Football’s 2022 debut in Charleston — a/k/a The Citadel’s home opener

That’s right, sports fans. The Citadel will begin its home campaign on Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium, as East Tennessee State comes to town. Will the Bulldogs improve after a less-than-stellar showing in Buies Creek last week?

The offense needs to generate big plays and lots of points. The defense must force turnovers and get off the field on third down. The corps has to be loud and enthusiastic. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I don’t really have much to say about this game, as you can probably tell. ETSU is the defending SoCon champion, is projected to be quite good again this season (currently ranked 8th and 9th in two of the major FCS polls), defeated The Citadel 48-21 last year in Johnson City, and pulverized Mars Hill 44-7 last week.

I’ll just riff on a variety of topics, some not directly related to pigskin activity but of potential interest.

Did you know The Citadel will soon have a presence on Times Square in New York City? At least, that appears to be the plan, based on a sole source justification recently posted on the school’s procurement website:

The school intends to allocate $39,950.00 to provide “impression-based marketing for The Citadel with the ability to adjust the messaging weekly. This [digital] billboard will provide 4,495,055 impressions per day to over 1,500,000 daily visitors to Times Square.”

The campaign will last for three months and feature a “fifteen second airtime package looping a minimum of four times per hour, airing 20 hours per day, from 6am to 2am…The 1500 Broadway Spectacular [the name of the billboard] is located in Times Square, New York City and has a 56′ wide x 29′ high, two-sided HD LED screen for a total 1,624 square feet of viewing space.”

You can see a photo of the billboard at this link, or you could make the trip to NYC and see it in person. Consider it an added bonus tourist attraction, to go along with the Statue of Liberty and Hamilton.

One thing you probably won’t see in the foreseeable future is The Citadel Independent Sports Network. The longtime message board that focused on Bulldog athletics went offline earlier this week after a two-decade run on the internet.

Per a highly placed source, the operator of the site finally decided to pull the plug earlier this summer (because of prepaid maintenance fees, the board remained online for a couple more months).

That bane of message boards past and present, relentless negativity, was the reason for its demise.

There are many Bulldog fans out there, more than one might expect for a small school with sports programs that traditionally have enjoyed relatively modest success. It can be a pleasure to discuss sports in a message board format with supporters like those — intelligent, committed, and deeply loyal fans who avidly follow varsity athletics.

However, in recent years the site operator grew frustrated with the fact that sports discussion had often given way to almost nonstop complaining about coaches. That particular brand of antagonism had also driven away many of the longtime posters.

I have never run a message board, and I never will. Doing so requires time, money, a great deal of patience, some technical ability, and the responsibility of maintaining what is essentially a public-facing entity, one for which you do not completely control the content.

I would have shut it down too.

East Tennessee State has three non-conference games this season — Mars Hill last week, Robert Morris on September 24, and at Mississippi State on November 19 (the traditional SEC-SoCon Showdown Saturday).

Future non-conference opponents for ETSU include at Liberty (in 2023 and 2025), at Appalachian State (2024), North Dakota State (at home in 2024 and on the road in 2026), UVA Wise (2024 and 2027), and at North Carolina (2026).

The Citadel’s volleyball team defeated Clemson last Saturday (September 4). That was part of a 2-1 weekend which led to the Bulldogs garnering SoCon honors for both Defensive Player of the Week (Jaelynn Elgert) and Setter of the Week (Belle Hogan).

This was the Bulldogs’ first win in volleyball over Clemson (the two teams had met once before, in 2004). Furthermore, it was the program’s first victory over an ACC school — or any Power 5 conference opponent, for that matter.

It was also, from what I can tell, the first win for the Bulldogs over the Tigers in a team sport since 1999, when the baseball team defeated Clemson 18-15. That game was also The Citadel’s biggest comeback on the diamond in school history, as the Bulldogs had trailed 15-4 before scoring 14 unanswered runs.

