Game Review, 2017: Wofford

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” package, The Post and Courier

“By the Numbers”, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

– AP game story

– Game story, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– School release

– Video from WCSC-TV (postgame discussion with Brent Thompson and Dominique Allen)

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

– ESPN3 video of the game

First, something not related to the football game but a bit more important:

Caroline Cashion, a mainstay on The Citadel’s soccer team for the past few years, was injured in the Bulldogs’ match against Chattanooga on Friday. She was hurt while attempting to head the ball away from goal; Cashion collided with one of the Mocs and went down heavily, immediately clutching her lower back after she landed.

Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier posted this message to Facebook on Sunday:

From Craig Cashion, father of injured Citadel soccer player Caroline Cashion: “Thank you to everyone for thoughts and prayers. Caroline still cannot move her legs but her feeling has moved from her waist to her upper thigh so she is improving slowly.”

Some Bulldog fans may recall that in addition to her high school soccer exploits, Cashion served as the placekicker for West Ashley High School’s football team, most memorably kicking a game-winning field goal against Summerville during her sophomore campaign.

Let us hope she makes a complete recovery.

Saturday’s loss was tough. The Bulldogs played hard, and often played well, but it wasn’t enough. There is only so much that can be said about a game like that.

A few random thoughts:

– I didn’t have any significant issues with the officiating in terms of specific calls, but the game management left a lot to be desired. There was no reason that contest should have taken over three hours to play.

A key third-down play for Wofford in the second quarter may have come after the play clock hit zero, but I wasn’t sure. The ESPN3 game replay would tend to indicate that the play should have been whistled dead, but it wasn’t and such is life, especially when league opponents face the Terriers.

– During the contest, I was more than a little startled to hear the P.A. announcer credit Wofford linebacker Michael Roach with a tackle on a kick return. Why?

Well, because Roach almost died last season after going into cardiac arrest during a game. I remembered his name (you could say I was predisposed to do so), and immediately tweeted a question, asking if he was playing again.

Not surprisingly (as Todd Shanesy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal soon replied), he wasn’t.

Later, Roach was credited by the P.A. with another special teams tackle. I had my suspicions, which were confirmed when I took another look at Wofford’s roster.

Wofford lists two players as wearing #43, Roach (who obviously doesn’t play) and linebacker Shaun Moore, a freshman from Spring Valley High School in Columbia.

It was undoubtedly Moore who made two tackles on special teams Saturday night, though the statistics don’t indicate as such. He is credited with participating in the game, however.

I don’t really know who was at fault for this particular episode of mistaken identity. I think it is probably up to the road team’s support staff to make sure the P.A. announcer (and his spotter) is given the correctly numbered roster. Whether or not that happened, I have no idea.

For a brief moment, though, I was left wondering if Michael Roach was making medical history…

– Near the end of the game, Brent Thompson was left with a tough decision in regards to when to take his timeouts on defense. There was a bit of nuance as to when he should take them. In general, he handled the situation reasonably well, though I thought he probably should have taken his first timeout one play earlier. Some might argue he should have done so two plays earlier.

It was a very tricky time/score management scenario. I was going through the various potential permutations myself and not coming up with any decisive answers, which is unusual for me, as I am one of those nerds who spends way too much time thinking about clock management.

In the end, it didn’t really matter once Wofford picked up its penultimate first down.

It mattered a little too much to a couple of guys behind me, though, who were loudly berating the coach as the clock wound down. I particularly remember one of them (maybe both of them) bellowing, “This isn’t high school!” as they yelled for Thompson to call timeout. “You’re paid to do this!” They shouted a few other things, too.

They were right about one thing. It wasn’t, and isn’t, high school. It is college. That applies to the coaches and players…and it also applies to the fans.

Thompson shouldn’t be immune from criticism — he is a professional, after all. There comes a time as a critic, however, when the point has been made, and over-the-top obnoxious behavior isn’t going to change anything or make things better.

In short, a couple of people need to grow up.

– The colored smoke routine for Military Appreciation Day was new (at least, I don’t remember seeing it before, but admittedly I could be very wrong about that). It led to a chaotic-looking scene on the field after the team made its run through the “Block C”.

To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the chaos. Let’s do that again.

– When the Bulldogs play again at Johnson Hagood Stadium in two weeks, it will be Homecoming. The opponent will be VMI, and the coveted Silver Shako will be on the line.

Would it be too much to ask that the team breaks out light blue jerseys and white pants for that game? Even if it is too much to ask, I’m asking anyway. C’mon.

As usual, the pictures aren’t the best; they aren’t the worst, either. No annotations, though the game action is in sequential order. My thanks to Spike The Bulldog for the pose in the initial photo (water bottle and all).

 

 

2017 Football, Game 6: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel vs. Wofford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on October 14, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. 

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– Preview article in The Post and Courier

Russell Hubbs, linebacker and weightlifter

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

– SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #22)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #23)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/10 press conference, including comments from Dominique Allen and Myles Pierce (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/11 radio show (video)

Promo for Wofford-The Citadel (video)

Wofford weekly media lunch (video)

Wofford highlight/postgame package for its game versus Western Carolina

ESPN3 replay of Western Carolina-Wofford game (video)

Wofford piling up wins

Offensive line paves way for Terriers’ running game

Game preview from SB Nation

My brief review of last week’s game against Mercer

Non-football links:

The Citadel plans to rebuild/replace Capers Hall

– Basketball season is right around the corner

Saturday will presumably be the last time in 2017 the Bulldogs will play a regular-season game with an early evening kickoff. The Citadel’s next four games (two at home, two on the road) are all set to start at 2:00 pm ET.

No kickoff time has been announced for the contest at Clemson, but it is highly doubtful that matchup will be a night game, particularly as it will be Military Appreciation Day in Death Valley.

Speaking of Military Appreciation Day, that designation is also in play for this weekend at Johnson Hagood Stadium. In the last three seasons, The Citadel has won all three of its games on Military Appreciation Day at JHS (against Gardner-Webb, Western Carolina, and Furman).

This week’s opponent, Wofford, is 5-0. Four of the Terriers’ five victories have been close, with two of them one-point affairs. Last week’s game versus Western Carolina was decided in overtime.

