Game Review, 2017: East Tennessee State

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, Johnson City Press

– “Notes” section, Johnson City Press

– AP game story

Game story, Tri-Cities Sports

Game story, Bristol Herald Courier

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WJHL-TV

– School release

– Photo gallery from the school

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

– Replay of the ESPN3 streaming of the game

I don’t think it was surprising that East Tennessee State was much more competitive against The Citadel on Saturday than the Bucs were in the 2016 matchup. In its third year since restarting its football program, ETSU is improving, has better (and more) players, and also now has the benefit of playing in a new stadium.

That said, the Bulldogs should not have been trailing 14-7 at halftime, not after running 18 more plays from scrimmage and outgaining the Buccaneers 221-81, with a 13-5 advantage in first downs. However, The Citadel did a lot of things to hand East Tennessee State a lead, including a botched punt, a blocked field goal attempt, two bad penalties, and an interception.

The Bulldogs also appeared to be victimized by the clock operator at the end of the half, who let two precious seconds elapse after a completion, preventing a potential field goal.

The second half numbers were somewhat similar to those in the first half, with The Citadel outgaining ETSU 214-127, picking up 13 more first downs (the Bucs had eight in the second half), and continuing to possess the ball for a significantly longer period of time. In the second stanza, however, those superior numbers resulted in points, with the Bulldogs scoring on four consecutive possessions.

Let’s take a look at some more statistics:

The Citadel ETSU
Starting field position TC 32 ET 32
Efficiency 45.00% (36/80) 36.20% (21/58)
Explosiveness 1.116 1.121
Finishing drives 4.4/poss 4.8/poss
Turnover margin -1 1
Yards per play on 1st down 6.00 4.38
Avg. yards to gain on 3rd down 6.3 8.1
Passing down success rate 50.0% (10/20) 35.0% (7/20)
Time of possession 37:00 23:00
Off. plays from scrimmage 83 54
Yards per play 5.6 3.9
Yards per play (rush) 4.99 3.11
Yards per play (pass attempt) 9.5 4.2
Off. 3rd down conversion rate 52.9% (9-17) 16.7% (2-12)
Off. plays of 20+ yards 5 4
Penalties 5 for 60 yards 2 for 10 yards

It is perhaps a bit easier to see how this game wound up being close when these stats are taken into consideration, as opposed to the raw yardage numbers.

First, let me make a few technical explanations:

  • I didn’t count The Citadel’s last possession in the “finishing drives” category, because the Bulldogs were attempting to run out the clock, rather than score
  • The last play of the game, a 23-yard loss where Dominique Allen was just trying to stay on his feet for seven seconds, is not counted in the yards per play or yards per rush categories on the chart
  • I also adjusted ETSU’s rushing and passing stats to reflect that 30 “rushing yards” lost by the Bucs came on four Bulldog sacks; that is why if you look at the box score, you’ll notice a difference between those numbers and the ones on the chart
  • The offensive plays from scrimmage and the plays counted in the “efficiency” category are a bit skewed due to several penalties, particularly a couple of third-down infractions; also, as mentioned earlier I discounted the final Bulldog drive
  • The botched punt in the first quarter is considered a turnover (fumble lost) rather than a turnover on downs

– ETSU had a tiny advantage in “explosiveness”, but remember that is an average. The Citadel had many more successful plays from scrimmage (36-21). If you added up the total amount of explosive “points” in that category, the Bulldogs came close to doubling up the Buccaneers.

– Those penalties in the first half really hurt the Bulldogs, while ETSU was solid on that front. Both of the Buccaneers’ infractions came in punting situations.

– As I noted in my game preview, East Tennessee State did a good job in last season’s matchup of putting its offense in a position to succeed on third down.

That didn’t happen on Saturday, though, as ETSU’s offense faced third-and-long throughout the game. Eight of the Bucs’ twelve third down conversion attempts were 3rd-and-9 or longer.

– In “passing downs”, The Citadel ran a successful play 10 out of 20 times, an excellent percentage. Nine of those plays were running plays (naturally). The exception was the 28-yard TD pass from Dominique Allen to Raleigh Webb.

Carl Torbush (taken from multiple game accounts) on The Citadel’s offense:

They do a good job of mixing things up. They ran a belly dive which they hadn’t shown yet and they ran some traps up the gut which is a little bit different than what they normally do.
 
They’re one of those teams just like Georgia Tech is. I mean, they’ll get you here and if you take care of that then they’ll try something else till they find something that works. And they found a few things that worked. Their unbalanced line got us into a little bit of trouble, got us out of position several times on the pitch and we got us out of wack feathering the quarterback a couple of times.
Bucs QB Austin Herink (who I thought played well):
I have to get rid of the ball quicker, a lot of that’s on me and I’ll address that. The Citadel has a terrific defense with a great secondary and tough pass rush.
 
…With their offense, you aren’t on the field much because they control the time of possession. To get on the field and get into rhythm is difficult. When we do that we are a really dynamic offense. I think we did that in the third and fourth quarter.
Brent Thompson on the late-game pass from Allen to Josh LeBlanc (a 3rd-and-3 play):
My guys in the booth convinced me that play-action was the right call. And it was, because they are expecting run there. Dom made a great throw, and it was really a turning point in the game.

Thompson on breaking in a new B-back:

We’ve been sitting on Brandon [Berry] for a couple of weeks, and just decided to burn his redshirt if it was going to help us a win a game. He’s a big, bruising back and we’ll continue to work to get him going.

The Citadel is now 3-0 after three games for a second consecutive season. The last time the program started 3-0 in consecutive years?

It has never happened before.

The Bulldogs were undefeated after three games in two previous two-year stretches: 1908-1909 and 1956-1957. However, all four of those seasons featured a tie in the first three games of the season — in other words, The Citadel started each of those years 2-0-1.

This is only the tenth time The Citadel has started 3-0. The other years it has happened:

  • 1906 (when the Bulldogs were undefeated and shared the national title, according to the TSA Matrix Ratings System)
  • 1921
  • 1928 (started the year 4-0; the fifth game ended in a tie)
  • 1942 (started the year 4-0)
  • 1969
  • 1989 (started the year 4-0; the fifth game ended in a tie)
  • 1992 (started the year 6-0)
  • 2012
  • 2016 (started the year 10-0)

(I really need to write about that 1906 squad some time. Of course, The Citadel also won the 1871 national title, which I’ve written about before.)

Odds and ends:

– Brandon Berry was one of 46 players to see action against East Tennessee State. I believe he was the only Bulldog to make his debut in Johnson City.

– Dominique Allen’s TD pass to Raleigh Webb was a beautiful throw, possibly Allen’s best as a Bulldogs quarterback. His next pass, though, the 44-yarder to Josh LeBlanc, may have been even better.

– Myles Pierce, despite fighting what looked like cramps, was all over the field on defense. He was credited with five tackles (two for loss), a sack, a pass breakup, and three QB hurries. He should get some consideration for Defensive Player of the Week in the SoCon.

– Ja’Lon Williams made the big stop on fourth down to extinguish ETSU’s final drive, continuing his strong play so far this season.

– The ESPN3 stream was at least two minutes behind the radio feed, which was aggravating (at least to me).

– ETSU’s new playing surface appeared to cause some problems for Bulldog runners, who slipped making cuts on multiple occasions.

The pellets in the field also managed to turn The Citadel’s white uniforms to a dull gray shade over the course of the afternoon.

– Attendance for the game: 7,544. It took three hours and two minutes to play, thirty-six minutes longer than the matchup last week against Presbyterian.

– Speaking of PC, the Blue Hose defeated Campbell 28-16 on Saturday. Newberry also won its first game of the season, beating Virginia University of Lynchburg 55-7.

– It was a tough day for the SoCon. Three of the schools faced FBS opponents, so it was not surprising to see Samford and Furman struggle. Mercer, however, held its own against Auburn, thanks in part to five AU turnovers.

However, Chattanooga and VMI are both now 0-3 after losing on Saturday (to UT Martin and Robert Morris, respectively). The Mocs will get starting quarterback Alejandro Bennifield back after this week’s game, which just happens to be at VMI.

As for the Keydets, getting shut out by Robert Morris may have been almost as bad as losing at home to Catawba the previous week.

Western Carolina, on the other hand, appears to more closely resemble the 2015 Catamounts (which went 7-4) than last year’s 2-9 disaster. WCU matched its 2016 win total with a nice win at Gardner-Webb.

– Next Saturday, Wofford (which had a bye this week) hosts Gardner-Webb. As noted, Chattanooga travels to Lexington, Virginia, to play VMI. East Tennessee State stays in Johnson City and faces Mercer, while Western Carolina hosts Samford.

Furman is at Colgate. The Paladins may be the hardest team to read in the league to this point in the season, narrowly losing at Wofford, then losing at home to Elon, then predictably losing at North Carolina State.

Elon possibly made that loss a touch more palatable for the FU faithful by beating Charleston Southern 19-17 on Saturday.

As for The Citadel, the Bulldogs how have a bye before playing at Samford on September 30. I think it’s a good break from The Citadel’s perspective after a couple of trying weeks.

I’ll be taking a bit of a break too. Because of that, my preview of that Samford game probably won’t be posted until Friday afternoon — and it may be shorter than usual. That is probably a good thing, though.

However, an even better thing is being 3-0.

2017 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State

The size of East Tennessee, The Citadel’s Saturday night opponent at Johnson Hagood Stadium, can be described in one word: awesome.

The Bucs are bigger than anyone the Cadets have met this season, including the massive Vanderbilt Commodores.

“Their size scares me more than Vanderbilt’s,” said the Bulldogs’ offensive coach Bob Gatling. “They are big enough to run right at us and that’s what we’re looking for,” said defensive coach Harold Steelman.

The East Tennessee defensive unit has been tagged with the nickname “Sam’s Gang”; Sam being Sam Riddle, a 6’1″, 195-pound junior middle linebacker who calls the defensive signals. But Sam is one of the smaller members of the “Gang”.

The big guy, who his teammates call “Waterloo Fats”, is senior tackle Terry Manfredi. He stands 6’1″ and tips the scales at 268 pounds.

Charleston Evening Post, September 28, 1966

 

With 1:01 left on the clock, sophomore Jim Gahagan banged home a 38-yard field goal into the teeth of a 16 mile per hour wind last night to give The Citadel a 3-0 victory over the East Tennessee State Buccaneers…

…Cal McCombs¹, the Bulldogs’ 5’9″ cornerback, saved the win with an interception at The Citadel three on the final play of the game.

A Johnson Hagood Stadium crowd of 7,558 braved chilling temperatures to watch the Cadets post their second win in a row after losing the season opener at Vanderbilt. It is the first time since 1964 that the Bulldogs have put together back to back wins [The Citadel had defeated Richmond the week before].

Junior linebacker Barron Windham had breathed life into the Cadets when he recovered a Buccaneers fumble at The Citadel 44 with less than four minutes to play…

…The temperature dropped 15 degrees from a high of 73 to a chilling 58 during the course of the game and a wind out of the northwest was clocked at between 16 and 22 miles per hour.

The News and Courier, October 2, 1966

The Citadel at East Tennessee State, to be played at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium in Johnson City, Tennessee, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on September 16, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3. David Jackson will handle play-by-play, while Mark Hutsell supplies the analysis. Kasey Marler will report from 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. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9 FM/660 AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

Links of interest:

Teammates band together to help family of Mitchell Jeter

The Citadel, team on the move

Lorenzo Ward gets a chance, takes advantage of it

Bulldogs carry extra motivation into league opener

The Citadel winning with two quarterbacks

Bulldogs endure tough week

– Game notes from The Citadel and East Tennessee State

– SoCon weekly release

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #13, unchanged from last week)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #13, up one spot from last week)

Brent Thompson 9/13 radio show (video)

New week, new challenge for ETSU

Buccaneers set for great challenge (video from WJHL)

ETSU hosting The Citadel and its triple option offense

Carl Torbush’s 9/11 press conference

The Bulldog Breakdown [9/15] (video)

The two quoted blurbs at the top of the post reference the first football game played between East Tennessee State and The Citadel, which took place on October 1, 1966. After that contest, the two schools would not meet again on the gridiron until 1981. By then, ETSU was a member of the Southern Conference.

In the 1966 matchup, Bulldogs quarterback Bill Ogburn had a tough afternoon (perhaps because of the windy conditions), only completing three passes. However, his third and final completion was a big one, as he found split end Tom Moore² for a 16-yard gain that set up Jim Gahagan’s game-winning field goal.

Afterwards:

East Tennessee coach John Bell, visibly shaken over the defeat, shook [Red] Parker’s hand after the game and said simply, “Congratulations, Red. It was a good defensive game, wasn’t it?” Then he put his head down and trudged across the damp turf to his dressing room.

East Tennessee State was founded in 1911. It was then known as the East Tennessee State Normal School. When it opened, 29 students registered for classes.

One of the first things administrators did was select the school colors (navy and gold). By 1920, the school was fielding a football team, apparently called the “Normalites”. Later the squad became the “Teachers”.

By 1930, there were over 1,400 students. Twenty-five years later, that number had risen to 4,000. Enrollment was approaching 7,000 when East Tennessee State reached university status in 1963.

