75 93 36.43 57
Furman 0.00 T57 31:27 45 48.75 42 34.27 83
Mercer -0.33 T76 31:18 50 31.33 9 26.17 123
Samford 0.25 T51 24:35 125 50.25 54 38.79 28
WCU -0.75 T90 30:59 56 53.25 T65 34.91 72
Wofford 0.00 T57 29:48 73 38.00 19 33.80 93

Apologies for the formatting of that table; I realize it is even clunkier than usual.

It is a little strange to see The Citadel not near or at the top in terms of time of possession, but even stranger that Wofford is averaging under 30 minutes TOP per contest.

A few FCS national leaders in each category:

  • Turnover margin: Campbell leads (2.67 per game), a possible benefit of having played Presbyterian. Others in the top five: UC Davis, James Madison, Northern Iowa, and Alcorn State. Brown and the aforementioned Blue Hose are the bottom two, with the Bears enduring a -3 TO margin/game through two contests.
  • Time of possession: Yale is dominating this stat, averaging 37:42 TOP, though the Elis have only played two games. Also in the top five: Central Connecticut State, Princeton, Kennesaw State, and Butler. On the other end of the spectrum, Grambling State is averaging just 22:44 TOP per game and thus ranks last.
  • Penalty yards per game: New Hampshire is averaging only 20.75 penalty yards per game, the cleanest number in the subdivision. Other teams avoiding yellow flags include Bucknell, Howard, Delaware, and Idaho State. Only one team is averaging more than 100 yards per game in penalties — Yale. As already mentioned, that school has played just two games thus far.
  • Net punting: Idaho State has a net punting average of 46.07, which leads the nation, ahead of Montana, Missouri State, Davidson, and Illinois State. You only get one guess as to which team is in last place, with a net punting average of just 9.0. Yep, Presbyterian. No wonder Kevin Kelley doesn’t want to punt. (The Blue Hose have only punted twice.)

We are just 48 hours from kickoff for The Military Classic of the South. The coveted Silver Shako will be at stake, and a sellout crowd celebrating Parents’ Weekend will be watching the action.

Among the spectators, by the way, will be a contingent of about 500 Keydets, including VMI’s band. The atmosphere should be outstanding; I’m hoping the game will be as well.

I can’t wait for Saturday.

College Football Week 5, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

Brent Thompson’s Monday press conference (9/27)

The Citadel’s game notes for its matchup against VMI

VMI has been rewarded for its patience

– The weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 81°.

– The early lines are out. The Citadel is favored over VMI by 1½ points; the over/under is 65½.

I have no idea why the Bulldogs are favored in this game. My own numbers, which are admittedly experimental in nature and not to be trusted, suggest that VMI should be favored by around 9 points. 

When the coveted Silver Shako is at stake, however, anything can happen. 

– Other SoCon lines:

  • Chattanooga is favored over Western Carolina by 21½ points (over/under of 57½)
  • East Tennessee State is favored over Wofford by 14½ points (over/under of 49½)
  • Mercer is favored over Samford by 7½ points (over/under of 68½)

Furman is off this week.

– Also of note from a local or semi-local perspective: South Carolina State is favored by 7½ points over Bethune-Cookman; Kennesaw State is a 2½-point favorite over Jacksonville State; Davidson is favored by 10 points at Stetson; North Carolina A&T is favored by 19½ points over Robert Morris; Richmond is a 12½-point favorite over Elon; and Campbell is a 3-point favorite at North Alabama.

Presbyterian and Charleston Southern are both idle this weekend.

Above, I mentioned my experimental power ratings for FCS teams. This is just a tryout and probably won’t come to anything, but I decided to compare my numbers to the spreads for all FCS vs. FCS contests and see how many outliers there were.