Key statistics for The Citadel through five games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 27.6 21.0
Rushing yardage 1535 551
Average per rush 4.9 3.7
Average per game 307.0 110.2
TDs rushing 14 8
Passing yardage 620 933
Comp-Att-Int 34-74-3 78-131-7
Average per pass 8.4 7.1
TDs passing 5 6
Total offense 2155 1484
Total plays 387 280
Yards per play 5.6 5.3
Kick returns-yards 8-158 12-236
Punt returns-yards 10-83 4-24
Fumbles/lost 12/4 4/3
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.4/38.2 2.8/27.2
Net punt average 37.1 37.3
Time of possession/game 35:12 24:48
3rd down conversions 36/77 16/52
3rd down conversion rate 46.8% 30.8%
Sacks by-yards 9-46 4-27
Field goals-attempts 2-4 2-3
Red Zone touchdown rate 15-23 (65.2%) 9-13 (69.2%)
  • The Citadel is 12th nationally in offensive third down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs’ defense is 16th in FCS in third down conversion rate allowed
  • The Citadel is third in rushing offense, and 21st in average per rush
  • Defensively, the Bulldogs are 25th in rushing yards allowed, 48th in average per rush allowed
  • The Citadel is fourth nationally in time of possession per game
  • Pass efficiency: the Bulldogs are 55th in FCS on offense, and 47th on defense
  • The offensive pass efficiency numbers include an average of 18.2 yards per catch, fourth nationally
  • The Citadel is 29th in FCS in scoring offense and 50th in scoring defense
  • The Bulldogs are 99th in red zone scoring offense (a number that includes made field goals)
  • Defensively, The Citadel is 41st in red zone scoring (again, counting field goals made)
  • The Bulldogs are 35th nationally in net punting
  • The 4.4 penalties per game committed by The Citadel is 10th-fewest in FCS

I included those red zone rankings, but I will point out that red zone TD rate (not computed on a national basis by the NCAA, at least from what I can tell) is a better barometer of a team’s success in that area of the field.

Also, it is quite possible that The Citadel’s opponents have been called for fewer penalties per game than any other team’s opponents in all of FCS. Bulldog opponents are only committing on average 2.8 penalties per contest; to give you an idea how low that number is, VMI leads the nation in fewest penalties per game…at 3.0.

The lack of flags thrown against The Citadel’s opponents has been an issue in league play for several years, of course.

Average yards picked up on first down by The Citadel in its five games this season:

  • vs. Newberry: 8.1 yards
  • vs. Presbyterian: 7.0 yards
  • vs. East Tennessee State: 6.0 yards
  • vs. Samford: 5.2 yards
  • vs. Mercer: 7.5 yards

At least the Bulldogs improved in this category. Some of that came late, and via the pass.

Usually, a correlating statistic would be the yards required to move the chains:

  • vs. Newberry: average of 5.1 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. Presbyterian: average of 3.0 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. East Tennessee State: average of 6.3 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. Samford: average of 8.8 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. Mercer: average of 6.1 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down

Usually, but perhaps not this time. Incidentally, the Mercer game featured the Bulldogs’ first 3rd-and-short pass attempt of the season. It was not completed.

Wofford stats of note through five games:

Wofford Opponents
Points per game 29.0 21.8
Rushing yardage 1482 644
Average per rush 5.5 3.8
Average per game 296.4 128.8
TDs rushing 16 7
Passing yardage 551 887
Comp-Att-Int 31-59-0 89-139-8
Average per pass 9.3 6.4
TDs passing 2 6
Total offense 2033 1531
Total plays 328 309
Yards per play 6.2 5.0
Kick returns-yards 14-242 21-491
Punt returns-yards 10-97 6-77
Fumbles/lost 7/4 6/2
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 5.6/49.8 4.2/36.8
Net punt average 36.1 39.4
Time of possession/game 32:35 27:25
3rd down conversions 31/67 29/64
3rd down conversion rate 46.3% 45.3%
Sacks by-yards 5-35 5-24
Field goals-attempts 6-6 4-7
Red Zone touchdown rate 12-21 (57.1%) 10-17 (58.8%)
  • Wofford is 14th nationally in offensive third down conversion rate
  • The Terriers’ defense is 108th in third down conversion rate allowed
  • Wofford is fifth in FCS in rushing offense, and 16th in average yards per rush
  • Defensively, WC is 40th in rushing yards allowed, 53rd in average per rush allowed
  • The Terriers are 17th nationally in time of possession per game
  • Pass efficiency: Wofford is 31st in FCS on offense, and 28th on defense
  • The offensive pass efficiency numbers include an average of 17.8 yards per catch, fifth in FCS
  • Wofford is 42nd nationally in scoring offense and 32nd in scoring defense
  • The Terriers are fifth in red zone scoring offense (a number that includes made field goals)
  • Defensively, WC is 40th in red zone scoring (counting field goals made)
  • The Terriers are 14th nationally in turnover margin (and lead the SoCon in that category)
  • Wofford has yet to throw an interception this season, one of just three FCS teams that can still make that claim (the others are South Dakota and North Dakota State)
  • Conversely, the Terriers are 16th nationally in defensive interceptions
  • The 5.6 penalties per game committed by Wofford is 30th-fewest in FCS

Starting quarterback Brandon Goodson (6’0″, 205 lbs.) is completing 53.8% of his passes so far this season, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, with one TD and no interceptions. He is averaging only 2.9 yards per rush, but Goodson’s primary job is to run the offense and set up his teammates.

His backup, sophomore Joe Newman (5’11”, 177 lbs.) had a big play against The Citadel in last year’s playoff game, but has not seen as much action thus far as some might have anticipated. Newman has appeared in all five games for the Terriers, however, and it would not be surprising to see him on the field in a significant role this Saturday.

Andre Stoddard (5’10”, 230 lbs.) has stepped in as the new fullback in Wofford’s offense and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Stoddard attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville.

Slotback Blake Morgan (5’10”, 190 lbs.) is a breakaway threat. He had a 94-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage against Presbyterian, and is averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. The sophomore from Florida also had a 72-yard pass reception versus PC, and has accounted for seven plays of 20 or more yards this year. Morgan is listed as one of the kickoff return men this week as well.

Lennox McAfee (5’7″, 175 lbs.) is a junior from Nashville who can also break a game open. He is averaging 7.8 yards per rush, including a 57-yard TD run against Mercer. McAfee, Wofford’s primary punt returner, rushed for 63 yards against The Citadel last year in Spartanburg, but was injured in the Terriers’ playoff game versus Charleston Southern.

R.J. Taylor (5’11”, 190 lbs.) leads Wofford in receptions, with 11. Another wideout, Jason Hill (also 5’11”, 190 lbs.), caught a 75-yard TD pass versus Presbyterian.

Tight end Chandler Gouger (6’4″, 230 lbs.) was a preseason second-team all-league choice. He had three TD receptions last season, but has yet to catch a pass in 2017.

Average size of the projected starters on Wofford’s offensive line: 6’3″, 297 lbs. That is the same height and one pound more (on average) from last year’s Terriers o-line.

Left tackle Ross Demmel (6’3″, 290 lbs.) was a preseason second-team all-league choice. The Cincinnati native started all 14 games for the Terriers last season.

Chuck Rouse (6’3″, 320 lbs.) is the largest of the starters on the offensive line. The senior went to Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant.