Today, East Tennessee State University has over 14,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

Why are East Tennessee State’s teams called the “Buccaneers”? The school website says:

Johnson City, home of ETSU, is located among the mountains of Eastern Tennessee and is a great distance from the ocean. For this reason, one might wonder why ETSU would select a Buccaneer as their mascot. The answer is not that simple.

Apparently, geologists and archaeologists teamed up and discovered an underground river near the university several years ago. Named Pirate Creek, it evidently winds its way through many subterranean tunnels. It is thought that these caverns at one time channeled all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Soon after this discovery, the legend of buccaneer, Jean Paul LeBucque was found in history books. The legend tells that LeBucque was a nuisance and terror.

Evidently, he was looking for a place to hide his great store of gold and treasure, and find safety for himself. He sailed north in search of a new home and began to look inland. Legend states that he discovered the underground river near Johnson City and called Pirate Creek his home. Geologists feel that the upheaval of the earth’s crust, which now blocks the channel, possibly killed LeBucque. This legend is widely accepted and is one way to explain why an inland school would choose a pirate nickname.

Uh, sure…

The real origin of the “Buccaneers” nickname is a bit more modest. Wanting to call the football team something other than “Teachers”, a player on the 1936 squad suggested “Buccaneers”, apparently getting the idea from a Virginia high school that used the name. His teammates went along with it, and ETSU’s varsity teams have been known as the Buccaneers ever since.

Of note: in the 1980s, the school had a mascot known as “Pepper the Parrot“.

ETSU has a new stadium. Fast facts on the facility:

  • It is called the “William B. Greene Jr. Stadium”; Greene is a co-founder of the Bank of Tennessee and a longtime benefactor to ETSU
  • Construction began on the stadium in 2015; this “initial” phase cost $26 million
  • Current seating capacity is 7,694; however, a grass berm can hold more fans, which is evident based on the attendance for the first game played there (9,530)
  • Gameday parking is $10
  • For the opener, which had a 7:00 pm kickoff, the parking lots were opened for tailgating at 8:00 am
  • The game against The Citadel will be the second contest played at the new stadium and the first SoCon matchup

East Tennessee State was 5-6 last season in its second year after re-instituting football, winning all three of its non-conference games. Two of those contests were against non-D1 teams, but the third was an overtime victory at Kennesaw State to open the 2016 campaign.

  • at Kennesaw State (won 20-17 in double overtime)
  • Western Carolina (won 34-31; game played at Bristol Motor Speedway)
  • at Wofford (lost 31-0)
  • Chattanooga (lost 37-7)
  • at VMI (lost 37-7; yes, the same score as the UTC game)
  • Furman (lost 52-7)
  • West Virginia Wesleyan (won 38-7)
  • at The Citadel (lost 45-10)
  • at Mercer (lost 21-13)
  • Cumberland (won 23-16)
  • Samford (won 15-14, with a field goal on the last play of the game)

Statistics of note for East Tennessee State’s 2016 season (11 games):

ETSU Opponents
Points/game 15.8 28.0
Rushing yardage 1474 2175
Yards/rush 3.45 4.67
Rush TDs 11 26
Passing yardage 1787 2013
Comp-Att-Int 171-296-8 171-263-2
Average/pass att 6.0 7.7
Passing TDs 9 15
Total offense 3261 4188
Total plays 723 729
Yards/play 4.5 5.7
Fumbles/lost 8/2 14/11
Penalties-pen yds 62-615 72-688
Pen yards/game 55.9 62.5
Net punt average 31.8 37.9
Time of poss/game 31:10 28:50
3rd-down conv 63/163 52/137
3rd-down conv % 38.65% 37.96%
Sacks by-yards 14-63 30-196
Red Zone TD% (17-31) 54.8% (31-46) 67.4%

– ETSU did a very good job of avoiding turnovers in 2016; in fact, the Buccaneers tied for first in all of FCS in fewest turnovers, with just 10 in 11 games. However, East Tennessee State was only 45th nationally in turnover margin despite rarely giving the ball away itself, because it finished 107th in turnovers gained (including only two intercepted passes all season).

– While the Buccaneers were 5th nationally in red zone offense, that number is misleading. ETSU did put points on the board 28 out of 31 times once it advanced inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, but 11 of those 28 scores were field goals. East Tennessee State also ranked in the bottom 25 in red zone opportunities.

– East Tennessee State finished in the bottom 15 nationally in total offense, scoring offense, tackles for loss allowed, and net punting. However, ETSU did enjoy success on fourth down, converting 7 of 10 tries in that category; that 70% success rate on fourth down ranked 6th-best in FCS.

The Buccaneers’ defensive statistics tended to be in the middle of the pack from a national perspective. ETSU did struggle with its defensive pass efficiency (bottom 15 in FCS), which can be attributed in part to the lack of interceptions — and, perhaps, to a lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback, as the Buccaneers’ totals for tackles for loss and sacks were a bit low.

Worth mentioning: in last season’s game versus Kennesaw State, which runs the triple option offense, East Tennessee State’s defense came up big. The Owls were held to 2.9 yards per rush (166 total rush yards) in that contest.

Against The Citadel, however, ETSU’s D was not nearly as effective, allowing 7.0 yards per rush (and 427 total rush yards). Still, it seems to me that the Buccaneers’ veteran coaching staff has a handle on defending the triple option; it is mainly a question of personnel.

In one aspect of the game, East Tennessee State fared better than any other conference team against The Citadel last year, a statistic that caught my eye while I was compiling “advanced stats” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign.

On third down, The Citadel’s offense averaged 5.68 yards needed to gain a first down in league play. That is an excellent number; for comparison, Air Force led FBS teams in that category, at 5.5 yards average distance to go on third downs.

The Bulldogs’ conference opponents, on the other hand, required on average 8.17 yards to move the chains on third down. The differential goes a long way to explaining The Citadel’s 8-0 league record.

However, when ETSU played The Citadel last year, the Buccaneers actually outperformed the Bulldogs in that stat, 5.0 to 5.2. They were the only SoCon team to do so. The required distance to gain on third down of 5.0 yards was easily the least needed on average for any of The Citadel’s conference opponents.

That suggests savvy play calling, in the sense that a young Bucs offense was put in a position to succeed on third down. Indeed, the average distance to gain on third down correlates strongly with third down conversion rate (obviously not a surprise).

It doesn’t make conversions automatic, though, as East Tennessee State found out last year. Against the Bulldogs, even with manageable distance-to-go situations, the Buccaneers were only 2 for 15 on third down conversions.

Four times, ETSU had a third-and-one on offense. Only once in those four attempts did it pick up a first down.

East Tennessee State is 1-1 so far this season, with a 31-10 home win over Limestone, followed by a 52-10 loss to James Madison last Saturday.

Against Limestone, ETSU jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead and cruised to victory. The Buccaneers’ defense held the Saints to 75 yards of total offense in the first half.

ETSU quarterback Austin Herink completed his first 15 passes against the Saints. He finished the game 16 for 20 through the air with three touchdowns and no interceptions, averaging almost 12 yards per attempt. Eight different Buccaneers had receptions.

Conversely, Limestone struggled throwing the ball versus ETSU. The Saints threw the football 20 times, completing only seven, for a total of just 29 passing yards.

East Tennessee State’s matchup with James Madison went about as expected (which could probably also be said for the Limestone game). The Dukes scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions, while ETSU’s lone touchdown during the contest came on a pick-six.

As noted by head coach Carl Torbush in his Monday press conference, ETSU also struggled on special teams. In particular, punting (a bugaboo for the Buccaneers last season) was a problem, as East Tennessee State finished the game with a net punting average of 26.0 (on eight punts, so it wasn’t a sample size issue). JMU took one punt back 41 yards for a TD.

Torbush on the JMU game:

“We’re not going to grade alignment, assignment and technique a great deal. We are going to grade effort and make sure that we fought, which I think we did. We need to make sure we have the right guys on the field.”

There was a bright spot, however, and it is something that should interest Bulldog fans:

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Bucs. Their run defense looked stout. Against a team that had rushed for more than 400 yards a week earlier, they held the Dukes to three yards per carry.

East Tennessee State ran the ball on 59% of its plays in 2016. Through two games this season, ETSU has run the ball on…59% of its plays.

The starting quarterback for the Buccaneers is redshirt junior Austin Herink (6’3″, 209 lbs.). The native of Cleveland, Tennessee has started all 24 games for the team over the past two seasons.

Last year, Herink completed 59.6% of his throws, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt, with seven TDs and eight interceptions. Against The Citadel in Johnson Hagood Stadium, he was 12 for 25 passing for 157 yards, with one touchdown and one pick.

So far this season, Herink has completed 59.6% of his passes (yes, the exact same percentage as in 2016), averaging 7.6 yards per attempt, with three touchdowns against one interception.

Jujuan Stinson (5’9″, 186 lbs.) is the Buccaneers’ primary running back. He is a redshirt junior from Knoxville who averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season. Stinson has five career 100-yard rushing games.

Senior wide receiver Vincent Lowe (5’9″, 181 lbs.) began his college career at Old Dominion. He leads ETSU in receptions through two games this season, with eight (including one touchdown grab). Last year, Lowe had 21 receptions, averaging 9.8 yards per catch.

Drake Powell (6’2″, 200 lbs.) led the Buccaneers in receptions last season, with 29. He averaged 14.9 yards per catch. Against The Citadel last year, Powell caught three passes for 70 yards, including a 52-yarder.

East Tennessee State’s projected starting offensive line averages 6’4″, 297 lbs.

Left guard Ben Blackmon (6’3″, 294 lbs.) is a redshirt sophomore who went to Newberry (SC) High School. In high school, he was also on the baseball and swim teams.

Blackmon started all eleven games last season for the Buccaneers, as did center Matt Pyke (6’2″, 302 lbs.). Pyke is a redshirt junior from Clinton, Tennessee (he and Powell are two of three residents of that town on the East Tennessee State roster).

Senior right tackle Alex Rios (6’5″, 295 lbs.) was a preseason second-team all-SoCon selection. The resident of Tucson played two seasons at Pima Community College before transferring to ETSU. Rios did not play against The Citadel in last season’s game, the only contest he did not start in 2016.

Linebacker Dylan Weigel (6’0″, 220 lbs.) was a second-team All-SoCon selection in 2016. A native of Pickering, Ohio, Weigel led the team in tackles last season, with 106 (including eleven versus The Citadel). Now a redshirt junior, Weigel has 14 tackles through two games this season, tied for second on the team.

Fellow linebacker River Boruff (6’2″, 228 lbs.) currently lead the Bucs in tackles, with 17. Boruff has 19 career starts for ETSU; like Weigel (and several other ETSU players on the two-deep), he is a redshirt junior.

East Tennessee State’s starting defensive ends are both from South Carolina. Chris Bouyer (6’2″, 278 lbs.) is a junior from Rock Hill who went to Northwestern High School. The engineering technology major has twice made the SoCon All-Academic Honor Roll.

Redshirt sophomore Nasir Player (6’6″, 247 lbs.) is from Columbia, and graduated from Ridge View High School. Last season, Player was listed as 6’5″, 257 lbs., so he has apparently grown an inch while shedding ten pounds over the course of the year.

Player made the All-SoCon freshman team last season after starting seven games and compiling 5.5 tackles for loss. Another ETSU representative on the conference’s all-frosh squad, Jason Maduafokwa (6’3″, 256 lbs.) is listed as a backup at defensive end, but actually led the team in sacks last year, with four. At least one online site suggested that Maduafokwa could be a “breakout” player this season for the Buccaneers.

Free safety Paul Hunter (5’11”, 183 lbs.) had eleven tackles and two fumble recoveries against The Citadel last season. He was named the SoCon Defensive Player of the Week as a result.

The senior from Denton, Texas has one of the Bucs’ two interceptions this year.

J.J. Jerman (5’10”, 174 lbs.) is a junior from Seymour, Tennessee. A preseason second-team all-league pick at placekicker, Jerman booted through a game-winning field goal in double overtime against Kennesaw State in ETSU’s season opener last year, and then made a 28-yarder on the final play of the game versus Samford to win the Buccaneers’ last game of the 2016 campaign.

In 2016, Jerman was 12-16 on field goal tries and 18-19 on PATs. In ETSU’s game versus Limestone two weeks ago, Jerman connected on a career-long 48-yard field goal.

Kickoff specialist Landon Kunek (6’2″, 184 lbs.) is a redshirt sophomore who went to Spartanburg (SC) High School. He also serves as the backup punter.

Marion Watson (6’2″, 160 lbs.) is in his third season as ETSU’s punter. The junior’s career long punt is 59 yards, which came in 2015 against Warner.

Charlotte native Domenique Williams (5’10”, 160 lbs.) is ETSU’s primary kickoff and punt returner. He had a 42-yard kick return against The Citadel last season.

Williams, a junior, is also a defensive back, and he returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown last week against James Madison.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Johnson City, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with an expected high of 81 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 25-point favorite over East Tennessee State. The over/under is 44.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: VMI is a 1.5-point favorite at Robert Morris; Western Carolina is a 3-point favorite at Gardner-Webb; Chattanooga is a 6.5-point favorite over UT Martin; Furman is a 34.5-point underdog at North Carolina State; Samford is a 33.5-point underdog at Georgia; and Mercer is a 43.5-point underdog at Auburn.