I basically came up with seven games (not including VMI-The Citadel) in which my ratings differed from the opening line by more than a touchdown. Here they are, with my system’s pick against the spread in bold:

  • Sacred Heart-Howard: the Pioneers are 4-point favorites at HU
  • Duquesne-Merrimack: the homestanding Warriors are favored by 3 points
  • Dayton-Morehead State: the Flyers are 2½-point road favorites
  • Brown-Bryant: the Bears are 1½-point road favorites
  • Delaware State-Wagner: the Seahawks are a 1½-point favorite at home
  • Dixie State-South Dakota State: the mighty Jackrabbits are 45-point favorites
  • Central Arkansas-Abilene Christian: ACU is a 1-point favorite at home

Yes, six of the picks are road teams. Feel free to giggle when all of the home teams cover this weekend.

Some FCS conference realignment news: Texas A&M-Commerce, which won the D2 football national title in 2017, announced today it is moving up to FCS and will be a member of the Southland Conference. For you old-timers, this is the school that until 1996 was called East Texas State. Its most notable football alums: Dwight White, Harvey Martin, and Wade Wilson.

Of course, conference realignment rumors (and actual moves) are all the rage right now, both at the FBS and FCS level.

Austin Peay is leaving the OVC for the A-Sun. An OVC school that does not play football, Belmont, is headed to the MVC — and yet another OVC member, Murray State, is widely rumored to be moving as well.

Texas A&M-Commerce probably won’t be the only Division II school to move up, either. There are a host of D2 programs all over the nation reportedly interested in the verdant pastures of Division I. In the southeastern part of the country, keep an eye on (among others) Valdosta State, West Georgia, West Florida, and Queens University of Charlotte.

West Florida, Valdosta State, and Texas A&M-Commerce are the last three national champions in football at the Division II level.

Queens is a small private school (less than 2,000 undergraduates) that does not sponsor football. It does have a dominant swimming program (both men’s and women’s), and its men’s hoops squad beat Howard last season and only lost to George Mason by one point.

Per Wikipedia, the Queens Sports Complex includes a statue of Rex (the school’s mascot), which is “the largest standing lion sculpture in the world.” That sounds D1 to me…

Also, while I haven’t heard anything yet about Anderson University moving up to D1, it did hire Bobby Lamb to start its football program — and has more students than Queens (which, like Anderson, is in the South Atlantic Conference). Anderson’s enrollment has more than doubled over the last 15 years.

Just something to think about.

College Football Week 3, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

North Greenville’s head coach is a graduate of The Citadel, and his team can beat The Citadel

Brent Thompson’s 9/13 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/15)

The Citadel’s game notes

Broadcast information

North Greenville at The Citadel, to be played on Sansom Field at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on September 18, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Play-by-play will be handled by Kevin Fitzgerald, while Jason Kempf supplies the analysis. Anna Witte will be the sideline reporter.

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. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

Well, this is going to be short and sweet. I didn’t have a lot of time this week to put together a lot of notes and information, and perhaps it was just as well.

On the bright side, the reunion classes did a great job of raising money for The Citadel. Major props to everyone involved.

Unfortunately, that was the only highlight from Saturday. Nothing went right on the field (and even off the field, the new scoreboard had issues that need to be addressed).

It was an abysmal performance by the Bulldogs. There was no excuse for the team to be so flat, particularly given the circumstances. If the squad plays like that for the rest of the season, the outlook is very bleak indeed.

The defense has not been able to get off the field in two games (66.7% 3rd-down conversion allowed rate), and has yet to force a turnover. Opponents are completing 80% of their pass attempts, as the Bulldogs have only defensed two out of 50 throws. Yards per play allowed: 8.6.

Offensively, things haven’t been great either. The Citadel is averaging only 4.6 yards per play, has struggled to put together drives (33.3% 3rd-down conversion rate), and has averaged 4.9 yards per pass attempt (adjusted for sacks).

In the two games, The Citadel has had five plays from scrimmage that resulted in gains of 20 yards or more. Opponents have had 18.

This week, North Greenville comes to town, and the Crusaders probably think they have a very good chance of beating the Bulldogs. NGU is an excellent D2 team, with several impact players who began their collegiate careers at D1 schools (read Jeff Hartsell’s article, linked above, for details). North Greenville’s starting quarterback can already lay claim to a victory over The Citadel at Johnson Hagood Stadium, from the 2017 season when he started for Mercer.