Wofford’s defense is keyed by its line, which includes two preseason all-conference selections. One of them, defensive end Tyler Vaughn (6’1″, 270 lbs.), was a first-team all-SoCon pick last season.

The other two starters on the d-line are two tough widebodies — 6’2″, 320 lb. Miles Brown (a junior from Maryland who went to Sidwell Friends) and 6’1″, 305 lb. Mikel Horton. Brown was a preseason all-league pick, while Horton (a native of Kentucky) is a sophomore who had a very impressive freshman campaign for the Terriers.

Brown and Horton have combined for 5 1/2 tackles for loss (2 1/2 sacks) so far in 2017.

Inside linebacker Colton Clemons (6’0″, 245 lbs.) is a senior from Fayetteville, Georgia who currently leads Wofford in tackles, with 31. Clemons, a first-year starter, had nine tackles and an interception last week against Western Carolina. His father was a linebacker on the St. Louis Rams team that won the 2000 Super Bowl.

While the Terriers have a lot of good defensive players, arguably the one that impressed Bulldog fans the most last season was a true freshman linebacker, Datavious Wilson. Now a sophomore, the Hartsville resident (6’1″, 235 lbs.) led Wofford in tackles last season, with 97.

Devin Watson (5’11”, 195 lbs.) was a preseason first-team All-SoCon selection. The junior cornerback from Gainesville, Georgia is tied for third on the team in tackles and also has two interceptions this year.

Redshirt sophomore cornerback George Gbesee (5’8″, 180 lbs.) started 11 games for the Terriers last season. He was a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection. Gbesee has three interceptions this season, two of which came last week against Western Carolina (including the disputed pick that ended the game).

Luke Carter (6’1″, 220 lbs.) handles placekicking, punting, and kickoff duties for Wofford. The sophomore from Florence is 6 for 6 on field goal attempts (including a 44-yarder against Furman), and has yet to miss a PAT this season.

Miller Mosley (5’11”, 182 lbs.), who began his college career at the Air Force Academy, is the holder. He was a high school quarterback (and is also listed as a QB on Wofford’s roster).

Junior long snapper Ross Hammond (6’1, 225 lbs.), a third-year performer at his position, is the son of South Carolina’s Secretary of State, Mark Hammond. The senior Hammond played college football at Newberry.

The game on Saturday will employ instant replay review. It will be the second (and last) time this season Wofford plays a league game with instant replay review as an option, while it will be the second of four SoCon contests for The Citadel under the system.

Essentially, league games are being played under two different sets of rules this year, depending on whether or not a stadium has instant replay. I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating: the decision by the SoCon to let conference schools off the hook for setting up replay until (at least) 2019 was dubious at best.

That inequity could be a factor in the conference title race. In fact, it may have already been a factor.

In Wofford’s victory over Western Carolina last week, the Terriers were the beneficiaries of two questionable officiating calls in overtime. A big run to set up the eventual game-winning TD appeared to be aided by a hold at the point of attack that was apparently not seen by the men in stripes. Wofford scored (from three yards out) on the next snap.

Then, after an amusing play (well, unless you were a Catamount fan) in which WCU quarterback Tyrie Adams was tackled by four Terrier defenders, one of whom happened to be the umpire, Wofford sealed the victory with an interception in the end zone.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an interception. Earlier I mentioned two “questionable” calls, but to be honest this one wasn’t questionable at all. The Wofford defender clearly corralled the football after it had hit the ground, showed it to the nearby official, and was rewarded.

The ruling almost certainly would have been overturned on review, and the Catamounts would have had at least one more play. Without replay, Western Carolina didn’t get that chance.

If the game had taken place at Mercer or at The Citadel, though, things would have been different. That is a problem for the league.

It cost The Citadel (a small public school) approximately $15,000 to set up an instant replay review system at Johnson Hagood Stadium. I am not sure why the other schools in the league (besides Mercer) could not have done the same.

For some of the institutions, it might have been a financial issue. It may be the case, for example, that Wofford is cash-poor. That seems like the only reasonable explanation.

A few sports-related tidbits from perusing the minutes of recent Board of Visitors meetings at The Citadel…

From the June 9/10 meeting:

[The Citadel Brigadier Foundation] is on track to deliver $1.55 million for athletic scholarships this year, with a goal of reaching $15 million in the Memorial Fund Athletic Endowment by June 2018.

There was also a discussion about the fact that a decline in annual giving to colleges and universities is a national trend. As you might have guessed, millennials are to blame.

[The Chairman] reviewed the remaining agenda items…

…Other items of interest included:
 Arrival of the new Vice President for Communications and Marketing in July
 New plan for Capers and the final concept for the East Side stands
 Need for a parking garage
 Determining the vision of LEAD 2024
Challenges of having a winning football season

I can only speak for myself, but I welcome the challenge of having a winning football season. I would like to suffer such a trial on an annual basis.

In all seriousness, I wish more of the discussion surrounding that particular agenda item had been mentioned in the minutes, just for clarification.

From the August 3/4 meeting:

[Jim] Senter reported the athletic cadre is back on campus and is doing well. The basketball team will be going on a tour of the Dominican Republic, which will be funded by the proceeds from the Florida State game. Maybank Field has new turf, thanks to a gift from Mr. Bill Sansom. The seats on the East Side of the stadium will be ready for the 7 October football game; visitors will be put in the northwest corner of the stadium for the first two games. Although scheduling ACC games has become more difficult, games against Clemson have been set for the 2020 and 2024 seasons. The new baseball coach is doing well and is busy on the recruiting trail. We will have instant replay at football games this year at a cost of $15,000.

Gen. John Rosa also provided a report on the college in general. The retiring school president noted that, among other things, decisions about the next capital campaign had to be made, and a review of the potential compensation package for the president-to-be needed to be performed. He also stated that the “New President and spouse will ‘bring excitement’ to the college community”.

There was no recorded discussion about the potential level of excitement if the individual chosen to be the new leader of the military college wasn’t actually married.

From the August 7 meeting, a motion:

“That the Board of Visitors approves the recommendation of The Citadel Real Estate Foundation to move forward with the development process of approximately 3,800 seats on the East Stands of Johnson
Hagood Stadium as well as approximately 40,000 square feet of office, education and/or residential space. The Board directs The Foundation to develop detailed specifications, pricing and recommendations to
finance and fund the cost of the new East Side facility for presentation to the Board at its September meeting.”

After discussion, Colonel Harrington moved to amend by striking out “directs” and inserting “requests” and by adding after “presentation” “for continued evaluation.”

The amended motion was unanimously approved by the BOV. Much of the information that came out of this meeting was later reported by Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier (whose presence was also noted in the minutes).