Wofford is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 3-point favorite at Louisville; South Carolina is a 6-point favorite over Kentucky; Coastal Carolina is a 2-point favorite at UAB; South Carolina State is a 33-point favorite over Johnson C. Smith (and the over/under for that game is only 39); and Charleston Southern is a 10-point favorite at Elon.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 25th in FCS, a drop of seven spots from last week. Apparently beating PC by 41 points didn’t impress the computer.

East Tennessee State is ranked 93rd in FCS. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 147th, while ETSU is 296th.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 31, East Tennessee State 10. The Bulldogs are given a 91% chance of victory.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 16th (a six-spot drop), Charleston Southern is 18th, Chattanooga is 21st (down seven places), Samford is 27th (falling six spots), Mercer is 47th (down 12 places), Furman is 57th (was 31st last week), Western Carolina is 73rd (a seven-spot fall), South Carolina State is 75th, VMI is 100th (down 30 places), and Presbyterian is 101st.

It was a tough week for the SoCon as a whole, and the system’s algorithm punished the league as a result. Bad home losses for Furman and VMI, in particular, dragged down the ratings for the conference.

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, Youngstown State, South Dakota State, and Jacksonville State. Eastern Washington remained in the sixth spot, despite losing at home 40-13 (albeit to North Dakota State).

– In last season’s game between East Tennessee State and The Citadel, ten different Bulldogs had rushing attempts, including Cam Jackson (7 carries for 124 yards and two TDs). Kailik Williams led The Citadel in tackles, with six.

– I mentioned this last year, but ETSU head coach Carl Torbush is a former minor league baseball player. While an assistant coach at Southeastern Louisiana (1976-79), he also served as that school’s baseball coach, leading them to a share of the Gulf South conference title in 1978.

Torbush is a graduate of Carson-Newman. Besides East Tennessee State, he has been the head coach of North Carolina (most people remember that) and Louisiana Tech (no one remembers that). Torbush has been a defensive coordinator at six different FBS schools.

– Former ETSU defensive line coach Scott Brumett was fired in June after being arrested in Chattanooga. Apparently intoxicated, Brumett got upset when his hotel room key card did not work, and allegedly threatened to beat and hang a hotel clerk “from a noose”. Charges were dropped two weeks ago, but the school confirmed that Brumett would not be returning.

– Among East Tennessee State’s notable graduates are former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, country music singer and noted bandwagon fan Kenny Chesney, actor Timothy Busfield³, and Union Station bass player Barry Bales (who has one of the best jobs in the world, as he gets to listen to Alison Krauss sing on a regular basis).

There are also several pro golfers and baseball players among ETSU’s alumni ranks, including J.C. Snead and Atlee Hammaker.

– The roster for East Tennessee State includes 54 players from the State of Tennessee. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (15 players), Ohio (10), North Carolina (8), Virginia (8), Alabama (7), South Carolina (6), Florida (6), Texas (2), and one each from West Virginia, New York, and Arizona.

– The six ETSU players from South Carolina are from six different high schools: T.L. Hanna, Ridge View, Newberry, Spartanburg, Northwestern, and Christ School.

Freshman quarterback Drew Johnson, a resident of Spartanburg, is the Buccaneer who went to high school at Christ School, which is located in Arden, North Carolina. He was coached there by former Tennessee QB (and ex-congressman) Heath Shuler.

– While East Tennessee State can boast several Palmetto State players on its roster, the coaching staff has not signed anyone from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, a sign that the program has not yet hit the big time — this, despite the fact that ETSU offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain once donned the famed maroon and orange.

Donnie Abraham cannot be happy about the current lack of Bruins in Johnson City, either.

– O’Cain was the running backs coach at The Citadel under Art Baker from 1978 through 1980. Of course, he was also the head coach at North Carolina State for seven seasons in the 1990s, and has served as the OC and/or quarterbacks coach at several other schools, including Clemson (his alma mater), North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and James Madison.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough game for The Citadel. East Tennessee State is a young but improving team that is well-coached on both sides of the ball.

The Buccaneers have some deficiencies that need to be addressed (including special teams play), but I fully expect the Bulldogs to get ETSU’s best shot on Saturday, before an enthusiastic, partisan crowd ready to see their team pull off an upset of the two-time defending league champions.

In addition, this has not been an easy week for The Citadel in terms of preparation. The squad did not return to Charleston until Tuesday after playing in Clinton on Saturday. Of course, there was also the terrible news about the death of Mitchell Jeter, a teammate of most of the current Bulldogs.

It would be understandable if the players and coaches struggled to maintain their collective focus. However, I have faith that the team will persevere and play hard and well in Johnson City.

Playing hard and well has been a hallmark of the program over the past few years. I expect nothing less on Saturday.

 


*Footnotes*
1: McCombs (later the head coach at VMI) was named the South Carolina State Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the contest.
2: Moore was the head coach of The Citadel from 1983-86.
3: Busfield played Kevin Costner’s brother-in-law in Field of Dreams, among other roles.

 

Game review, 2017: Presbyterian

Before getting to the review of Saturday’s game, I have to note the passing of Mitchell Jeter, a former defensive lineman for the Bulldogs.

Jeter was the SoCon’s defensive player of the year in 2015, a year in which The Citadel won the Southern Conference title for only the third time in school history. He was arguably the best player on that team.

At this time, there is not much information about the automobile accident that claimed the lives of Jeter and three others (including a child) Saturday night.

Brent Thompson called Jeter’s death a “tragic and immeasurable loss”, and that basically sums it up. Obviously, everyone’s thoughts are with his family and his friends, which include many current players on the football team.

There is no real way to properly segue from that news to a football game, so I’m just going to follow with the standard game review. My apologies for any perceived abruptness on that front.

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” package, The Post and Courier

– AP game story

– School release

Video from WLTX-TV

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

Replay of the Big South Network’s streaming of the game

Before the season, the general consensus among most knowledgeable observers was that Newberry, despite being a D-2 program, would probably be a sterner test for the Bulldogs than Presbyterian. In this case, the consensus was quite correct.

Even the sudden change of venue could not stop The Citadel from asserting its clear superiority on the gridiron over the outmatched Blue Hose. An early thunderbolt of a run by PC’s Torrance Marable, the most impressive player on Presbyterian’s roster, only served to delay the inevitable result.

Ten different cadets had rushing attempts on Saturday, and two others caught passes, as the coaching staff took advantage of the opportunity to develop some more depth. While 46 different Bulldogs played against Newberry, 58 saw action versus Presbyterian.

A glance at the statistics for the game shows just how dominant The Citadel was on Saturday:

The Citadel Presbyterian
Starting field position TC 28 PC 24
Efficiency 63.6% (28/44) 8.33% (1/12)
Explosiveness 1.100 7.410
Finishing drives 6.8/poss 0.0/poss
Turnover margin +2 -2
Yards per play on 1st down 6.92 8.22
Avg. yards to gain on 3rd down 3.0 6.5
Passing down success rate 33.3% (4/12) 33.3% (3/9)
Time of possession 40:21 19:39
Off. plays from scrimmage 81 40
Yards per play 6.7 5.7
Yards per play (rush) 5.6 6.4
Yards per play (pass attempt) 26.0 5.1
Off. 3rd down conversion rate 81.3% (13-16) 50.0% (4-8)
Off. plays of 20+ yards 4 2
Penalties 3 for 39 yards 2 for 25 yards

 

  • Not counted in the efficiency and explosiveness categories: the entire second half. At 35-7, the third and fourth quarters were considered “garbage time” for statistical purposes (in those categories, at least)
  • Not counted in the field position category: Presbyterian’s last drive of the first half, and The Citadel’s final drive of the game
  • The Citadel advanced inside the 40-yard-line six times, and scored a touchdown on each of those possessions; Presbyterian did so twice, but did not score a point on either possession
  • Presbyterian threw one interception on first down; on passing downs, the Blue Hose offense threw one interception and also was sacked once
  • Successful plays from scrimmage by quarter (first half only): 1st – The Citadel 15, Presbyterian 1; 2nd – The Citadel 13, Presbyterian 0

Presbyterian’s average in the “explosiveness” category is reflective of the fact that the Blue Hose only had one successful first-half play, but it happened to be a 76-yard TD run. That one play also skewers PC’s yards per play on first down (as it came on first down) and yards per rush.

If you take out Marable’s run (which you can’t, but whatever), and also remove the one sack from the rushing statistics, Presbyterian averaged 2.9 yards per rush. Doing the same thing for first downs would leave the Blue Hose averaging 4.24 yards per play on first down.

The Citadel’s 1.1 explosiveness average is actually better than what the Bulldogs did against Newberry last week.

Odds and ends:

– I was concerned about traffic being a problem between Columbia and Clinton, but I-26 was relatively clear both coming and going.

– While it is obviously not ideal that The Citadel had to move a home football game (and for a second consecutive season), the shift to Clinton was a boon to Bulldog fans in the midlands and the upstate, who arrived early and in good numbers.

I was a little surprised that only 2,586 people made it to the game. A solid majority of them were wearing light blue and white, however.

– There are benefits to a noon kickoff for a game that takes only 2:26 to play, including getting at home in time to watch the late-afternoon and evening college football action. I enjoyed that.

– PC’s setup is nice, about all that you would want for a small-school college football stadium/tailgating experience. For the sake of Blue Hose fans, I hope the football program can be revitalized.

– Gastronomic experts in the stands heartily approved of the chili dogs. I also noticed that a significant amount of pizza was consumed.

Among those in attendance at the game, per Jeff Hartsell: Dee Delaney, Tyler Renew, Keith Carter, and Mariel Cooper.

– A few of the Bulldog fans who were tailgating also got some publicity. Shrimp and grits, indeed.

Next week’s opponent: East Tennessee State, now 1-1 on the season after losing to James Madison 52-10 on Saturday. The Bulldogs will travel to Johnson City, Tennessee, for a 1pm kickoff. It will be the second contest (and first SoCon game) played at ETSU’s new football stadium.

For this week’s pictures, I included shots of Presbyterian’s soccer stadium and baseball field. Both of those facilities are near the football stadium.

Most of the action shots are annotated.

I’ll lead off the photo parade with a picture of Scotty the Scotsman, a rather amiable sort.

 

2017 Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Presbyterian

Columbia, October 27 — Special: The Citadel struck a tartar in the light but aggressive Presbyterian College eleven when they met on the gridiron at the State Fairgrounds to-day, and could only manage to carry off the victory by a score of 14 to 0.

The entire Citadel team seemed to be experiencing an off day. The backfield was slow in getting into action and the heavy Blue line failed time and time again to break through the stubborn defense of their lighter opponents.

The cadets made their initial touch-down in the first quarter. After a forward pass had failed, [Johnny] Weeks punted out of bounds and the ball was put into play at Presbyterian’s 20-yard line. [Presbyterian quarterback] Galloway took one yard around left end. On the next play [Henry] Switzer pulled down a Presbyterian forward pass and sprinted twenty-five yards for a touch-down. Weeks kicked goal…

…Citadel scored her final touch-down in the third quarter…Galloway punted to Weeks, who gained forty yards. Weeks made 10 around left end. [Chesnee Cogswell] took 6 through centre, Bolton smashed the line for three more, and Weeks and Switzer got 5 yards over tackle in two bucks.

On the next play, Bolton was thrown for a loss of two yards, but Weeks carried the ball across for a touch-down and then kicked goal.

– The News and Courier, October 28, 1915

The Citadel vs. Presbyterian, to be played in Bailey Memorial Stadium at Claude Crocker Field in Clinton, South Carolina, with kickoff at noon ET on September 9, 2017.

The game will be streamed on the Big South Network. Presbyterian’s radio team of Ryan Clary and John Orck will provide the audio for the stream.

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. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9 FM/660 AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

More TV/streaming information: the contest will be not streamed on ESPN3, though it will be available on the Big South Network (as noted above).

Scott Eisberg of WCIV-TV in Charleston tweeted that the game would be televised on WCIV’s “MeTV”, which is one of that station’s digital subchannels. As of Saturday morning, the game does not appear in any online TV listings, though it is quite possible (if not likely) that those listings could not be updated in time.

I’m going to guess that the game will be televised on MeTV in Charleston (WCIV’s digital subchannel 3) and that the production is via the Big South Network feed.

Links of interest:

Game moved from Charleston to Clinton and rescheduled for noon on Saturday (school release)

Back to Lookup Lodge

Grant Drakeford is profiled after an excellent performance against Newberry

Solid debut for some new Bulldog starters

– Game notes from The Citadel and Presbyterian

– SoCon weekly release

– Big South Conference weekly release

Presbyterian “quick facts”

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #13)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #14)

– Brent Thompson’s 9/5 press conference, with comments from Grant Drakeford and Aron Spann (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 9/6 radio show (video)

Presbyterian preview in The Post and Courier

Presbyterian preview from the Big South (video)

Another year, another game moved out of Johnson Hagood Stadium. In 2016, The Citadel played a “home” game at North Greenville.

This time, due to the impending threat of Hurricane Irma, the Bulldogs will travel to Clinton, South Carolina, and face Presbyterian at Bailey Memorial Stadium. PC’s home facility seats 6,500 and is fairly new, having made its debut during the 2002 season.

In front of the stadium is a 15-foot bronze statue called “Cyrus”. He seems to be rather moody.

In the next section, I’ll reference an unrelated “Cyrus”; they are two of the three times that name has appeared in the entire history of The Sports Arsenal.