  • Last win over Clemson in basketball: 1979 (58-56, at McAlister Field House)
  • Last win over Clemson in tennis: 1961
  • Last win over Clemson in football: 1931 (6-0 in Florence, a result that led directly to the formation of IPTAY, and thus probably the most influential college football game in Palmetto State history)

It should be noted that Clemson and The Citadel haven’t met all that regularly in any sport, at least not in the last few decades.

Last week, I wrote about The Citadel’s retention (and attrition) for its signing classes. As a follow-up, here is a breakdown of the last seven signing classes for the Bulldogs by state (136 players; there was also one signee from outside the country):

  • South Carolina – 51
  • Georgia – 33
  • Florida – 15
  • North Carolina – 11
  • Texas – 6
  • Virginia – 5
  • Alabama – 3
  • Ohio – 3
  • Tennessee – 3
  • New York – 2
  • Pennsylvania – 2
  • Louisiana – 1
  • Oregon – 1

In the Massey Ratings, East Tennessee State is ranked 30th in FCS, while The Citadel is 77th. ETSU is projected to win 28-21, with the Bulldogs given a 34% chance of pulling the upset.

When the line for the game is released later this week, I would anticipate the spread being more than 7 points, despite The Citadel playing at home. I’m basing that in part on the quick movement for the Campbell game soon after its opening line was set, a 6½-point jump in less than three hours.

[Edit: ETSU is favored by 16 points, with the over/under at 51½.]

Those that attend Saturday’s contest will notice one significant change in the stands:

One of the most noticeable changes will be the relocation of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets (SCCC) to the North end of the stadium in Sections K,L,M.

For anyone unfamiliar with the setup at Johnson Hagood Stadium, in past years the corps usually was ensconced in the West stands (the home side), on the end near the Altman Center. This season, the student section will be on the home side next to the scoreboard.

This was done in order to make room for a VIP seating area. I don’t have a problem with the move, but it will be different.

Weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston: showers and possibly a thunderstorm (uh-oh), with a high of 84°. Chance of precipitation: 80%.

Let’s hope the actual weather is a little better than that, and let’s also hope the concessions for the home opener are better organized than was the case at East Carolina last Saturday:

…there were several issues with concession lines, product availability, and other fan experience items when a record crowd of 51,711 showed up for [East Carolina’s] 21-20 loss to NC State in the season opener this past Saturday.

Despite temperatures in the mid-80s, fans online said there were multiple sections that ran out of bottled water well before the end of the game. Lines to get food or beverage items took 45 minutes or more in some cases, and the options were limited when fans finally got to the front.

Combined with the way that game ended, Saturday was a tough day to be a Pirate, whether you were Mike Houston or the executive associate athletics director for internal operations.

ECU wasn’t the only school that had some off-field gameday snafus; for example, Arkansas had fans waiting in the turnstiles to enter the stadium well past kickoff.

On Wednesday, The Citadel posted an advertisement for the position of Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance.

The potential importance of this position was arguably highlighted in the past couple of weeks by the travails of Florida A&M. Partly because of significant compliance problems, FAMU had more than two dozen players with unresolved eligibility issues; at one point, its opening game against North Carolina was in doubt.

The Citadel’s game notes

The Citadel’s Monday press conference

Brent Thompson’s radio show (with video breakdown!)

– East Tennessee State’s game notes [when available]

ETSU’s press conference

SoCon weekly release

– Streaming: ESPN+, with Pete Yanity on play-by-play and Jared Singleton handling analysis

– Radio: Luke Mauro and Lee Glaze call the game online and also on three radio stations statewide: WQNT (102.1-FM/1450-AM) in Charleston, WQXL (100.7-FM/1470-AM) in Columbia, and WDXY (105.9-FM/1240-AM) in Sumter.

Live Stats

ETSU should bring an excellent squad to town. Quarterback Tyler Riddell and running back Jacob Saylors are two of the seven Buccaneers named to the preseason first-team All-SoCon squad, with Saylors the conference’s preseason Player of the Year.

