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!

2020 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Eastern Kentucky

The Citadel vs. Eastern Kentucky, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on September 26, 2020.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while Brandon McCladdie supplies the analysis.

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. 

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

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:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Eastern Kentucky

A home game like none other

– The SoCon isn’t playing football this fall

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Eastern Kentucky’s website

– Brent Thompson’s 9/21 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/23)

– There will be pods in the stands at Johnson Hagood Stadium on September 26. Yes, pods.

–  Eastern Kentucky vs. Marshall (WatchESPN video)

–  EKU is playing nine games in the fall and eschewing the spring, and it may have the right idea

–  Athlon Sports preview of the game

–  EKU student newspaper game preview

I was not aware the radio broadcasts of The Citadel’s football games were available “on demand”, but that is in fact the case. Here they are. Link

Obviously, things could have gone better for the Bulldogs in the first two games of the season. I think it is fair for fans to be mildly disappointed in the team’s play.

However, it hasn’t been a complete debacle (though at times in the first half against Clemson, it did seem like one). Quick observations, mostly of the “well, of course” variety:

  • Clemson is really good. Some of our defensive backs had good coverage and still got burned. I’m not going to worry about that, as this time next year Trevor Lawrence will probably be doing the same thing to NFL pro bowlers.
  • It’s tough to operate a run-intensive offense when you don’t have any experienced running backs.
  • That said, there is no excuse for all the pre-snap penalties. In two games, The Citadel has been called for 9 false starts and two delay-of-game infractions. I don’t care who you’re playing with or against, that’s way too many. The Bulldogs cannot afford those kinds of mistakes; they tend to short-circuit drives.
  • The defense has not played that badly, in my opinion. Tackling has been a little bit of an issue, but what the Bulldogs’ D really needs are more forced turnovers.
  • Special teams (one notable gaffe aside) have been okay. I thought Clemson should have been called for a penalty on its long punt return, but those are the breaks.
  • There were two occasions against Clemson that The Citadel elected to punt on 4th down, when I thought Brent Thompson should have gone for it. It wasn’t a big deal, but in a game like that, you should go for it whenever possible.

Oh, one other thing…

I applaud Thompson for not agreeing to shorten the game:

“We came here to play 60 minutes of football, and that’s what we were going to do,” Thompson said. “It didn’t matter whether I was going to get beat by 100 or get beat by 50. We were going to stand in there and play a full 60 minutes of football.

“They wanted to shorten (the quarters) to 10 minutes, but that’s not what we came here to do. That’s not what we’re about, that’s not what The Citadel is about, and I’m not going to cave in to that at all.”

Exactly right, coach. Exactly right.

Eastern Kentucky is located in Richmond, Kentucky, a little over 500 miles from Charleston. The school was founded in 1906…or maybe 1874. It depends on how you look at it:

The Kentucky General Assembly of 1906 enacted legislation establishing the Eastern Kentucky State Normal School. Governor J.C. Beckham signed the bill into law on March 21, 1906. On May 7 of that year, the Normal School Commission, meeting in Louisville, selected the campus of the old Central University, founded in 1874 in Richmond, as the site of the new school. On June 2, 1906, Ruric Nevel Roark was chosen President of the Normal School and the training of teachers was begun.

Ruric Nevel Roark (now that’s a name) led the institution until 1909, when he died of brain cancer. He was succeeded as school president by his wife, Mary Creegan Roark, which was unusual for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that at the time, women did not have the right to vote.

The college became a four-year institution in 1925. It was renamed Eastern Kentucky University in 1966. There are currently a little over 13,000 undergraduates at EKU, along with more than 2,000 graduate students. Most of the students are ensconced on the main campus, a rural setting of about 900 acres.

Eastern Kentucky was an early power in I-AA after the split of Division I football in 1978. The Colonels made four consecutive I-AA championship games between 1979 and 1982, winning two of them (the ’82 team finished 13-0).

The coach of those teams, and of many other EKU squads, was Roy Kidd, who won 314 games in a 39-year stint as head coach of the Colonels. While his later teams never quite reached the lofty heights of those outfits from the early 1980s, Kidd regularly won OVC titles and made NCAA appearances until the late 1990s. EKU finished with a winning record in each of his final 25 seasons as head coach.

After Kidd retired, he was succeeded by Danny Hope, who (like Kidd) was an alumnus of EKU. Hope won one conference title in five years before leaving to become (after a one-year wait) the head coach at Purdue.

The next coach charged with recreating the magic was Dean Hood, who spent seven years at Eastern Kentucky, winning two league crowns and making three NCAA trips. However, all three of those postseason appearances ended in the first round (in fact, EKU has not won a playoff game since 1994).

Following Hood (who is now the head coach at Murray State), Eastern Kentucky hired Mark Elder, who lasted four seasons. None of his teams reached the postseason, and his contract was not renewed after the 2019 campaign.

EKU’s new coach is Walt Wells, who previously served as an assistant at the school to both Kidd and Hood. This is Wells’ first head coaching job in a career that began in 1994 and has included stops at six universities and two high schools. For the last two seasons, Wells was a quality control assistant at Kentucky.

His specialty is the offensive line, as he coached the OL unit at EKU, New Mexico State, Western Kentucky, South Florida, and Tennessee. Wells played at Austin Peay before transferring to get his bachelor’s degree at Belmont.

While The Citadel and Eastern Kentucky have never met on the gridiron, there was a time in the mid-1990s when some folks at EKU would have been willing to play the Bulldogs on an annual basis, because they were very interested in joining the Southern Conference. From an Associated Press story dated June 25, 1995:

…for most of [Eastern Kentucky’s] coaches, however, it’s time to make a turn to the Southern Conference.

“It’s time that Eastern probably takes a good, hard look at maybe getting in the Southern Conference,” said EKU coach Roy Kidd, adding that all its sports programs “should take a good look at the Southern Conference.”

Southern Conference officials visited EKU in the early 1990s to evaluate the school as a possible member.

Eastern Kentucky’s president at the time was Hanley Funderburk, who advocated reducing the scholarship limit in I-AA from 63 to 45. I think it is reasonable to suggest that Funderburk was not on the same page with many of the school’s coaches (including Kidd) on the subject of conference affiliation — and perhaps a few other things as well.

It appears that some of the coaches were also unhappy with the OVC adding schools to its membership that were “so far away” from Eastern Kentucky, including UT-Martin, Southeast Missouri State, and Eastern Illinois.

(It should be pointed out that all three of those schools are geographically closer to Eastern Kentucky than is The Citadel.)

At the time, the SoCon was at ten schools, but everyone in the conference knew that Marshall was ready to bolt as soon as it got a chance to move to I-A. That happened in 1997, but the league elected to focus more on basketball in adding new members, bringing in UNC-Greensboro (along with Wofford) and, a year later, College of Charleston.

I don’t know if EKU was still interested in affiliating with the SoCon by 1997 (Funderburk remained as president of the school until 1998). One thing that clearly did not change was the scholarship limit.

In recent years, Eastern Kentucky angled for another conference affiliation. This time, however, the aim wasn’t the SoCon, but the Sun Belt. From an article in 2013:

In college football circles in the commonwealth, the scuttlebutt about Eastern Kentucky University in recent weeks has been rampant. Word is that Eastern, under its new president, Michael T. Benson, is considering moving its football program into the Football Bowl Sub-Division.

The rumors are true.

“There is some discussion of that,” EKU Athletics Director Mark Sandy…”It would be a big decision by our Board (of Regents) and president.”

Sandy said the idea of EKU joining Kentucky, Louisville and Western Kentucky in the FBS is not as simple as Eastern just deciding to make the move.

[…]”You can’t just decide you want to move your program up,” [Sandy] said. “You have to have a conference invite you. So, unless or until that happens, it’s just something we are taking a look at.”

Sandy mentioned the Sun Belt Conference — which Western is leaving after this school year to join Conference-USA — or the Mid-American Conference as possible FBS leagues that could be a good fit for EKU…

…WKU, Eastern’s historic rival, made the move in 2009. The success that Western, which made a bowl game last season and has now beaten UK two years in a row, has enjoyed has not gone unnoticed in Richmond.

“We’ve kind of kept our eyes on the things Western Kentucky has done,” Sandy said. “That is something that we’ve factored into our thinking.”

A move from the FCS to the FBS would require a significant financial investment by EKU into its football program. It would mean going from a level that allows 63 football scholarships to one where there are 85 such players. “There would also be a need to enhance our facilities, there’s no question about that,” Sandy said.

At this point, Sandy said its premature to attach any timetable to it if or when EKU will try to make a step up in football classification. “Too soon to tell,” he said. “It’s something we’re going to look at and see if we are a viable candidate.”

By 2014, Eastern Kentucky had decided it was definitely a viable FBS candidate, applying to join the Sun Belt that year. It applied the following year as well.

Even though the university is planning a campus-wide construction boom of over $200 million dollars, the Sun Belt had facility questions, leading EKU to revise [its proposal].

So EKU pitched a $10 million stadium renovation.

“If you were to look at our athletic facilities, not a lot has been done to them over the last two, three decades,” EKU President Michael Benson told SB Nation. “I think that was particularly noticeable with our football stadium, which, when it was built in the late 1960s, it was one of the biggest in I-AA football. The bones of it are probably pretty good. It doesn’t have any of the amenities that one expects to see at an FBS level.

“The input we got back from the Sun Belt was that we needed to focus on football, softball, and baseball. We’ve already done the improvements to our basketball facility, and now it’s a great arena.”

In the end, the Sun Belt chose Coastal Carolina over Eastern Kentucky. It appears EKU will be remaining in FCS for the foreseeable future. Coincidentally, Michael Benson resigned as president of the school, leaving at the beginning of this year. The director of athletics (who had been in that role since 2015) also resigned, departing in October of 2019.

This season, Eastern Kentucky is playing nine football games and is not going to compete in the spring.

…the OVC gave its members permission to play up to four non-league games this fall while holding out hope of a conference football season in the spring of 2021.

EKU said thank you, but no thank you.

A founding member of the OVC, Eastern decided to go rogue on that league’s aspirations for spring football for three main reasons, [director of athletics Matt] Roan said.

First was concern about the health impact on players of playing back-to-back football seasons in one year.

“Even if you play only seven (games in the spring) and then you play 11 ‘next year,’ that’s 18 football games in a calendar year,” Roan said. “For us, there were some serious safety concerns.”

The second problem was the weather.

“Where we are located, spring football is really winter football, at least the front part of the schedule,” Roan said. “Well, we lack an indoor facility. We lack a lot of equipment and supplies to be able to effectively support our football student-athletes with playing games in January and February.”

The third issue was worry it would stretch Eastern’s athletics staff and facilities too thin.

“When you talk about the size of our staff, the infrastructure we have from a facilities standpoint, it’s great but it is not designed — from our training room to out sports performance center — to effectively provide services for all 16 of our teams in one semester,” Roan said.

Moving forward, one wonders if Eastern going its own way with its 2020 football schedule will weaken the bonds of affection between the university and the OVC.

“I’m not naive enough to say that there is probably not some frustration (within the league),” Roan said. “I think, peer to peer, as I have talked with some of the OVC ADs, I think they kind of appreciate that what we did wasn’t a decision done in haste.”

Start with the FBS road games at Marshall, West Virginia and Troy. Roan said EKU will reap roughly $1 million in combined guarantee money from those three contests.

Frankly, I think all three of Roan’s major concerns are legitimate (two of them would also apply to The Citadel). I believe spring football is still a very dicey proposition at best. I hope it works out for all the schools that are counting on it, but I have serious reservations.

What Eastern Kentucky is doing makes a lot of sense. It is quite possible that EKU will be in better position for a “normal” 2021 fall campaign (in all of its sports) than most other schools.

It seems that Mike Capaccio, AD at The Citadel, largely agrees:

“To be honest, they may have the right model,” Capaccio said. “I think it’s important to play as many games as you can in the fall. We would have liked to play more, because I have no faith about playing in the spring.

“You are talking about playing everyone of our sports in the spring in one semester, and trying to manage the logistics of that. I never thought it was possible and was never in agreement with that.”

Coming off a bye week, Eastern Kentucky is 0-2 this season after road losses to Marshall (59-0) and West Virginia (56-10). After playing The Citadel, the remainder of the Colonels’ schedule includes one more FBS opponent (Troy), home games against Western Carolina, Stephen F. Austin, and Houston Baptist, and a home-and-home with Central Arkansas.

The matchup with Houston Baptist (which is next weekend) was just scheduled last Wednesday.

One of the many aspects of playing college football in a COVID-19 world is that you are never sure which players will appear in a game (or if the game will be played, for that matter). Because of that, I’m only going to highlight a limited number of players for EKU.

Parker McKinney (6’2″, 208 lbs.) is the starting quarterback for Eastern Kentucky. McKinney, a redshirt sophomore from Coalfield, Tennessee, has completed 56.3% of his passes during his career, averaging 6.57 yards per attempt, with 12 TDs and 12 interceptions. He will occasionally run the football, averaging just over 7 carries per game (that includes sacks, however).

The Colonels had two preseason OVC all-conference selections. One of them was running back Alonzo Booth (6’1″, 250 lbs.), a wrecking ball of a back from Columbus, Ohio.

Booth, a redshirt junior, rushed for 14 touchdowns last season.

Keyion Dixon (6’3″, 185 lbs.), a transfer from Connecticut, has six receptions this season, including a TD catch against West Virginia. The redshirt senior is one of the “big wide receivers” referenced by Brent Thompson during his press conference on Monday.

EKU’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 289 lbs. Right tackle Tucker Schroeder (6’4″, 295 lbs.) was a preseason all-league pick. The native of St. Cloud, Florida is a redshirt junior who has started 25 consecutive games for EKU.

Matthew Jackson (6’2″, 205 lbs.) is a redshirt junior linebacker from Nashville who had 12 tackles versus Marshall.

Free safety Daulson Fitzpatrick (6’1″, 193 lbs.), a junior from Akron, has started 14 consecutive games for the Colonels, while cornerback Josh Hayes (6’0″, 185 lbs.) has started 12 games over the last two seasons. Hayes is a redshirt senior from Indianapolis who began his collegiate career at Purdue.

Placekicker Alexander Woznick (5’11”, 165 lbs.) is a graduate transfer from South Carolina who is 1 for 2 on field goal tries through two games at EKU, making a 32-yarder against West Virginia. His miss was a 54-yard try versus Marshall that went wide right.

Woznick played his high school football at Eastside High School in Taylors, South Carolina.

Eastern Kentucky has a fairly lengthy history with Australian punters. EKU has had an Aussie on its roster in every season since 2009 (one of them, Jordan Berry, had been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ punter for the past five seasons; he was released two weeks ago).

Last season, Phillip Richards (6’4″, 215 lbs.), a junior from Mount Dandenong in Victoria, Australia, was the regular punter for the Colonels, continuing that tradition with kickers from Down Under. However, he has been supplanted this year by a grad transfer from Limestone, Thomas Cook (5’9″, 193 lbs.). Cook, who went to Byrnes High School, has punted 11 times so far this season, averaging 40.5 yards per punt, with a long boot of 59.

Kickoff returner Quentin Pringle (5’9″, 178 lbs.), a sophomore from Bolingbrook, Illinois, averaged 27.1 yards per kick return last season, which was eighth-best in FCS. Pringle is also a running back who had a 23-yard rush in the Colonels’ season opener at Marshall.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high of 83 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 10-point favorite over Eastern Kentucky. The over/under is 48½.

– Other lines of note this week (as of September 22): Appalachian State is a 35½-point favorite over Campbell; UCF is a 27½-point favorite at East Carolina; Louisiana-Lafayette is a 14-point favorite over Georgia Southern; Auburn is a 7½-point favorite over Kentucky; Oklahoma State is an 8-point favorite over West Virginia; Cincinnati is a 14-point favorite over Army; Georgia is a 26-point favorite at Arkansas; Alabama is a 27-point favorite at Missouri; Miami (FL) is a 11½-point favorite over Florida State; and Tennessee is a 3½-point favorite at South Carolina.

Clemson is off this week, a much-needed break for the Tigers.

– Massey Ratings

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 70% chance of winning on Saturday, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 28, Eastern Kentucky 21.

Of the 127 schools in FCS, fifteen will play at least one game in the fall. Massey’s rankings (in FCS) for each of them, as of September 22:

North Dakota State (1st), Central Arkansas (26th), Missouri State (41st), The Citadel (48th, down one spot from last week), Austin Peay (51st), Chattanooga (52nd), Jacksonville State (54th), Abilene Christian (58th), Mercer (64th), Stephen F. Austin (69th), Houston Baptist (70th), Eastern Kentucky (72nd), Western Carolina (76th), North Alabama (86th), Campbell (88th).

– Massey’s FBS rankings (as of September 21) for some of the teams actually playing this fall (now including the Big 10): LSU (1st), Ohio State (2nd), Clemson (3rd), Alabama (4th), Georgia (5th), Notre Dame (6th), Auburn (7th), Penn State (9th), Oklahoma (11th), Florida (12th), Texas (13th), Texas A&M (17th), Minnesota (18th), UCF (19th), Kentucky (24th), North Carolina (26th), South Carolina (29th), Nebraska (32nd), BYU (37th), Tennessee (38th), Northwestern (42nd), West Virginia (44th), Louisiana-Lafayette (50th), North Carolina State (54th), Navy (57th), Army (61st), Georgia Tech (64th), Louisville (66th), Wake Forest (67th), Marshall (73rd), Florida State (80th), Appalachian State (82nd), Rutgers (85th), Coastal Carolina (94th), Liberty (98th), USF (101st), Kansas (104th), Georgia Southern (108th), Charlotte (116th), North Texas (119th), UTEP (130th).

There are 130 FBS teams.

– Eastern Kentucky’s notable alumni include Hall of Fame outfielder Earle Combs, health scientist Eula Bingham, and Lee Majors — a/k/a “The Six Million Dollar Man”.

– The Colonels have made 21 appearances in I-AA/FCS postseason play. Only Montana (24) has made more trips to the FCS playoffs.

– EKU’s roster (as of September 22) includes 33 players from the state of Kentucky. Other states represented: Ohio (22 players), Florida (11), Georgia (11), Tennessee (9), Michigan (4), Alabama (3), California (3), Illinois (3), South Carolina (3), North Carolina (2), and one each from Connecticut, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

As noted above, punter Phillip Richards is from Australia.

Unfortunately for Eastern Kentucky, no Colonel is an alumnus of the Palmetto State’s premier pigskin powerhouse, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. It is hard to imagine EKU returning to the summit of FCS without any members of the famed maroon and orange around to lead the way.

One of the three South Carolina natives on Eastern Kentucky’s roster, redshirt freshman defensive lineman P.J. White Jr. (6’5″, 200 lbs.), has Orangeburg, S.C., listed as his hometown. However, he played his high school football in Warner Robins, Georgia. White clearly has O’burg connections, though (his cousin is former O-W, UGA and NFL cornerback Tim Jennings).