The game referenced in the blurb at the beginning of the post was the first meeting on the gridiron between Presbyterian and The Citadel. It was played during the State Fair in Columbia, at the central fairgrounds.

The Bulldogs were not at their best, possibly due to the hot weather, but managed to prevail anyway. Presbyterian’s offense never advanced the football past The Citadel’s 40-yard-line.

A few other notes on that 1915 contest:

  • The game was played on Wednesday, October 28 (not the 23rd, as listed in The Citadel’s record book)
  • The first and third quarters were 15 minutes long, while the second and fourth quarters were 12 minutes long
  • Each team used 14 players during the game
  • The Citadel’s players were back at the barracks by 8:00 am the following morning, having taken a 3:00 am train back to Charleston

Other attractions at the fairgrounds on that Wednesday: horseracing, a “Lady high diver”, a bicyclist named “Dare Devil Doherty”, and “Cyrus and Mandy and their hay rack”.

Presbyterian was one of three Palmetto State colleges The Citadel defeated in 1915. In addition to wins over Newberry and South Carolina, the team also beat Porter Military Academy and the Charleston 6th Naval District squad en route to laying a claim to the state championship

Incidentally, for anyone who thinks the current trend of coaches not allowing fans/media to observe practice is something new, this tidbit was mentioned in the newspaper during a preview article on the game:

Secret practice has been the rule at Hampton Park this season. No one but those on the squad and those directly interested in the team have been allowed within the grounds during practice hours. Would-be visitors were politely informed that the cadets could not be seen.

This rule will be waived a little after this week. Coach Rogers announced yesterday that vistors would be welcomed at the park on Wednesday afternoons to the scrimmages. On other days the grounds will not be open to anyone.

How long has it been since The Citadel played a football game at Clinton?

1937.

That year, the Bulldogs defeated the Blue Hose (called the “Hosemen” in The News and Courier) 19-0, with the game taking place at Johnson Field. Two of the three touchdowns scored that day by The Citadel came off of blocked punts.

Both of those punt blocks came courtesy of the team captain, Francis King. The native of Georgetown was hailed by the newspaper for playing “superlative ball”.

King scored one of the two punt-block TDs himself; Tom Huguenin fell on the ball in the end zone for the second. The Bulldogs’ third touchdown was scored on a run by Clough “Mutt” Gee.

Gee went to The Citadel for three years, and then transferred to the United States Military Academy. He was killed in action during World War II when his airplane crashed in Lisieux, France. Gee is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery.

A few other notes on game locations in the series between The Citadel and Presbyterian:

– The last time The Citadel played PC somewhere other than Johnson Hagood Stadium was on October 12, 1963, when the contest was held in Savannah; the matchup was called the “Georgia Peach Shrine Game”, and was a benefit for the Greenville Shriners Hospital.

The Bulldogs won 24-0 behind 121 yards rushing from Jim Parker (on only 7 carries). Parker, Bruce Whitney, and Vince Petno all scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs, with Petno’s TD coming on a 5-yard pass from Wade St. John. Attendance: 7,000.

– The 1950 game between the two schools was played at the Orangeburg County Fair.

The Citadel won 7-0, scoring the game’s only touchdown in the first quarter. Deep in its own territory, Presbyterian tried a “quick kick” on third down. It was not successful, as Bulldogs safety Bobby Carter corralled the pigskin at the PC 25-yard line and returned it 20 yards.

Rudy Willcox raced around the right side of the line for 5 yards and a TD on the next play, with Don Davis adding the PAT. Jerry DeLuca was the defensive star that afternoon for the Bulldogs.

As was the case for the 1963 game, estimated attendance was 7,000.

– In 1948, The Citadel played PC at College Park, as the “new” Johnson Hagood Stadium was not quite ready to open. The Blue Hose won that game 7-0, as The Citadel did not run an offensive play from scrimmage in PC territory during the entire contest.

– Presbyterian and The Citadel played at the Sumter County Fair in 1940 and 1941, splitting the two matchups. In the 1941 game, won by the Bulldogs 21-13, PC’s entire student body traveled to the game, only to see the Bulldogs rally from a 13-7 halftime deficit to win the game 21-13.

Team captain Mike Newell scored two touchdowns for The Citadel, with Andy Victor adding a third and also successfully converting all three PAT attempts.

In 1955, The Citadel played Presbyterian at Johnson Hagood Stadium. It was Homecoming, and that week was chronicled by Life magazine as part of a profile of Mark Clark.

The photos taken by the magazine (specifically, photographer Robert W. Kelley) are now part of an archive created by Google. I’ve linked to them before, and I’m going to link to them again, because A) The Citadel is playing PC again, and B) they are endlessly fascinating.

Many of these pictures are football-related, but I’ve also linked to some “general” shots (pun intended). The first few linked photos are in color, but the vast majority of pictures in the archive are black-and-white. This is just a small sampling of what is available for viewing; try this link to get started if you want to see more of them.

If you haven’t seen color photos of The Citadel’s 1955 uniforms before, you’re in for a surprise.

Why are Presbyterian College’s varsity athletic teams nicknamed the “Blue Hose”?

…probably the true story lies in a letter dated June 15, 1935, written by then athletic director Walter Johnson to an inquiring English professor in Virginia…[quoting from Walter Johnson’s letter] ‘It was about the second or third year, 1915, if I remember right, Stockings. I think it happened this way: I changed uniform colors to blue, wearing blue stockings and jerseys, and some sports writer started calling in his articles the Presbyterian College teams the Blue Stockings.’ …In later years “Stocking” became abbreviated to “the Hose,” particularly in newspaper headlines, and was more or less officially adopted by the student body in the late 50’s.

…“Johnson always insisted on the fact that his players wore long blue socks similar to stockings (after all, there were White Sox and Red Sox in baseball). Coach Johnson’s explanation may simply be coincidental to the fact that the phrase “Blue Stocking Presbyterian” goes back informally quite a few years in the denomination’s history.”

This particular Walter Johnson was not the great pitcher of the same name, but a former football player at Michigan who was a coach and administrator for many years at Presbyterian. He was the head football coach at the school from 1915 to 1918, and then from 1920 to 1940.

Johnson finished his football coaching career with 102 victories, more than any other PC coach except Cally Gault (who won 127 games between 1963 and 1984). Both Johnson and Gault are enshrined in the NAIA Hall of Fame.

In 2005, Presbyterian won the Division II South Atlantic Conference title, finishing with a 10-2 overall record. It was the first conference title for PC since winning the SAC in 1979.

The following year, the Blue Hose went a solid 7-4. However, as Presbyterian began the transition from D-2 to D-1, wins became a lot tougher to come by. The first all-D1 slate for the Blue Hose, in 2009, resulted in an 0-11 record.

Under former head coach Harold Nichols, Presbyterian won just 11 games over the next four seasons, but then pulled off a surprising 6-5 campaign in 2014 (despite playing three FBS teams).

The Blue Hose had a truly outstanding defense that year. PC beat Furman 10-7, Charleston Southern 7-3, Western Carolina 19-14 (with two defensive touchdowns), Monmouth 18-12, and Gardner-Webb 14-7 (Presbyterian’s first score coming on a blocked field goal). The sixth victory was an early-season walkover against Bluefield of the NAIA.

Unfortunately for Presbyterian, the next two years ended in identical 2-9 records, and Nichols elected to resign. His replacement is the man who was the head coach of that 2005 team and the defensive coordinator for that 2014 squad.

Tommy Spangler is a Georgia alum who compiled a 42-24 record as PC’s head coach from 2001 to 2006. He left to become the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, but returned to Clinton as the Blue Hose defensive coordinator in 2013.

His mission is to guide Presbyterian to consistent respectability in FCS. It won’t be an easy task, but Spangler’s prior success at the school has to be encouraging to PC supporters.

Spangler’s first game back at the helm of the Blue Hose was last week’s 51-7 loss at Wake Forest. It was not pretty for PC. On the other hand, it wasn’t really supposed to be.

Presbyterian did have the edge in time of possession by almost five minutes, in part because only nine of the Blue Hose’s 54 offensive plays from scrimmage were pass attempts. Two were completed; one was intercepted.

On the other side of the ball, Wake Forest rushed for 248 yards and passed for 239, averaging 6.8 yards per play.

The bright spot for PC was freshman running back Torrance Marable, who gained 162 yards rushing on 16 carries, including one scamper for 58 yards.

Statistics of note for Presbyterian’s 2016 season (11 games):

PC Opp
Points/game 8.9 30.9
Rushing yardage 1105 2670
Yards/rush 2.9 5.9
Rush TDs 4 28
Passing yardage 1551 2077
Comp-Att-Int 168-302-11 126-277-7
Average/pass att 5.1 9.1
Passing TDs 6 15
Total offense 2656 4747
Total plays 682 678
Yards/play 3.9 7.0
Fumbles/lost 18/7 13/7
Penalties-pen yds 66-551 71-686
Pen yards/game 50.1 62.4
Net punt average 39.1 39.7
Time of poss/game 30:43 29:17
3rd-down conv 42/159 42/121
3rd-down conv % 26.4% 34.7%
Sacks by-yards 13-86 23-125
Red Zone TD% 7-25 (28%) 23-35 (66%)

 

Um, ouch. There is not a lot to say about those numbers. PC obviously had trouble putting up points in 2016, being shut out twice (by Chattanooga and Liberty) and scoring 10 points or less in six other contests.

The Blue Hose finished last in all of FCS in scoring offense, and also finished in the bottom 10 of the following categories: offensive first downs, offensive 3rd down conversion rate, passing offense, total offense, yards per rush, yards per pass attempt, yards per pass completion, red zone offense, rushing defense, tackles for loss (last nationally), and punt returns (also last in FCS).

I guess there is nowhere to go but up.

Presbyterian returned seven starters from last year’s offense.

Ben Cheek (6’0″, 190 lbs.), a redshirt junior from Franklin, Georgia, started eight games for the Blue Hose last season at quarterback. Cheek completed 54.9% of his passes, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt, with two touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Against Wake Forest, Cheek carried the ball 22 times (though 3 of those were sacks credited in the rushing statistics).

As mentioned above, freshman Torrance Marable (5’10”, 185 lbs.) had a good game versus the Demon Deacons. Marable originally signed with Arkansas State out of high school. The native of Decatur, Georgia enrolled at PC in January of this year.

Although he did not return a kickoff last week, Marable is listed on PC’s two-deep as one of the starting kick returners for the game against The Citadel.

Wide receiver DaShawn Davis (5’9″, 155 lbs.) was a second-team All-Big South selection last season. The junior from Inman caught 42 passes last season, averaging 10.8 yards per reception. Davis also handled the majority of punt and kick return duties for the Blue Hose in 2016.

Presbyterian’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’2″, 282 lbs. Right guard Thomas Hughes (6’3″, 275 lbs.), a senior from Cordova who went to Edisto High School, has 17 career starts, most on the team.

PC’s defense normally lines up in a 4-3, but that obviously could change against the triple option.

Linebacker Grant Beidel (6’1″, 230 lbs.) led Presbyterian in tackles last season, with 75. The former walkon from Roswell, Georgia also intercepted two passes and had two sacks.

Fellow linebacker Nick Moss (6’0″, 225 lbs.) mans the middle for the Blue Hose. The sophomore finished second in tackles last season.

Starting DT Michael Branch (6’3″, 285 lbs.) is the largest defensive player on the two-deep. The native of Pleasant Garden, North Carolina is a sophomore.

Junior cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (6’1″, 190 lbs.) has more career starts than any other defensive player, with 14. His 61-yard fumble return for a TD against South Alabama was PC’s only defensive score last season.

Brett Norton (6’0″, 185 lbs.), a junior from Walhalla, serves as both the placekicker and punter for Presbyterian. He was 7 for 13 last season on field goal attempts, with a long of 36 yards. Three of his tries were blocked.

Norton had an impressive season punting the football, with 23 punts being downed inside the 20-yard line, and only one touchback.

Worth noting: Norton made a 57-yard field goal in high school, a game-winner. He is not the kickoff specialist for PC, however. That would be Tim Hartshorn (6’1″, 170 lbs.), a redshirt junior from Cumming, Georgia.

Brandt Cameron (6’3″, 195 lbs.), a native of Suwanee, Georgia, is in his third season as the Blue Hose long snapper.

In last week’s game program, five current Bulldogs were asked the following question: “What if your favorite day of the week?”

Here are their responses.

In related news, all of them are college football players.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Clinton, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 79 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 24-point favorite over Presbyterian. The over/under is 38.5.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 17-point favorite over Elon; Wofford is a 7-point favorite at Mercer; VMI is a 24-point favorite over Catawba; Samford is a 23-point favorite over West Alabama; East Tennessee State is a 40-point underdog at James Madison; Western Carolina is a 35-point favorite over Davidson; and Chattanooga is a 42-point underdog at LSU.

Around the Palmetto State, South Carolina is a 2.5-point underdog at Missouri, while Clemson is a 5-point favorite over Auburn. Coastal Carolina is off this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 18th in FCS, a drop of two spots from last week. Presbyterian is ranked 96th. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 130th, while Presbyterian is 292nd.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 31, Presbyterian 7. The Bulldogs are given a 96% chance of victory.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 10th, Chattanooga is 14th, Charleston Southern is 15th, Samford is 21st, Furman is 31st, Mercer is 35th, Western Carolina is 66th, VMI is 70th, South Carolina State is 81st, and East Tennessee State is 87th.