The unknowns for East Tennessee State mainly revolve around a new head coach (George Quarles, recently the offensive coordinator at Furman), as Randy Sanders retired after last season. However, ETSU has already had one game to help get over any transition-related hiccups.

Of note, Quarles was asked about the new blocking rules that were seemingly enacted by the NCAA in an effort to eradicate the triple option:

There weren’t many times [against Campbell] where I saw [The Citadel] trying to cut out on the perimeter. I think it has a pretty big effect on that style of offense. I watched a little bit of Navy [on] Saturday – they run the same thing. I watched a little bit of Army. Those guys, it’s just different for them when you can’t throw at people’s legs on the perimeter, I think it changes that style of offense just a little bit. Now, it still comes down to how well you block them inside and those sorts of things, but your perimeter runs are a little bit different now since you can’t cut…[defenders on the outside] are probably a little bit more comfortable that, hey, nobody’s coming to take out my legs out from under me…

Brent Thompson also referenced the rule changes during his coach’s show on Wednesday night while discussing Peyton Derrick’s QB play, observing that “…we’ve had a lot of new formations [put] in. The new blocking rules, the new blocking-below-the-waist rule, or the lack of cut blocking rules, has forced us to change our offense just a little bit. It’s forced us to do some things a little bit differently, and it’s going to create a little bit more motions and shifts and probably a little more misdirection in the offense than has been in it before…”

Later, Thompson said that he had watched the Army-Coastal Carolina game, and that Army had done “very little perimeter running. That’s where it really hurts you, the perimeter running. [The new rules] put such tight constraints on that…all these teams that have ‘traditional’ offenses, very few of them have as much extensive cut blocking as we have had, so it has definitely hurt us. We have had to rethink and reimagine our offense. I spent a lot of the spring and the summertime watching a lot of different teams and trying to figure out where it was going to impact us the most…that’s where we spent a lot of our time, trying to reformulate our offense…”

Thompson also stated that The Citadel needed to “do a little bit more in the play-action pass game” in response to the new rules.

I linked to it above, but I wanted to reference Brent Thompson’s radio show again. Starting around the 42-minute mark, he does a “coach’s clips”-style video breakdown for the game that lasts more than 15 minutes, including plays from 2021’s contest (The Citadel’s offense vs. ETSU’s defense) and last week’s ETSU game vs. Mars Hill (the Bucs’ offense vs. Mars Hill’s D).

It is very interesting, especially for all the football geeks out there (and you know who you are). I highly recommend it. This is one of the better segments I’ve seen on a coach’s show — any coach’s show.

The coach’s show takes place on Wednesday nights, something to remember going forward, especially if you’re like me and you thought it was held on Thursdays…

I hope there is a decent crowd for this game, especially given that it is The Citadel’s sole home matchup until October 8. In addition, the Bulldogs only play once at Johnson Hagood Stadium between Saturday’s contest and October 29, another aspect of one of the odder home schedules for The Citadel that I can remember.

It is also desirable that the team makes a marked improvement from Week 1. If it doesn’t, Saturday will be a long day for the Bulldogs (even if there are no lightning delays).

We shall see. I’ll be there, regardless.

4 Responses

  1. I don’t know how many people we will have at the game but I am proud to learn that we have sold out all season tickets. I can’t remember when that has happened.

  2. thanks for what you do ! Us out of towners get some much appreciated info. Hope the boys can show some life this week.

  3. so Horner shut down CISN because of ‘too much negativity’?; what a load of crap. Its there for folks to discuss sports and if they want to complain about coaches so be it. The truth is that he allowed it to become a cesspool of know it all ex jocks who cyberbullied anyone whose opinion they didnt like, I say good riddance.

  4. Poteet if you log on you can set up your own website. You will have to buy a domain name and you will be charged by the hit. It will range from $12.00 with no hits til $40 a hit with a good month of sports performance. Let me know if you need any help.

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