– 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.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 6-7 for games played on September 26. The Bulldogs are 4-2 on that date in contests played in Charleston. Among the highlights:

  • 1925: The Citadel defeated the Parris Island Marines at Hampton Park, 7-0. The game’s only touchdown came on a pass from Teddy Weeks to the man known as ‘The Sumter Comet’, Stanley “Rebo” Weinberg. Weeks added the PAT. The Bulldogs’ D held firm throughout, thanks to a tough line which included Joe Matthews, Ephraim Seabrook, and K.P. “Sheik” Westmoreland.
  • 1936: At the original Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel stopped Erskine, 13-6. Chet Smith and Kooksie Robinson both scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs, with Robinson adding the PAT after Smith’s TD. Orville Rogers and Archie Jenkins starred on a defense that held the Seceders to just one first down; Jenkins’ exploits included blocking a punt that set up The Citadel’s first touchdown.
  • 1970: Bob Duncan rushed for 199 and two touchdowns as The Citadel shut out East Carolina, 31-0, before 17,420 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Ben Chavis and Jon Hall also scored TDs for The Citadel, and Jim Leber converted all four PATs and a 27-yard field goal try. Defensively, the Bulldogs were led by a strong pass rush (ECU was 13-42 passing), with the front four — Tommy Utsey, Don Cox, Norman Seabrooks, and Charlie Kerr — drawing particular praise from head coach Red Parker. The Bulldogs forced several turnovers, including a fumble recovered by Jeff Martin and an interception by Charlie Baker.
  • 1981: In front of 17,250 spectators and before a regional TV audience, The Citadel outscored Appalachian State, 34-20. The only football game ever played by The Citadel to be referenced in a judicial opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court, the contest featured a star performance by the Bulldogs’ Danny Miller, who scored 4 TDs while rushing for 182 yards. Byron Walker took a punt back 70 yards for The Citadel’s other touchdown. The defense made plays when it had to down the stretch, including key interceptions by Kelly Curry and Hillery Douglas in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game, Prince Collins had also picked off a Mountaineers’ pass. Incidentally, the television announcers were Chris Lincoln (perhaps best known for his horse racing coverage) and Russ Francis (who had just retired from the NFL; the Pro Bowl tight end would then unretire after the season to play for the San Francisco 49ers, foreshadowing a similar move by Jason Witten four decades later).
  • 1992: From Ken Burger’s column in The Post and Courier after The Citadel’s 15-14 win at Army: “[H]ere in the rolling Ramapo mountains where names like McArthur and Eisenhower and Patton trained, Charlie Taaffe and his Citadel Bulldogs beat Army for the second straight year on the field where Taaffe took his basic training for what could be the greatest era of football the military school has known.” Everette Sands rushed for 174 yards and a TD, while C.J. Haynes replaced an injured Jack Douglas in the third quarter and proceeded to complete all seven of his pass attempts, leading two scoring drives. Cedric Sims scored The Citadel’s second touchdown, while Jeff Trinh’s 37-yard field goal (set up by two huge pass completions from Haynes to Cornell Caldwell) gave the Bulldogs the lead for good. An ensuing Army drive was scuttled by a fumble that was recovered by Mike Wideman. For the sixth time in seven tries, The Citadel defeated a I-A opponent.
  • 2009: The Citadel caught fire in the second half to get by Presbyterian, 46-21. Andre Roberts caught 12 passes for 184 yards and 4 touchdowns, all from Bart Blanchard — who threw 6 TD passes in all, tying a school record. His other two touchdown tosses went to Alex Sellars. Cortez Allen and Keith Gamble both intercepted passes, with Gamble returning his pick 89 yards for a score — the fourth-longest in Bulldogs history. (Tangent: the third-longest in school annals, 92 yards, belongs to Brandon McCladdie, who is the analyst for this Saturday’s ESPN3 broadcast.)

Note: The Citadel’s 32-0 victory over Camp Davis in 1942, listed in the school record book as having been played on September 26, was actually played on Friday, September 25.

I’m glad The Citadel is playing at home this week. The players deserve at least one fall game at Johnson Hagood Stadium, and a chance to play in front of friends and family (and some of their loyal fans, too). It won’t be the same atmosphere, but you have to take what you can get.

It should be a good game. Both teams will be looking to win this contest, and I expect the energy level on Saturday to be very high.

There is not much more that I can add. I will not be in the stands myself, as it simply would not be in my best interests to attend. C’est la vie.

I’ll be watching on ESPN3 and listening to the radio call and following the statistical play-by-play online, however. (Yes, all of those things — that’s how I roll.)

Go Dogs!

2020 Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Clemson

The Citadel at Clemson, to be played on Frank Howard Field at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina, with kickoff at 4:00 pm ET on September 19, 2020. 

The game will be televised on the ACC Network. Anish Shroff will handle play-by-play, while Tom Luginbill supplies the analysis and Eric Wood roams 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 Lee Glaze

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 [link when available]

– Game notes from The Citadel and Clemson

– Saturday’s game is a potential showcase for The Citadel’s players

– The Citadel is used to playing teams ranked #1

– The Citadel is also used to being #1

The SoCon isn’t playing football this fall

ACC weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Brent Thompson’s 9/15 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/16)

– The Citadel Football: Season Opener

There will be pods in the stands at Johnson Hagood Stadium on September 26. Yes, pods.

Dabo Swinney’s 9/15 press conference

Swinney speaks after the Tigers’ 9/16 practice

I didn’t write a lot this summer about football, in part because I didn’t really think there would be football in the fall. Hey, call me skeptical.

However, I did delve into a couple of topics:

– Football attendance at The Citadel (and elsewhere); my annual review

When the Bulldogs weren’t the Bulldogs, but were (at least technically) the Light Brigade

First things first: The Citadel’s media guide is now available online. I believe this is the first time one has been produced (online or otherwise) by the military college since 2011.

This is huge news for all you media guide aficionados out there (and you know who you are).

I’ll write more about the Bulldogs’ game at South Florida later, probably when I preview The Citadel’s matchup with Eastern Kentucky. As far as a review is concerned, I thought it was more appropriate to consider the USF and Clemson games in tandem (including from a statistical perspective). That may seem unusual, but what about this year isn’t?

The fan experience at Clemson Memorial Stadium on Saturday is going to be different, to say the least.

Attendance, which typically exceeds 80,000, will be limited to roughly 19,000 masked and socially distanced fans.

“We think that people are looking at Clemson as an example for how stadiums can operate, should operate and could operate,” [Clemson associate athletic director Jeff Kallin] said.

…Mobile ticketing is making its debut at Clemson, so be prepared.

“The fan experience starts before you leave the house,” Kallin said. “What we’re asking fans to do before they even leave the house is download their ticket and parking pass. And if you have (COVID-19) symptoms, please don’t come.”

Parking lots won’t open until 1 pm. Tailgating in large groups is a no-no. Each fan will have a “suggested time of entry” into the stadium. Only prepackaged foods will be available (and no drinking fountains will be).

There will be hundreds of hand sanitizer stations positioned throughout the stadium and every 15 minutes employees will be cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas such as handrails, doors, bathrooms, counters and even the hand sanitizer units. Touch-free sinks have been installed in bathrooms.

Clemson’s band and cheerleaders will be on the Hill (socially distanced, naturally). “Supplemental noise” will be employed during the game.

The Citadel and Clemson have played 38 times. Two of those matchups have been of significant consequence. As it happens, both of them were won by the Bulldogs.

– 1928: It was Homecoming at The Citadel, and approximately 3,000 spectators (one-third of which were Tiger supporters) jammed the original Johnson Hagood Stadium to watch the clash between Carl Prause’s youthful Bulldogs and a team labeled “the greatest Clemson team in years”.

The contest is mostly remembered for the story of Thomas Howie, whose appearance in this game is the stuff of legend. Howie is now immortalized as “The Major of St. Lo”, of course, but in 1928 he was a key cog in the Bulldogs’ offense and an all-around team sparkplug. His presence on the field was important.

Earlier in the day, the senior running back had taken an examination for the Rhodes Scholarship. However, the exam took place in Columbia, and it didn’t end until 12:30 pm. The game in Charleston was scheduled to begin at 2:00 pm.

Assistant coach Ephraim Seabrook drove Howie back to Charleston (in a brand-new Studebaker), and the two somehow managed to arrive at the stadium just before kickoff. On the first play from scrimmage, Howie broke loose on a 32-yard run, giving his teammates a great deal of confidence.

Clemson, led by stars like O.K. Pressley, Covington “Goat” McMillan, Johnny Justis, and Bob McCarley, would control the football for much of the game, building up a 296-to-107 edge in total yards, but five times the Tigers (a/k/a the “Yellow Peril”) were stopped inside The Citadel’s 15-yard line without scoring. The Citadel’s interior line — led by Sam “Stonewall” Wideman, Walter Oglesby, and Polk Skelton — held Clemson at bay each time.

Meanwhile, The Citadel took a surprising lead in the second quarter after Wideman blocked a punt. From two yards out, Howie scored the game’s first touchdown.

The Bulldogs added to their advantage in the fourth quarter. A bad snap on a Clemson punt attempt rolled into the end zone. Justis and The Citadel’s John Carlisle scrambled for the football, and essentially canceled each other out, resulting in Bruce “Red” Johnson recovering the pigskin for a touchdown.

Clemson scored late in the game on a pass from McMillan to O.D. Padgett, but it wasn’t enough. The final whistle blew and The Citadel had prevailed 12-7, earning what is generally considered to be the greatest Homecoming upset in school history.

– 1931: Unlike the 1928 matchup, this game was won rather convincingly, despite the fact the final score was only The Citadel 6, Clemson 0. The contest was played in Florence, at the Pee Dee Fair, and a crowd of 4,000 fans watched as the Bulldogs’ rushing attack regularly put pressure on a Clemson team referred to by reporter Henry Cauthen as “beleaguered”.

Cauthen, writing for The News and Courier, also stated that the Tigers “were so much putty in the hands of a Citadel team that had a great day, a day on which everything clicked”.

The game’s only touchdown was scored by the Bulldogs’ Edwin McIntosh, a senior playing in his hometown of Florence. McIntosh and Larkin Jennings (“The Columbia Comet”) each ran the ball effectively. The Citadel had 223 total yards of offense, while Clemson only had 118.

Defensively, the key performer for the Bulldogs was Delmar Rivers, nicknamed ‘Big Boy’ and described as a “man-mountain, gargantuan”. Rivers apparently weighed 300 lbs., which would have certainly made him an enormous player in that era — one source at the time called him “probably the South’s biggest football player”.

Other facts from this game that might have upset Clemson partisans:

  • Clemson only ran 46 offensive plays. The lack of offensive snaps was partly due to the Tigers’ tendency to “quick kick”. Clemson punted on third down 6 times, punted on second down 3 times, and punted on first down once.
  • Clemson only picked up three first downs during the game (which is not surprisingly, given all that punting), not getting its initial first down until the fourth quarter.
  • The Citadel probably should have scored two or three more touchdowns, having one called back by a penalty and fumbling away two or three other great chances.

All of that led to a famous meeting in an automobile:

After the game, Captain Frank J. Jervey, Head Coach Jess Neely, assistant coach Joe Davis and Captain Pete Heffner of the university military staff met in a car outside the stadium to discuss ways Clemson could help its football program get back on track. The meeting started the ball rolling towards the establishment of the IPTAY Foundation.

Almost everyone knows about IPTAY and the impact it had on Clemson athletics, and college football in general. Not everyone knows its origins, though.

The Citadel’s 1931 victory over Clemson is almost certainly the most influential football game ever played in South Carolina.

Let’s circle back to 2020…

Clemson has several fine players on its squad. I have chosen to highlight two of them for anyone unfamiliar with the Tigers’ roster.

Trevor Lawrence (6’6″, 220 lbs.) is a junior from Cartersville, Georgia. A quarterback, Lawrence has started 27 consecutive games for the Tigers. For his career, he has completed 65.99% of his passes, averaging an impressive 8.77 yards per attempt, with 67 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions.

Lawrence is also fairly mobile for a quarterback of his size, demonstrating that most notably in a contest last season against Ohio State, in which he dashed 67 yards for a score. It was a big play in the Tigers’ victory, though it must be pointed out that the Buckeyes have historically struggled against Palmetto State opposition on the gridiron (having never defeated Clemson, The Citadel, South Carolina, or any other team from the state).

The QB is usually joined in the Clemson backfield by senior running back Travis Etienne (5’10”, 205 lbs.). A native of Jennings, Louisiana, Etienne has averaged 7.74 yards per rush during his time with the Tigers, scoring 57 touchdowns on the ground.

He is also a capable pass-catcher, having caught 37 passes last season. Etienne is known for being quite fast; it will be interesting to see how that compares with the frequently mentioned “SoCon speed” of his opponents, a description used by college football commentators so often that it is probably ripe for parody.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Clemson, per the National Weather Service: a 20% chance of showers, with a high of 70 degrees.

Hopefully, the remnants of Hurricane Sally will have cleared out by gametime.

– The Citadel has defeated Clemson on the gridiron in no fewer than five South Carolina towns. It’s probable that no other opponent has lost to the Bulldogs at so many different locations.

The military college has wins over Clemson in Clemson (when the town was called “Calhoun”), Charleston (at the original Johnson Hagood Stadium), Anderson, Orangeburg, and Florence.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 45-point underdog at Clemson. The over/under is 57½.

Other lines of note this week (as of September 16): Coastal Carolina is a 26½-point favorite over Campbell; Tulane is a 7-point favorite over Navy; Appalachian State is a 5-point favorite at Marshall; Notre Dame is a 25½-point favorite over USF; Georgia Southern is a 1½-point favorite over Florida Atlantic; UCF is a 7½-point favorite at Georgia Tech; North Carolina is a 29-point favorite over Charlotte; SMU is a 14-point favorite at North Texas; Louisville is a 2½-point favorite over Miami; and North Carolina State is a 2-point favorite over Wake Forest.

Eastern Kentucky is off this week; the Colonels, of course, will be The Citadel’s opponent next Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Army is also not playing this weekend, after its game versus BYU was called off due to COVID-19 issues within the Cougars’ program.

– Massey Ratings

Massey projects a predicted final score of Clemson 45, The Citadel 3.

Of the 127 schools in FCS, fifteen will play at least one game in the fall. Massey’s rankings (in FCS) for each of them, as of September 16:

North Dakota State (1st), Central Arkansas (24th), Missouri State (40th), The Citadel (47th, down one spot from last week), Austin Peay (51st), Chattanooga (52nd), Abilene Christian (53rd), Jacksonville State (55th), Mercer (64th), Houston Baptist (69th, moving up 12 places), Stephen F. Austin (70th), Eastern Kentucky (72nd), Western Carolina (76th), North Alabama (86th), Campbell (92nd, up 12 spots).

– Massey’s FBS rankings (as of September 16) for some of the teams actually playing this fall (now including the Big 10): LSU (1st), Ohio State (2nd), Clemson (3rd), Alabama (4th), Georgia (5th), Auburn (6th), Oklahoma (9th), Penn State (10th), Florida (11th), Notre Dame (12th), Texas (13th), Texas A&M (17th), Minnesota (18th), Kentucky (22nd), North Carolina (26th), South Carolina (28th), Tennessee (30th), BYU (32nd), UCF (34th), Nebraska (37th), Northwestern (40th), Louisiana-Lafayette (44th), Georgia Tech (45th), Louisville (48th), Wake Forest (54th), Army (58th), Appalachian State (66th), Florida State (79th), Navy (81st), Rutgers (86th), Coastal Carolina (89th), USF (90th), Kansas (103rd), Georgia Southern (108th), North Texas (114th), Charlotte (118th), Liberty (121st), UTEP (130th).

There are 130 FBS teams.

– Clemson’s notable alumni include longtime diplomat Kristie Kenney, TV host Nancy O’Dell, and Lt. Col. Jimmie Dyess, a Medal of Honor recipient.

– In his post-practice wrap on September 16 (linked above), Dabo Swinney spent several minutes talking about senior walkon Regan Upshaw, a graduate student who had never played football before arriving on Clemson’s campus (he had played high-level rugby instead). You may recognize the name, as his father played for nine years in the NFL. It is a rather interesting story, and his story is worth a listen (starting at the 8:41 mark).

– Clemson’s roster (as of September 16) includes 41 players from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (21 players), Florida (12), Alabama (9), North Carolina (8), Tennessee (6), Virginia (4), California (2), Connecticut (2), Maryland (2), Missouri (2), Ohio (2), Texas (2), and one each from Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

The Tigers also have two players with international connections: wide receiver Ajou Ajou is a native of Alberta, Canada, while defensive lineman Ruke Orhorhoro is from Lagos, Nigeria. Both of them attended high school in the United States.

Shockingly, no Tiger is an alumnus of the Palmetto State’s most celebrated gridiron factory, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This is simply unfathomable and unconscionable for Clemson, a school that once recruited the likes of Mike O’Cain and Woodrow Dantzler. The absence of players who have worn the famed maroon and orange will, without question, lead to the inevitable decline of Dabo Swinney’s vaunted program, a fall for which there will likely be no return.

– 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 6-5 for games played on September 12. The Bulldogs are 1-4 in road contests held on that date. Among the highlights:

  • 1936: In The Citadel’s first game as a member of the Southern Conference, the Bulldogs shut out Newberry, 33-0. Kooksie Robinson and Chet Smith both scored two touchdowns for the Cadets, while John Keith (145 rushing yards) added a TD for The Citadel. Defensively, the Bulldogs allowed just 21 yards of total offense and forced six Newberry turnovers, including two fumbles recovered by Andy Sabados. The game was played under a “blazing sun” in 90-degree weather in muggy Charleston; at the time, it was the earliest date on the calendar The Citadel had ever begun a season.
  • 1959: The Bulldogs routed Newberry, 48-0, in front of 16,125 spectators at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Citadel scored five times via the air, with Jerry Nettles tossing three touchdown passes to Paul Maguire, and Bill Whaley throwing two more TD strikes (to Bill Gilgo and Mike Gambrell, respectively). This game also featured a 100-yard pass interception return for a touchdown by “Broadway” Billy Hughes (which was actually 102 yards; however, NCAA statistics do not recognize return yardage from beyond the goal line).
  • 1981: Before 18,950 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel slipped past Western Carolina, 12-3. Gerald Toney and Eric Manson both scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs, while Wilford Alston rushed for 104 yards. The defense held WCU to 86 rushing yards, as the Catamounts were unable to find the end zone.
  • 1987: On a rainy evening in Charleston, The Citadel defeated Presbyterian 27-12. Kenny Carter recovered a PC fumble; on the ensuing drive, he ran for 11 yards on a fake punt to set up a Tommy Burriss TD run (the Bulldogs’ QB finished with 108 rushing yards). Roger Witherspoon had two touchdowns on the ground, while J.D. Cauthen intercepted two wayward Blue Hose throws.
  • 1992: The Citadel did not complete a pass against East Tennessee State, but there was no need to do so, as the Bulldogs rushed for 570 yards (still a school record) in a 28-7 victory over the Buccaneers. A crowd of 16,231 at Johnson Hagood Stadium looked on as Everette Sands and Jack Douglas both scored two touchdowns. Sands had 192 yards on the ground, while Douglas added 178. The Citadel averaged 7.7 yards per carry. Defensively, the Bulldogs had four sacks, and Detric Cummings intercepted a pass.
  • 2009: The Citadel won at Princeton, 38-7. I was there and filed a report. Terrell Dallas scored twice, the second TD coming after an 86-yard interception return by Jonathan Glaspie (who was, somewhat agonizingly, stopped on the 2-yard line). Van Dyke Jones also rushed for a touchdown, and Alex Sellars caught a 12-yard pass from Bart Blanchard for another score. No wind instruments were injured during the contest, much to everyone’s relief.