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: James Madison, North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Youngstown State, and South Dakota State.

– Among Presbyterian’s notable graduates are three well-known football coaches: Art Baker, John McKissick, and Bob Waters. PC’s other alums include Medal of Honor recipient George L. Mabry, Jr. (who played football for the Blue Hose), author/journalist and Peabody award winner Douglas Kiker, and influential political strategist Harry Dent, Sr.

– Former Bulldog tight end Taylor Cornett is the tight ends coach at Presbyterian. Cornett is in his second year at PC, and his first as a full-time assistant coach.

– The game notes roster for Presbyterian includes 42 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (32 players), Florida (10), North Carolina (9), Alabama (4), and one each from Maryland and Minnesota.

– There are Blue Hose players from 37 different South Carolina high schools, including three from Strom Thurmond High School, and two each from Silver Bluff, Greer, Richland Northeast, Seneca, and Lewisville. However, no players from historic power Orangeburg-Wilkinson are on the Presbyterian roster, which is clearly a major recruiting misstep for the program.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The Citadel is favored to win this game, and rightly so. However, the change of venue (and time) will add a degree of difficulty for the Bulldogs, particularly in their game preparations.

The good news is that the coaching staff and players went through almost the same situation last year with the game against North Greenville. They will know how to maintain focus.

I’m mainly rooting for three things this week: a decent number of Bulldog supporters to make their way to Clinton; a victory for The Citadel; and that Hurricane Irma suddenly veers to the northeast and stays away from shore.

I’m reasonably confident that two of those three things will happen…

Game Review, 2017: Newberry

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” package, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

AP game story

School release

– Video from WCSC-TV, including postgame discussion with Brent Thompson, Dominique Allen, and Cam Jackson

– Video from WLTX-TV

Game highlights (video)

Boxscore

It wasn’t the easiest of season openers, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Newberry is an experienced D-2 squad that won 10 games last season. The game wasn’t meant to be a walkover, but a test.

The Bulldogs received that test, and they passed it. The grade won’t be perfect (Brent Thompson said the marks for the offense would be “about a C-“), but the end result was a win, and a good one.

During Todd Knight’s tenure as head coach, Newberry had played four other FCS programs. Three of those contests were one-score affairs, and the fourth was decided by 11 points. When that recent history is taken into consideration, The Citadel’s 31-14 victory on Saturday night looks even better.

A quick glance at the statistics shows that the Bulldogs largely controlled the game from start to finish, even though it took a while for the scoreboard to reflect that.

The Citadel Newberry
Starting field position TC 29 NC 25
Efficiency 45.3% (34/75) 39.6% (21/53)
Explosiveness 1.064 1.024
Finishing drives 4.8/poss 4.7/poss
Turnover margin +2 -2
Yards per play on 1st down 8.09 6.34
Avg. yards to gain on 3rd down 5.13 7.00
Passing down success rate 26.1% (6/23) 18.8% (3/16)
Time of possession 35:24 24:36
Off. plays from scrimmage 76 55
Yards per play 6.0 5.0
Yards per play (rush) 5.9 2.5
Yards per play (pass attempt) 6.2 7.2
Off. 3rd down conversion rate 50.0% (8/16) 30.0% (3/10)
Off. plays of 20+ yards 5 5
Penalties 2 for 12 yards 2 for 20 yards

Notes on the numbers:

  • Not counted in the field position, efficiency, and explosiveness categories: Newberry’s last drives of the both the first and second halves (two plays each), and The Citadel’s last drive of the second half (one play)
  • In the category for yards per play on first down, Newberry also had two interceptions
  • The Citadel advanced inside the 40-yard-line five times; Newberry did so three times (of course, on one of those the Wolves’ drive originated inside the 10)
  • Successful plays from scrimmage by quarter: 1st – The Citadel 9, Newberry 1; 2nd – The Citadel 13, Newberry 2 (one via penalty); 3rd – The Citadel 2, Newberry 10; 4th – The Citadel 10, Newberry 8

While The Citadel only had two “successful” offensive plays from scrimmage in the third quarter, one of them was decisive. That would be Cam Jackson’s 74-yard TD burst.

The play featured a subtle but important move by Dominique Allen; as described by Jackson, Allen managed to prevent the linebackers from “skating” outside before the pitch. There were two key blocks as well, one by wide receiver Raleigh Webb, and another by left tackle Prince Howard-Whitaker.

The rest of the run consisted of Jackson hitting the seam, brushing aside a would-be tackler with an almost nonchalant stiff-arm, then racing down the sidelines for six points.

Odds and ends:

– Both teams should get credit for the lack of penalties in an opener. That was particularly impressive (and/or surprising) for Newberry, which even in its successful 2016 campaign had a tendency to be flagged at a higher-than-average rate.

– The attendance (7,467) was disappointing. Part of it can probably be attributed to the weather, although the ominous forecasts in the middle of the week did not come to pass. Perhaps the opponent wasn’t enticing enough for some, though Newberry did bring its fair share of fans.

Also possible factors: a home game for Clemson, and a game in Charlotte for South Carolina. The absence of the East stands (beer garden excepted) certainly doesn’t help, either.

– Speaking of the beer garden, it was hard to tell from across the field how much action was taking place in the tent. One observer told me that the area did fill up over the course of the game.

– Many complaints were made by fans during and after the game about the scoreboard, mostly concerning the yardage numbers not being updated. Apparently that section is inoperable. Is it already time for a new scoreboard?

– There were also complaints about the uniforms. At this point I’m not even sure why I write about the uniforms, since it is clearly a waste of time to do so. I’ll throw a few words together about this topic anyway, however.

The “new” navy/navy combo was announced on Friday, so it wasn’t a shock. It isn’t really a new color combination, as The Citadel wore all-navy a couple of times several years ago, when Nike supplied the uniforms and the Bulldogs essentially wore UNC designer hand-me-downs.

What was not expected: that the Bulldogs would ditch the “Block C” helmets in favor of numbers (in navy) a la Alabama or Georgia Southern. After decades of changing the helmet logo on a yearly (if not weekly) basis, the program finally settled on an appropriate and simple design that almost everyone likes…and now it’s been dropped (at least for the moment) once again.

Perhaps it will be back next week. Who knows at this point.

Alumni can complain about the absence of light blue jerseys at home games, but no one is really listening.

The fact is that light blue is no longer one of the school’s primary athletic colors. There hasn’t been an official announcement to that effect, but there doesn’t have to be.

It’s reality, and reality that has been noticed by anyone who has attended games at Johnson Hagood Stadium over the past eight years. These days, fans are just as likely (actually more likely) to see the Bulldogs wearing almost any other color.

I fully expect black home jerseys (and helmets) this season or next, along with the now-commonplace navy and gray jerseys, and wouldn’t be surprised to see the team in red or chartreuse.

I know, I know — “Who cares as long as they win?” Well, I don’t see why they can’t win while wearing the traditional colors too.

As I said earlier, however, light blue is no longer one of the school colors, so it really doesn’t matter.

Next week’s opponent: Presbyterian, which lost 51-7 to Wake Forest last Thursday night. I’ll post my preview of the game against the Blue Hose later this week.

As is tradition, I took bad pictures. The action shots are actionable.

I hope to improve on this front in the weeks to come, but there are no guarantees.

2017 Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. Newberry

Nothing remained today but to remove all pebbles and other noxious substances from the Hampton Park playing field…

…The cause of all this commotion in The Citadel camp, the Newberry Indians, are expected to reach Charleston tonight, and they will need no urging to remain over for the game tomorrow, for if the intentions laid at their door are correct, they expect to give the local cadets a bad time, and return to Newberry with an attractive Citadel defeat towing behind them. In short, the Lutherans are not coming here for a trouncing or even a tie game, but are keenly desirous of utterly squelching their hardy opponents.

Coach Rogers’ pupils are not worrying about the strength of the enemy, but are striving to increase their own prowess, for they haven’t even a tiny intention of submitting to any drubbing by those pretentious Newberrians, comparative upstarts in the pigskin world. The latter’s work this season has been enough to cause a scare, but the cadets have faced danger before now, and expect to walk over the top of their guests if they insist on staying in their way.

The Charleston Evening Post, Friday, November 6, 1914

 

Battling bitterly The Citadel barely nosed out a victory over the Newberry Indians in one of the fiercest contests on a Charleston gridiron, the final score being The Citadel 14, Newberry 13. The contest was a terrific struggle between the two teams, which were as nearly evenly matched as two elevens could be.

The individual honors of the afternoon were about evenly divided between Weeks of the Bull Dogs, and MacLean of the Indians. Sheppard roamed all over the field and smothered play after play of the Lutherans. Baker, Renken, and Ashbaugh showed considerable fondness in clinging on to the aerial messages of MacLean.

…In the last few minutes of play, with the Cadets one point in the lead, the play was fast, sharp, and hard, every inch being stubbornly contested. Ashbaugh made two attempts at field goals. The first was wide, but the second, a beautiful kick of about 45 yards, missed the post by about a foot. It was Newberry’s last chance.

Weeks was again the backbone of the Cadets and almost individually won the game. His offensive work was superb, his defensive playing great, and his grit and nerve some of the best ever shown at Hampton Park. Knocked out of the game with a bum shoulder, he came back and literally played on his nerve. It was Weeks who made one of the touchdowns and Weeks who kicked both goals.

MacLean, although weighing about 150 pounds, piloted his team in an able manner. His passing of the ball, tackling, and running in the open field stamps him as the best quarter in the State. Bumped and hammered about, he was as cool as the proverbial cucumber and tossed the pigskin with unerring accuracy on all the forward passes.

The Sunday News, November 8, 1914

The Citadel vs. Newberry, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on September 2, 2017.

The game will be televised by 7 Communications, and streamed on ESPN3.com. Kendall Lewis will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. Erin Summers will report from 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. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. The sideline reporter on the radio broadcasts is Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/95.9FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

According to the Southern Conference, the following television stations/cable outlets will be carrying the game:

WCIV-3 — Charleston, SC (this is the “MeTV” subchannel)
WYFF-2  — Greenville, SC (this is the “This” subchannel)
WITN-2 — Greenville, NC (this it the “MyTV” subchannel)
WILM — Wilmington, NC (could be a “joined in progress” situation)
WDWW- 7  — Atlanta, GA (yes, digital subchannel 7)
WHKY — Charlotte, NC
Cox Cable — Roanoke, VA
Cox Cable — Norfolk, VA
WFXB-4 — Myrtle Beach, SC (digital subchannel 4)
KPMF — Memphis, TN

Now, a warning. It is possible, if not likely, that all of the stations that carry the matchup will have it on a digital subchannel. For instance, the game will be seen in Charleston on WCIV’s “MeTV” subchannel — not “regular” WCIV or even “MyTV” WCIV, but WCIV-DT3.

If you live in one of the areas listed above and you don’t get ESPN3, turn on your TV at 6pm, and if the game isn’t on the listed channel, try the subchannels for each of these stations before giving up. Then and only then should you throw your remote control device into a nearby lake.

Newberry’s website states that the game will also be televised in Raleigh and Greensboro. We shall see. If it is, it may be on a subchannel for one of the CW affiliates in each of those cities.

If you live in Macon, you apparently will able to watch the game on WMUB, Mercer’s student TV station. MASN (a mid-Atlantic sports network) is also listed by Newberry as carrying the contest, but I suspect that is on a tape-delay basis.

My apologies if anyone is confused by any or all of that information. In my defense, I’m probably more confused than anyone else…

A few of my recent posts revolving around football, including the upcoming season for The Citadel:

Links of interest:

– Season preview from The Post and Courier

SoCon preview from The Post and Courier

– STATS SoCon preview (The Citadel is picked to finish third)

– College Sports Madness preview of the Bulldogs (The Citadel is picked to finish fourth in the SoCon)

SoConSports.com preview of The Citadel

– SoCon media and coaches’ preseason polls (The Citadel is picked to finish second in both polls)

The Citadel: Quick Facts

– Game notes from The Citadel and Newberry

– SoCon weekly release

South Atlantic Conference weekly release

Kailik Williams counts his blessings

Tyler Davis is an aging veteran

Dominique Allen is profiled in the Savannah Morning News

Bulldogs from the Houston area are keeping an eye on Hurricane Harvey

Freshmen have to be ready to play on Saturday

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel opens the season ranked #12)

STATS FCS poll (The Citadel opens the season ranked #16)

– Brent Thompson at The Citadel’s Media Day (video)

– Brent Thompson has a brief conversation with Phil Kornblut (8/18) on SportsTalk (audio)

– Brent Thompson’s 8/29 press conference, including comments from Dominique Allen and Myles Pierce (video)

Brent Thompson’s 8/30 radio show (video)

Newberry season preview from The Post and Courier

Interview (8/17) of Newberry head coach Todd Knight on WKNT-FM 107.5 in Columbia (audio)

Interview (8/3) of Newberry head coach Todd Knight on ESPN Upstate [begins at 9:45 mark] (audio)

Newberry picked to repeat as South Atlantic Conference champions

Seven players from Newberry received preseason first-team all-SAC recognition

Newberry hopes to spring the upset; this clip includes the much-discussed “The Citadel is arguably the second-best team in South Carolina” comment (video)

This article in The Post and Courier includes the two-deep for both schools

It’s time for football!