From the September 14 meeting:

As moving the football game against Presbyterian College to Bailey Memorial Stadium in Clinton was expensive, the freshmen will only go to the Furman game this year.

I believe that originally the freshmen in the corps of cadets were slated to attend two road games this season, one at Samford and one at Furman. Thanks to Hurricane Irma, the trip to Samford got scrapped.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 20% chance of showers, with an expected high of 84 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 70 degrees.

It appears that fans may get a break from the heat and humidity of last week’s game at Johnson Hagood Stadium. We can only hope.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Wofford is a 5-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 43.5.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 34-point favorite over VMI; Mercer is a 7-point favorite over Chattanooga; and Western Carolina is a 14.5-point favorite over East Tennessee State. Samford has a bye this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 22.5-point favorite at Syracuse; South Carolina is a 2.5-point underdog at Tennessee (the same amount Arkansas was favored over the Gamecocks last week); South Carolina State is a 1.5-point underdog at Bethune-Cookman; Coastal Carolina is a 19-point underdog at Arkansas State; Presbyterian is a 14.5-point home underdog at Charleston Southern. Of course, PC was a 20-point home ‘dog versus St. Francis University last week, and won that game 26-14.

Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 41st in FCS.

Wofford is ranked 13th in FCS, moving up four places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 184th, while Wofford is 117th.

Massey projects a final score of Wofford 23, The Citadel 17. The Bulldogs are given a 34% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Samford is 23rd (up one spot), Furman is 25th (up 10 places), Western Carolina is 31st (down two from last week), Charleston Southern is 35th, Mercer is 36th, Chattanooga is 61st (down 7 spots), East Tennessee State is 64th (up 12 places), Presbyterian is 81st, South Carolina State is 82nd, and VMI is 112th (down three places).

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

– Since 1916, The Citadel has a 3-9 record for games played on October 14. The last time the Bulldogs won on October 14 was in 1961, a 10-8 victory at William and Mary in that championship season.

The Citadel has not won a home game on October 14 since 1950, a 19-12 win over Davidson.

– There are no changes to The Citadel’s two-deep for the Wofford game.

– Despite outscoring its opponents overall by a 138-105 tally, The Citadel has been outscored 49-28 in the first quarter this season.

– Wofford has outscored its opponents 56-26 in the fourth quarter (and OT) so far in 2017.

– Among Wofford’s notable graduates are Carolina Panthers owner (and major Wofford benefactor) Jerry Richardson, longtime political operative Donald Fowler, and MSNBC anchor/reporter Craig Melvin.

– The roster for Wofford (per its website) includes 32 players from the State of South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (14 players), Ohio (11), North Carolina (8), Florida (8), Tennessee (8), Kentucky (4), Maryland (3), Alabama (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Maine, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

None of the Palmetto State players on Wofford’s roster attended noted gridiron power Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, which is decidedly odd (and certainly counterproductive) for a school with designs on recruiting in-state talent.

– 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 going to be a different kind of game from any other The Citadel has played in 2017, in terms of expectations. I don’t think any of the “experts” believes the Bulldogs will win this week.

That is understandable, but I’m not giving up on Brent Thompson’s charges just yet. Wofford is formidable, but has also been a bit fortunate to be undefeated to this point in the season.

The last couple of weeks have probably not been easy on the home team’s collective psyche. However, this is still a talented, capable squad. It just needs to put together a complete performance.

I am hoping to see that happen on Saturday.

Game Review, 2017: Mercer

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” package, The Post and Courier

– AP game story

– School release

Video from WCSC-TV, including postgame discussion with Brent Thompson

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

ESPN3 video of the game

This isn’t going to be a long review (and it is late, for reasons not having anything to do with the game itself). Nevertheless, I wanted to make a few quick observations.

– The Citadel threw 13 passes in the first half — six in the first quarter, and seven in the second quarter. The Bulldogs completed five of their first six throws, but were only 1-for-7 in the second quarter.

I wasn’t really sure why The Citadel threw so often in the first half. Later in the game, sure, but it seemed to me that the Bulldogs got out of their natural offensive rhythm. I realize much of the passing was based on what Mercer’s defense was doing, but I still thought it was odd.

– The two-deep for Saturday’s game included ten freshmen on offense (five starters) and seven on defense. The Bulldogs also featured a freshman punter and numerous other first-year players on all the special teams units.

It showed at times, particularly on offense. The Bulldogs may be better later in the season once this group of players has more experience, but that fact may be hard for some supporters to accept.

– Dominique Allen played the entire game at quarterback, as Jordan Black did not take a snap under center. Brent Thompson explained why:

Just a different game plan. We ran a lot more zone options last week (at Samford). This week, it was more operational, and Dom was operating just fine. We had to move pretty quickly, because (Mercer’s defense) was moving around quite a bit, and one quarterback seems to suit me better with all those moving parts.

I don’t have a problem with that decision. Allen certainly wasn’t making bad plays. The only real reason to change QBs in that situation is if you think just making a switch could spark the team, and Thompson clearly didn’t believe that.

However, I wish Thompson could have gone into the stands during one of the media timeouts and explained the situation to the fan behind me who yelled “Put in Black!” at least 300 times during the game.

– The officials didn’t decide the game, but they weren’t in good form, either, unless you enjoy the art of haphazard ball-spotting.

The SoCon crew seemed to delight in delaying the game for instant replay reviews whenever possible (one reason the contest took 3:21 to play), but there was somehow no review of a punt that hit a Mercer gunner in the back on a would-be return.

ESPN announcer Kevin Fitzgerald, looking at the scrum of players around the football: “Whoever comes out of this pile physically holding it is going to get the football.”

You would have thought so, but nope. The Citadel’s Logan Bailey came out of the pile with the football. The referee looked at him — and then awarded possession to Mercer.

I guess that play wasn’t worth a review. Maybe the wrong team recovered the football.

– It was one of the muggier days at Johnson Hagood Stadium in recent memory, which made the length of the game all the more arduous. The announced attendance was disappointing (9,969), which was due to a lot of factors, including the heat (I’m sure a significant number of people with tickets wound up not going to the game).

This is just a theory of mine, but I believe one thing that will improve attendance is a permanent seating structure on the East side. That isn’t going to be around again until at least the 2019 season, of course.

This week’s pictures aren’t half-bad, at least compared to most weeks. They are currently not annotated (I may go back and do that later). They are in order, however, so anyone trying to piece together plays/results can use the play-by-play from the box score to match things up (at least through most of the first three quarters).

2017 Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. Mercer

The Citadel vs. Mercer, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 7, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. 