NGU played quite respectably against The Citadel back in 2016, a year in which the Bulldogs won the SoCon title. If anything, the early season results suggest that the Crusaders are more talented now than they were then — perhaps considerably so. 

North Greenville’s offense is balanced (69 pass plays, 63 rush attempts through two games). Slightly over 60% of its yardage comes via the air.

Defensively, NGU has 13½ tackles for loss (including 3½ sacks) and has forced four turnovers (three interceptions). Opponents are averaging 4.29 sack-adjusted yards per rush.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us this week,” said Brent Thompson at his Monday presser. Yes, the Bulldogs certainly do.

There is no line on The Citadel’s game against North Greenville this week, not too surprising given that NGU is a D2 squad. However, one book does have moneylines for the contest: +290 (North Greenville) and -410 (The Citadel). I’m not an expert on this by any means, but I believe that would indicate a likely spread of 8 to 8½ points, if one existed.

Other SoCon lines this week:

  • Kentucky is a 30½-point favorite over Chattanooga (over/under of 42½)
  • Cornell is a 1½-point favorite over VMI (over/under of 53)
  • Samford is a 13-point favorite at Western Carolina (over/under of 71½)
  • Wofford is a 6-point favorite over Kennesaw State (over/under of 54½)
  • North Carolina State is a 29½-point favorite over Furman (over/under of 42½)
  • East Tennessee State is a 27½-point favorite over Delaware State (over/under of 41½)

Mercer is off this week.

I don’t have any opinion on the FBS vs. FCS games; those spreads look about right to me.

I like VMI’s chances at Cornell, as the Keydets arguably should be favored. My numbers would support Samford covering against Western Carolina (but with the Catamounts being competitive). 

No offense to the Terriers, but I am surprised Kennesaw State is the underdog in that matchup. The spread in Delaware State-ETSU is exactly where it should be “on paper”, but in reality I like the Buccaneers a bit more than that.

As for totals, I would take the over in Samford-WCU and Delaware State-ETSU, and the under in Kennesaw State-Wofford.

This is all just for “recreational purposes”, of course, as I live in a state where gambling on such events is illegal. Also, I wouldn’t be shocked if I went 0-fer on all my picks…

A brief coda: The Citadel had a tough week last week, but it wasn’t even in the running for toughest week for a triple-option program.

Georgia Southern got absolutely smoked by FAU (38-6), but that wasn’t the “winner”, either.

Nothing tops Navy’s 23-3 loss to Air Force, which led to the following sequence of events:

  • Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper was fired after the game, but not by head coach Ken Niumatalolo — no, he was fired by AD Chet Gladchuk
  • Niumatalolo asked Gladchuk to reconsider, and Jasper was subsequently reinstated to the staff as QBs coach
  • Another offensive assistant, Billy Ray Stutzmann, was dismissed for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine (which is required for all Naval Academy personnel)

Jasper has been at Navy for 22 years (two separate stints), including 14 seasons as the OC (all under Niumatalolo, who has been at Navy himself for 24 years, including the last 20 seasons).

Gladchuk has been the AD at Annapolis for 20 years, so these are all people who have worked together for a long time. The whole situation is bizarre.

Okay, Bulldogs. It is time to win. Style points are not important, just the final score.

College Football Week 2, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Wednesday’s notes and observations

Links of interest for Thursday:

The Brent Thompson Show (recorded September 8, 2021)

The Citadel is “back open for business” at Johnson Hagood Stadium

The Citadel’s game notes (in case you missed the release earlier this week)

Weekly release from the SoCon

Charleston Southern’s game notes

Weekly release from the Big South

Broadcast information

Charleston Southern at The Citadel, to be played on Sansom Field at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on September 11, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and televised on four TV stations — ECBD in Charleston, WMYT in Charlotte, WWCW in Lynchburg/Roanoke, and WYCW in Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville.

Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Jared Singleton 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. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

This was reported last week, but I wanted to mention here that The Citadel has added another FBS opponent to a future schedule. The Bulldogs will play at Charlotte on September 5, 2026. 

The Citadel will receive $305,000 for the game, along with 400 complimentary tickets. In addition, the 49ers will provide 600 tickets for The Citadel to sell.

Other future FBS opponents for the Bulldogs include Appalachian State (in the 2022 season), Georgia Southern (2023), Clemson (2024), and Mississippi (2025).

The current administration has established a preference for playing close-to-home FBS opponents, and has been more focused on G5 schools. I understand the reasoning, and sometimes there isn’t much of a difference in the guarantees, but I believe playing P5 teams is generally a better idea, particularly in terms of publicity and cachet. The exception to this would be a matchup against a service academy.

Of the 117 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 66 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (17 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (5), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

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

Charleston Southern has 116 players on its online roster. There are 34 natives of South Carolina on the squad. Other states represented include Georgia (30 players), Florida (25), North Carolina (17), Kentucky (3), Texas (2), and one each from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia.

Defensive lineman Devonte Turner played high school football in Florida, but is originally from Windsor, Ontario.

Actually, there are 117 players listed on Charleston Southern’s roster. Lorvens Florestal, a freshman from Delray Beach, Florida, was tragically killed two weeks ago in an off-campus shooting. He was an innocent bystander — simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Lorvens Florestal was 19 years old.

Most of CSU’s players were recruited to North Charleston out of high school. There are 12 players on the Buccaneers’ roster who began playing collegiately at another four-year institution or a junior college. 

Charleston Southern did not play in the fall of 2020, but did compete in four spring games. The Bucs were 2-2, losing road games to Kennesaw State and Monmouth, but winning at home versus Robert Morris and Gardner-Webb.

Spring stats of note for CSU, offense:

  • Points per game: 20.75
  • Yards per play: 4.88 
  • Run/pass ratio: 44.9% rush attempts, 55.1% pass plays
  • Adjusted yards per rush: 3.83
  • Adjusted yards per pass attempt: 5.73
  • Pass completion percentage: 62.7%
  • Sack percentage per pass play: 9.55% (142 attempts, 15 sacks allowed)
  • 3rd down conversion rate: 43.8% (28 for 64)
  • 4th down conversion rate: 33.3% (2 for 6)
  • Estimated points per red zone possession: 4.93

Spring stats of note for CSU: defense:

  • Points allowed per game: 20.00
  • Yards per play allowed: 5.05
  • Run/pass ratio for opponents: 61.2% rush attempts, 38.7% pass plays
  • Adjusted yards per rush allowed: 3.43
  • Adjusted yards per pass attempt allowed: 7.60
  • Pass completion percentage allowed: 55.7%
  • Sack percentage per pass play: 5.83% (97 attempts against, 6 sacks)
  • 3rd down conversion rate against: 37.1% (23 for 62)
  • 4th down conversion rate against: 50.0% (8 of 16)
  • Estimated points per red zone possession allowed: 3.75

Other spring stats of note for CSU:

  • Average time of possession per contest: 27 minutes, 37 seconds
  • Net punting: 37.48 yards
  • Penalties per game: 6.0
  • Penalty yardage per contest: 55.25
  • Turnover margin per game: -0.25 (4 gained, 5 lost in 4 games)

It is difficult to come to any sweeping statistical conclusions about Charleston Southern’s football team, given the small four-game sample size. CSU’s offense had success through the air, though the Buccaneers did allow more than their fair share of sacks. The offensive third down conversion rate was good.

When Charleston Southern had a big play on offense, it almost always came via the pass. In the four games, CSU only had one run of more than 20+ yards.

However, fans of the Bulldogs might remember current CSU starting quarterback Jack Chambers rushing for 33 and 38 yards on consecutive plays during the Buccaneers’ game versus The Citadel in 2019. Chambers entered that contest late in the third quarter and had an immediate impact.