FOOTBALL!

FOOTBALL!!

FOOTBALL!!!

The Citadel has won 19 games and consecutive SoCon titles over the last two years. The upcoming gridiron campaign has been highly anticipated by Bulldog supporters, but there are on-field questions that must be answered, and in a decidedly positive manner, if The Citadel is to win the league and advance to postseason play for a third straight season.

There is also the issue of Johnson Hagood Stadium — or more precisely, what is left of Johnson Hagood Stadium:

The east side of Johnson Hagood Stadium has been reduced to piles of rubble as demolition work at the home of Citadel football continues.

The east side of the stadium contained about 9,300 seats, and demolition of the aging structure was approved by the city’s Board of Architectural Review in February.

 

On [August 6], The Citadel’s Board of Visitors approved a plan that would add 3,800 seats to the east side of the stadium, which was demolished earlier this year. The plan also calls for about 40,000 square feet of “office, education and/or residential space” on the east side.

The motion, approved unanimously by the BOV, requests that The Citadel Real Estate Foundation “develop detailed specifications, pricing and recommendations to finance and fund the cost of the new East Side facility” and update the board at its September meeting…

…The new plan also includes possible future addition of 2,400 seats on the east side, if needed. The Citadel averaged 12,987 fans for five games at Johnson Hagood in 2016, when the Bulldogs went 10-2 and won a second straight Southern Conference title.

The goal is to have the “new” East stands ready to go in time for the 2019 season. (If anything, that needs to be a requirement.)

There will be temporary bleachers on that side for this season, but they won’t be in place until The Citadel plays Mercer on October 7. Thus, for the home games against Newberry and Presbyterian, only the West stands will have seating, and the stadium capacity will be 11,700 (well, not counting the beer garden — more on that later).

The lack of seating isn’t great, but at least things appear to be moving forward. Of course, there is still the question of funding.

The non-conference football schedule for The Citadel is now set through the 2020 season.

  • 2017: Newberry, Presbyterian, at Clemson
  • 2018: Charleston Southern, at Towson, at Alabama
  • 2019: Towson, Charleston Southern, at Elon, at Georgia Tech (12-game season)
  • 2020: Elon, Charleston Southern, at Clemson

As a result, Newberry is the last D-2 school the Bulldogs will meet on the gridiron until at least the 2021 season.

The Citadel released its complete 2018 schedule last Thursday. There will be five home games next season, while the 2019 and 2020 seasons will have six home contests each.

By 2019 the “new” East stands will hopefully be ready to go. I don’t have any problem with only having five home games next year, given the stadium situation. Establishing home-and-home series with Towson and Elon in order to ensure six home games in the following two seasons was a good move by Jim Senter.

The Citadel’s new instant replay system for officials got a run-through during Saturday’s scrimmage. There are new goal-line cameras at each end of the field as part of the new system. The Citadel and Mercer will be the only SoCon teams with replay capability for referees this season.

Replay review will be in effect for every home game this season, including Saturday’s matchup with Newberry. Conversely, none of the Bulldogs’ road games will feature a replay review system, with the exception of the game at Clemson.

The league will not require teams to have replay review at their respective home facilities until 2019. Essentially, conference games will be played under different rules, depending on the location of the game. That strikes me as problematic at best.

Last week, The Citadel announced that it would be selling beer at home football games this season:

Beer sales will be limited to a 500-person “beer garden” tent inside Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The tent will be located in the southeast corner of the stadium, where aging stands were demolished this summer. There will be a three-beer limit per patron, and Citadel cadets of legal age (21) will not be able to buy beer in the tent…

…The beer garden will feature two TVs for fans to watch games, and bartenders to serve beer.

A friend of mine suggested that in addition to setting up a beer garden, The Citadel should establish a separate entry fee for the entire section, and incorporate food trucks into the mix. I like that idea.

I’m more of a “watching the game with a great deal of intensity” fan than a “casually downing a beer or two while eating a burrito and occasionally glancing at the field” fan, but I understand that the school has to appeal to a wide variety of supporters. In a way, this is an effort to bring part of the tailgating scene into the stadium.

Beer sales or no beer sales, hopefully Johnson Hagood Stadium will be packed with fans when Newberry comes to town on Saturday. Speaking of Newberry…

The Lutheran intellectual tradition creatively engages the dialectic tensions inherent in the dynamic nature of human life.

– Newberry College website

In 1854, the Lutheran Synod in South Carolina voted to make its seminary (which had existed for 23 years) a degree-granting college. At the time, the seminary was located in Lexington, South Carolina; the institution was moved to Newberry, where it was chartered in 1856 and named Newberry College.

The timing wasn’t ideal. As a result of the Civil War, most of the faculty and students went into military service. By 1868, the college was in financial trouble. For a while, the school was relocated to Walhalla; it returned to Newberry in 1877.

The seminary side of the setup was reopened after the war in 1866, and then it moved around a bit — to Walhalla in 1868; to Salem, Virginia in 1872; then back to Newberry in 1884; in 1898 to Mt. Pleasant; and, finally, to Columbia in 1911.

It is now known as the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS). In 2012, it merged with Lenoir-Rhyne University, and now operates as a satellite campus of that Hickory, North Carolina-based school. Therefore, LTSS actually has a connection to two different schools in the South Atlantic Conference — Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne.

Today, Newberry has an enrollment of 1,064 students (54% male). Four-fifths of its students live in on-campus housing. The college is situated on 94 acres of land.

Newberry began fielding a football team in 1913. Its first game was a 16-7 victory over Furman.

In 1914, the Indians played The Citadel for the first time; that is the contest referenced in the two newspaper blurbs at the beginning of this post. The record books for Newberry and The Citadel both list the 1914 gridiron clash between the two schools as having been played in Newberry, but it was actually played at Hampton Park in Charleston.

The Citadel was 0-7 passing in that contest, with one interception, while the radical passing attack of Newberry was 9-16 for one TD and a pick. Also worth mentioning: gentlemen had to cough up 75 cents to receive admission to the game, while ladies only had to pay 50 cents.

Prior to that game, Newberry had already defeated Furman and Wofford during the 1914 season, and tied South Carolina.

The Indians had also beaten Porter Military Academy 20-0 in Newberry, though the school’s record book lists that game as having taken place on September 26; it actually occurred on October 3. Newberry also lists a 20-7 victory in Charleston over Porter on October 17; the score and location are correct, but the game was played on November 9 (yes, just two days after Newberry played The Citadel; they did stuff like that back in those days).

Newberry no longer goes by the “Indians” moniker. As of 2010, the school’s varsity athletic teams are known as the “Wolves”. From the school website:

In August 2005, Newberry College was placed on a watch list by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) along with 17 other schools which deemed the use of “Indians” as hostile and abusive, and prohibited the use of Native American nicknames, mascots and imagery in postseason competition.

In September 2005, Newberry College appealed to be removed from the list of schools which were declared unable to host postseason play on the basis that none of the institutions uses of “Indians” were hostile and/or abusive toward Native Americans.

The next month, the NCAA rejected Newberry’s appeal.

A later agreement with the NCAA allowed the college to use the nickname for two more years. However, Newberry eventually went two school years (2008-09, 2009-10) without a nickname.

As you might imagine, not everyone at the school was thrilled about that, including then-sophomore Derek Bley, a baseball player:

Quite a tragedy. Here we are in the middle of nowhere, and we have no name.

…We are the notorious Block N’s. It carries no fear.

Former head football coach Zak Willis had another gripe, specifically with the NCAA: “I don’t know how a group in Indianapolis, Indiana, gets to tell us we can’t be the Indians.”

Back in the day, Newberry had occasionally been referred to as the “Lutheran Lads” by the sporting press, but that probably wasn’t going to fly in the 21st century, either. The decision by the school’s Board of Trustees to eventually pick “Wolves” as the new nickname/mascot mirrored the preference of the student body.

Todd Knight is entering his ninth season as Newberry’s head football coach. He was the school’s defensive coordinator for six years before getting the top job.

Prior to moving to Newberry,Knight served as the defensive coordinator at Charleston Southern (under David Dowd). He was also the DC at Lees-McRae, and a secondary coach at his alma mater, Gardner-Webb (Knight is a 1989 graduate of that school).

Newberry has had four seasons in its football history in which it won nine or more games. Knight has been the head coach for two of those years, and was the defensive coordinator for the other two.

He has a 50-38 record as the head coach. Over the last four years, the Wolves are 31-16, including a 19-9 mark in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC). Last October, the school extended Knight’s contract through the 2020 season.

During Knight’s tenure as head coach of Newberry, the Wolves have played four FCS opponents. While Newberry has lost all four of those matchups, each has been competitive (and three were one-score games).

In 2009, Austin Peay defeated Newberry, 34-23. The following season, Samford outlasted the Wolves 38-35. In 2014, Charleston Southern edged Newberry 16-10.

The next year (2015), Newberry actually hosted an FCS team — Jacksonville. The Dolphins prevailed 17-14.

In 2016, Newberry finished with a 10-2 record, 7-0 in the SAC (and 5-0 on the road). After losing the opener to Florida Tech, the Wolves won 10 straight games and the league title. Newberry then lost in the first round of the D-2 playoffs to Tuskegee.

The Wolves had been ranked No. 14 in D-2 prior to that game. Newberry finished with a final ranking of No. 16.

Newberry’s schedule and results, 2016:

  • Florida Tech (home): lost 42-28
  • Virginia Union (home): won 42-22
  • North Greenville (road): won 29-28
  • Tusculum (road): won 37-10
  • Catawba (home): won 35-14
  • Mars Hill (road): won 35-21
  • Carson-Newman (home): won 34-19
  • Brevard (road): won 34-7
  • Lenoir-Rhyne (home): won 53-14
  • Limestone (road): won 49-7
  • Wingate (home): won 27-22
  • Tuskegee (home): lost 35-33
 —

Newberry video from 2016:

Highlights package

Highlights of Newberry’s 29-28 victory over North Greenville

Most of the first three quarters of Newberry’s 37-10 win over Tusculum

Highlights of Newberry’s 34-19 victory over Carson-Newman

Highlights of Newberry’s 27-22 win over Wingate

You can also watch video replays of Newberry’s 2016 home games — for instance, the Wolves’ 53-14 demolition of Lenoir-Rhyne: Link

Statistics of note for Newberry’s 2016 season (all 12 games):

Newberry Opponents
Points/game 36.3 20.1
Rushing yardage 1926 1794
Yards/rush 4.13 3.82
Rush TDs 29 12
Passing yardage 3536 1999
Comp-Att-Int 287-423-16 158-330-13
Average/pass att 8.4 6.1
Passing TDs 30 18
Total offense 5462 3793
Total plays 889 800
Yards/play 6.1 4.7
Fumbles/lost 19/9 12/5
Penalties-pen yds 91-795 95-858
Pen yards/game 66.2 71.5
Net punt average 35.5 33.9
Time of poss/game 30:27 29:33
3rd-down conv 78/163 53/171
3rd-down conv % 47.9% 31.0%
Sacks by-yards 34-211 20-128
Red Zone TD% (47-63) 74.6% (18-34) 52.9%

Newberry finished 29th in D-2 in scoring offense, and 22nd in scoring defense. NC was 35th nationally in offensive yards per play and 25th in yards allowed per play.

The Wolves were 21st nationally in both offensive and defensive pass efficiency. Newberry’s pass completion rate of 67.8% was fourth-best in the division.

Another category Newberry fared well in was 3rd down conversion rate, both offensively (16th in D-2) and defensively (24th).

The Wolves rolled up some very impressive total offense numbers, including a 729-yard effort against Lenoir-Rhyne.

On special teams, Newberry finished 13th nationally in kick return defense and topped the division in punt return defense, allowing a total of 1 net punt return yard for the season. No, that is not a typo.

I’m guessing that the lack of punt return yardage is based on a coaching philosophy of simply not giving an opponent any chance of returning a punt. If so, it certainly worked in 2016.

On the other hand, the strategy must not have always been employed in previous years, as Newberry’s yearly total punt return yardage allowed has yo-yoed from 35 to 97 to 212 to 1 in the past four seasons.

Last season, Newberry’s pass-run ratio was very close to 50-50. The Wolves threw 423 passes while being sacked 20 times, for a total of 443 assumed passing plays, while rushing 446 times (excluding sacks). Obviously, some plays that were would-be passes turned into runs.

Despite the even distribution of rushes and passes, almost 65% of the Wolves’ total offense came through the air. Newberry averaged more than twice as many yards per passing play as by rushing attempt.

Many of the players responsible for that production are gone, including last year’s starting quarterback, lead running back, and two quality wide receivers (one of whom operated at times as a “wildcat” QB). The Wolves also lost two starters on the offensive line, the left tackle and left guard.

The starting quarterback this season for Newberry will be Nick Jones (6’0″, 220 lbs.). A redshirt sophomore from Florence, Jones appeared in six games last season, starting late in the season against Wingate when regular QB Raleigh Yeldell was suspended.

In the game versus Wingate, Jones was 16-21 passing for 242 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions and was sacked three times.

During the spring, the Newberry coaching staff moved reserve wideout Darius Clark (6’1″, 205 lbs.) to tailback. At the SAC Media Day, Todd Knight suggested that the junior “could be poised for a breakout season”. Clark is a product of St. John’s High School. He also served as a kick returner last season.