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– The Citadel won’t hit the panic button

– Back at home after a month away

– Game notes from The Citadel and Mercer

– SoCon weekly release

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #17)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #17)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/3 press conference, including comments from Tyler Davis and Kailik Williams (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/4 radio show (video)

– The Bulldog Breakdown [10/2] (video)

Mercer running game searching for its rhythm

Bears rout VMI

Mercer is right back in the SoCon title race

Bobby Lamb says the series has been “a bloodbath”

Mercer’s student newspaper: this is the best MU team since football was re-instituted in 2013

Mercer highlights versus VMI (video)

Mercer highlights versus Wofford (video)

It is very disappointing when the Bulldogs throw in a complete clunker of a game, regardless of the sport. That is magnified in football, however, because there are only a limited number of opportunities to generate a positive outcome. It is important to make the most of each and every contest.

That didn’t happen on Saturday. The contest was essentially over after the first quarter. I know that the team “played better” in the second half, but does that really matter? I don’t think so, to be honest.

Garbage time is garbage time, particularly when the team in question is not an extremely young squad, but rather an outfit coming off consecutive league titles and expected to compete for another one. There are no truly positive developments to be taken from the debacle at Seibert Stadium. It was simply a bad loss.

That said, the following is also true: many of the players and coaches on the current team have been part of the pigskin scene at the military college for the last 2+ years.

Over that time period The Citadel is 22-7, 15-2 in the SoCon, with two conference crowns and a win over an SEC team (along with a road playoff triumph). The next victory by the current edition of the Bulldogs will tie the 1959-60-61 teams for most wins by the program over a three-year period (23).

In other words, there are a bunch of winners on the roster. They are used to success, and they’re not likely to take a step back after a bad performance.

Temporary stands have been set up on the East side of Johnson Hagood Stadium in time for the game against Mercer:

Seating has been added to the east side of Johnson Hagood Stadium for the stretch run of the 2017 season. The seating is general admission and will be available on a first-come, first-serve so fans are encouraged to purchase their general admission tickets in advance. The seating is in close proximity to the Bulldog Beer Garden and the Kids’ Zone…

The Bulldog Beer Garden…is located next to the Altman Center on the southeast side of the stadium. Concessions including food and beverages will be located in this area presented by Sticky Fingers.  The adjacent location will also have a kid’s fun zone with inflatables for children of appropriate ages.  The Bulldog Beer Garden will be tented, accommodate up to 500 patrons, and will have TVs playing football games of interest…

…[the Kids’ Zone] includes Jumpcastles, face painting, and other fun activities [that] are available for ages 12 & under.

The temporary seating (not including the beer garden) will have room for approximately 1,000 spectators.

Saturday’s game is part of Parents’ Weekend. Schedule of events: Link

On Friday, seniors will receive their class rings. That is a big deal at The Citadel, of course, even for football players who have already picked up their fair share of hardware. As Kailik Williams said:

It means a lot. A lot of people didn’t think I was going to make it. Sometimes, I didn’t even think I was going to make it.

There are plenty of alums who can relate to that sentiment.

The football program is currently on a very good run when it comes to the “celebration games”, Parents’ Day and Homecoming. The Citadel has won ten straight of those contests, winning on Parents’ Day and Homecoming in each of the last five seasons.

From what I can tell, that is the longest winning streak in those games since the Bulldogs’ first Homecoming game — which, according to former school president/historian Oliver Bond, occurred in 1924. The Citadel defeated Furman 6-0 in that October 25 contest at Hampton Park before more than 4,000 fans, with Anderson native Carl Hogrefe scoring the winning touchdown.

However, five Parents’ Day wins in a row is not a school record. The mark for sustained success on Parents’ Day is eight, a streak that began in 1978 with a 21-14 win over Delaware and lasted through 1985, a 10-3 victory over Western Carolina.

The Citadel has not played Mercer on Parents’ Day or Homecoming before this season.

The Bulldogs led FCS in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate prior to the Samford game (61%). However, The Citadel only converted 3 of 13 third-down attempts last Saturday.

A look at first down/third down plays explains why, especially when compared to the first three games this season.

Average yards picked up on first down by The Citadel:

  • vs. Newberry: 8.1 yards
  • vs. Presbyterian: 7.0 yards
  • vs. East Tennessee State: 6.0 yards
  • vs. Samford: 5.2 yards

That is not a great trend.

It also leads to more difficult third down situations for the Bulldogs:

  • vs. Newberry: average of 5.1 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. Presbyterian: average of 3.0 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. East Tennessee State: average of 6.3 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down
  • vs. Samford: average of 8.8 yards needed on third down to pick up a first down

Those third down conversion attempts against Samford included a 3rd-and-15, a 3rd-and-19, and a 3rd-and-28.

Penalties were a major factor in the offensive struggles. The Bulldogs were flagged eight times on offense (not counting two other infractions that were declined).

On defense, the Bulldogs have to do a better job against the pass.

Yards per pass attempt allowed:

  • vs. Newberry: 7.2 yards
  • vs. Presbyterian: 5.1 yards
  • vs. East Tennessee State: 5.7 yards
  • vs. Samford: 12.4

You aren’t going to win many games allowing 12.4 yards per pass attempt.

It should be noted, though, that The Citadel’s offense averaged 10.9 yards per pass attempt itself, in line with its season average. I wouldn’t mind that number for the Bulldogs in any game they play during the season.

Key stats for The Citadel through four games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 31.0 20.2
Rushing yardage 1334 351
Average per rush 5.0 3.5
Average per game 333.5 87.8
TDs rushing 12 5
Passing yardage 440 822
Comp-Att-Int 20-42-2 66-108-7
Average per pass 10.5 7.6
TDs passing 5 6
Total offense 1774 1173
Total plays 309 207
Yards per play 5.74 5.67
Kick returns-yards 6-128 12-236
Punt returns-yards 6-44 1-1
Fumbles/lost 6/1 2/1
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 5.0/43.0 2.5/23.8
Net punt average 39.7 37.2
Time of possession/game 37:24 22:36
3rd down conversions 33/62 12/38
3rd down conversion rate 53.2% 31.6%
Sacks by-yards 8-44 3-20
Field goals-attempts 2-3 1-2
Red Zone touchdown rate 13-19 (68.4%) 6-9 (66.7%)
  • The Citadel leads the nation in time of possession
  • The Bulldogs are second nationally in rushing offense and 14th in the country in rushing defense
  • Despite the 3rd down struggles last week, The Citadel is still 4th in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate
  • Defensively, the Bulldogs are 22nd nationally in third down conversion rate
  • The Citadel is 12th in turnover margin
  • The Bulldogs are 11th in net punting
  • Even with 10 accepted penalties versus Samford, The Citadel is 17th nationally in fewest penalties per game
  • The Citadel is 35th in scoring offense and 29th in scoring defense
  • The Bulldogs are 12th in offensive pass efficiency, a number that includes The Citadel’s 22 yards per catch rate, tops in FCS

Mercer has been competitive ever since joining the Southern Conference in time for the 2014 football season. The Bears have had a habit of playing close games. What they have not done as often as MU fans would like is win those games.