Defensively, Charleston Southern’s spring campaign featured outstanding play in the red zone. Opponents scored only seven times in twelve trips inside the 20-yard line (six TDs and a field goal). CSU got burned by long pass plays a few times (including a 51-yard touchdown toss by Kennesaw State and a 70-yard TD by Monmouth), but was good against the run; in three of the four games, Charleston Southern did not allow a run of 20+ yards. 

Against Kennesaw State, which runs the triple option, CSU did not give up a run of longer than 10 yards, with an adjusted yards per rush allowed of only 3.38.

KSU won that game 24-19; two of the Owls’ scores came on pass plays (Kennesaw was 4 for 5 throwing the ball, with one sack). Also of possible interest: KSU quarterback Jonathan Murphy accounted for half of the Owls’ rushing yardage (and almost 40% of the carries).

The Citadel has an all-time record of 1-5 on September 11. The lone victory came against Presbyterian in 1982. As described in this week’s game notes:

…Randy Gold’s 42-yard interception return in the third quarter proved to be the difference as
The Citadel opened the season with a 21-16 victory over Presbyterian. The victory was the 14th-straight
victory inside Johnson Hagood Stadium. Quarterback Gerald Toney scored on runs of 43 yards and 10
yards in the first quarter, and linebacker Keith McCauley paced the defense with 11 tackles, two forced
fumbles and a blocked punt.

On a rainy night in Charleston, the two teams combined for nine turnovers and the above-mentioned blocked punt. During one drive, PC was stopped on downs inside the Bulldogs’ 1-yard line. The Citadel only had 237 yards of total offense — not much, but just enough.

Getting closer to the long-awaited home opener…

College Football Week 2, 2021: Wednesday notes and observations

Links of interest for Wednesday:

My review of the last time The Citadel and Charleston Southern met on the gridiron, in 2019

Game notes from The Citadel

Brent Thompson’s Monday press conference (September 6)

Nathan Storch “needs some help at b-back” (I think it is coming)

Charleston Southern coach Autry Denson hopes that Johnson Hagood Stadium is “a rowdy, hostile environment” on Saturday

The weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny, with a high of 84°.

If there is no rain and the temperature doesn’t get above 85°…well, I think I’ll take it. I have been worried about a 2pm kickoff in Charleston in mid-September ever since the schedule was released.

Obviously, the gametime is due to the “second homecoming”, and so I completely understand it — but I’ve been to night games in September at Johnson Hagood Stadium where the humidity was oppressive, much less an afternoon kickoff that could be really tough. Perhaps we’re going to get a break with the weather. I hope so.

The early lines are out, and The Citadel has opened as a 6½ favorite over Charleston Southern; the over/under is 48½. This is the season opener for the Buccaneers.

Incidentally, for the 2019 matchup, The Citadel was favored by 18½ points; the over/under was 53.

Other lines of interest for this week (as of 5:00 pm ET on Wednesday, September 8):

  • Coastal Carolina is a 25½-point favorite over Kansas (Friday night)
  • Kent State is a 13½-point favorite over VMI
  • Furman is a 10½-point favorite at Tennessee Tech
  • Samford is a 7½-point favorite at UT-Martin
  • Chattanooga is a 6½-point favorite at North Alabama
  • Oklahoma is a 46½-point favorite over Western Carolina
  • Alabama is a 53½-point favorite over Mercer
  • Clemson is a 45½-point favorite over South Carolina State
  • South Carolina is a 1½-point favorite at East Carolina (the line has swung wildly for this matchup)
  • Wake Forest is a 43-point favorite over Norfolk State
  • Charlotte is an 18½-point favorite over Gardner-Webb
  • Miami (FL) is a 9-point favorite over Appalachian State
  • North Carolina State is a 2½-point favorite at Mississippi State
  • Georgia Tech is a 17½-point favorite over Kennesaw State
  • Florida Atlantic is a 7-point favorite over Georgia Southern
  • Georgia is a 24½-point favorite over UAB
  • Kentucky is a 5-point favorite over Missouri
  • Florida State is a 22½-point favorite over Jacksonville State
  • Notre Dame is a 17-point favorite over Toledo
  • Iowa State is a 4½-point favorite over Iowa
  • Utah is a 7-point favorite at BYU
  • Army is a 6½-point favorite over Western Kentucky
  • Air Force is a 5½-point favorite at Navy

There is no available line for ETSU’s game against UVA-Wise (presumably because UVA-Wise is a D2 school). Wofford is off this week.