Average size of Newberry’s projected starters on the offensive line, as per the school’s 8/25 two-deep: 6’2″, 297 lbs. Four of the five listed starters weigh 300+ lbs.

Starting center Dakota Mozingo (6’0″, 260 lbs.), a Rock Hill native, was a preseason SAC all-conference pick. Fellow senior Austin Turner (6’3″, 320 lbs.) was a second-team selection. Turner, a senior from Lexington, is the Wolves’ right guard.

Tyler Anderson (6’3″, 300 lbs.) started five games last season for Newberry. The redshirt sophomore was a preseason second-team All-SAC choice and is slated to start at left tackle this year.

On the other side of the line is none other than Tyler’s twin brother, Austin Anderson (also 6’3″, 300 lbs.). The brothers went to Wren High School.

Left guard Wade Rouse (6’1″, 305 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman who went to West Ashley High School in Charleston, where he also threw the shotput and discus for the track team.

Backup right tackle Sam Hall (6’2″, 260 lbs.) was named a first-team Academic All-American at the end of last season. The biology major is a senior from Conway.

Markell Castle (5’8″, 165 lbs.) is a slot receiver who caught 67 passes last year for 976 yards and seven touchdowns. A case could be made that the junior from York is Newberry’s best returning player.

You can bet that the Bulldogs will be paying attention to #13 on Saturday, especially after watching video like this: Link

Another 5’9″ wideout, J.T. Waters (listed at 175 lbs.) is holding down the “W” receiving spot on the Wolves’ two-deep. The junior has seven career receptions. Waters went to Palmetto Christian Academy in Mt. Pleasant, where he put up big numbers as a quarterback at the small school.

Tight end Baptiste Staggers (6’4″, 230 lbs.), like Mozingo and Castle, was named to the preseason first team SAC all-conference team. Unlike those two players, however, Staggers (who went to Fort Dorchester High School) may be challenged for playing time this fall.

During an appearance on WYRD (ESPN Upstate) earlier this month, Todd Knight stated that “we’ve got a really good tight end in Baptiste Staggers who I think is the best tight end in the league, [but] we’ve got a kid who transferred in here, who’s pushing him to the point where he’s almost beating him out — so we’re probably looking at playing a lot of two tight end sets this year, which we’ve never done before, but we’ve got to put the best 11 out there.”

Knight was presumably referring to 6’7″, 250 lb. junior Sean Smith, a transfer from Middle Tennessee State. As a senior at Summerville High School, Smith was rated as a 3-star prospect by Scout.com and received offers from Georgia State and Florida Atlantic, as well as MTSU.

Newberry returns most of its starting defense from last season, including its three leading tacklers, all of whom were preseason all-league choices.

Jamarcus Henderson (5’10”, 230 lbs.) was a destructive force last season at defensive end. The second-team All-American had 22 tackles for loss, including 9 1/2 sacks.

Now a redshirt junior, Henderson was a star at Union County High School, where he played for former South Carolina quarterback Steve Taneyhill. He was named the Spartanburg Herald Journal‘s defensive player of the year as a senior, despite playing for a 2-8 team.

Backup DE Keito Jordon started three games as a freshman at Hampton in 2014. Newberry’s roster lists the Hopkins resident as a sophomore.

Defensive tackle Josh Spigner (6’0″, 265 lbs.) is a senior who went to Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville. He started one game last season for the Wolves.

Inside linebacker Joe Blue (5’10”, 225 lbs.) is a junior from Dillon. Last year, Blue led Newberry in tackles with 91, including 68 solo stops.

Will Elm (6’3″, 215 lbs.) finished third on the team in tackles, behind Henderson and Blue. Elm is a senior from Irmo.

Elm’s fellow outside linebacker, Rameak Smith (6’3″, 195 lbs.) recorded 48 tackles last year. Defensive back LaQuan White (6’1″, 185 lbs.) only started three games last season, but led the Wolves in interceptions, with four (against Catawba, he returned one pick for 55 yards). Smith and White both went to Woodland High School in Ridgeville.

Devin Dexter, a 6’0″, 250 lb. “true” freshman from Byrnes High School, may be another Newberry defender to watch, despite not being listed on the two-deep. One veteran observer of the S.C. high school scene told me that Dexter, a defensive lineman, has a “high motor” and is very strong.

Last year, he was the Spartanburg Herald-Journal‘s defensive player of the year, just as Henderson was in 2013. Dexter also played in the North-South All-Star game at the end of last season.

Shea Rodgers (6’0″, 175 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Indian Land, handled most of the placekicking, punting, and kickoff duties for Newberry last season. He has been named to the watch list for the Fred Mitchell award.

Rodgers only attempted five field goals, but made them all, with a long of 32 yards. He was 42-48 on PAT attempts. Rodgers was a second-team All-SAC preseason selection.

The kicker-holder duo is an all-Indian Land affair, as junior holder Manny McCord (5’11”, 185 lbs.) and Rodgers were high school classmates. McCord is also a reserve wide receiver.

Perry Able (5’11”, 170 lbs.), a Newberry native, will return as the Wolves’ long snapper.

As mentioned above, Darius Clark served as a kick returner last season, as did 5’10”, 185 lb. senior running back Rondreas Truesdale.

However, Newberry’s two-deep lists Keinan Lewis (6’2″, 205 lbs.) as the primary kick returner. The senior from Belton, who began his collegiate career at Georgia Military, also starts at wide receiver (and scored four touchdowns last season).

The two-deep indicates that Markell Castle will be the Wolves’ punt returner. He returned two punts last season.

The Citadel and Newberry had one common opponent last season, North Greenville. Both played NGU in Tigerville.

Let’s look at some stats from those games, starting with Newberry-North Greenville. The Wolves prevailed 29-28, scoring a touchdown (and converting the PAT) with 1:04 to play in the contest.

Newberry NGU
Points 29 28
Rushing yardage 192 275
Yards/rush 4.8 7.6
Rush TDs 3 2
Passing yardage 215 96
Comp-Att-Int 21-38-0 14-34-0
Average/pass att 5.7 2.8
Passing TDs 1 1
Total offense 407 371
Total plays 78 70
Yards/play 5.2 5.3
Fumbles/lost 1/0 0/0
Penalties 14 13
Penalty yards 120 120
Net punt average 35.3 34.6
Time of possession 31:47 28:13
3rd-down conv 7-17 4-14
3rd-down conv % 41.2% 28.6%
Sacks by-yards 0-0 1-1
Red Zone TD% (4-5) 80% (2-2) 100%

Phew, look at all those penalties! The elapsed game time was 3:19; at least 35 minutes of that must have been used by the officials just to march off penalty yardage.

Now, those same categories for The Citadel-North Greenville:

TC NGU
Points 38 14
Rushing yardage 559 56
Yards/rush 7 2.4
Rush TDs 4 0
Passing yardage 40 316
Comp-Att-Int 3-6-2000 14-32-1
Average/pass att 6.7 9.9
Passing TDs 1 2
Total offense 599 372
Total plays 86 55
Yards/play 7 6.8
Fumbles/lost 3/1 0/0
Penalties 3 6
Penalty yards 40 71
Net punt average 34.7 38.9
Time of possession 39:08 20:52
3rd-down conv 7-15 2-12
3rd-down conv % 46.7% 16.7%
Sacks by-yards 3-27 0-0
Red Zone TD% (2-6) 33% (0-0) 0%

The Citadel didn’t do a great job in the Red Zone, but with 559 rushing yards, it didn’t matter. The Bulldogs also got burned on two big pass plays (which is reflected in the yards/attempt category).

North Greenville’s completions/attempts were very similar in the two games, but thanks to those big gainers the Crusaders put up much better offensive passing numbers against the Bulldogs than they did versus the Wolves.

I also took a quick glance at Newberry’s games against Lenoir-Rhyne from 2010 through 2013, when Brent Thompson was the offensive coordinator for L-R. Newberry still has the same head coach (Todd Knight) and defensive coordinator (Stephen Flynn) it had for those four contests.

  • 2010: Newberry won 40-36; Lenoir-Rhyne rushed 47 times for 376 yards and 4 TDs (one lost fumble) while going 6-15 through the air for 92 yards and a TD (against two interceptions)
  • 2011:  Lenoir-Rhyne won 54-42; L-R rushed 52 times for 346 yards and 4 TDs (one lost fumble), and also completed 3 of 6 passes for 133 yards and two TDs
  • 2012: Lenoir-Rhyne won 44-21; the Bears rushed 59 times for 395 yards and 4 TDs while completing 3 of 6 passes for 77 yards and a TD
  • 2013: Lenoir-Rhyne won 35-14; L-R rushed 74 times for 428 yards and 5 TDs (one lost fumble), and completed 3 of 5 passes for 80 yards

Lenoir-Rhyne rushed for 1545 yards in four games, which comes out to 386.25 yards per contest. The Bears averaged 6.66 (ooh, spooky) yards per rush and scored a total of 17 rushing touchdowns.

As far as the passing statistics were concerned, L-R was 15-32 through the air (46.9%) for an average of 11.9 yards (!) per attempt.

The Bears’ 3 completions in the 2011 contest included a 70-yard TD and a 42-yard reception, while the 2012 game featured a 50-yard TD reception by a Lenoir-Rhyne receiver named Artis Gilmore. (How he didn’t wind up playing for Gardner-Webb or Jacksonville, I’ll never know.)

With those results in mind, I thought it was a bit curious that Newberry waited until very late in its preseason to make an adjustment to its practice schedule. Instead of an anticipated scrimmage, the Wolves’ coaching staff elected to “[alter] its practice schedule to focus on preparing for The Citadel’s unique ground-based scheme.”

Newberry’s football team has an honor council known as “The Order of the Gray Stripe”. Among other things, the Wolves’ game captains are chosen from this group.

During the game, these individuals can be identified by their helmets, which have a gray stripe down the center. Other players will have solid white helmets with no striping. Newberry’s helmets also feature a stylized red “N” that incorporates a wolf in the logo.

The Wolves are one of many schools that have mix-and-match uniforms, with their togs provided by adidas. Expect either an all-white or white jerseys/scarlet pants look on Saturday for Newberry, which is 6-2 since 2015 wearing those two combinations, while the Wolves are only 1-1 wearing gray pants with the white jerseys.

At the SAC’s Media Day, Todd Knight discussed the advantages of playing a game at The Citadel:

Charleston has always been a hotbed of recruiting for us. I think just getting our face out there in Charleston that day will be beneficial for us. I just hope we have a good show. We’ve got so many players already on the team from Charleston, Baptiste Staggers being one of the main ones. Darius Clark, LaQuan White, Rameak Smith are all from there and are key guys for us. Josh Spigner too. And three of our NFL guys came from that area as well.

Last week, the Newberry coach told Columbia radio station WGCV that “I’m not gonna have to do a whole lot to get our kids fired up for The Citadel. We’ve got one kid whose family has already bought up 100 tickets.”

Newberry’s abundance of Lowcountry players earned the program an article in The Post and Courier last November.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: mostly cloudy, with showers and thunderstorms likely during the day; expected high temperature of 87 degrees and a 60% chance of precipitation. The low temperature Saturday night is projected to be 75 degrees, with evening thunderstorms a possibility (40%). Not ideal.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 30-point favorite over Newberry. The over/under is 50.5.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Wofford is a 13-point favorite against Furman; Mercer is a 20-point favorite versus Jacksonville; Samford is am 8.5-point favorite against Kennesaw State; East Tennessee State is a 28.5-point favorite versus Limestone; and VMI is a 31.5-point underdog at Air Force.

While the Kennesaw State-Samford game is expected to be high-scoring (over/under of 67), the same cannot be said for Furman-Wofford (over/under of 45.5).

Around the Palmetto State, Presbyterian is a 40-point underdog at Wake Forest; Clemson is a 40-point favorite versus Kent State; South Carolina State is a 2-point favorite at Southern; Charleston Southern is a 21-point underdog at Mississippi State; Coastal Carolina is a 1.5-point underdog at home versus Massachusetts; and South Carolina is a 4.5-point underdog against North Carolina State, with that game being played in Charlotte.

After losing 27-13 to Jacksonville State in Week 0, Chattanooga is off this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 16th in FCS as Week 1 approaches. Newberry is ranked 66th in D-2. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 130th, while Newberry is 344th.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 42, Newberry 13. The Bulldogs are given a 97% chance of victory.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford (8th), Chattanooga (9th), Charleston Southern (10th), Chattanooga (15th, down six spots after losing last weekend), Samford (21st), Furman (34th), Mercer (43rd), Kennesaw State (51st), Gardner-Webb (52nd), Western Carolina (58th), VMI (64th), ETSU (91st), South Carolina State (89th), Presbyterian (95th).

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, Eastern Washington, Youngstown State, and Jacksonville State (which jumped two spots after beating UTC).

– In the 2017 preseason AFCA D-2 poll, Newberry was in the “receiving votes” category. It would have ranked 30th if the rankings had been listed to that placement.

– Newberry offensive coordinator Bennett Swygert is a former quarterback at Western Carolina and Summerville High School. This is his fifth season as the Wolves’ OC.

His wife, Lyndsey Swygert, is the cheerleading coach at Newberry. She also oversees the school’s other spirit programs, including the Wolves’ dance team (a group known as the Scarlet Poms).