Since 2014, Mercer has played 14 conference games decided by five points or less. The Bears are 4-10 in those contests. Three of those losses have come against The Citadel, by a total of five points.

Of the four close SoCon victories, two have come on the road (both against VMI). One of the two home wins was a 17-14 decision over Chattanooga in 2015, a result that helped The Citadel claim a share of the Southern Conference title.

This year, Mercer has lost two hard-fought SoCon contests, including a home loss to Wofford that the Bears probably should have won.

Mercer’s schedule after five games:

  • beat Jacksonville 48-7, an easy win over an overmatched Pioneer League foe (JU has recovered to win its next 3 games, though)
  • lost 28-27 to Wofford, a game in which the Bears led by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter
  • played very well (particularly on defense) in a 24-10 loss at Auburn; Mercer forced five turnovers in that contest
  • lost 26-23 in overtime at East Tennessee State; MU led by 10 points entering the fourth quarter
  • defeated VMI 49-14, rolling up 575 yards of offense in the process

Statistics of note for the Bears:

Mercer Opponents
Points per game 31.4 19.8
Rushing yardage 790 721
Average per rush 3.9 3.4
Average per game 158 144.2
TDs rushing 10 9
Passing yardage 1108 1009
Comp-Att-Int 83-135-5 88-125-5
Average per pass 8.2 8.1
TDs passing 10 3
Total offense 1898 1730
Total plays 340 334
Yards per play 5.58 5.18
Kick returns-yards 12-242 22-267
Punt returns-yards 7-75 7-68
Fumbles/lost 4/2 9/6
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 5.4/46.2 6.2/62.8
Net punt average 37.4 35.3
Time of possession/game 29:15 30:45
3rd down conversions 28/67 32/72
3rd down conversion rate 41.8% 44.4%
Sacks by-yards 9-57 6-48
Field goals-attempts 4-6 3-6
Red Zone touchdown rate 15/20 (75.0%) 8/15 (53.3%)
  • Mercer leads the nation in kick return defense
  • The Bears are 30th nationally in net punting
  • MU is 40th in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate and
  • Conversely, the Bears are 100th (out of 123 teams) in defensive third down conversion rate
  • Mercer is 54th in rushing offense and 57th in rushing defense
  • MU is 31st in scoring offense and 27th in scoring defense
  • Mercer is 23rd nationally in turnover margin, helped by six recovered fumbles on defense (1oth-best in FCS)

Mercer’s passing attack accounts for 58.3% of its total offense, though only 41.5% of its offensive plays from scrimmage are passing attempts (including sacks).

After four years as the starter, MU quarterback John Russ graduated. Mercer had a replacement ready, however.

Redshirt freshman Kaelan Riley (6’3″, 222 lbs.) is 80 for 132 passing this season (a 60.6% completion rate), averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, with 10 TD passes against five interceptions. The native of Calhoun, Georgia accounted for 75 touchdowns in high school (with a win-loss record of 54-4) while also playing basketball and tennis. Brent Thompson described him as a “spectacular” player.

Running back C.J. Leggett (5’9″, 217 lbs.) began his college career at Georgia Tech. After an injury, he transferred to Mesa Community College.

The redshirt junior from Suwanee, Georgia is averaging 4.6 yards per carry for the Bears. In recent weeks, his workload has increased, despite not being listed as the starter on the two-deep. He rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries versus ETSU, and added 89 yards on 16 rushes against VMI.

Other MU running backs of note include Tee Mitchell (5’10”, 203 lbs.) and Alex Lakes (5’11”, 221 lbs.). Lakes has had an injury-ravaged career, but the redshirt senior is still Mercer’s all-time leading rusher.

Mitchell was a second-team All-SoCon pick in 2015, but was suspended for the entire 2016 season. He is now back and a definite threat in the backfield.

Two years ago, Mitchell (a former Air Force Prep school student) and Lakes combined for 98 yards and a TD against The Citadel at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Junior tight end Sam Walker (6’4″, 229 lbs.) was a preseason first-team All-SoCon selection. He did not play versus VMI, but is expected to suit up against The Citadel.

Wide receiver Marquise Irvin (6’2″, 215 lbs.) is a junior from Huntsville, Alabama. He was a second-team all-conference choice in 2016. Irvin had eight catches for 81 yards in last year’s game against the Bulldogs.

Brent Thompson noted that Mercer does a good job of getting Irvin the pigskin, including bubble screens. He can catch the deep ball too.

Avery Ward (6’2″, 191 lbs.) is a senior wideout from Alpharetta, Georgia, who has been a regular for the Bears since his freshman campaign. In 2014, he had 104 yards receiving (including a 65-yard TD catch) against The Citadel. He also led the team in catches versus the Bulldogs the following season.

Chandler Curtis (5’11”, 200 lbs.) is a senior who, when not injured, is a fine wide receiver and a scintillating return man. The problem for Curtis over his college career has been staying healthy.

He was healthy enough to haul in a 61-yard touchdown pass against VMI last week. Curtis has been the primary punt and kick returner for the Bears this season.

Mercer’s projected starting offensive line averages 6’3″, 298 lbs. Right guard Caleb Yates (6’3″, 294 lbs.) is a three-year starter who was a preseason second-team all-league pick.

Mercer noseguard Dorian Kithcart (6’0″, 285 lbs.) was described by Brent Thompson as a “big load” who “moves extremely well”. He is a redshirt sophomore from Durham.

Defensive end Isaiah Buehler (6’3″, 262 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection. This season he has 2 1/2 tackles for loss, along with 2 quarterback hurries.

Eric Jackson (5’8″, 190 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Powder Springs, Georgia, is a strong safety who currently leads the team in tackles. He has 39 stops through five games.

Inside linebacker Lee Bennett (6’0″, 221 lbs.) is filling up the stat sheet for the Bears this season. He is second on the team in tackles, and also has two tackles for loss (including a sack), a quarterback hurry, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery. Bennett had six tackles versus The Citadel in 2016.

LeMarkus Bailey (5’11”, 201 lbs.), an outside linebacker, leads the team in tackles for loss, with 6 1/2. The native of Marietta, Georgia is a redshirt junior. He had one of the three tackles for loss Mercer recorded against The Citadel in last year’s contest.

Placekicker Cole Fisher (6’1″, 190 lbs.) was the preseason first-team all-conference kicker. Fisher made a 50-yard field goal against Samford last year. This year he hasn’t made one of that distance, though he did attempt a 52-yarder versus Jacksonville.

Fisher is also Mercer’s kickoff specialist. While only four of his 29 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks, opponents are only averaging 12 yards per return against the Bears (which leads the nation, as mentioned earlier).