The Citadel’s task on Saturday will be very difficult. While the Bulldogs have succeeded before against favored opponents (including the 1928 Tigers squad referenced earlier), this Clemson team is incredibly talented at practically every position on the field. The Tigers also enjoy a depth advantage larger than perhaps any team in the country. Dabo Swinney’s penchant for using almost his entire roster in many of Clemson’s games has surely contributed to that.

The Bulldogs did not perform at their best against USF, and must markedly improve just to keep up with the Tigers. I think they will; at the very least, some of the younger players (particularly the running backs) received valuable experience in Tampa. That will help this week.

On offense, The Citadel needs to avoid turnovers and control the clock. Brent Thompson should go for it on 4th down whenever possible. In this game, possession is considerably more important than field position. (That is true for most games, actually, but is especially true when facing an opposing offense, like that of Clemson, with a predilection for explosiveness.)

Defensively, the Bulldogs need to tackle better. Also, it would be extremely helpful to force a turnover or six. A short field would really be beneficial for The Citadel’s offense.

If Clemson is able to drive the ball down the field and score, that’s one thing. What I don’t want to see is a series of errors leading to easy scores for the Tigers. The Bulldogs are better than that.

Obviously, The Citadel had some problems on special teams last week (though the placekicking was quite acceptable). Those issues need to be ironed out.

I’m hoping for a competitive game at Clemson on Saturday — and while this may be a minority opinion, I think it will be.

Go Dogs!

2020 Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. South Florida

The Citadel football squad will be at Marion Square this afternoon for their first practice. Football will be played as usual at The Citadel this fall, provided it does not in any way interfere with the extensive military program. A squad of 35 men is expected to come out this afternoon.

J.C. Crouch is the captain of the 1918 eleven, and Chester Alexander is the manager. Games have been scheduled with Carolina and Clemson, and the various service teams in the city will be played. The first battle of the season will probably be in two weeks when the Blue and White will meet the naval hospital team.

To all appearances the team this year should be strong. Eight of last year’s football squad men are on hand, and the material that the “rat” class affords could not be better. According to the statement of Manager Alexander, there are some wild Texas cowboys in the “rat” class that tip the scales at 175 pounds, and if they can plunge like Texas steers then The Citadel will have “some” line. Whether Coach [Harry] O’Brien will train the squad or not has not been settled yet.

— The Charleston Evening Post, September 23, 1918

 

The influenza has hit football hard and local service teams have suspended practice until the quarantine has lifted…both The Citadel and College [of Charleston] have not had teams on the field on account of the suspension of classes until the “flu” has left Charleston.

— The Charleston Evening Post, October 17, 1918

 

…The first game Carolina has on her schedule is with Clemson, and it will be played on November 2. The Citadel has also decided to continue [its] football program as soon as the flu permits the college to open, but will be handicapped a great deal on account Clemson and Carolina [have] not being disorganized by the flu.

The Charleston Evening Post, October 23, 1918

The Citadel at South Florida, to be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, with kickoff at 7:00 pm ET on September 12, 2020.

The game will be televised on ESPNU. Lincoln Rose will handle play-by-play, while Stanford Routt supplies the analysis. Their call will be off-site.

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 Lee Glaze

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 USF

The SoCon isn’t playing football this fall

AAC weekly release (USF is picked to finish last in the league’s preseason poll)

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– A weird season for a weird year

The Citadel’s scramble for a four-game fall schedule

– The Scotts complete a circle

No fans in the stands at Raymond James Stadium this Saturday

Brent Thompson on the ‘JB & Goldwater’ radio show (from 9/1; starts at the 1:31:30 mark)

Brent Thompson on the ‘SportsTalk’ radio show (9/2; starts at the 50:40 mark)

The Citadel’s football program had a “summer of soul-searching”

There will be pods in the stands at Johnson Hagood Stadium on September 26. Yes, pods.

Focused Bulls ramp up preparations for season opener

– Jeff Scott showed his team tape from The Citadel’s game with Alabama

Jeff Scott media availability (9/2)

– USF radio show with Jeff Scott (9/7)

– USF press conference (9/8)

I didn’t write a lot this summer about football, in part because I didn’t really think there would be football in the fall. Hey, call me skeptical.

However, I did delve into a couple of topics:

– Football attendance at The Citadel (and elsewhere); my annual review

When the Bulldogs weren’t the Bulldogs

Nomenclature explanation: per the University of South Florida’s game notes, when it comes to the name of The Citadel’s opponent this week:

First references to the school and its intercollegiate athletics program should always be the University of South Florida. Secondary
reference used should be USF, South Florida or Bulls. Please refrain from using: S. Florida, South Fla. or similar combinations.

I chose to call the school “South Florida” in the title of this post. I’ll alternate between that and “USF” going forward, which shouldn’t be too problematic for a discussion about football. If we were on the west coast and talking hoops, then “USF” could cause a bit of confusion, but as it happens I’m blogging about a football game between two schools located in the southeast, and the University of San Francisco hasn’t fielded a gridiron squad since 1982.

Originally, USF was supposed to play non-conference games this season against Texas, Bethune-Cookman, Nevada, and Florida Atlantic. Following a flurry of COVID-related postponements and cancellations, only the matchup with FAU remains on South Florida’s slate.

The Bulls will now play only three non-league contests, with The Citadel replacing Texas on the schedule and Notre Dame taking the place of Bethune-Cookman.

The University of South Florida has existed since 1956, but didn’t have varsity football until 1997. In its first game, USF (initially a I-AA program) walloped Kentucky Wesleyan 80-3 before a home crowd of 49,212.

The matchup sold out three hours before kickoff, as locals were ready for hometown college football.

The following week USF played its first road game in school history. That contest took place at Johnson Hagood Stadium against The Citadel, before 12,154 spectators.

The game was a defensive struggle. The Citadel only ran 53 offensive plays from scrimmage, averaging just 3.47 yards per play. USF had many more offensive plays (70) but didn’t do much with them, averaging only 3.41 yards per play. Each team committed one turnover and punted seven times.

The Bulldogs scored first, putting together a 70-yard drive in the second quarter punctuated by a one-yard Antonio Smith touchdown run. The key play in the possession was a 16-yard pass from Stanley Myers to Jacob Barley that set up first-and-goal.

The Citadel took a 7-0 lead into the break, but USF would score on its first possession of the second half, after a 16-play, 97-yard drive. Two big pass plays were key, but even more important was a substitution infraction by The Citadel that negated a field-goal attempt and gave South Florida a first down. The Bulls scored two plays later, tying the contest on a 12-yard pass from Chad Barnhardt (who had transferred to South Florida from South Carolina) to Marcus Rivers.

With 5:04 to play in the fourth quarter, The Citadel took over on its own 24 and began what would prove to be the game-winning drive. The first play of the possession was a 20-yard pass completion from Myers to Derek Green. A roughing-the-passer call (one of eight penalties on the night against the Bulls) added 15 yards to the play and put the Bulldogs in USF territory. A few plays later, Justin Skinner booted a 35-yard field goal.

South Florida’s last drive began with just two minutes remaining, and resulted in a quick interception by The Citadel’s Chris Webb. The Bulldogs held on and won, 10-7.

At the time, most Bulls fans were not overly upset by the loss to The Citadel. However, the following week USF lost at home to Drake, 23-22 — much to the displeasure of many. As longtime Bulls radio play-by-play voice Jim Louk explained many years later:

I came home that night in time to catch the 11 o’clock news, and watched a local sports anchor finish his live report from the field by saying “The Bulls have to get better! They have to be better than this!”

Twenty years later and I can remember his inflection perfectly.

We were three games old.

The honeymoon is over, dear. Now go do the dishes.

But he was right, and I knew it even then. The coaches and the players would have said exactly the same thing. The expectations for this program were huge, even those early days. Bulls alumni and fans had waited so long for football and had been through so much that they demanded a great product no matter how young the program was. The players and coaches understood that before a lot of us did.

The Citadel and South Florida played a rematch the following year in Tampa. That game was won by the Bulls, but the Bulldogs were not motivated to play and didn’t really try very hard, as they were looking forward to the end of the season. Also, most of the players were injured, so as everyone knows it didn’t really count — especially given the biased officiating.

USF would spend four years at the I-AA level before moving up to I-A, joining Conference USA in 2003 and then the Big East in 2005. In eight years, the program went from not even existing to membership in a BCS conference.

Alas, conference realignment eventually pushed South Florida out of what is now the P5, and into the more uncertain world of the G5.

Charlie Strong was hired by South Florida after an unsuccessful three-year stint at Texas, which had followed a very good run at Louisville. The folks at South Florida couldn’t be blamed for thinking that Strong was more likely to win like he did with the Cardinals (37-15 in four years) than in his time in Austin (16-21), particularly given that he inherited a strong program in Tampa, one that had won 27 games in the previous three seasons.

South Florida won 17 of Strong’s first 19 games in charge, which was great. The problem was that the Bulls proceeded to lose 14 of their next 18 contests.

After a 10-2 season in 2017, USF won its first seven games in 2018 — but then dropped its last six. Last year, the Bulls were just 4-8, and Strong was fired.

Jeff Scott is the new head coach at South Florida. His is a familiar name around the Palmetto State, as the son of former South Carolina head coach Brad Scott played at Clemson, coached at Blythewood High School, was an assistant at Presbyterian, and had been on the staff at his alma mater since 2008, including time as the wide receivers coach, recruiting coordinator, and co-offensive coordinator.

According to a (premium) article in The Athletic written by Andy Staples, Scott had wanted the USF job earlier:

Scott wanted to do it sooner than this. Three years ago, when the University of South Florida’s job opened following Willie Taggart’s departure to Oregon, Scott put out feelers. But the Bulls had focused on Charlie Strong, who had just been fired at Texas but who had won big at Louisville before that. Strong had excellent Florida recruiting ties, and when he went 10-2 in 2017, it seemed USF had made the perfect choice. Then, after a 7-0 start in 2018, the program suddenly plunged into freefall. The Bulls lost their final six games of that season and then went 4-8 this past season. With rival UCF enjoying the best stretch in the program’s history and the recruiting gap getting wider, the Bulls needed someone who could breathe life into the program.

This time, instead of USF being on Scott’s list, Scott was on USF’s list.

USF’s director of athletics, Michael Kelly, called Dabo Swinney. Then Dabo called his assistant.

“Whatchu doin’, boy,” Swinney asked.

Scott was getting ready for bed. It was 11:30 p.m.

“You’re not going to believe who just called me,” Swinney said. “Michael Kelly from the University of South Florida.”

Scott, who had passed on several head coaching jobs in the past few years, waited. He wanted to be a head coach, but he wasn’t leaving his alma mater without the Swinney Seal Of Approval.

“This,” Swinney said, “is one of them jobs you want.”

Jeff Scott certainly knows his way around Florida; he was born there, his father’s family is from there, and he successfully recruited a number of Tigers from the state. It seems like a natural fit for a highly regarded assistant ready to make a name for himself as a head coach.

Now he just has to win. And, given the success of rival UCF in recent years, he needs to win big.

USF’s coaching staff is generally on the youthful side. Scott is 39 years old, and the Bulls’ assistant coaches average 36 years of age (the youngest staff in the AAC).

Among the assistants is offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr., who is only 27. Weis already has two seasons under his belt as an OC, working for Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic.

There are some other familiar names among USF’s assistants. Pat White, the renowned quarterback from West Virginia, coaches running backs. Bamberg-Ehrhardt’s own Da’Quan Bowers (who like White also played in the NFL) is in charge of the defensive line.

Judging from some of their pictures on USF’s website, both White and Bowers have a very strong hat game.

Here are some 2019 stats of consequence for The Citadel (all games).

The Citadel Opponents
Points Per Game 28.8 28.2
Rush Attempts (sacks taken out) 720 392
Yards per rush (sacks taken out) 4.57 5.34
Attempts-Completions-Interceptions 128-65-5 324-173-7
Yards/pass attempt (sacks included) 7.69 6.85
Total Plays 866 742
Yards per play 5.10 6.05
Total punts 46 44
Punting Net Average 40.4 34.8
Penalties-Yards 65-614 75-622
Penalty yards per game 51.2 51.8
Time of Possession per game 35:31 24:29
Seconds per offensive play 29.53 23.76
3rd Down Conversions 80/184 (43.5%) 64/151 (42.4%)
4th Down Conversions 21/34 (61.8%) 10/22 (45.5%)
Fumbles-Lost 19-10 8-5
Sacks by-Yards Lost 26-177 18-72
Red Zone: Touchdowns 34/51 (66.7%) 25/43 (58.1%)
Turnover Margin -3 +3
Run play % (sacks are pass plays) 83.14% 52.83%
  • The Citadel finished 6th in FCS in net punting
  • The Bulldogs’ defense faced just 61.83 plays per game from scrimmage, 8th-fewest in FCS
  • In a related statistic, The Citadel led FCS in time of possession last season (though the NCAA’s official book has the Bulldogs only third overall, due to a transcription error)
  • The Bulldogs were 18th nationally in offensive third-down conversion rate
  • The Citadel’s 34 fourth-down conversion attempts tied for 11th-most in FCS; the 21 successful conversions tied for 6th-most nationally
  • The Bulldogs were 50th among FCS teams in scoring offense, and 66th in scoring defense

USF’s stats (all games) in 2019:

USF Opponents
Points Per Game 20.8 28.9
Rush Attempts (sacks taken out) 400 533
Yards per rush (sacks taken out) 5.46 5.04
Attempts-Completions-Interceptions 328-177-10 305-203-12
Yards/pass attempt (sacks included) 4.80 5.90
Total Plays 773 887
Yards per play 5.14 5.39
Total punts 74 57
Punting Net Average 37.8 38
Penalties-Yards 102-554 73-655
Penalty yards per game 71.2 54.6
Time of Possession per game 27:51 32:09
Seconds per offensive play 25.94 26.10
3rd Down Conversions 69/177 (39.0%) 88/190 (46.3%)
4th Down Conversions 7/16 (43.8%) 10/18 (55.6%)
Fumbles-Lost 19-9 20-12
Sacks by-Yards Lost 29-184 45-246
Red Zone: Touchdowns 24/39 (61.5%) 22/43 (51.1%)
Turnover Margin +5 -5
Run play % (sacks are pass plays) 51.75% 60.09%
  • South Florida’s 45 sacks allowed were 7th-most in FBS
  • USF’s defensive Red Zone TD rate of 51.1% was excellent, ranking 23rd nationally
  • The Bulls averaged 71.2 yards in penalties per game, 5th-most in FBS
  • Not listed above, but USF averaged 8.3 tackles for loss per game, 5th-best nationally
  • USF was the only team in FBS to lose 8 or more games with a +5 or better turnover margin
  • South Florida was 115th among 130 FBS teams in scoring offense, and 75th in scoring defense

Here are advanced stats maven Bill Connelly‘s thoughts (as of April 22) on USF’s 2019 season and its prospects for 2020. Last year, South Florida finished 103rd overall in SP+, including 110th on offense, 62nd on defense, and 129th (next-to-last) for special teams.

His observation on South Florida’s lack of experience last year is interesting.

The Bulls’ returning production for 2020 ranks 36th overall in FBS in Connelly’s system (of course, that ranking includes teams not playing this fall).

USF’s new defensive coordinator is veteran coach Glenn Spencer. When asked about facing a triple option offense, Spencer had this to say:

It’s just different, I guess advantages and disadvantages, right? The disadvantage is, you have to kind of change because it’s such a dramatic change that you have to get into some scout looks earlier, some service-team looks earlier, which kind of takes away from some other practice. But you’ve got to dedicate yourself to it. The advantages I think outweigh that; it forces you to work on it now. If we want to do what we want to do in this conference, we have to do well against a similar opponent (Navy) in conference. So it forces you to work on some base thoughts, some base schemes, playing off low blocks, playing off different football fundamentals that are different preparing for them than anybody else.

Spencer has been a defensive coordinator at the Division I level since 2011, mostly at Oklahoma State (he was at Charlotte in 2018 and Florida Atlantic last year). I checked the schedules for those teams to determine how often he had faced a triple option offense.

As far as I can tell (and I could be wrong), he did not face any. None of the games were against the service academies, or Georgia Tech (or New Mexico for that matter, which ran a version of the triple option during Bob Davie’s tenure in Albuquerque).

In 2016, Oklahoma State did play Southeastern Louisiana, which was described in some quarters as having a triple option offense (the Cowboys won easily, 61-7). However, the Lions’ offensive coordinator at the time was a Willie Fritz protégé, and Southeastern Louisiana’s offense passed 39% of the time during that season, clearly not what The Citadel does (last year, the Bulldogs threw or attempted to throw the football on only 16.9% of their offensive plays).

While Spencer has not faced the triple option in recent years, many of USF’s players have. The Bulls played Navy in 2016 and 2019, and Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech outfit in 2018. South Florida won two of those three games, but had some difficulty defensively in all three matchups:

  • 2016: South Florida jumped out to a huge lead and outlasted Navy 52-45, despite allowing 7.6 yards per play
  • 2018: USF overcame a 10-point 4th-quarter deficit to beat Georgia Tech 49-38, but the defense gave up 8.0 yards per play
  • 2019: Navy whipped the Bulls 35-3 in Annapolis, averaging 7.3 yards per play in the process

Those last two teams struggled against the run in general, so giving up 419 rushing yards (7.4 yards per rush) to Georgia Tech in 2018 and 434 rushing yards to Navy last season (also allowing 7.4 yards per rush) wasn’t a huge surprise.

In 2018 and 2019, USF ranked 122nd (247.5 yards per game) and 114th (208.6), respectively, in run defense, allowing 17 individual 100-yard rushing efforts during that 25-game span.

One more tidbit: it is very much worth mentioning that Spencer’s FAU defensive unit led all of FBS last season in forced turnovers, with 33. The Owls had 22 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries.

South Florida has talent on defense, with a solid linebacking corps and a fine secondary. The Bulls may need some guys to step up on the defensive line, but they have players capable of doing just that.

Note: I’m highlighting USF players in these next few sections based mainly on guesswork, and my guessing could be wayyyyy off. After all, this is the first game of the season…under a new coaching staff…for a program that was 4-8 last year…and that, like all teams this season, will have to deal with COVID-19. 

For all I know, none of the players I mention on defense, offense, or special teams will even suit up on Saturday. Just keep that in mind. I’m not exactly a super-scout as it is.

Don’t be surprised if a familiar face starts on USF’s d-line against the Bulldogs. Thad Mangum (6’2″, 285 lbs.) is a graduate transfer from Wofford, one of many grads with remaining eligibility to have fled Spartanburg after last season. He has reportedly recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him for almost all of 2019. Glenn Spencer mentioned Mangum as having practiced well for the Bulls.

Blake Green (6’1″, 280 lbs.) began his collegiate career at Northwest Missouri State. The senior from Bradenton became more of a factor last year as the season progressed, starting the final five games of the campaign.

Rashawn Yates (6’3″, 271 lbs.) may play both defensive tackle and defensive end for the Bulls. A junior from Port St. Lucie, Yates started six games in 2019.