– C.J. Frye was recently hired as Newberry’s tight ends coach, a position he also held in 2012-13. Frye played football at South Carolina (he is the son of longtime Gamecocks track coach Curtis Frye) and for the past two years was the head football coach at Andrew Jackson High School, until he unexpectedly resigned in July.

– The Wolves play their home football games at Setzler Field, which has the distinction of being the oldest on-campus football stadium in South Carolina. It has a seating capacity of 4,000.

The school averaged 3,502 fans per home game last season, which was 58th-best in Division II (out of 172 institutions). That average was better than 22 FCS programs, including two in South Carolina — Presbyterian (which averaged 3,299 patrons per home contest) and Charleston Southern (2,712).

– Setzler Field is also the home of Newberry’s women’s lacrosse team — and as of the spring of 2018, the new men’s lacrosse program. Nine of the eleven schools in the SAC sponsor men’s lacrosse.

– Newberry started a major fundraising campaign in late 2014. Part of the campaign includes a “stadium renovation and athletic village construction project” with the objective of modernizing and upgrading the football stadium (including the scoreboard and press box), locker rooms, and coaches’ offices. The monetary goal for that project is $8 million.

– Earlier in this post, I mentioned Newberry’s connection to Lenoir-Rhyne. The two Lutheran schools play every year for the “Bishops’ Trophy”, which was created in 1987 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne have played 83 times, including every season since 1946.

– For many years, Newberry’s chief gridiron rival was Presbyterian (95 meetings), with the annual game between the two schools often taking place on Thanksgiving Day. They played for one of the better trophies in college football, the Bronze Derby. It didn’t have the grandeur and mystique of the coveted Silver Shako, but it was a fine bauble.

Alas, the Newberry-Presbyterian series has been dormant since 2006, due to the Blue Hose moving to FCS.

– Newberry’s most famous alum is probably the late political strategist Lee Atwater. The current Secretary of State for South Carolina, Mark Hammond, is also a Newberry graduate (and a former football player as well). Hammond’s son Ross is Wofford’s long snapper.

– The game notes roster for Newberry includes 89 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (3 players), Florida (3), Alabama (2), and North Carolina (1).

There are Wolves from 64 different S.C. high schools, including three each from Summerville, South Florence, Byrnes, Lexington, Indian Land, Marlboro County, Fairfield Central, and South Pointe. However, no players from traditional power Orangeburg-Wilkinson are on the Newberry roster, a glaring oversight which will undoubtedly prove costly to the program over the course of the 2017 campaign.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

This is the first time The Citadel and Newberry have met since 1997, a 33-13 win for the Bulldogs. In that matchup, Carlos Frank had two punt return touchdowns (of 53 and 80 yards, respectively).

His game total of 177 punt return yards remains a Southern Conference record. Frank also caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Stanley Myers during the contest.

However, I remember the previous meeting between the two schools even more, a game played in 1995.

Like this Saturday’s contest, that game was played on September 2. It was also the season opener for both teams. The Citadel had won 36 games over the previous five years, while Newberry was coming off a 4-7 campaign.

The Citadel raced out to a 13-0 lead thanks to touchdown runs by Myers and Kenyatta Spruill in the game’s first seven minutes, but the offense would not score again until the fourth quarter. By that time, the Indians led 14-13.

The Bulldogs regained the lead, but Newberry had a chance to win the game late, scoring a touchdown with 3:17 left to get within 21-20. However, Indians head coach Mike Taylor decided to kick a PAT rather than go for two (this was before the college game had overtime). The debatable decision backfired when Scott Belcher blocked the extra point, and the Bulldogs escaped with a one-point win.

Belcher had 29 tackles in the game, a school record, but the narrow victory foreshadowed a difficult year ahead. The Citadel finished 2-9 that season.

I don’t think the 2017 Bulldogs are in danger of going 2-9, but this week’s game is not going to be a walk in the park. Newberry is a quality D-2 program coming off a great season. It must replace a lot of offensive talent, but does return several impact players on that side of the ball. Defensively, the Wolves should be solid, with plenty of experience.

I suspect that Newberry head coach Todd Knight believes his team has a decent chance of winning on Saturday. It seems to me that he has put a slightly more public emphasis on the game than might have ordinarily been expected, even for a season opener.

When he called The Citadel “arguably the second-best team in South Carolina” while talking to a local TV station in Columbia, it was not an offhand or impulsive remark. Knight had said the exact same thing in an earlier interview with a Greenville radio station. He was laying the groundwork, so to speak.

Of course, I may be (and probably am) reading too much into that. Knight is nothing if not media-friendly, as can be noted by his barrage of TV/radio appearances around the state. He also opens his practices to the press, with a uniquely descriptive “Don’t Get Concussed” media policy.

At any rate, the Bulldogs better be ready to play on Saturday. If they aren’t, it could be a very long night for the home team.

I’m confident they will be ready, though. I know The Citadel’s fans will be.

Heck, I’m ready now…

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2016: an annual review

Other links related to The Citadel’s upcoming gridiron campaign:

– A quick glance at the 2017 SoCon non-conference football slate

– Inside the Numbers: The Citadel’s run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and various per-play statistics, along with the highly anticipated coin-toss data

– A look at “advanced statistics” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign

– Preseason rankings and ratings

Attendance is a popular topic of discussion among fans of The Citadel. In February I wrote about how well Bulldog supporters “travel”. This post will cover home attendance, a subject I’ve written about several times before.

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2016

The above link is to a spreadsheet that tracks attendance for The Citadel’s home football games, and which has now been updated to include the 2016 season.

For anyone curious about why the time period in question begins in 1964, that year marks the earliest season in which reliable attendance figures for all home games can be reasonably determined. Individual game totals prior to 1964 are sometimes available, but not for a complete season.

I’ve mentioned this before, but attendance numbers prior to the mid-1960s tended to be released as “round” numbers, and that’s when there was an official attendance announcement at all. The News and Courier‘s game reports back in the day routinely questioned the accuracy of the official totals provided by the school. That led to newspaper estimates like these for the 1962 home schedule:

  • Davidson: 10,200
  • Presbyterian: 10,500
  • William and Mary: 10,300
  • VMI: 10,100
  • Memphis State: 10,600

Sure…

Thus, years like 1959 (eight wins), 1960 (bowl victory), and 1961 (SoCon championship) cannot be included in this review, or any of the other years from 1948 (when the “modern” Johnson Hagood Stadium opened) through the 1963 season. For that matter, attendance figures prior to 1948 are just as sketchy.

The spreadsheet lists year-by-year total and average game attendance, and the win/loss record for the team in each season. 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 1992 (69.44%, the highest percentage for that category since 1964) is made up of the 1990, 1991, and 1992 seasons.

I include those categories primarily to see what impact constant winning (or losing) has on long-term attendance trends.

In previous years, I’ve noted that walk-up sales appear to have had an impact on yearly totals; in other words, if the team is good, it is reflected in that season’s attendance. This is not exactly surprising, but the numbers for The Citadel seem to be higher than expected when compared to attendance for the following season (when you might naturally expect a “bump” in attendance as a result of the previous year’s successful campaign).

Last year, I began comparing averaging attendance for the first two games of a season to the last two contests of the same campaign. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for discrepancies when making such a comparison (weather, opponent fan base, etc.), but I thought it was interesting. This time, I’ve added the 2016 numbers, so now there is a six-year period to check:

  • 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)

Of course, The Citadel only played four regular-season home games in 2016 (I’m not counting the playoff contest as the final home game, because postseason attendance numbers skew everything). You also had a game moved for weather reasons (North Greenville); that game was originally scheduled to be the second home contest of the 2016 campaign.

Incidentally, the official home attendance average for 2016 was 11,727. That includes the contest played at North Greenville, which was technically a home game for The Citadel.

Personally, I don’t count that as a home game; after all, it wasn’t played at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The two games played at Williams-Brice Stadium in 1989 are not considered home games (nor should they be). Therefore, I think it is much more consistent not to include the matchup with NGU as a home game.

The average attendance for the five home contests played at JHS last season (including the playoff game) was 12,986.

Since 1964, the Bulldogs’ record at Johnson Hagood Stadium is 185-111 (62.5%). The average home attendance over that time period is 14,140. However, there has not been a season in which home attendance averaged more than 14,140 since 2006.

That streak will almost certainly continue this season, given that the stadium capacity for 2017 is currently around 11,700 after the demolition of the East stands.

Now let’s look at FCS attendance as a whole.

2016 NCAA football attendance (all divisions)

Montana easily led the division in average home attendance again, with 25,377 (six games). That was higher than 45 FBS programs, and higher than the average home attendance for four FBS conferences (Sun Belt, MAC, C-USA, Mountain West).

James Madison was second overall, averaging 19,844. That included eight games, two of which were playoff contests (all of these numbers include playoff games).

Without the attendance-sapping postseason matchups, JMU would have averaged 21,646 fans per home game.

Five FCS schools averaged more than 18,000 fans per game. Last season, eight FCS schools hit that mark.

The Citadel ranked 20th overall, and that is counting the North Greenville game. Not including the NGU contest would move the military college up to 17th.

Even with the North Greenville game mixed in as part of the average, The Citadel had the highest attendance in the SoCon, just ahead of Mercer (11,237, which was 21st overall). Last season, it was Mercer that was slightly ahead of The Citadel in home attendance.

Western Carolina finished 23rd overall (10,465) despite a 2-9 record, which may be a tribute to the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band.

Others of varying interest among the 124 FCS squads (counting Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word, which are transitioning to the division, but not Coastal Carolina, which is moving to FBS):

  • North Dakota State: 5th (18,556 per game)
  • Jacksonville State: 7th (17,576)
  • Liberty: 9th (16,478)
  • Harvard: 11th (14,742)
  • North Carolina A&T: 12th (14,472)
  • William and Mary: 24th (10,168)
  • South Carolina State: 26th (10,148)
  • Princeton: 32nd (8,990)
  • Chattanooga: 33rd (8,886)
  • Yale: 35th (8,795)
  • North Carolina Central: 39th (8,242)
  • Sam Houston State: 42nd (7,940)
  • Richmond: 44th (7,926)
  • Kennesaw State: 48th (7,768)
  • East Tennessee State: 50th (7,668)
  • Elon: 58th (7,146)
  • Wofford: 61st (6,789)
  • Lehigh: 64th (6,527)
  • VMI: 68th (6,191)
  • Samford: 73rd (5,897)
  • Furman: 76th (5,771)
  • Towson: 78th (5,703)
  • Campbell: 82nd (5,523)
  • Gardner-Webb: 97th (4,295)
  • Davidson: 102nd (3,529)
  • Presbyterian: 105th (3,299)
  • Monmouth: 107th (3,172)
  • Charleston Southern: 112th (2,712)
  • Georgetown: 120th (2,005)
  • Delaware State: 121st (1,975)
  • Jacksonville: 122nd (1,849)
  • St. Francis (PA): 123rd (1,617)
  • Duquesne: 124th (1,554)

Odds and ends:

– Yale dropped from 3rd overall in attendance in 2015 (20,547) to 35th last season (8,795). Most of that differential can be attributed to the location of the Harvard-Yale game.

The Elis hosted the game in 2015, and drew 52,126 fans to the Yale Bowl. The average home attendance for Yale in its other three home games that year: 10,021.

– Duquesne ranked last in the division in home attendance, as it did in 2015 when it made the FCS playoffs.

– St. Francis (PA), a playoff team last year, ranked next-to-last in the division in home attendance.

– Over the past four seasons, Montana has averaged 24,418 fans per home contest, while fellow Treasure State school Montana State has averaged 18,460. No other Big Sky team has averaged as much as 10,000 per home game for any of those four years.

– Furman finished last in average home attendance among SoCon schools, which meant that for a third consecutive season, FU finished behind Wofford in home attendance. I think it is safe to say that part of new Paladins head coach Clay Hendrix’s mission is to change that trend.

– Coastal Carolina averaged 8,392 fans per home contest last season. The Chanticleers played eight games at Brooks Stadium in 2016; they will play six games there this season, the second of two FBS transition years.

– A few “FYI” numbers from Division II: Benedict was 16th overall in D-2 home attendance (6,490 fans per home game); Newberry was 57th (3,502); and North Greenville was 76th (3,051).

NGU’s home attendance does not include its game versus The Citadel, despite the fact the game was played in Tigerville. That contest drew a record 5,435 fans to Younts Stadium.

– The Citadel had a higher home attendance average than six FBS schools — Akron, Ball State, Florida Atlantic, Kent State, Northern Illinois, and New Mexico State. I have to point out that Northern Illinois played in the Orange Bowl just five years ago.

Undergraduate enrollment for those six institutions:

  • Akron: 22,619
  • Ball State: 17,011
  • Florida Atlantic: 24,687
  • Kent State: 23,684
  • Northern Illinois: 15,079
  • New Mexico State: 14,698

The Citadel has finished in the Top 30 of FCS attendance in each of the last eleven seasons. All in all, that’s quite good for a small military college.

As I’ve said before (and will undoubtedly say again), no matter what you think of the attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium in recent years, The Citadel still enjoys a significantly greater level of support than would normally be expected for a school of its size — both in terms of undergraduate enrollment and alumni base.

Sometimes, people forget that.