Mercer’s punter is true freshman Grant Goupil (6’2″, 184 lbs.). Nine of his 22 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday, per the National Weather Service: a 30% chance of showers, with an expected high of 84 degrees. It will be mostly cloudy, with winds of 6-14 mph.

I have a feeling it is going to be one of those wet and windy days. Field conditions could be tricky for both teams and might favor the defenses.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 6-point favorite over Mercer. The over/under is 50.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 4-point favorite at Chattanooga; Samford is a 35-point favorite at VMI; Wofford is a 3.5-point favorite over Western Carolina; and East Tennessee State is an 8.5-point favorite over Robert Morris;

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 21.5-point favorite over Wake Forest; South Carolina is a 2.5-point home underdog versus Arkansas; South Carolina State is a 16.5-point favorite against Morgan State ; Coastal Carolina is a 1-point underdog at home versus Georgia State; Presbyterian is a 20-point home underdog against St. Francis University (which upset Liberty last week); and Charleston Southern is a 31-point underdog at Indiana.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 42nd in FCS, a drop of 12 spots from last week.

Mercer is ranked 56th in FCS, moving up three places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 176th, while Mercer is 202nd.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 26, Mercer 23. The Bulldogs are given a 56% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 17th (up one spot), Samford is 24th (up 14 spots), Western Carolina is 29th (a jump of 18 places, the second week in a row the Catamounts have moved up exactly 18 spots), Furman is 35th (up 8 places), Charleston Southern is 38th, Chattanooga is 54th (down 22 spots), East Tennessee State is 76th (down six places), South Carolina State is 87th, Presbyterian is 101st, and VMI is 109th (down three places).

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

– Since 1911, The Citadel has a 9-5-1 record for games played on October 7. That includes two wins over Richmond and victories over the Charleston Navy and the Parris Island Marines.

The Bulldogs last played at home on October 7 during the 2004 season. That was a Thursday night game against Benedict in Johnson Hagood Stadium during the year of “half a stadium”, which included temporary stands for the cadets on the West side (shades of this week’s game in reverse).

I was at that contest (won by the Bulldogs 29-0), which is on the short list for “worst atmosphere” of any game every played by The Citadel at JHS. Attendance: 5,127, which I believe is the lowest recorded for any game at Johnson Hagood Stadium since at least 1964.

– Changes to The Citadel’s two-deep for the Mercer game: Gage Russell is now listed as the starter at punter; the backup at that position is Branden Glick. At B-back, Brandon Berry has been added to the depth chart.

– Baseball facts about Mercer that I am required to mention every time the Bulldogs meet the Bears:

Mercer was once coached by George Stallings, who helmed both the football and baseball teams. He was a little better at coaching baseball.

Stallings would later become known as “The Miracle Man” for leading the Boston Braves to the 1914 World Championship. That team was in last place in the National League on the 4th of July but stormed to the pennant (by 10 1/2 games!), then dispatched the favored Philadelphia Athletics in a four-game sweep to win the World Series.

Denton True “Cy” Young served as Mercer’s baseball coach from 1903-05. Mercer won the Georgia state championship for college teams in all three of those years.

After each spring in Macon with the Mercer team, Young returned to pitch for Boston (the team now known as the Red Sox); during that three-year stretch, he compiled a major league record of 72-44 with a 1.96 ERA.

– Among Mercer’s notable graduates are TV personality/attack dog Nancy Grace, missionary/spy John Birch, and current Georgia governor Nathan Deal.

– Mercer disbanded its football program following the 1941 campaign, and didn’t field a team again until 2013. This is the fifth year for the program since the re-institution of the sport in Macon.

– The roster for Mercer (per its game notes) includes 62 players from the State of Georgia. Other states represented on the roster: Florida (15 players), Tennessee (9), Alabama (5), South Carolina (2), and one each from North Carolina and Texas.

The two Palmetto State players on Mercer’s squad are redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Destin Guillen (who attended Berea High School), and freshman quarterback Brett Burnett (a product of Airport High School). However, Mercer has no players from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School on its roster, an inexplicable oversight for a university actively searching for high-quality gridiron talent.

– 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.

After the first four to five games of the 2017 season, it appears that the SoCon could be a complete free-for-all. Every team except VMI is capable of winning (and losing) in conference play on any given week.

While that is good from a competitiveness standpoint, I’m afraid it might also mean that a team with a 5-3 conference record will struggle to gain a playoff spot, because it may be hard to for the league squads to separate themselves into easily defined groups (playoff-caliber teams, non-playoff teams, etc.). The league’s non-conference results haven’t been terrible, but they haven’t been that good, either.

For The Citadel, that potential problem is even more acute, because the Bulldogs finish the regular season at Clemson.

That is why each SoCon contest is so important. It is quite possible that to participate in the postseason for a third consecutive season, the Bulldogs can only afford one more league setback.

It is thus even more critical to “hold serve” at home. The one advantage The Citadel has is that it has not played a conference game at Johnson Hagood Stadium thus far.

The Bulldogs have to cash in on their four SoCon home games. Those matchups will be against Mercer, Wofford, Western Carolina, and VMI.

It won’t be easy, and that starts with this week’s matchup. Mercer has been very close to beating the Bulldogs for three straight years.

There is no question that the team from Macon desperately wants to end the close-but-no-cigar run it has had against The Citadel. Those losses have undoubtedly been very hard to take, particularly for head coach Bobby Lamb.

There is also no doubt, however, that the Bulldogs want to put their poor afternoon at Samford in the rear view mirror. The surest way to do that is to win in front of a supportive Parents’ Day crowd.

The stakes, as always, are high. The drive for the playoffs begins anew on Saturday.

2017 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Samford

If you look in the trophy case on the right side [at the entrance to Mark Clark Hall], you will see the game ball that I gave to the corps of cadets because of the overtime at their end of the field. It was so loud that the Samford offense couldn’t communicate, forced them to jump offsides…that helped contribute to the missed field goal. Every time I walk into Mark Clark Hall I look at that ball and think about that game.

Brent Thompson, on last year’s contest between The Citadel and Samford

The Citadel at Samford, to be played at Seibert Stadium in Homewood, Alabama, with kickoff at 3:00 pm ET on September 30, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3. Curt Bloom will handle play-by-play, while Chad Pilcher supplies the analysis. Hattie Breece 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:

The Citadel is ready for action after its bye week

Assessing the SoCon after four weeks

Another look at the league through September 28

The Citadel keeps on winning

Ja’Lon Williams likes pizza (as he should)

– Game notes from The Citadel and Samford

– SoCon weekly release

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #11, down one spot from last week; Samford is ranked #23)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #8, up two spots from last week; Samford is ranked #25)

Brent Thompson speaks to the Orangeburg Touchdown Club

Brent Thompson’s 9/26 press conference, including comments from Dominique Allen and Ja’Lon Williams (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 9/27 radio show (video)

– The Bulldog Breakdown [9/21] (video)

Chris Hatcher briefly discusses both Samford’s loss to and the upcoming game versus The Citadel (video)

Chris Hatcher speaks after SU’s 9/25 practice (video)

Highlights from Samford’s game versus Western Carolina (video)

– Southern Pigskin “SoCon Podcast” (audio)

I’m just back from a trip overseas, so this will be one of the more abbreviated (and perhaps eccentric) previews I’ve written in a while. Sorry about that. I’m not sorry about travelling, though.