Per Bill Connelly’s SP+ system, which now include ratings for all D-1 programs, The Citadel is ranked 76th in FCS (dropping two spots from last week). Charleston Southern is 81st.

Other SoCon teams: East Tennessee State (12th), Samford (19th), VMI (26th), Furman (32nd), Chattanooga (51st), Wofford (55th), Mercer (82nd), Western Carolina (95th).

South Carolina State is 58th, while Presbyterian is 108th. The Blue Hose will have to impress against D-1 competition before moving up in most ratings systems, no matter how many points Presbyterian scores versus NAIA teams.

Connelly’s game projections for SoCon teams this week (rounded to the nearest integer):

  • Furman 34, Tennessee Tech 13
  • Chattanooga 30, North Alabama 21
  • Samford 35, UT-Martin 21
  • The Citadel 25, Charleston Southern 22

(There are no projections for FCS teams playing outside the subdivision.)

A couple of items related to the game on Saturday, via Twitter:

I’ll have a few things to add Thursday and/or Friday…

College Football Week 1, 2021: Wednesday notes and observations

Monday’s notes and observations

Tuesday’s notes and observations (ratings and rankings)

A few more links for today:

My game review of the last time Coastal Carolina and The Citadel met on the gridiron

Coastal Carolina preview in the Myrtle Beach Sun News

One sentence from the preview: “How will the Chants react to a loss, if there is one?”

Coastal Carolina preview from WMBF-TV

Jaylan Adams’s learning curve will be a key to success for The Citadel

Broadcast information

The Citadel at Coastal Carolina, to be played on James C. Benton Field at Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina, with kickoff at 7:00 pm ET on September 2, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ (as should be the case for every game The Citadel plays this season). Jeff McCarragher will handle play-by-play, while the Renaissance Man himself, Nate Ross, 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. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

Of the 117 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 66 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (17 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (5), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee. 

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

Coastal Carolina lists 128 players on its current squad. There are 34 Chanticleers from South Carolina. Other states that have contributed players to the roster: Georgia (22 players), North Carolina (16), Florida (15), Virginia (6), Tennessee (5), Maryland (4), Massachusetts (3), Alabama (2), Arizona (2), Illinois (2), Mississippi (2), New Jersey (2), Texas (2), and one each from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Two CCU players (Wilt Gabe II and Enock Makonzo) are from Canada, while P/PK Kieran Colahan is a native of Australia.

While the majority of Coastal Carolina’s players were recruited to CCU out of high school, a fair number of them arrived via other four-year schools or junior colleges. Two players went to both a four-year college and a JuCo before transferring to play for the Chanticleers.

Among the four-year institutions that various CCU players originally attended: Charleston Southern, Frostburg State, Georgia State, Georgia Tech (two players), Guilford, Indiana, Lehigh, Middle Tennessee State, Morgan State, North Carolina State, North Carolina Wesleyan, Old Dominion, Oklahoma State, Presbyterian, Tiffin, and Vanderbilt.

The junior colleges that have provided players for the team include several well-known for producing talented athletes, such as Coffeyville, Hutchinson, and Independence (all in Kansas), Northeast Mississippi, and Glendale (Arizona).

Two players attended New Mexico Military Institute, whose best-known football alumnus is Roger Staubach, the legendary former Navy and NFL quarterback. Speaking of USNA, two other Chanticleers spent time at USNAPS.