True freshman Le’Vontae Camiel (6’1″, 225 lbs.), a defensive end from Lake City, Florida, may be an impact player right away for the Bulls. Don’t be surprised to see him early and often.

There are a number of quality performers among the linebackers. Dwayne Boyles (6’3″, 227 lbs.), a native of Miami, led the Bulls last year in tackles (75) and tackles for loss (12.5). Fellow junior Antonio Grier (6’1, 222 lbs.) started the last three games of 2019 at middle linebacker; the resident of Atlanta finished the year with four sacks.

Other names to watch in this unit include Demaurez Bellamy (5’10”, 220 lbs.), a sophomore from DeLand, and junior Andrew Mims (6’1″, 220 lbs.). A potential All-Name All-American is redshirt freshman Camp Gobler (6’3″, 217 lbs.).

KJ Sails (5’11”, 180 lbs.) was a second-team all-AAC selection after last season, his first for his hometown Bulls; Sails had previously appeared in 19 games for North Carolina (with 14 starts). The senior cornerback intercepted three passes and recovered two fumbles last year for USF. Sails also served as South Florida’s main punt returner.

USF’s other starting corner will be Mike Hampton (6’1″, 190 lbs.), a fifth-year graduate student from Tampa who was an honorable mention all-AAC pick in 2018. Hampton (who is not related to the former major league pitcher with the same name) had 50 tackles last season.

Other defensive backs who will probably factor into the Bulls’ plans this year include junior free safety Nick Roberts (5’11”, 190 lbs.), a Jacksonville product who started 11 games last season; sophomore Daquan Evans (5’11”, 185 lbs.), an Orlando native who saw action in all 12 contests for the Bulls in 2019; and Mekhi LaPointe (6’2″, 200 lbs.), a junior from Seffner, Florida who had 14 tackles in nine games last year.

As expected, the sophisticated pro-style attack of former offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell has been supplanted by wunderkind Charlie Weis Jr.’s brisk, modernized system…Weis’ FAU offense ranked 14th nationally in scoring (36.4 ppg) and averaged 5.96 yards per play in 2019.

“…I’ll say this (offense) is a mixture between a Clemson-Alabama, Lane Kiffin-type of offense, and Coach Bell was more of a pro-style type of deal,” quarterback Jordan McCloud said.

“This is like, go fast, we’re trying to score every play, tempo, lot of plays throughout the game.”

McCloud (6’0″, 193 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Tampa, was South Florida’s starting quarterback last season. This year, however, he’s part of a three-way competition to be the primary signal-caller, and Jeff Scott is in no hurry to name QB1:

Even as USF’s preseason winds down, its three-player quarterback derby is just getting wound up.

Coach Jeff Scott has said more than once his goal is to know his starting quarterback when the Bulls board the plane for their Oct. 3 game at Cincinnati, which kicks off their American Athletic Conference schedule.

That timetable affords Scott and his staff three non-league games in which to evaluate Jordan McCloud, Cade Fortin and Noah Johnson. Scott’s history indicates the staff will utilize all three contests.

Cade Fortin (6’3″, 222 lbs.) played for one season at UNC before transferring. The native of Suwanee, Georgia was rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN in high school.

The other QB contender, Noah Johnson (6’0″, 198 lbs.) is a graduate transfer from Alcorn State. Johnson was the 2018 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year for the Braves, a year in which he passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000.

In 2019, Johnson hurt his shoulder and only played in three games. Nevertheless, he had 23 career starts for Alcorn State, one of the better programs in the SWAC. As a dual-threat option, the Tampa resident is arguably the most intriguing of USF’s three quarterback candidates. He is also wearing jersey number “0”, which could add to his mystique.

USF has several running backs that it can feature. Almost all of them are of the “small but explosive” variety.

Kelley Joiner (5’9″, 179 lbs.) is a sophomore from Clermont, Florida who started the Bulls’ final two games last season. He had 122 yards rushing versus a good Memphis team. Joiner averaged 5.1 yards per carry for the year, and also showed an ability to catch the ball (including a 49-yard reception against Cincinnati).

Darrian Felix (5’11”, 184 lbs.) transferred to USF from Oregon. The Ft. Myers resident played in seven games for the Ducks in 2019.

Another back who could run for the Bulls is Johnny Ford (5’5″, 172 lbs.). Ford redshirted last season after starting three games at slot receiver.

As a freshman in 2018, however, [Howard Cosell voice] the diminutive one [/Cosell] rushed for 787 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry (and had nine total TDs).

Although a walk-on (albeit one who had FBS offers from other schools), freshman Yasias Young (5’9″, 178 lbs.), a speedster from Ft. Myers, could also see time in the backfield. He has apparently had a good camp for the Bulls.

USF has a lot of options at the wide receiver position, including two freshmen from South Carolina. Omarion Dollison (5’9″, 180 lbs.) went to Gray Collegiate Academy in Columbia, while Sincere Brown (6’5″, 175 lbs.) attended First Baptist in Charleston.

Randall St. Felix (6’2″, 206 lbs.) finished second on the team in receptions last year, with 22. The junior from Miami had four 100-yard receiving games in 2018.

Other pass-catchers in the mix include junior slot receiver Bryce Miller (5’10”, 180 lbs.), who started seven games in 2019; Xavier Weaver (6’1″, 170 lbs.), a sophomore from Orlando who appeared in all 12 games for the Bulls last season; Latrell Williams (5’11”, 181 lbs.), a junior transfer from Tennessee.; and Terrence Horne (5’7″, 178 lbs.), who caught two TD passes last year (and who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against Georgia Tech in 2018).

Tight end Mitchell Brinkman (6’4″, 250 lbs.) is a graduate transfer from Northern Illinois. Brinkman had 34 receptions and 3 TDs last year for NIU.

Another tight end for the Bulls, Jacob Mathis (6’4″, 244 lbs.), caught 13 passes for two touchdowns in 2019. Mathis is a senior from Tampa.

The projected starters on USF’s offensive line average 6’4″, 318 lbs.

I am not completely sure the projected starters will actually all start, though. While South Florida returns several experienced linemen, the unit struggled mightily in 2018, and a new coaching staff could make major changes.

Given there are 19 offensive linemen on the roster, the Bulls could employ many different combinations along the o-line.

USF had two players start all twelve games on the offensive line last season. Brad Cecil (6’4″, 300 lbs.) has started 19 consecutive games at center. Demetris Harris (6’3″, 324 lbs.), has 23 career starts at left guard. Both of them are juniors from Jacksonville.

South Florida’s special teams were not special last season, despite having a very good punter. That is because USF was deficient in punt and kickoff coverage, and not strong (Strong?) in returning kicks and punts, either. The placekicking was also subpar (7 for 14 on field goals, with a long of 37 yards).

As mentioned earlier, SP+ ranked the Bulls’ special teams units next-to-last in FBS. That had been a theme during the Charlie Strong regime. USF’s special teams ranked 92nd in SP+ in 2018, and 73rd in 2017.

What is really puzzling is that arguably South Florida’s team strength, at least last season, was its depth in the offensive and defensive backfield, and at linebacker — in other words, the units most likely to provide players for special teams. There should have been plenty of potential kick return and coverage stalwarts on the roster.

This year should mostly be a reset for the special teams, with the exception of punter Trent Schneider (6’0″, 192 lbs.).

Schneider is 30 years old, a former construction worker from Down Under and one of the 923 Australians currently punting in Division I. He is on this year’s Ray Guy Watch List and already holds multiple USF punting records.

There has been a three-way battle for placekicker. I would have bet that Jared Sackett (6’1″, 180 lbs.) got the nod. The two-time Lou Groza award semifinalist is 33 for 41 in his career on FG attempts (with a long of 51 yards). Sackett began his college days at UTEP, switched to Arkansas last season (but sat out as a transfer), and is now at USF.

However, I would have lost that bet, as the job was apparently won by Spencer Shrader (6’2″, 183 lbs.), a sophomore who was 4 for 9 last year on field goal attempts for South Florida (with a long of 34 yards).

Ian Deneen (5’10”, 226 lbs.) has been the Bulls’ long snapper for the past two seasons. As anyone watching Austin Peay’s travails on opening night of the college football season can attest, though, each team better have at least three or four guys who can do the job (especially given the potential for COVID-related problems).

Odds and ends:

– Related to the three newspaper blurbs at the top of this post…

Total number of football games for The Citadel, by year, from 1915 through 1920:

  • 1915: 8
  • 1916: 8
  • 1917: 6
  • 1918: 3
  • 1919: 9
  • 1920: 8

Assuming that there are no changes and that all the games are played, this season will feature the fewest football games played by The Citadel in any fall slate since 1918 (excepting the war years of 1943-45, when the school did not field a team). Indeed, every season since 1957 has included at least 10 contests.

The only other year in which fewer than five games were played occurred in 1906, which of course is one of the two seasons in which The Citadel’s football team has won the national championship (as determined by the TSA Matrix Ratings System, one of the more respected of all national title selectors). A photo of that magnificent squad, which did not allow a single point during the entire gridiron campaign, can be seen here: Link

– According to that first article reprinted above about the 1918 season, the team captain was J.C. [John] Crouch. However, The Citadel’s record book and all other available sources list Alvin Heinsohn as the captain. Heinsohn was an outstanding lineman who was named all-state three times during his career; he is in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Crouch is listed in the record book as having captained the 1919 squad, though. Heinsohn then captained the team again in 1920.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Tampa, per the National Weather Service: showers and thunderstorms likely (70% chance of precipitation during the day, 60% at night), with a high of 92 degrees.

Let’s hope there aren’t any lightning delays.

Per one source that deals in such matters, South Florida is a 20-point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 55 1/2.

Other lines of note this week: Clemson is a 32 1/2 point favorite at Wake Forest; Army is a 19-point favorite over ULM; West Virginia is a 39 1/2 point favorite over Eastern Kentucky; Georgia Southern is a 34 1/2 point favorite over Campbell; Pittsburgh is a 27 1/2 point favorite over Austin Peay; Oklahoma is a 40 1/2 point favorite over Missouri State; Texas Tech is a 37 1/2 point favorite over Houston Baptist; Florida State is a 12 1/2 point favorite over Georgia Tech; Appalachian State is a 17-point favorite over Charlotte; North Carolina is a 22-point favorite over Syracuse; and Kansas is a 6-point favorite over Coastal Carolina.

– Massey Ratings

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 13% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of South Florida 36, The Citadel 17. USF only has two games this season in which it is currently favored by Massey; the other is its contest versus East Carolina (helmed by former Bulldogs coach Mike Houston).

Of the 127 schools in FCS, fifteen will play at least one game in the fall. Massey’s rankings (in FCS) for each of them, as of September 7:

North Dakota State (1st), Central Arkansas (23rd), Missouri State (34th), Austin Peay (45th), The Citadel (46th), Chattanooga (52nd), Jacksonville State (53rd), Abilene Christian (56th), Mercer (65th), Eastern Kentucky, (66th), Stephen F. Austin (70th), Western Carolina (76th), Houston Baptist (81st), North Alabama (89th), Campbell (104th).

– Among FCS teams, Central Arkansas plays the most games in the fall, with nine contests, including 3 FBS games, a road game at North Dakota State, and home-and-home matchups with both Eastern Kentucky and Missouri State.

Eastern Kentucky and Abilene Christian both have eight games. Each will face three FBS opponents.

Stephen F. Austin will play six times, including a matchup with Abilene Christian at the new Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, home of baseball’s Texas Rangers.

Campbell plays four games, all against FBS squads. The Camels will have road games at Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, and Wake Forest.

Seven other FCS schools are playing 3 FBS teams. Earlier I mentioned Central Arkansas, Abilene Christian, and Eastern Kentucky. The Citadel, Houston Baptist, North Alabama, and Stephen F. Austin will join them in the 3-FBS club.

Western Carolina is scheduled to play two games, but won’t begin its season until November 14 at Liberty. Chattanooga joins North Dakota State as the only two FCS schools scheduled to play one single game this fall (the Mocs are at Western Kentucky on October 24).

Army is the FBS school playing the most FCS opponents, with three (Abilene Christian, The Citadel, and Mercer). The Black Knights’ game versus Abilene Christian on October 3 will be the first time the Wildcats have traveled to the east coast for a football game since 1995. There won’t be nearly as long a wait for ACU’s next trip east, as the Wildcats are playing at Virginia on November 21.

Back in 1995, Abilene Christian was a D-2 school, and as it happens, ACU will play two D-2 schools this fall — Angelo State and West Texas A&M (the latter is facing Stephen F. Austin this season, too).

So, to summarize, Abilene Christian is playing three FBS teams, two D-2 squads, one FCS road contest (at Mercer), one NAIA school (Arizona Christian), and a matchup at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark against a conference opponent.

Tangent: despite its D-2 status, West Texas A&M is another program that appears willing to play just about anybody, as the Buffaloes are also playing an NAIA school (Oklahoma Panhandle State), plus a home-and-home versus another D-2 squad (Angelo State), and a school that I had never heard of before (North American University, which doesn’t appear to be affiliated with the NCAA, NAIA, or anything else). West Texas A&M isn’t done yet, either, as it is still seeking more opponents for its fall slate.

There is no doubt that West Texas A&M alums Mercury Morris, Duane Thomas, Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase, Tully Blanchard, Terry Funk, and Tito Santana are all very proud of this schedule. The late great Dusty Rhodes surely would be, too, as (like all of the others mentioned) he played college football for the Buffs.

– Massey’s FBS rankings (as of September 7) for some of the teams actually playing this fall: LSU (1st), Alabama (3rd), Clemson (4th), Georgia (5th), Auburn (6th), Oklahoma (8th), Florida (10th), Notre Dame (12th), Texas (14th), Texas A&M (16th), Mississippi State (19th), Kentucky (25th), South Carolina (30th), Tennessee (33rd), UCF (34th), Navy (38th), Memphis (40th), North Carolina (44th), Cincinnati (47th), Virginia (48th), Wake Forest (49th), Air Force (52nd), Virginia Tech (53rd), Miami [FL] (54th), Florida State (56th), Boston College (61st), Army (67th), Florida Atlantic (68th), Georgia Tech (70th), North Carolina State (73rd), Appalachian State (76th), BYU (78th), Tulsa (81st), Houston (82nd), Marshall (84th), Temple (85th), South Florida (89th), Georgia Southern (96th), East Carolina (106th), FIU (111th), UAB (113rd), Coastal Carolina (119th), UTEP (128th).

There are 130 FBS teams.

– On USF’s radio show, Jeff Scott mentioned that he attended his first college football game at age 2, and that it was at Johnson Hagood Stadium (his father was a graduate assistant at The Citadel at the time). I think he may have been a little younger than that, as the year would have been 1981, when he would have been less than one year old. I’m guessing Jeff Scott’s first game as a spectator (admittedly, a very young one) was the Bulldogs’ 12-3 victory over Western Carolina on September 19 of that year.

– South Florida’s notable alumni include actress/model Lauren Hutton, Hall of Fame baseball manager Tony La Russa, and alleged comedian Gallagher.

– USF’s roster of 112 players (as of September 4) includes 94 players from Florida. Other states represented:  Georgia (5 players), South Carolina (3), Virginia (3), Texas (2), and one each from Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee. As noted earlier, punter Trent Schneider is from Australia.

No member of South Florida’s team is an alumnus of South Carolina’s most fabled pigskin powerhouse, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. The absence of players who have worn the famed maroon and orange will undoubtedly come back to haunt Jeff Scott, who certainly should know better. It really makes you question his long-term prospects in Tampa if he is unable to successfully recruit from the most heralded gridiron factory in the nation.

– 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.

– In the Bulldogs’ 1997 victory over South Florida, cornerback Chris Webb (who had the game-clinching interception) was named the SoCon Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. Defensive tackle Mario Richardson, who had two tackles for loss during the contest, was selected as the league’s Freshman of the Week.

– 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

Matt Campbell, The Citadel’s outstanding punter, was named to the FCS Punter of the Year watchlist put out by the Augusta Sports Council. It should be pointed out that while 22 players are on this watchlist, only three of them are on teams actually competing this fall. The other two are North Alabama’s Joe Gurley and North Dakota State’s Garret Wegner (and NDSU is just playing one game).

I suspect that the Augusta Sports Council may wait until the spring to select the winner of the award.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 3-3 for games played on September 12. The Bulldogs are 1-3 in road contests held on that date. Among the highlights:

  • 1992: The Citadel defeated Wofford, 30-13. The game was the Bulldogs’ home opener, played one week after the team had shocked Arkansas, 10-3. An energized crowd of 20,710 watched as the Bulldogs’ defense forced four turnovers — three interceptions of Shawn Graves (two of which were picked off by Torrence Forney, the third by Lester Smith) and a fumble (recovered by Rob Briggs). On offense, Everette Sands rushed for 117 yards and two TDs, and Cedric Sims and Jack Douglas also found the end zone. Jeff Trinh kicked a 36-yard field goal. One of the louder ovations of the night came when it was announced over the public address system that Arkansas had beaten South Carolina 45-7.
  • 1998: Before a night-time crowd of 10,271 spectators in Spartanburg (including a large gathering of fans wearing light blue and white), Jacob Barley’s nine-yard TD reception from Stanley Myers lifted The Citadel to a 20-14 victory over Wofford. Barley’s touchdown catch came with four seconds to play in the game. Myers also rushed for two scores, while Antonio Smith added 95 yards rushing on 22 carries. Britt Gardner had 14 tackles for the Bulldogs, while Deedrick Reese had 11 stops and Lance Gray 9 (including a sack). Marcus Johnson intercepted a pass for The Citadel.
  • 2015: Dominique Allen rushed for two touchdowns and Evan McField added another as The Citadel whipped Western Carolina, 28-10. Jorian Jordan also scored for The Citadel when he pounced on an Allen fumble in the end zone. Defensively, Dee Delaney had two interceptions, while Mark Thomas recovered a fumble. Mitchell Jeter and Jonathan King both picked up sacks. Malik Diggs led the Bulldogs with nine tackles. On an overcast evening, only 8,048 fans were in attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium to watch the Bulldogs move to 2-0 on the campaign.

An opening game always has a lot of unknowns associated with it. This week, though, there are unknowns on top of unknowns because of the pandemic.

This matchup wasn’t made until August 20. The teams have had 3 1/2 weeks to prepare.

There are no certainties about the rosters. The depth charts, often of questionable veracity in the best of circumstances, may be a complete waste of time.

Heck, even the original start time was changed on the Monday before the game — and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if 7pm Saturday rolls around and the opening kickoff has been delayed.

With all that as a backdrop, it is hard to say how The Citadel will fare against the Bulls. I do like the Bulldogs’ chances. The Citadel has a lot of experience, and those players are certainly not afraid to compete on the field with an FBS team. If anything, they relish it all the more.

I also believe an ability to adapt will be absolutely critical this season. Just by the nature of the inherent challenges faced by a military school, The Citadel may have an advantage on that front.

However, South Florida is a team that, despite its record in the last two years, has a lot of talented players. There is also obvious excitement in the program with a new coaching staff on hand. That has to help USF. It is a fresh start in many ways.

In recent years, USF has been quite solid against FCS opposition, too, including convincing wins over teams like South Carolina State (55-16 last season), Elon, Towson, Stony Brook, and Florida A&M.

You have to go back to 2014 to find a game in which the Bulls had serious trouble with an FCS squad, a 36-31 win over Western Carolina. In 2013, USF lost badly to McNeese State, possibly the nadir for the program over the last decade.

That was Willie Taggart’s first year at South Florida, and came on the heels of a 3-9 campaign the year before. This year, Jeff Scott takes over at USF, following a 4-8 season in 2019. Hmm…

However, sometimes history is just that — history. The Bulldogs and Bulls won’t be thinking about what happened seven years ago when kickoff finally arrives this Saturday.

I’m just glad that there will actually be a kickoff.

Aren’t we all?

Football attendance at The Citadel: a review (including SoCon/FCS/COVID-19 observations)

Another (recent!) post about football at The Citadel:

Once upon a time, The Citadel was known as the Light Brigade

A less-than-recent post about football at The Citadel that I’ll highlight anyway, just because:

Homecoming at The Citadel: from 1924 to the present

This post is (mostly) about home attendance at The Citadel, which is a subject I’ve written about many times over the years. I will delve into the SoCon and national FCS attendance numbers, and I’ll also address the enormous elephant in the room: COVID-19’s affect on this season’s attendance.

First, a spreadsheet:

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2019

The above link is to a spreadsheet that tracks attendance for The Citadel’s home football games, which has now been updated to include the 2019 season. The spreadsheet lists year-by-year totals and average game attendance, and the win/loss record for the Bulldogs (both overall and at Johnson Hagood Stadium). There is also a category ranking the years by average attendance.

Other columns refer to the program’s winning percentage over a two-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year period, with the “current” season being the final year in each category. For example, the three-year winning percentage for 1970 (54.84%) is made up of the 1968, 1969, and 1970 seasons.

I include those categories mainly to see what impact constant winning (or losing) has on long-term attendance trends. While the answer to that question would seem obvious on the surface, it isn’t quite that simple.

In recent years, I have compared average attendance for the first two games of a season to the last two contests of the same campaign. There are definite sample-size issues when making such a comparison — weather, time of opening kickoff, opponent fan base, etc. —  but I’ve decided to keep up with it anyway. (After all, it’s not that hard to copy/paste.)

I’ve added the 2019 numbers, as part of an nine-year stretch:

  • 2011 [4-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 12,756; final two home games, average attendance of 12,387 (including Homecoming)
  • 2012 [7-4 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,281; final two home games, average attendance of 13,715 (including Homecoming)
  • 2013 [5-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,370; final two home games, average attendance of 12,948 (including Homecoming)
  • 2014 [5-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 9,700; final two home games, average attendance of 9,563 (including Homecoming)
  • 2015 [9-4 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,356; final two home games, average attendance of 12,465 (including Homecoming)
  • 2016 [10-2 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,299; final two home games, average attendance of 13,996 (including Homecoming)
  • 2017 [5-6 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,718; final two home games, average attendance of 9,496 (including Homecoming)
  • 2018 [5-6 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 9,559; final two home games, average attendance of 9,511 (including Homecoming and a rescheduled game)
  • 2019 [6-6 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,817; final two home games, average attendance of 9,141 (including Homecoming)

Since 1964, the Bulldogs’ record at Johnson Hagood Stadium is 192-120 (61.5%). The average home attendance over that time period is 13,888. However, there has not been a season in which home attendance averaged more than 13,888 since 2006.

As many of those reading reading this are aware, the current stadium capacity is less than 12,000, due to the demolition of the East stands in the spring of 2017. Because of this, The Citadel cannot expect to see an increase in attendance to the levels of the early part of this century anytime soon (to say nothing of the attendance figures for the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s).

Of course, with the specter of COVID-19 looming over the 2020 campaign, the number of available seats at Johnson Hagood Stadium may not be quite as relevant this season.

Last year’s average home attendance of 9,344 was exactly one person per game higher than in 2018. It was the third-lowest average for any season since attendance figures at Johnson Hagood Stadium can be accurately determined. Over the previous 55 years, only one season featured lower home attendance — 2017. Thus, the three lowest average attendance figures since 1964 have occurred over the last three seasons.

A note that is worth mentioning every year: the cutoff for accuracy in attendance numbers means years like 1959 (eight wins), 1960 (Tangerine Bowl victory), and 1961 (SoCon title) cannot be included for comparison in this review, not to mention any of the other years from 1948, when the most recent iteration of Johnson Hagood Stadium opened, through the 1963 season. I am not particularly confident in any season attendance figures prior to 1964. (As for the attendance figures that are listed post-1964, well, I’m rolling with them — but as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.)

The largest home attendance at any pre-1964 contest was almost certainly for the Homecoming game against Clemson in 1948, when an estimated 16,000 fans were present for the dedication of the “new” Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The top average attendance marks at JHS over two-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year periods:

  • Two years: 1975-76 (18,250). Rest of the top five: 1991-92, 1979-80, 1990-91, 1989-90
  • Three years: 1990-92 (17,457). Rest of the top five: 1989-91, 1978-80, 1991-93, 1975-77
  • Five years: 1988-92 (17,126). Rest of the top five: 1989-93, 1975-79, 1976-80, 1990-94
  • Ten years: 1975-84 (16,250). Rest of the top five: 1983-92, 1974-83, 1976-85, 1984-93

Average attendance by decade:

  • 1964-69: 11,998
  • 1970-79: 15,053
  • 1980-89: 15,398
  • 1990-99: 14,955
  • 2000-09: 13,850
  • 2010-19: 11,147

As for FCS attendance in 2019:

School G Total Att. Avg. Rank
Jackson State 5 168,808 33,762 1
Montana 7 157,812 22,545 2
James Madison 9 162,974 18,108 3
Alabama State 5 88,997 17,799 4
North Dakota State 9 156,962 17,440 5
Montana State 8 138,246 17,281 6
Southern University 4 67,826 16,957 7
North Carolina A&T 5 84,633 16,927 8
Jacksonville State 7 117,800 16,829 9
Florida A&M 6 99,223 16,537 10
Delaware 7 99,926 14,275 11
Alcorn State 7 92,373 13,196 12
Yale 6 72,796 12,133 13
Youngstown State 7 84,150 12,021 14
Norfolk State 5 56,480 11,296 15
South Dakota State 8 87,764 10,971 16
Sacramento State 7 76,651 10,950 17
McNeese State 6 65,266 10,878 18
Harvard 5 54,060 10,812 19
Grambling State 3 31,188 10,396 20
South Carolina State 6 62,035 10,339 21
New Hampshire 5 50,527 10,105 22
North Alabama 5 47,738 9,548 23
UC Davis 5 47,502 9,500 24
Mercer 6 56,437 9,406 25
The Citadel 6 56,066 9,344 26
Illinois State 6 55,454 9,242 27
Texas Southern 4 36,814 9,204 28
Western Carolina 6 52,814 8,802 29
Tennessee State 6 52,723 8,787 30
Willliam and Mary 6 51,730 8,622 31
East Tennessee State 6 51,152 8,525 32
Northern Iowa 7 59,023 8,432 33
Penn 5 42,134 8,427 34
Holy Cross 5 42,067 8,413 35
Eastern Washington 5 41,833 8,367 36
North Dakota 6 50,040 8,340 37
Stephen F. Austin 4 33,294 8,324 38
Eastern Kentucky 5 41,568 8,314 39
Alabama A&M 4 32,527 8,132 40
Central Arkansas 6 47,652 7,942 41
Abilene Christian 6 47,291 7,882 42
Chattanooga 6 46,603 7,767 43
Richmond 6 45,205 7,534 44
Weber State 8 59,506 7,438 45
Stony Brook 7 51,214 7,316 46
Elon 5 36,209 7,242 47
Murray State 6 43,402 7,234 48
Princeton 5 36,125 7,225 49
Hampton 6 43,309 7,218 50
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 6 43,143 7,191 51
Lamar 6 43,037 7,173 52
Idaho 6 41,312 6,885 53
Nicholls State 6 41,221 6,870 54
Austin Peay 7 47,461 6,780 55
Lehigh 5 33,540 6,708 56
Tennessee Tech 6 40,203 6,701 57
Bethune-Cookman 3 19,981 6,660 58
Northwestern State 5 33,122 6,624 59
Northern Arizona 6 39,441 6,574 60
Cal Poly 5 32,815 6,563 61
Southeastern Louisiana 6 39,184 6,531 62
Towson 6 38,872 6,479 63
Southern Illinois 5 32,279 6,456 64
Missouri State 5 32,248 6,450 65
Maine 5 31,891 6,378 66
Prairie View A&M 5 31,820 6,364 67
North Carolina Central 5 31,674 6,335 68
Idaho State 5 30,645 6,129 69
Villanova 6 36,020 6,003 70
Furman 6 35,883 5,981 71
Kennesaw State 6 35,686 5,948 72
Rhode Island 5 29,432 5,886 73
Morehead State 6 33,969 5,662 74
Dartmouth 4 22,384 5,596 75
Campbell 6 32,403 5,401 76
Columbia 5 26,881 5,376 77
South Dakota 6 30,225 5,038 78
Indiana State 7 35,222 5,032 79
Eastern Illinois 5 24,413 4,883 80
Sam Houston State 6 29,267 4,878 81
Morgan State 5 24,074 4,815 82
Southern Utah 5 23,985 4,797 83
Lafayette 5 23,321 4,664 84
Northern Colorado 5 22,871 4,574 85
Mississippi Valley State 6 26,493 4,416 86
Samford 5 21,983 4,397 87
Southeast Missouri State 7 30,264 4,323 88
Wofford 6 25,867 4,311 89
Cornell 5 21,475 4,295 90
VMI 6 24,127 4,021 91
Portland State 6 23,995 3,999 92
Davidson 7 27,025 3,861 93
Albany (NY) 7 26,808 3,830 94
Howard 4 15,317 3,829 95
Central Connecticut State 5 18,974 3,795 96
Brown 5 18,946 3,789 97
Sacred Heart 5 18,194 3,639 98
Charleston Southern 5 17,762 3,552 99
Colgate 5 17,755 3,551 100
Fordham 5 17,042 3,408 101
Incarnate Word 6 19,643 3,274 102
Butler 6 19,593 3,266 103
Gardner-Webb 5 16,226 3,245 104
UT Martin 5 15,569 3,114 105
Monmouth 7 19,463 2,780 106
Bucknell 5 13,751 2,750 107
Dayton 5 13,702 2,740 108
Western Illinois 6 15,922 2,654 109
LIU 3 7,515 2,505 110
Houston Baptist 6 13,932 2,322 111
Drake 5 11,160 2,232 112
Bryant 6 12,916 2,153 113
San Diego 6 12,574 2,096 114
Wagner 6 12,447 2,075 115
Valparaiso 6 12,340 2,057 116
Georgetown 5 9,803 1,961 117
Marist 6 11,317 1,886 118
Duquesne 5 9,286 1,857 119
Jacksonville 6 10,842 1,807 120
Robert Morris 6 10,664 1,777 121
Presbyterian 7 11,810 1,687 122
Stetson 7 11,093 1,585 123
Delaware State 7 10,596 1,514 124
Saint Francis (PA) 5 7,208 1,442 125

Notes on the above table:

– I included North Alabama, technically a “transitioning” school last year, but one that played a full Division I schedule.

– Average home game attendance for FCS schools declined last season, from 7,325 in 2018 to 7,296 in 2019.

– The Citadel ranked 26th out of 124 FCS schools, and second in the Southern Conference (behind Mercer). Despite the lack of permanent seating on the east side of the stadium, the program finished in the top 30 of FCS in attendance for the thirteenth time in the last fourteen years.

– Jackson State led FCS in attendance, as it did in 2018. Attendance for the Tigers’ five home games at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium ranged from 26,341 (a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff) to 40,085 (versus Southern).

JSU’s home attendance was higher than that of 67 FBS teams, including six P5 schools. Five FBS conferences (AAC, C-USA, MWC, Sun Belt, MAC) had lower average per-school attendance figures.

– Montana and James Madison joined Jackson State in averaging more than 18,000 fans per home game. Four FCS schools accomplished that feat in 2018; seven did so in 2017.

– Furman’s average home attendance over the last four years: 5,771 (2016); 7,775 (2017); 6,139 (2018); 5,981 (2019). That is not a promising trend, though the Paladins did outdraw Wofford for the second consecutive season.

– South Carolina State’s average home attendance over the last four years: 10,148 (2016); 11,883 (2017), 9,174 (2018); 10,339 (2019). Buddy Pough is doing his best to keep things on an even keel in Orangeburg.

– Charleston Southern’s home attendance improved year-over-year from 1,764 (2018) to 3,552 (2019). The Buccaneers were helped on the attendance front by hosting North Carolina A&T and its estimable fan base (5,112 for that game), but CSU had significantly better per-game numbers last season even when taking the Aggies’ supporters into account.

– Morehouse College topped Division II in home attendance, averaging 10,924 fans per game. The top four Division II schools in home attendance were Morehouse, Grand Valley State, Tarleton State (which is now transitioning to FCS), and Tuskegee. All four of them outdrew Northern Illinois, an FBS school; the Huskies only averaged 8,518 per home contest.

Those Tuesday night MAC games are not designed with home attendance in mind. For example, NIU managed to attract 3,568 fans on a rainy Tuesday night versus Western Michigan.

– Other D-2 home attendance averages of interest: Benedict (5,024); Newberry (2,933); North Greenville (3,228); Lenoir-Rhyne (4,769); Chowan (2,320); Catawba (2,140); Carson-Newman (3,441); Valdosta State (4,992); Mars Hill (3,152); Shorter (1,132).

The SoCon’s average attendance fell below 7,000 per game, the first time that had happened this century, and almost certainly the first time the conference had fallen below that number in several decades.

Among FCS leagues, only the MVFC had a larger dropoff in attendance from 2018 to 2019.

Average home attendance for SoCon teams (all games):

  • 2014: 8,204
  • 2015: 8,210
  • 2016: 8,386
  • 2017: 7,827
  • 2018: 7,611
  • 2019: 6,998

2019 home attendance by school, SoCon:

Team Games Total att. Average Nat’l rank
Mercer 6 56,437 9,406 25
The Citadel 6 56,066 9,344 26
WCU 6 52,814 8,802 29
ETSU 6 51,152 8,525 32
Chattanooga 6 46,603 7,767 43
Furman 6 35,883 5,981 71
Samford 5 21,983 4,397 87
Wofford 6 25,867 4,311 89
VMI 6 24,127 4,021 91

I have to note here that not everyone trusts the home attendance numbers released by Mercer. Of course, you could say that for a lot of schools (possibly most of them), but the Bears’ figures in particular have been questioned in recent years by opposing fans and neutral observers alike.

Chattanooga was the median for the conference in terms of home attendance, finishing 5th in the SoCon with 7,767 fans per game. There was a significant difference between 5th-place UTC and 6th-place Furman (5,981), and almost as big a differential between Furman and 7th-place Samford (4,391).

In 2018, the SoCon finished 6th out of 13 FCS conferences in home attendance; last year, the league finished 8th out of 13.

In terms of attendance by league games only — in other words, not counting any non-conference home games (regular or post-season) played by SoCon teams — the average attendance in 2019 was 6,889, a decline of 808 fans per contest from 2018 (there had been a smaller decline in 2017 as well).

Four of thirty-six conference games were attended by more than 10,000 people (there were eight such contests the year before). The Citadel hosted two of those four games (versus VMI and Mercer); the other two matchups were Wofford at Mercer, and Mercer at Western Carolina.

Average home attendance, league games only:

  • The Citadel: 9,608
  • Western  Carolina: 8,433 (a decline of over 1,700 fans per home league contest)
  • Mercer: 8,421 (a decline of almost 1,300 fans per home league contest, with just 5,714 on hand for a game against VMI)
  • East Tennessee State: 8,296
  • Chattanooga: 7,388 (a decline of almost 1,300 fans per home league contest, though all four home games had attendance of greater than 7,000)
  • Furman: 6,632 (an increase of almost 500 fans per home league contest)
  • Wofford: 5,024 (a decline of over 1,700 per home league contest, with a low of 3,463 versus Samford)
  • VMI: 4,186
  • Samford: 4,012 (a decline of over 1,400 fans per home league contest)

Some notes related to this category:

– Mercer had two non-conference home games last season, playing Austin Peay and Campbell at Five Star Stadium. The listed attendance for both games exceeded 11,000.

– Conversely, Furman’s home attendance was hurt by its season finale versus Point (just 3,432 in the stands for that one). The Paladins didn’t really get much out of playing Charleston Southern in its opener, either (6,146, which was a lower total than three of its four league home games).

– Samford only drew 1,521 fans for its game against East Tennessee State. The conditions were not ideal (rain), but that still seems like a serious outlier.

– In 2019 conference play, more people attended games played by Mercer than any other school. In eight games (four home, four away), the Bears competed before a total of 70,456 fans, an average of 8,818 per contest. The Citadel was the second-most watched team, followed by Western Carolina.

Least-watched team: Samford, with Wofford second from the bottom.

All of that is in the past. What is in the future?

Unfortunately, right now the same thing that is in the present: a world in which daily life is impacted by COVID-19.

No one knows how long that will continue. Another thing that is still an unknown, as I write this in mid-June, is how the omnipresence of the virus will affect the 2020 football season.

While most states seem to be gradually moving toward a “new normal”, there are major concerns about the ability for large groups of people to safely gather this fall. We’ve already seen some cautionary tales, including the University of Houston’s announcement that six of its returning football players tested positive for COVID-19 (and were all symptomatic).

The city of Houston has become a virus “hotspot”, and Texas is one of a number of states experiencing rising numbers of COVID-19 cases as late spring turns to early summer. Another one of those states: South Carolina.

That has led to discussions about limiting the number of fans in attendance. In an article about this issue, The Citadel’s director of athletics, Mike Capaccio, explained:

One model among several that The Citadel has been studying is to have about 3,000 to 4,000 spectators in the stands for home games at Johnson Hagood Stadium, which seats about 11,500 in its current configuration. The Citadel averaged 9,344 fans for six home games last year.

But that’s just one possibility, Capaccio said during the meeting.

“We’ve been looking at a lot of different models, obviously,” he said. “But there is one that we are looking at where we would have three to four thousand people at the game, possibly. We are hoping for a lot more, to be back to normal by that point.

“But say that happens. You have a couple of thousand cadets to start with, and then family members and so forth. And then, how do you handle club seats and things like that? There are really some unknowns that we have, and that’s all across the board in college athletics.”

The next couple of months are going to be very difficult, as administrators determine just what they are going to be able to do, and how they are going to do it. There is still uncertainty about whether or not college football’s collective schedule will begin — or end — as planned.

I would very much like to see a normal college football season, one that includes attending home and away games. At this point, however, I tend to think that won’t happen.

I really hope I’m wrong about that.

The tantalizingly brief charge of The Citadel’s Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, 1854

A movement has been inaugurated at The Citadel for the adoption of “Light Brigade” as the appellation designating Citadel sports teams, and the name does not appear a misnomer. Light is the word for the football teams and brigade possesses a military ring that well befits the gun-toting boys on the banks of the Ashley. The whole has a jaunty swing like the name of a movie or a new song. Light Brigade, Light Brigade. It reads good. Clicks off well on the typewriter.

James Harper Jr., The News and Courier, November 22, 1937

Traditions are never started. They exist and grow strong long before anyone discovers them.