The transfers have definitely made an impact at Coastal Carolina. Quite a few are on CCU’s two-deep, including projected starters at nosetackle, wide receiver, b-back, linebacker, cornerback, and the “spur” position.

Here are a few statistics of note from Coastal Carolina’s 2020 season. The Chanticleers finished 11-1, winning their first eleven games before losing to Liberty in the Cure Bowl.

Among FBS teams (127 of which played last season), CCU ranked as follows in these categories:

  • 1st in turnover margin (+13)
  • 1st in forced fumbles, defense (16)
  • Tied for 3rd in defensive interceptions (16)
  • 36th in defensive havoc rate (17.53%)
  • 13th in yards per play, offense (6.71)
  • 6th in adjusted yards per pass attempt, offense (9.02)
  • 46th in adjusted yards per rush attempt, offense (5.32)
  • 30th in sack rate, offense (4.7%)
  • 6th in big play rate passing, offense (one every 6.84 attempts)
  • 62nd in big play rate rushing, offense (one every 25.20 attempts)
  • 29th in combined big play rate, offense (one every 12.58 plays)
  • 45th in yards per play, defense (5.48)
  • 18th in adjusted yards per pass attempt, defense (5.58)
  • 90th in adjusted yards per rush, defense (5.38)
  • 17th in sack rate, defense (8.5%)
  • 15th in big play rate passing, defense (one every 13.79 attempts)
  • 50th in big play rate rushing, defense  (one every 28.46 attempts)
  • 20th in combined big play rate, defense (one every 18.33 plays)

Note: the “adjusted” yards per pass attempt (and rush attempts) is a reference to sacks, which are included in passing totals in these calculations. Also, big plays are defined here as any play from scrimmage of 20+ yards (rushing or passing).

While the number of forced fumbles by the Chanticleers’ defense is notable, that is not necessarily why CCU led the nation in turnover margin. Coastal Carolina’s opponents fumbled 22 times in 12 games (including those 16 forced fumbles); CCU recovered nine of them. That’s not a completely unexpected outcome; in terms of fumble luck, the Chanticleers were actually -2 on defense (and +0.5 on offense).

The statistic that really jumps out: 16 interceptions. Coastal Carolina defensed 42 passes last season, not an overwhelming number (47th-most in FBS). CCU had a PD rate of 11.47% (42 defensed in 366 opponent attempts).

However, 16 of those 42 PDs wound up being picks, which is remarkable. The average pass defensed results in an interception a little over 20% of the time; CCU’s INT/PD rate last season was 38.1%, which ranked third nationally, and is almost certainly not sustainable.

Other teams with outlier pick numbers in this respect included Kentucky, Indiana, and Wake Forest. Conversely, Missouri only intercepted four passes despite 45 PDs.

Incidentally, The Citadel’s defensive INT/PD this spring was 20.7%, right around the national average. The Bulldogs had a passes defensed rate of 15.76% (29 defensed in 184 attempts).

Coastal Carolina’s offensive numbers were almost uniformly excellent, a fact that can be easily gleaned from the category rankings listed above. CCU was about as efficient a passing team as there was in the country, and its rushing numbers were also good. Defensively, the Chanticleers were generally solid, with the somewhat puzzling exception of the squad’s rush defense, which was statistically below average.

A few other odds and ends for today:

  • Thursday night’s game will be played on artificial turf, which will be the case for all of The Citadel’s 11 regular-season games this fall. That is a first in program history.
  • The Citadel has a record of 2-3 for games played on September 2. Both wins came against Newberry, in 1995 and 2017. I posted a review of the 2017 contest that can be read here: Link 
  • In the 1995 contest against Newberry, Scott Belcher proved to be the difference, with 29 tackles and a blocked PAT late in the game that enabled the Bulldogs to hang on for a 21-20 victory. (I will never understand why Newberry didn’t go for two in that situation.) Stanley Myers rushed for 176 yards and a TD.
  • Congrats to Dee Delaney for making the 53-man roster for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; not bad for an assistant football coach at Whale Branch High School.