– Rev. John W. Cavanaugh, former President of the University of Notre Dame, quoted in ‘The Dome’ yearbook,1924

 

The Citadel’s varsity athletic teams have been called ‘Bulldogs’ for a very long time. The nickname’s origin is slightly obscure, but a quote by former athlete and coach C.F. Myers has been repeated in various school publications for decades:

When The Citadel started playing football [in 1905], we didn’t have real good teams. But the guys played hard and showed a lot of tenacity…like a Bulldog. The local paper started calling us Bulldogs and then the school picked it up.

The ‘Bulldogs’ moniker quickly took hold following the founding of the football program. There are references to the team by that nickname in The News and Courier dating back to 1908; it was likely used for the squad even earlier than that.

All was well and good, and everyone was seemingly satisfied with The Citadel’s teams being called Bulldogs, until an enterprising young sports publicist from North Carolina State had an idea…

His name was Fred Dixon, and besides the work he did for his alma mater, he found time to be a scoutmaster, president of the Raleigh Junior Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Raleigh Jaycees. He also co-owned a local insurance company.

In October of 1937 Dixon was looking for an angle for N.C. State’s upcoming conference football game with The Citadel — the first meeting on the gridiron between the two schools. He apparently found inspiration in the words of Lord Tennyson.

Here is Dixon’s game preview article (headlined “N.C. State to Face ‘Charge of Light Brigade’ Saturday”):

Tennyson’s immortal poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” may have more meaning for the Wolves of State College after their battle here next Saturday with The Citadel Bulldogs in Riddick Stadium.

The Citadel, a military school, has a brigade of football players which is one of the lightest yet most powerful the Charleston institution has developed.

Star of the backfield is Kooksie Robinson, who weighs 134 pounds and who is just five feet seven inches tall. Because of his diminutiveness, Robinson can get through holes that larger backs could only hope to get their heads through. He is believed to be the smallest first string halfback in the nation. Robinson is also one of the fastest members of The Citadel eleven.

Citadel has a comparatively light line from end to end and is light in the backfield, but it is a brigade of hard charging, hard running, speedy and elusive players. State’s Wolves probably will not face as much speed and fight this fall as they will when Citadel’s “Light Brigade” charges into them next Saturday.

The game comes as a feature Southern Conference battle of the week. It was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but for fear that the weather would be too cold for a night game, athletic officials of the schools had the game switched to the afternoon.

As a special feature at the half, Citadel’s famous drill platoon of 90 cadets will parade on the playing field and will go through intricate company maneuvers without commands from any officer or member of the company.

The company is said to be one of the best drilled in the nation and will be unlike anything ever seen in this state before. Officers of the R.O.T.C. staff at State have seen the company in action and are high in their praise of it.

The game will be as colorful as the autumn woods. It is the first time Citadel has appeared on a State college schedule and a large crowd is expected to be on hand to see what the “Light Brigade” will be able to do to State’s Wolfpack.

 

Dixon may have been a fan of the poem, but it is also true that The Charge of the Light Brigade was a very popular film which had been released just the year before. It is thus conceivable that Errol Flynn was an influence on his “Light Brigade” theme (to say nothing of Olivia de Havilland and Nigel Bruce).

In the actual on-field matchup, The Citadel wound up with a sizable advantage in total offensive yardage, but was bedeviled by turnovers and lost, 26-14, before an estimated crowd of 7,000 fans.

Tangent #1: the game story printed in The News and Courier was written by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., who was then working for the AP out of its Raleigh bureau. Later, Gilbreth co-wrote two bestselling books that were made into movies (including Cheaper By The Dozen, which has been filmed twice). He eventually relocated to Charleston permanently, and for many years wrote a widely quoted column in the N&C using the pen name Ashley Cooper.

It didn’t take long for several people, residing both inside and outside the gates of the military college, to decide that “Light Brigade” would be an ideal nickname for The Citadel, much more so than “Bulldogs”. Just two weeks after the contest in Raleigh, James Harper Jr. penned a column outlining the advantages of the new designation, the first few sentences of which are quoted at the beginning of this post.

Harper was ready for a change, claiming that with the Bulldog nickname, the “first thing you think of is rabies and the Health Department.”

The column also included comments from an article written in the student newspaper, which was then called The Bull Dog (it would somewhat ironically undergo a name change to The Brigadier in 1954).

According to cadet J.G. Morton:

…The Citadel footballers have become known as the “Light Brigade”. It is strange that no one has conceived of this idea before. Light Brigade — how well it fits the Citadel eleven! With due respect to tradition, Light Brigade has much more of an implication than Bulldogs.

Again the subject of originality arises. There are high school and college teams all over the United States known as the Bulldogs…Distinction is something vital to greatness in an institution.

Morton went on to name several schools with particularly distinctive nicknames, including Wake Forest’s Demon Deacons, Nebraska’s Cornhuskers, Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish, Washington and Lee’s Generals, and Erskine’s Seceders.

(Of course, by 1937 Erskine was no longer known as the Seceders, having changed its nickname to “Flying Fleet” back in 1930, but news travels slowly out of Due West.)

The cadet summed up his feelings on the subject by stating that “Light Brigade, both military and distinctive, seems to fit The Citadel like the proverbial glove…This columnist favors the retention and official adoption of ‘Light Brigade’ as the term to designate the stalwart and stubborn little teams of The Citadel. A galloping cavalryman, saber extended, charging to the fracas, would look mighty attractive and most distinctive on Citadel stickers.”

By early 1938, it was apparent that Morton was going to get his wish. On March 1, a column by The News and Courier‘s Russell Rogers included the tidbit that Fred Dixon was “proud to learn that the locals were planning to adopt his nickname for the team officially”.

On September 10 of that year, The News and Courier‘s new sports editor, R.M. Hitt Jr., noted in his weekly column that “Citadel authorities have abandoned the name of ‘Bulldogs’ in favor of ‘Light Brigade’ when referring to the football team. In the 1938 Blue Book of College Athletics, ‘Light Brigade’ is the only nickname given for Citadel teams.”

Hitt wasn’t so sure going with “Light Brigade” exclusively was a great idea:

Personally, we like Light Brigade but we don’t believe we would abandon Bulldogs entirely. Light Brigade doesn’t fit too well in snappy cheers and Bulldog does…We like Bulldogs for the cheering section and we like Light Brigade for the writers. There’s no reason why The Citadel doesn’t use both. After all, Furman’s teams are Purple Hurricanes and Purple Paladins.

Clearly, the switch had the support of more than just a few random students and journalists. It certainly had the backing of important administrators at The Citadel, presumably including David S. McAlister, then just a few years into his long career as the Director of Student Activities for the military college. It is also easy to see how the new nickname could have had a personal appeal for the school president, Gen. Charles P. Summerall, who among other things was an advocate of maintaining a peacetime cavalry corps.

Newspaper headlines started to incorporate the new nickname. Just a sampling from 1938 and 1939:

  • “Citadel Light Brigade Opens Season Against Davidson Here Tonight”
  • “Citadel Light Brigade Rolls Past Scrappy Wofford Terriers, 27-0”
  • “Citadel Brigade Prepares For Final Game Of Season”
  • “Light Brigade Leaves Today for Wilmington – Will Play Tomorrow”
  • “Bantams and Brigadiers To Perform Here This Week-end”
  • “Brigadiers To Battle Blue Hose Warriors Here Tonight”

Those are fairly typical. (The “Bantams” referred to the High School of Charleston.)

In a bit of a surprise, local newspaper writers rarely used “Light Brigade” as an excuse to wallow in florid prose. Much of the time, “Bulldogs” could have been substituted for “Light Brigade” in the various previews and stories about the football team without having any effect on the descriptions contained in the game accounts or the ancillary articles.

There were intermittent references to “Brigadiers” (as seen in a couple of the headlines noted above), but not as many as one might expect.

While most prominently employed for football, the nickname was used by The News and Courier for all of The Citadel’s varsity sports. For example, it occasionally appeared in descriptions of the boxing team (“Light Brigade Mittmen to Meet North Carolina”) and the hoops squad (including at least one reference as late as 1943).

Meanwhile, a new fight song, “The Fighting Light Brigade”, made its debut at The Citadel. This song first appeared in The Guidon in 1939:

We’re here cheering loudly, as the Brigadiers parade.
Bucks, we claim you proudly as THE FIGHTING LIGHT BRIGADE!
March on, ye valiant warriors; your courage shall not fade;
As we yell, we yell like hell for you, THE FIGHTING LIGHT BRIGADE!

 

“The Fighting Light Brigade” remained a staple in The Guidon‘s listing of school fight songs until 1968, when it disappeared from that publication. However, the tune made its triumphant return to the book in 1993, and is today one of five more or less “official” fight songs at The Citadel, even though it was inspired by a team nickname that has not been in use for almost 80 years.

In 1940, another song with lyrics referencing the Light Brigade made an appearance in The Guidon. This was “Cheer, Boys, Cheer”, not to be confused with the popular 19th-century song featuring that exact title (or yet another, unrelated fight song at The Citadel by that same name from the 1920s).

The 1940s-era “Cheers, Boys, Cheer” featured lyrics by Erroll Hay Colcock and music by Carl Metz (who served as The Citadel’s band director from 1912 to 1943). However, “Cheer, Boys, Cheer” evidently did not have the staying power of “The Fighting Light Brigade”, as its last appearance in The Guidon came in 1946.

Incidentally, Colcock and Metz teamed up to write several musical numbers for the school during this period, one of which (“The Citadel Forever”), like “The Fighting Light Brigade”, enjoys a place on the college’s list of official fight songs.

Tangent #2: if the name ‘Colcock’ sounds familiar, Erroll Hay Colcock was related to Richard W. Colcock, Superintendent of the South Carolina Military Academy (now known as The Citadel) from 1844 to 1852. He was her great-grandfather’s brother. Erroll Hay Colcock’s father was the principal of Porter Military Academy for many years.

Despite the push for the new nickname from the school, and the willingness of the press to go along with it, there was clearly always resistance to the change. Primary evidence for this comes from a noticeably long column by R.M. Hitt, Jr. in the October 15, 1939 edition of the local newspaper.

Hitt began his column (amusingly called “Hitt’s Runs and Errors”) by noting the dismay of Teddy Weeks over the switch. Weeks was a well-known former football and basketball star at The Citadel, an all-state performer for three consecutive years in both sports, and a hero of The Citadel’s first Homecoming game in 1924.

Later, he was a prominent coach in the Lowcountry at the high school level. (Weeks’ older brother was also an all-state quarterback at The Citadel; his son, Teddy Jr., played basketball at the military college for Norm Sloan.)

The sports editor quoted from a letter Weeks had written to him:

As you know, the Citadel teams have always been called the Bulldogs for as long as can be remembered. And they have been known for their ferocious attack, fighting always, never conceding defeat until the end.

I would like to suggest and I believe that I am voicing the sentiments of all the old Bulldog graduates…that you drop the term ‘Light Brigade’ and put back the old term of Bulldogs. In doing this I believe you might revamp the present team and put more vim, vigor and the will to do or die for the team and more spirit in the alumni.

Hitt then wrote 19 more paragraphs on the issue, one of the longer opinion columns on a single topic I can remember in the sports section of The News and Courier. It was particularly unusual for its length when considering the fact that it did not concern an actual game.

His initial comments following Weeks’ plea were as follows:

So there you are, Citadel men. After all, it’s your football team…it belongs to Citadel cadets and Citadel alumni.

It seems to us that if Citadel men want their team to be called Bulldogs it ought to be called Bulldogs. It certainly wouldn’t make much difference to us. In fact, Bulldogs can be more easily fitted into a headline that Light Brigade in many cases.

Hitt pointed out that there were arguments in favor of “Light Brigade”, observing that it was unique in a way that “Bulldogs” was not. He listed numerous other schools that shared the old nickname, including Arizona State (which changed its moniker from Bulldogs to Sun Devils in 1946).

The columnist wrote that school officials “decided the term was a trifle on the hackneyed side but they probably wouldn’t have touched it” if not for Fred Dixon’s efforts.

At that point, stated Hitt, “the phrase [Light Brigade] caught on. It carried the same atmosphere of grim determination, of fight to the death, and it was unique. No other institution had it. Light Brigade also brought in a military angle, an angle of which The Citadel is justly proud.”

However, Hitt then perceptively noted some of the drawbacks of the new nickname:

Use of ‘Light Brigade’ leaves much to be desired. It is not snappy enough and while newspapermen might delight in having the Brigade charge into the jaws of death with cannon on the right of them and cannon on the left of them, the nickname won’t fit very well into a good old salty college yell.

Imagine a wad of cadets screaming with zest such phrases as “Light Brigade! Light Brigade! Rah! Rah! Rah! Bulldogs would fit much easier. In fact Bulldogs does fit much easier.

All the yells in The Citadel’s category, as far as we know, fail to mention even once the term Light Brigade. The cadets, we noticed the other night, were still yelling about Bulldogs, fight, fight, fight.

The fact of the matter is, Light Brigade, because of its almost sacred historical significance, just never would sound right mixed up with rah-rahs and boom-booms.

Hitt finished his column by stating that “we have no authority to change the name back to Bulldogs. That’s up to The Citadel. If they say they’re the Light Brigade, then, by George, we’ll call them the Light Brigade. And if they say they’re not the Light Brigade but are the Bulldogs, then you’ll see us calling them Bulldogs. We ain’t mad at nobody.”

Reading it decades later, it seems to me that one of the more interesting things about Hitt’s column is its impartiality.

Hitt himself had not been a big sports fan, and had only been named the sports editor in the spring of 1938, when the job opened suddenly. Prior to that the native of Bamberg (whose parents had published the local weekly paper there) had worked the city beat for The News and Courier. 

When he was appointed to helm the sports section, he was just 24 years old. Hitt would eventually become the editor of The Evening Post, holding that job for 15 years until dying of complications from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 53.

Oh, and one more thing — Hitt was a 1935 graduate of The Citadel. You would never know it from reading that column.

The controversy, such as it was, limped along over the next couple of years. Over time, it became obvious that “Light Brigade” was not going to gain a following among alumni or the public at large.

One probable reason for this, something subtly alluded to by Teddy Weeks in his letter to the newspaper, was that the school’s teams were not all that successful while called the Light Brigade.

For the four years (1938 – 1941) in which The Citadel’s varsity athletic teams were officially known as the Light Brigade, the football team had a cumulative win/loss record of 17-21-1. The basketball squad was 30-40 over that same four-year period.

In the four years prior to the nickname switch, the football team went 18-18-2, while the hoopsters were 33-31. In other words, the fortunes on the gridiron and on the hardwood declined while The Citadel’s teams were called the Light Brigade.

In 1942, the year after the school reverted back to “Bulldogs”, both the football and basketball teams finished with winning records.

Lack of on-field and on-court success is obviously not the only explanation for why the “Light Brigade” moniker didn’t appeal to many of the school’s fans, but it certainly didn’t help.

In February of 1940, The News and Courier printed a short blurb which seemed to gently mock the nickname situation:

Many Charlestonians have suggested a new nickname for The Citadel’s football team.

The gridmen, instead of being called the Light Brigade, should be called the Bo-Cats.

The head coach is Bo Rowland and the assistant Bo Sherman.

I seriously doubt that many (if any) Charlestonians were making this suggestion, but I suppose it did fill up some blank space in the newspaper.

The death knell for the “Light Brigade” nickname was announced publicly on September 19, 1942. Under the heading “Citadel Nickname Again Bulldogs”, The News and Courier reported:

Citadel’s athletic teams this year again will be called the Bulldogs. For the past several years Blue and White aggregations from the military college have been carrying the nickname “Light Brigade”, but football publicity being churned out this fall shows that the school has returned to its original appellation — Bulldogs.

That wasn’t the end of “Light Brigade” in print, although the term’s usage with regards to The Citadel became increasingly rare.

In 1955, Ed Campbell (then The News and Courier‘s sports editor) used “Light Brigade” while mentioning a 1938 football game. From what I can tell, that was the last time in the 20th century in which the term was used in the local press to describe one of The Citadel’s varsity athletic teams, and even then the context was in reference to the past. The last use of the nickname in the newspaper while chronicling a “current” squad from the military college came in 1951, and that was in an AP article originating from New York.

My personal opinion is that the school eventually got it right. Sure, “Bulldogs” is a common nickname. So what? Over the years, The Citadel has put its own inimitable spin on “Bulldogs”.

Spike The Bulldog is very much unique among anthropomorphic characters, and the establishment of the live mascot program in 2003 has certainly helped differentiate The Citadel’s bulldogs from other collegiate exemplars of the breed (and has also generated a great deal of positive publicity for the college in the process).

More importantly, it is a nickname with which cadets and alumni can identify. It is something very traditional at a school that values tradition.

Conversely, I am not enamored with “Light Brigade” as a school nickname. The most famous light brigade, the one immortalized in poetry by Lord Tennyson, was a British military unit that is best known for:

…a failed military action involving the British light cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. British commander Lord Raglan had intended to send the Light Brigade to prevent the Russians from removing captured guns from overrun Turkish positions, a task for which the light cavalry were well-suited. However, there was miscommunication in the chain of command, and the Light Brigade was instead sent on a frontal assault against a different artillery battery, one well-prepared with excellent fields of defensive fire. The Light Brigade reached the battery under withering direct fire and scattered some of the gunners, but they were forced to retreat immediately, and the assault ended with very high British casualties and no decisive gains.

Is that really what anyone wants as a sobriquet for a football team?

I know, I know…Tennyson’s poem is largely about honoring bravery and sacrifice, no matter the circumstances, and that is very fine and laudable.

Let’s face it, though: players don’t suit up expecting to get badly beaten, and fans don’t go to a game hoping to experience the glory of a six-touchdown defeat.

The suggestion that the Light Brigade appellation has “almost sacred historical significance” also rings true. It is arguably difficult, if not impossible, to fully reconcile the term with a sporting motif.

The move to the “Light Brigade” nickname was a brief and curious episode in the long history of The Citadel, and is now a distant and mostly-forgotten memory. However, the valiant warriors will march on, and their courage shall not fade.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

2019 Football, Game 12: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel vs. Wofford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 12:00 pm ET on November 23, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Matt Dean will handle play-by-play, while Dominique Allen supplies the analysis.

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. 

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Ted Byrne.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

Links of interest:

Preview from The Post and Courier

“Jeff’s Take” from The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

SoCon weekly release

“Gameday Central” on The Citadel’s website

Game preview on Wofford’s website

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (11/18)

– The Dogs:  Episode 12

I’m going to begin this preview by discussing the fact that the corps of cadets will not be in attendance at Saturday’s game. Obviously, that is ridiculous. Other than the 2004 game against Western Carolina, I am unaware of any other regular-season game in the last 50 years at Johnson Hagood Stadium that did not feature the corps.

There are a few people out there (thankfully, just a few) who don’t think this is a big deal. It is absolutely a big deal. The corps of cadets attending home games is a part of the school’s fabric. It is an essential element of the gameday experience, and a very popular one. It is distinctly traditional in all the best ways.

I got angrier and angrier as I read Jeff Hartsell’s article on this topic.

…when the 2019 schedule was released last January, a home game with Wofford was slated for Nov. 23, the day after The Citadel’s furlough was to begin. The Citadel’s “money game” was early in the season — a Sept. 14 game at Georgia Tech that the Bulldogs won by 27-24.

Athletic director Mike Capaccio said he tried to work with the Southern Conference to get the game moved, but it was too late. Geoff Cabe, the SoCon senior associate commissioner, said the league was unaware at that time of any special requests The Citadel might have for scheduling…

…”When we discussed it with the conference office, they said they were not aware of any rule we had,” said Capaccio, who took over for Jim Senter as The Citadel’s AD in August 2018, about six months after Senter left for Texas-El Paso. “They were not aware that if we didn’t have the corps there, we shouldn’t be having a game.

“But the bottom line is, we signed off on it and approved it.”

Requiring the corps to remain on campus until after the game would have been problematic, given travel plans and other arrangements made in advance.

“There was some discussion about it, but it was kind of a non-starter,” Capaccio said. “Obviously, that’s up to other folks on campus. It’s just a bad situation, and the bottom line is that we approved it.”

Sigh…where to start…

– Capaccio has been the AD at The Citadel since August 15, 2018, and was the interim AD as of no later than July 20 of that year. Of course, he had previously been working for The Citadel Development Foundation, as the school went on an eight-month odyssey to find a new director of athletics (paying a search firm $70,000 in the process) just to pick someone who was already on campus.

I don’t know when the SoCon sent the 2019 football schedule to The Citadel for approval. I would be very surprised if it was sent prior to July of 2018. Maybe it was; that isn’t entirely clear. If so, responsibility for its approval would have fallen on either Jim Senter or former interim AD Rob Acunto.

However, it seems unlikely the schedule would have been approved by the college that far in advance, since it wasn’t officially released until January 2019.

Basically, the schedule got rubber-stamped at The Citadel (readers of this post can make up their own minds as to by whom) and sent back to the SoCon office, seemingly without even a cursory check to determine if there was a potential problem. Then the slate was released by The Citadel on January 31, 2019 (though Wofford had already announced its schedule three days earlier).

– I don’t know when someone in the department of athletics noticed there was a conflict between the Wofford game and Thanksgiving furlough. I’m going to assume it was fairly soon after the release, because a number of other observers spotted it immediately.

There was plenty of time to adjust the academic calendar to account for the late-season home game. Instead, no change was made — presumably, based on Capaccio’s comments in the article, a decision (or non-decision) made by the folks in Bond Hall.

Curiously, VMI was faced with a similar situation this season, and evidently changed its calendar to ensure that the Keydets would be in attendance for its home game this Saturday, a rare example of VMI being more proactive and flexible than The Citadel when it comes to something involving varsity athletics.

– Apparently, Capaccio tried to get the game moved to Thursday, November 21. However, Wofford refused to go along with that plan.

Wofford head coach Josh Conklin:

“…one of the things that came up early on in the scheduling was they talked about moving this game to a Thursday. It wasn’t out of disrespect that we didn’t want to move it. For us, it comes down to the preparation. They are such a difficult team to prepare for offensively and defensively, and…it could be such an important game at the end of the year. Those 2 1/2 days of prep [that Wofford would not have]…are really important to us as a program.”

Conklin didn’t mention that in that scenario, The Citadel also would have had 2 1/2 fewer days of preparation. He was just looking for an easy way to explain why the Terriers weren’t going to go along with the switch.

I don’t think anyone should be surprised that Wofford refused to move the game. It was a great break for the Terriers, after all, as what could potentially have been a key road game would be played with reduced attendance on the home side — not just the absence of the cadets, but also the people who go to the games in part because the corps is there.

Wofford is used to playing in front of small home crowds in Spartanburg, so this turn of events worked out perfectly for the Terriers.

While I honestly can’t be too critical of Wofford for its lack of accommodation, clearly The Citadel won’t owe that school anything the next time it asks the military college for a favor. That next time could come sooner rather than later.

– I am more than a little surprised that the conference office did not know about The Citadel’s academic calendar. I suspect the league schedule is built around various “money games” each school plays, understandably so.

That said, The Citadel has not always had a scheduled “money game” for the last week of the season since the formulation of the current extended furlough period. Seasons in which the Bulldogs could have been assigned a home contest for the last game of the regular season (following the 2004 BOV motion referenced in Jeff Hartsell’s story) include 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014.

The Citadel played a road conference game on that Saturday in all of those years. Was this simply an amazingly fortuitous series of coincidences? I have my doubts.

It appears that someone in the league office was at least partly aware of the college’s scheduling concerns. Perhaps there was a loss of organizational knowledge sometime in the last five years.

The bottom line is that this whole episode is embarrassing and totally unacceptable, and it was also completely avoidable — a self-inflicted wound.

Mike Capaccio has now been in charge of the department of athletics for more than 15 months. So far, this debacle appears to be the most noteworthy thing to occur on his watch (whether or not he is actually at fault for it). Regarding his performance in the position to date, Capaccio has work to do when it comes to alleviating the concerns of a significant number of supporters of varsity athletics.

I believe responsibility for this affair, though, also must be shouldered by the school administration, including Gen. Walters. Someone in the administration probably needs to personally apologize to the coaches and players on the football team, especially the seniors. They were let down by the school.

Ultimately, the absence of the corps of cadets from Saturday’s game is simply due to ineptitude; nothing more, nothing less.

This little article has been making the rounds on the internet. I want to briefly comment on it, mainly because I think an opposing point of view is necessary, one which also happens to be the correct point of view.

…each year a football official visits the Laurens County Touchdown and creates the unmistakable impression that the refs are good guys who actually know the rules and what they are doing out there…

…Jack Childress, supervisor of officials in the Southern and South Atlantic conferences, pulled off the same trick Thursday. It turns out Childress, who has worn the white referee’s cap in just about every Southern palace where football games are held, knows more about the rules than everyone, with the possible exception of Bob Strock and King Dixon, at The Ridge.

He likely dissuaded most everyone else who thought he (or she) knew the rules, which, at something called a touchdown club, is just about everyone.

The general impression I get from this story is that Jack Childress is great, his officials are greater, and anyone who thinks otherwise is an unsophisticated rube who should shut up already.

Well, guess what. That isn’t true.

SoCon officials simply aren’t very good. Childress has been the football officiating supervisor for the SoCon since 2011, and things haven’t improved — if anything, they have worsened.

I wish that instead of making appearances on the rubber chicken circuit, Childress would spend more time showing his officials the proper way to spot a football. I’m tired of the Bulldogs having to pick up 11 or 12 yards for a first down instead of 10.

Maybe he could also do something about the inconsistencies surrounding the league’s replay review setup….or perhaps he could tell his officials not to become part of the action, particularly in close games.

The Citadel didn’t lose last week solely because of the officiating, but it was a factor. That is a scenario which has been repeated far too often over the years.

I would encourage the new conference commissioner, Jim Schaus, to fix the problem. Actually acknowledging there is a problem would be a good first step.

The coaches and players (and yes, the fans) of the conference deserve better. A lot better.

Not that I want to spend much time (any time, really) on last week’s game, but just a couple of points.

Brent Thompson definitely should have gone for 2 points after the Bulldogs’ last TD. Afterwards, the coach had this to say:

That did cross my mind there. We double-checked with analytics, and it didn’t say it was necessary. But you have the opportunity to put the ball at the 1½ [because of a dead-ball penalty on the Mocs], and that’s something that’s crossed my mind more than once since the game ended.

In this case, I think the coach needs a one-week refund from the data crunchers. I say that as someone who is a big fan of how Thompson has incorporated analytics into his decision-making process.

However, the touchdown was scored almost midway through the fourth quarter. This isn’t a case of going for it too early (as Chattanooga did in the first half). There weren’t going to be that many more possessions.

It was only the second major decision Thompson has made all season in which I strongly disagreed. (The other was his opting to go for 2 in the game against Charleston Southern, which was more complicated but still, in my opinion, a mistake.)

I also felt that the sequence at the end of the first half was not ideal, though it was a bit tricky. Nevertheless, The Citadel ended the half still holding a timeout. I think the Bulldogs may have left one or two plays on the table.

Wofford has played 10 games this season, and is 7-3 (6-1 in the SoCon). The Terriers have lost to South Carolina State, Samford, and Clemson, but have won 7 straight contests versus FCS opposition.

Every other team in the league scheduled 12 regular season games (including Mercer, which actually added a 12th game against Presbyterian after the season had already started). Wofford has not added a 12th game (when given the opportunity to do so because of the calendar) since the 2002 season, declining four subsequent chances to add another game to its slate.

A quick statistical ranking comparison between the Terriers and Bulldogs (these are FCS national rankings, and they include all games, including those versus FBS teams):

  • Yards per play, offense: Wofford (7th), The Citadel (85th)
  • Yards per play allowed, defense: Wofford (70th), The Citadel (98th)
  • Yards per rush, offense: Wofford (3rd), The Citadel (43rd)
  • Yards per rush allowed, defense: Wofford (77th), The Citadel (84th)
  • Offensive third down conversion rate: Wofford (7th), The Citadel (15th)
  • Defensive third down conversion rate: Wofford (40th), The Citadel (82nd)
  • Net Punting: Wofford (26th), The Citadel (5th)
  • Punt return average: Wofford (2nd), The Citadel (74th)
  • Kickoff return average: Wofford (97th), The Citadel (62nd)
  • Fewest penalties per game: Wofford (46th), The Citadel (T-26th)
  • Time of possession: Wofford (2nd), The Citadel (1st)
  • Turnover margin: Wofford (T-56th), The Citadel (T-76th)
  • Offensive team passing efficiency: Wofford (49th), The Citadel (3rd)
  • Defensive team passing efficiency: Wofford (47th), The Citadel (68th)
  • Scoring offense: Wofford (25th), The Citadel (43rd)
  • Scoring defense: Wofford (T-29th), The Citadel (62nd)
  • Red Zone TD rate, offense: Wofford (15th), The Citadel (22nd)
  • Red Zone TD rate, defense: Wofford (104th), The Citadel (36th)

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: partly sunny, with a high of 73 degrees. The forecast called for rain earlier in the week, but now it is anticipated that the skies will be relatively clear.

Per one source that deals in such matters (as of Thursday afternoon), Wofford is a 6 1/2 point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 55 1/2.

Through eleven games this season, The Citadel is 5-6 ATS. The over has hit just four times, but two of those occasions have come in the last two contests.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 44-point favorite over, uh, Point; Chattanooga is a 9-point favorite at VMI; Western Carolina is a 57-point underdog at Alabama; Samford is a 48 1/2 point underdog at Auburn; Mercer is a 39-point underdog at North Carolina; and East Tennessee State is a 20 1/2 point underdog at Vanderbilt.

– Also of note: Towson is a 9 1/2 point favorite over Elon, and Charleston Southern is a 2 1/2 point favorite over Campbell.

In games between FCS schools, the biggest spread is 31, with Kennesaw State favored over Gardner-Webb.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 43rd in FCS. The Terriers are 24th.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 36% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Wofford 31, The Citadel 26.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest: Northern Iowa is 8th, Towson 12th, Villanova 13th, Maine 18th, Monmouth 21st, Furman 26th, Kennesaw State 31st, Elon 32nd, UT Martin 36th, Florida A&M 38th, Chattanooga 42nd, North Carolin A&T 46th, Holy Cross 49th, South Carolina State 54th, Jacksonville State 57th, Samford 65th, Rhode Island 70th, Colgate 73rd, Duquesne 78th, Campbell 80th, VMI 81st, East Tennessee State 82nd, Charleston Southern 84th, Mercer 85th, Georgetown 93rd, Davidson 100th, Western Carolina 102nd, Gardner-Webb 111th, Merrimack 117th, Presbyterian 125th, and Butler 126th (last).

– Wofford’s notable alumni include sportscaster Wendi Nix, longtime political operative Donald Fowler, and television anchor/reporter Craig Melvin.

– Future FBS opponents for the Terriers include South Carolina (in 2020 and 2022), North Carolina (2021), Virginia Tech (2022), and Clemson (in 2023 and 2027). Wofford also has a home-and-home series scheduled with Kennesaw State in 2021 and 2022.

– Wofford’s roster includes 41 players from the state of South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (16 players), North Carolina (10), Florida (7), Ohio (7), Tennessee (6), Kentucky (5), Alabama (4), and one each from Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia.

Offensive lineman Ronnie Brooks is from Washington, DC.

None of the Terriers are from internationally renowned pigskin power Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This ludicrous failure to recruit any of the fantastic football players who sport the famed maroon and orange will inevitably lead to the Terriers’ demise as a factor on the gridiron.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (53 players), Georgia (29), Florida (8), Texas (5), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Virginia, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In addition, there are two Bulldogs with listed hometowns in other countries — junior tight end Elijah Lowe (Abaco, Bahamas), and freshman linebacker Hayden Williamson (Okinawa, Japan).

– This week’s two-deep for The Citadel is unchanged from last week.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 5-7 for games played on November 23 (note: the 1935 game against Presbyterian listed in the school’s record book as having been played on November 23 was actually played on November 28).

Among the highlights from past contests on November 23:

  • 1923: On a muddy field at the Allendale County Fair, The Citadel defeated Southern College, 18-3. John “Judge” O’Shaughnessy and Norman Holliday were the stars for the Bulldogs. Incidentally, Southern College is now known as Florida Southern; it is a D-2 school that no longer fields a football team.
  • 1940: Before a crowd of 2,500 fans at the original Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel edged Sewanee, 13-7. Marty Gold scored both touchdowns for the Light Brigade, as the football team was occasionally called during this period of time. The defense held Sewanee to only three first downs.
  • 1946: At Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, The Citadel beat Davidson 21-13 before 4,000 spectators. Luke Dunfee, one of the greatest kick returners in school history, returned a kickoff 92 yards for a TD for the Bulldogs, and also threw a TD pass to Gene Foxworth (the only completion for the Bulldogs on the day). Dick Sparks ran for a 16-yard score, and Bill Henderson converted all three PATs.
  • 1974: In front of 13,210 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel whipped Davidson, 56-21. Andrew Johnson rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns (one receiving), finishing the season with 1,373 rushing yards (at the time the SoCon single-season record). Gene Dotson rushed for 148 yards and two TDs, and threw another to Mike Riley (with Dotson breaking his thumb on the TD pass). Backup QB Rod Lanning threw a TD pass to Johnson and rushed for two scores himself, with Mike Bazemore adding a 28-yard touchdown run. Billy Long and Mike Dean had interceptions for the Bulldogs.
  • 1991: In Charleston, a Homecoming crowd of 21,623 watched The Citadel beat Furman, 10-6, in one of the most intense contests ever played at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Jack Douglas scored the game’s only touchdown with 6:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, with the winning drive set up by a Lance Cook fumble recovery, after David Russinko had knocked the ball out of the hands of Furman’s quarterback. Rob Avriett kicked a 33-yard field goal and added the PAT after Douglas’ score. Shannon Walker intercepted a pass to thwart a last-gasp drive by the Paladins.

I hope that our players are ready to play this game. I think they will be, though there are a lot of aspects to Saturday that make things a bit cloudy on the prognostication front (and I’m not talking about the weather).

There is a lot of disappointment surrounding this contest – the fallout from the game against Chattanooga, and the failure of the administration which has led to the absence of the corps of cadets. The team has to put all of that behind it (even if some of its fans cannot), and perform at a high level against a good opponent.

Opportunity is still there for the Bulldogs – a 7-win season, a winning league campaign, and even a small chance at the FCS playoffs. If The Citadel were to win on Saturday, it would have the best résumé for an at-large team among all SoCon teams, including Furman.

I’ll be there on Saturday, along with a bunch of my much rowdier friends. The atmosphere won’t be quite the same as it normally would be at Johnson Hagood Stadium, but perhaps it may be memorable in its own way.

Go Dogs!

2019 Football, Game 11: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

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

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

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. 

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Ted Byrne.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

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

“Jeff’s Take” from The Post and Courier

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

– Game notes from The Citadel and Chattanooga

SoCon weekly release

“Gameday Central” on The Citadel’s website

General information about the game on Chattanooga’s website

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

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

The Dogs:  Episode 11

Media luncheon this week at Chattanooga

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I did the best I could this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things, unfortunately, never seem to change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (53 players), Georgia (29), Florida (8), Texas (5), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Virginia, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In addition, there are two Bulldogs with listed hometowns in other countries — junior tight end Elijah Lowe (Abaco, Bahamas), and freshman linebacker Hayden Williamson (Okinawa, Japan).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Football 2019, Game 10: The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State

The Citadel at East Tennessee State, to be played at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium in Johnson City, Tennessee, with kickoff at 3:30 pm ET on November 2, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and televised on five television stations in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Jared Singleton provides the analysis.

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. 

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Ted Byrne.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

Links of interest:

Preview from The Post and Courier

“Jeff’s Take” from The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and East Tennessee State

SoCon weekly release

“Gameday Central” on The Citadel’s website

Game preview on ETSU’s website

– Brent Thompson’s weekly radio show (10/30)

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (10/28)

The Dogs:  Episode 10

About that Homecoming reunion for the Draytons

ETSU head coach Randy Sanders’ weekly press conference

Sanders tells Buccaneers to keep believing

East Tennessee State hopes for happy Homecoming

Basketball preview article in The Post and Courier 

Charlie Taaffe passes away at age 69

Television stations carrying the football game:

  • WCBD (Charleston)
  • WYCW (Greenville/Spartanburg)
  • WMUB (Macon, GA)
  • WWCW (Roanoke, VA)
  • WJHL (Tri-Cities [TN])

It is possible that the game will be carried on a digital sub-channel on one of the above-mentioned stations, rather than the primary channel itself. Check your local listings if you plan on watching the game on TV.

This preview is a little on the short side. Sorry about that, but A) I’ve been really busy, and B) my computer picked a less-than-ideal time to die.

I just hope the Bulldogs are more functional on Saturday than I am right now.

Also, the next preview (for the Chattanooga game) will be late, possibly being posted on the Friday night before the contest. It will not be very long. Just as The Citadel’s football team has an upcoming break, I’m taking some time off as well.

Okay, back to the present…

This week’s “stats of note” for East Tennessee State are for its five SoCon games. I didn’t include the statistics for the Buccaneers’ games against Appalachian State, Shorter, or Austin Peay.

ETSU Opponents
Points Per Game 16.2 24.6
Rush Attempts (sacks taken out) 138 220
Yards per rush (sacks taken out) 5.45 5.30
Attempts-Completions-Interceptions 155-84-3 147-86-3
Yards/pass attempt (sacks included) 5.10 4.69
Total Plays 304 376
Yards per play 5.26 5.05
Total punts 30 25
Punting Net Average 34.4 38.5
Penalties-Yards 26-271 19-186
Penalty yards per game 54.2 37.2
Time of Possession per game 28:17 31:43
Offensive plays per second 27.91 seconds 25.31 seconds
3rd Down Conversions 17/63 (26.98%) 31/73 (42.47%)
4th Down Conversions 2/5 (40.00%) 5/8 (62.50%)
Fumbles-Lost 6-5 6-2
Sacks-Yards Lost 9-49 11-66
Red Zone: Touchdowns 5/12 (41.67%) 14/21 (66.67%)
Turnover Margin -3 +3
Run play % (sacks are pass plays) 45.39% 58.51%

Random observations based on the above statistics (remember, these are conference numbers only):

– In terms of yardage, ETSU is the second-most penalized team in the league; penalties on special teams have particularly bedeviled the Bucs

– The Buccaneers are not having a lot of fumble luck; losing five out of six fumbles is kind of rough

– ETSU is last in the league in scoring offense

– One reason for that is the Buccaneers are last in offensive third down conversion rate, and by a lot

– East Tennessee State is also the only team in the league with an offensive red zone TD rate under 50%; conversely, The Citadel’s offense has a red zone TD rate of 76%

– The Citadel and ETSU are the bottom two teams in the league in offensive yards per play, but one key difference is the Bulldogs average almost 15 more offensive plays per game

East Tennessee State’s non-conference slate went about as expected. The Bucs lost 42-7 to Appalachian State, whipped Shorter 48-10, and picked up a nice home victory over Austin Peay (20-14).

It was the game in between the victories over Shorter and Austin Peay that arguably set the tone for ETSU’s fortunes (or lack thereof) in SoCon play. VMI came to Johnson City, and in a game delayed by lightning, the Keydets eventually prevailed 31-24 in overtime.

That was not how the Buccaneers wanted to begin the league slate, and things didn’t improve from there. ETSU dropped a tough game at Furman (17-10) and then lost at home to Wofford (35-17, with the Terriers pulling away late).

A week off didn’t change the momentum. On a Thursday night, Chattanooga beat the Bucs 16-13 on a last-minute field goal (after the Mocs had struggled mightily in the kicking game throughout the contest). Last week, Samford edged ETSU 24-17, with a 4th-quarter TD by the Crimson Bulldogs proving to be the winning score.

Both of those games were on the road. Saturday’s game is the first at home for East Tennessee State since October 5.

Some comments from ETSU head football coach Randy Sanders on his radio show this week:

– “We have to be ready to score.” Sanders emphasized the lack of possessions in a game against a triple option team, or as he referred to it, a “three back offense”.

– Sanders on the Bulldogs’ offense: “Whenever you get them to punt on 4th down, you’ve done something good.”

– He was complimentary of The Citadel’s defense, saying that it is “much, much more multiple” under first-year defensive coordinator Tony Grantham. According to Sanders, “you can see as the season has gone on…that they have become more comfortable” in the new system.

– Sanders was also impressed with The Citadel’s kickers. He mentioned that he would like to see ETSU punt returner Malik McGue (a transfer from Army) “shake loose” on a return. McGue (5’8″, 188 lbs.) is averaging a healthy 7.1 yards per return despite only having a long of 19 yards on nine runbacks, which suggests he may indeed be someone The Citadel needs to be very wary of on Saturday.

– Star defensive end Nasir Player (a 6’5″, 271 lb. native of Columbia) was called for targeting against Samford last week, and will miss the first half of the game against the Bulldogs. Sanders was not very happy about the call against the redshirt senior, and said “it’s a shame that a call like that…can truly affect two games.”

– The host of the radio show, ETSU play-by-play man Jay Sandos, had good things to say about The Citadel’s quarterback; alas, he kept calling the Bulldogs’ signal-caller “Bobby Rainey”.

A few thoughts on some ETSU players from Brent Thompson on his radio show:

– East Tennessee State’s leading receiver is a tight end, 6’3″, 226 lb. sophomore Nate Adkins. Thompson stated that Adkins is “the best tight end in the league, by far”.

– Thompson noted the Bucs’ excellent defensive ends, Nasir Player and Jason Maduafokwa (6’3″, 270 lbs.), who like Player is a redshirt senior. He was also impressed with ETSU’s linebacking corps, which is a combination of experienced and young (including two redshirt freshman starters).

– He mentioned that in addition to starting quarterback Trey Mitchell (6’4″, 215 lbs.), ETSU will also use the “wildcat” formation at times.

Last year, ETSU won this matchup 26-23 in Charleston. Running back Quay Holmes (6’1″, 216 lbs.) was largely held in check on the ground, but did hurt the Bulldogs with four receptions out of the backfield.

Free safety Tyree Robinson (5’11”, 184 lbs) intercepted two passes in the game, returning one 42 yards for a TD. Robinson and Holmes were both preseason first team all-SoCon selections this year, along with Player and Maduafokwa.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Johnson City, Tennessee, per the National Weather Service: sunny and a high of 56 degrees. The low temperature on Saturday night is projected to be 30 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters (as of Thursday evening), The Citadel is a 3-point favorite over East Tennessee State, with an over/under of 41 1/2.

Through nine games this season, The Citadel is 4-5 ATS. The over has hit only twice.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: VMI is a 14 1/2 point favorite over Western Carolina; Furman is a 9-point favorite at Chattanooga; Samford is a 3-point favorite at Mercer; and Wofford is a 46 1/2 point underdog at Clemson.

– Also of note: Elon is an 11-point favorite over William & Mary; Towson is a 9 1/2 point favorite over Delaware; and Charleston Southern is a 2 1/2 point favorite at Gardner-Webb.

Georgia Tech is a 7 1/2 point home underdog to Pittsburgh.

In games between FCS schools, the biggest spread is 27, with Florida A&M favored over Delaware State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 41st in FCS. The Buccaneers are 80th.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 72% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 24, ETSU 17.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest: Northern Iowa is 9th, Villanova 11th, Kennesaw State 13th, Southern Illinois 15th, Elon 19th, Furman 22nd, Towson 27th, Idaho 30th, North Carolina A&T 34th, McNeese State 38th, Wofford 42nd, Florida A&M 43rd, Monmouth 48th, Jacksonville State 50th, Holy Cross 55th, Chattanooga 57th, Samford 58th, South Carolina State 60th, Duquesne 63rd, William & Mary 66th, VMI 70th, Campbell 73rd, Georgetown 78th, Tennessee Tech 81st, Prairie View A&M 85th, Mercer 86th, Robert Morris 90th, Charleston Southern 93rd, Gardner-Webb 98th, Davidson 99th, Brown 102nd, Marist 107th, Western Carolina 112th, Howard 117th, Valparaiso 120th, Jacksonville 124th, and Presbyterian 126th (last).

– East Tennessee State’s notable alumni include former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith (soon to be coaching in the Hula Bowl!), country music singer/bandwagon fan Kenny Chesney, and Union Station bass player Barry Bales.

As I say every year, Bales has one of the best jobs in the world, as he gets to listen to Alison Krauss sing on a regular basis.

– Future FBS opponents for the Bucs include Georgia (during the 2020 season), Vanderbilt (2021), North Carolina (2022), and Appalachian State (2024).

– East Tennessee State’s roster includes 43 players from the state of Tennessee. Other states represented: Georgia (24 players), Alabama (7), North Carolina (7), Ohio (7), South Carolina (6), Florida (6), Virginia (2), and one each from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The Palmetto State products (and their respective high schools) on the Buccaneers’ squad are Ben Blackmon (Newberry), Nasir Player (Ridge View), Landon Kunak (Spartanburg), Treyvion Houston (Greer), Donovan Swinger (T.L. Hanna), and D.J. Twitty (Chapman).

While there are a few South Carolina natives on ETSU’s team, none are from that internationally known purveyor of pigskin perfection, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. What in the name of Donnie Abraham is going on? There is little doubt that failing to recruit the gridiron warriors who wear the famed maroon and orange will haunt the East Tennessee State program for many decades to come.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (53 players), Georgia (29), Florida (8), Texas (5), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Virginia, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In addition, there are two Bulldogs with listed hometowns in other countries — junior tight end Elijah Lowe (Abaco, Bahamas), and freshman linebacker Hayden Williamson (Okinawa, Japan).

– This week’s two-deep for The Citadel is largely unchanged from last week’s edition. Gunner Covey is listed as a starter at defensive end.

– When it comes to the coin toss, The Citadel has been very successful, winning the flip at least seven times in nine games; the only one the Bulldogs definitely did not win was versus Charleston Southern. (I have not been able to determine which team won the toss in the Samford game.)

Update: There appears to be some controversy (?!) about this subject. According to this week’s game notes (thanks to commenter MG for pointing this out), The Citadel is 9-0 when it comes to winning the coin toss.

On his radio show, Brent Thompson also referenced having won all the tosses. The problem with this: per the play-by-play for the Charleston Southern game box score, CSU won the coin toss (and elected to defer).

It is true that play-by-play logs are not necessarily gospel. Perhaps asking the game captains might help.

Also, I guess we can now assume (dangerous, making assumptions) that The Citadel did win in fact the coin toss against Samford.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 4-6 for games played on November 2. Among the highlights from past contests:

  • 1968: An injury-riddled group of Bulldogs surprised Davidson, 28-21, in a game played at Charlotte Memorial Stadium. Joe Bedenbaugh rushed for 111 yards, and Steve Brackett added 102 yards and two TDs. This is the earliest game on record in which two players for The Citadel broke the 100-yard rushing mark. Tony Passander ran for a touchdown and threw for another (a 58-yarder to Tom Sanchez). On defense, head coach Red Parker singled out Ken Diaz and Charlie Baker for praise.
  • 1985: At Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel defeated Western Carolina 10-3. Adrian Williams rushed for the game’s only touchdown. Greg Davis added a field goal and a PAT for the Bulldogs. The Citadel’s defense held the Catamounts to 268 total yards and forced three turnovers, all interceptions — one by Brian Graves and two by J.D. Cauthen.
  • 1991: Before a crowd of 20,071 at Johnson Hagood Stadium, the Bulldogs beat Appalachian State 17-10. Jack Douglas rushed for 115 yards and threw a 52-yard TD pass to Cornell Caldwell. Erick Little scored The Citadel’s other touchdown on a seven-yard run. Rob Avriett booted a 46-yard field goal and converted both extra points. The Bulldogs thwarted two fourth-quarter drives by the Mountaineers; David Brodsky intercepted a pass that had been tipped by Bill Melby, and later Derek Moore broke up a key fourth-down pass to preserve the win.
  • 2013: After once trailing 17-0, The Citadel came back to win a Homecoming game against Samford, 28-26. Darien Robinson rushed for 83 yards and three touchdowns, while Vinny Miller had 95 yards on the ground and a TD of his own. The defense chipped in with two turnovers — an interception by Nick Willis, and a fumble recovery by Tevin Floyd (created by a Mark Thomas sack). The game also featured a key conversion off a fake punt by Eric Goins, a 27-yard run that set up Robinson’s second touchdown.

Charlie Taaffe was the coach who demonstrated that The Citadel could compete and win in the modern era of college football.

The Bulldogs had not won a Southern Conference title since 1961 when he was hired, but Taaffe used the wishbone offense to lead The Citadel to a league championship and the No. 1 ranking in Division I-AA in 1992. He won the Eddie Robinson award as the I-AA national coach of the year in ’92.

“I think Coach Taaffe is the standard around here,” said current Bulldogs coach Brent Thompson. “He had quite the career record here and he found a way to sustain a lot of success. He was able to win a championship in a very challenging Southern Conference.

“As far as I am concerned, he is probably the guy that is most responsible for us and our staff being back here.”

I was still a cadet when Taaffe was named head football coach at The Citadel. The change in offense was stark, but there also seemed to be a shift in attitude. The new coach had certain standards, and they were going to be met. There didn’t seem to be much doubt about that, somehow.

In just his second year, Taaffe orchestrated an 8-win season that included an undefeated home slate, with memorable wins over Navy and Marshall. There was a palpable enthusiasm that began to envelop Johnson Hagood Stadium on gamedays.

Charlie Taaffe re-established a level of high expectations for the football program; despite some lean years at times, that point of view has persisted into the present day. That is one of his legacies at The Citadel, and it is an outstanding one.

I expect Saturday’s game to be close, and possibly not high-scoring. While East Tennessee State is winless in the SoCon to this point in the season, the Buccaneers are a better team than their record indicates. Randy Sanders stated during his radio show that he expected his team to “play hard”, and there is no reason to doubt that — especially since this is ETSU’s Homecoming game.

If the Bulldogs can do the things they have been doing well of late on offense — ball control and finishing drives — they should be in good shape. That will be particularly true if the defense continues its gradual but noticeable improvement (and maintains its recent run of largely solid play on third down).

It won’t be easy, but The Citadel has an opportunity to continue to play impactful games well into the twilight of the season. The Bulldogs must seize that opportunity.

Game Review, 2019: Mercer

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

– Associated Press story

– WCSC-TV game report (with video)

– WCSC-TV recap (video via Twitter)

– School release

– Mercer website story

– Game highlights (video)

– Box score

This was very, very cool.

Congrats to Brandon Rainey on setting a record that had been around for a while:

Stats of note:

The Citadel Mercer
Field Position* 31.13 (+4.7) 26.43 (-4.7)
Success Rate* 53.42% 46.30%
Big plays (20+ yards) 3 4
Finishing drives (average points) 7.00 4.25
Turnovers 1 1
Expected turnovers 1.22 0.66
Possessions* 8 7
Points per possession* 4.38 3.43
Offensive Plays* 73 53
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 5.57 3.17
Yards/pass attempt (including sacks) 6.20 8.53
Yards/play* 5.59 6.21
3rd down conversions 14 for 17 (82.4%) 5 for 12 (41.7%)
4th down conversions 0 for 1 2 for 3
Red Zone TD% 5 for 5 (100.0%) 1 for 3 (33.3%)
Net punting 32.0 33.0
Time of possession 37:15 22:45
TOP/offensive play 30.20 seconds 25.28 seconds
Penalties 4 for 51 yards 5 for 45 yards
1st down passing 1/1, 20 yards, TD 7/9, 95 yards, TD
3rd and long passing 0/1 4/6, 88 yards
4th down passing 0/0 2/2, 34 yards, sack
1st down yards/play* 6.45 6.71
3rd down average yards to go 4.75 5.00
Defensive 3-and-outs+ 1 0

*does not include Mercer’s final drive of first half, or The Citadel’s final drive of second half

Some quick thoughts on the above statistics:

– The Citadel scored a touchdown all five times it advanced past the Mercer 40-yard line. That kind of efficiency is key to having success in games like this. Mercer, conversely, was held to two field goals (missing one of them) when its offense got in scoring range. MU did score two TDs on drives in that territory as well, but the non-TD possessions hurt the Bears.

– This was the first time all season the Bulldogs’ offense did not have a three-and-out during the game.

– The Citadel had eight possessions (not counting kneeldowns) in the game, the fewest in any contest this year. Mercer’s seven possessions (again, not counting end-of-half kneeldowns) marked the fewest an opponent has had versus the Bulldogs in 2019.

– Mercer’s opening drive lasted 16 plays and took up 8:53 of the first quarter. For the rest of the game, the Bears ran 38 plays (counting a first-half kneeldown) and had the ball for only 13 minutes, 52 seconds.

Thus, after the first possession by MU, The Citadel’s offense had the football for 73% of the time in game action. Even accounting for that drive, the Bulldogs had a lopsided advantage in time of possession.

In the second half alone, The Citadel possessed the ball for 23:14.

– For the third time this year, the Bulldogs converted more than half of their third-down conversion attempts, with their 82.4% success rate on third down versus Mercer easily the best of the campaign. The Bulldogs’ offense also converted third downs at better than a 50% clip against Towson and Georgia Tech.

– The Citadel’s offense ran a play every 30.2 seconds, which was actually the second-fastest pace for the Bulldogs this year (excepting only the VMI contest).

– The Bulldogs averaged 6.45 yards on first down against Mercer, the second-best average on first down in 2019 (The Citadel averaged a ridiculous 9.57 yards on first down versus Western Carolina).

– The Citadel’s offensive success rate of 53.42% was the second-highest of the year, behind only its success rate against Towson (54.05%).

Random observations:

– The Citadel now has an all-time record on Homecoming of 48-42-2. That marks the most games above the break-even point for the program since the celebration contest began in 1924.

– The Bulldogs have won eight consecutive Homecoming games, the second-longest streak ever (only surpassed by the 10 straight won between 1969 and 1978).

– Bobby Lamb waited until very late to call Mercer’s final two timeouts of the second half. I thought that was a mistake, both from a practical and psychological standpoint.

The Citadel took over possession after Sean-Thomas Faulkner’s fourth-down sack with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter. However, Lamb elected to wait until 1:27 remained in the game to call the Bears’ second timeout.

The Citadel ran seven plays during that time frame. Two of those plays were key third-and-long runs that resulted in first downs. After one more play sandwiched between Mercer’s final two timeouts, Remus Bulmer shook loose for the Bulldogs’ clinching touchdown.

– Lamb, a longtime presence in the Southern Conference at Furman and Mercer, is now 7-8 against The Citadel in his head coaching career.

– There were a couple of tough injuries during the game. Mercer’s Jamar Hall appeared to be knocked out after a violent collision with Dante Smith, and The Citadel’s Phil Davis was hurt intercepting a pass on the next-to-last play of the contest.

Best of luck to both of them going forward.

– Gage Russell, the Bulldogs’ holder on placements who has also seen time this season as a punter, usually wears jersey #93. However, on Saturday he wore #94 to honor his father, a 1994 graduate of The Citadel whose class was celebrating its 25th anniversary reunion.

Russell is a third-generation cadet at the military college, as his grandfather graduated from The Citadel in 1954.

– I have to mention the officials’ ball-spotting tendencies, because they were not good.

Often, it seemed like The Citadel had to go 11 or 12 yards for a first down instead of the standard 10, because the ball would be spotted incorrectly, sometimes by a full yard.

The failed fourth-down run in the second quarter by The Citadel also featured a bad spot, though I am not certain that even a correct placement by the officials would have resulted in a first down. Still, it would have been nice to be sure.

Incidentally, the holding penalty that negated a TD by the Bulldogs in the second quarter appeared to be a fair decision.

– Arguably, the most athletic move made at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday didn’t occur on the field of play.

During the retirement of the colors following the Alma Mater, the wind played havoc with the Touchdown Cannon Crew’s attempts to corral the flag. One intrepid cadet, with assistance, was able to hoist himself to the top of the wall behind the end zone and (with very little space to maneuver) was able to grab the end of the flag and pass it to his colleagues.

Watching the drama unfold, I was a bit concerned for the cadet’s safety, and I didn’t think risking a fall from a wall at least nine feet high was really worth the trouble. However, it ended well.

Perhaps in the future, someone could bring a ladder to the game, just in case a similar situation arises.

– I thought the crowd was into the game. Sometimes at Homecoming, that isn’t really the case — there are a lot of distractions, after all — but the enthusiasm was there on Saturday. (Oddly, that isn’t necessarily apparent on the ESPN+ broadcast.)

The Citadel has now put itself in position to compete for the SoCon title. It needs a little bit more help, but not much more. If the Bulldogs win their final three games, with or without a league championship they are likely bound for postseason play.

However, none of those three upcoming matchups will be easy. The first of them, and the last game before a long-awaited off week, comes next Saturday at East Tennessee State, as The Citadel makes the trip to Johnson City to face the defending conference co-champions.

I’ll write about that game later this week.

This week’s pictures are a little different in scope, because I was enjoying the reunion festivities prior to the game. There aren’t many game action shots, either. I have no regrets and make no apologies, as I had a good time, with the Bulldogs’ victory just the capper on a fine weekend.

I included a few shots from the soccer game on Friday. I also attended The Citadel’s open basketball practice on Saturday, though there are no pictures of the team working out, as I wasn’t sure that was really permitted/desired.

I will say it was nice to be thanked for attending by the wife of the head basketball coach. There can’t be too many D-1 institutions where that happens.

Anyway, here are the photos, such as they are.