Last Saturday, I watched from a good seat at Stadio Olimpico as Roma defeated Udinese 3-1. The atmosphere was incredible; it seemed like half the fans in the Curva Sud section had a giant team flag (note: I wasn’t nearly crazy enough to sit in that part of the arena).

Singing, chanting, yelling, stomping, dancing, flag-waving…you name it, the Roma fans did it.

The last time I was at a sporting event in which the crowd intensity even remotely compared to what I witnessed in Rome — well, that was when Samford played The Citadel last season.

As always, I have to establish ground rules when writing about The Citadel and Samford, as both teams are nicknamed “Bulldogs”.

In this post, “Bulldogs” refers to The Citadel. The reason for that is simple: I graduated from The Citadel, and this is my blog.

I’ll call Samford “SU”, the “Birmingham Bulldogs”, or the “Baptist Tigers”.

For those unfamiliar with the Baptist Tigers, a quick little history lesson:

The Howard College [later to be renamed Samford] team was known originally as the “Baptist Tigers.” However, rival Auburn also had “Tigers” as a nickname. Howard’s teams went by “Baptist Bears” until Dec. 14, 1916, when the student body voted two-to-one for the “Crimson Bulldog” over the “Baptist Bears.” Students decided that a bulldog could eat more Birmingham-Southern Panther meat than a bear could.

I am still trying to figure out why the students thought bears wouldn’t eat as much meat as bulldogs, but maybe the bulldogs of a century ago were particularly carnivorous.

Last year’s game was a bit of a curiosity from a stats perspective. The day after the game, I wrote that it was surprising the contest had gone to overtime, considering how The Citadel had dominated several offensive categories (including time of possession).

When I took a closer look at the statistical profile this summer, however, I realized that the opposite was true. Samford probably should have won the game.

SU had the edge in four out of the Five Factors:

  • Field position (an edge of eight yards of starting field position, 32 to 24)
  • Efficiency (50.0% to 47.8%, meaning a higher percentage of Samford’s offensive plays were successful)
  • Explosiveness (1.108 to 1.101, meaning Samford’s successful plays tended to be more explosive)
  • Finishing Drives (5.4 to 4.0, as Samford averaged more points per possession inside the 40-yard line)

Neither team committed a turnover, so the fifth factor was a draw.

Of course, two of the four factors were close. In those two categories (Efficiency and Explosiveness), The Citadel had a “hidden edge” in the sense that it simply ran many more plays than SU.

That edge in plays meant that despite SU having a higher “explosive play” average, the Cadets had more offensive plays of 20+ yards (six to three). The yards per play numbers were close (6.3 to 5.8, favoring The Citadel).

All of that said, the bottom line is The Citadel was down 10 points with less than six minutes to play. It didn’t look good for the home team, especially while running an offense that allegedly isn’t designed to come back from double-digit deficits.

Tell that to Cam Jackson and company, though.

At his press conference earlier this week, Brent Thompson mentioned two things he remembered about the game against Samford last year. One was Cam Jackson’s fourth-quarter run.

The other was Thompson’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-one from his own 43, which backfired when the Bulldogs did not pick up the first down, leading to a short-field TD (and ten-point lead) for SU. Thompson said at the presser that if he had to do it over again, he probably would have punted.

While it may have been a mistake, I usually don’t mind that type of aggressive move. I would much prefer that than, say, deciding to punt inside the opponents’ 40-yard line on fourth-and-one.

Keeping the ball is particularly important when playing a team like Samford. That was borne out in the 2015 contest at Seibert Stadium. The Citadel won the game handily (44-25), but still allowed SU touchdown drives of 98 and 99 yards. Both of those drives came after punts, and the two possessions combined took only 4:17 off the clock.

Key statistics for The Citadel through three games (victories over Newberry, Presbyterian, and East Tennessee State):

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 36.7 15.3
Rushing yardage 1140 212
Average per rush 5.4 3.2
Average per game 380 70.7
TDs rushing 10 3
Passing yardage 288 499
Comp-Att-Int 14-28-2 45-82-5
Average per pass 10.3 6.1
TDs passing 5 3
Total offense 1428 711
Total plays 240 149
Yards per play 5.9 4.8
Kick returns-yards 3-67 11-221
Punt returns-yards 5-44 1-1
Fumbles/lost 6-1 2-1
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 3.3/37 2.0/18.3
Net punt average 40.38 36.31
Time of possession/game 37:35 22:25
3rd down conversions 30/49 8/30
3rd down conversion rate 61% 27%
Sacks by-yards 6-38 0-0
Field goals-attempts 2-3 1-1
Red Zone touchdown rate (11-14) 79% (3-5) 60%
  • The Citadel currently leads FCS in rushing yards per game and offensive third down conversion rate
  • On defense, the Bulldogs are 12th nationally in third down conversion rate
  • The Citadel is second in the country in time of possession, behind only North Dakota State
  • The Bulldogs are 17th nationally in scoring offense, and 14th in scoring defense
  • The 40.38 net punting yards averaged by The Citadel is currently 13th-best in FCS
  • The Citadel is fourth nationally in fewest penalties per game, but only third in the SoCon (VMI is 2nd in FCS; Furman is 3rd)

Samford is 2-2, with wins over Kennesaw State and West Alabama, and losses to Georgia and Western Carolina. Stats through four games for SU:

Samford Opponents
Points per game 31.2 36.0
Rushing yardage 305 925
Average per rush 2.8 4.7
Average per game 76.2 231.2
TDs rushing 1 11
Passing yardage 1314 1203
Comp-Att-Int 111-173-2 76-124-4
Average per pass 7.6 9.7
TDs passing 13 8
Total offense 1619 2128
Total plays 283 320
Yards per play 5.7 6.7
Kick returns-yards 16-393 12-272
Punt returns-yards 11-77 10-110
Fumbles-lost 8-2 5-3
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.4/39 6.0/58
Net punt average 36.6 36.5
Time of possession/game 26:55 33:05
3rd down conversions 26/62 28/66
3rd down conversion rate 42% 42%
Sacks by-yards 9-43 6-41
Field goals-attempts 2-3 2-4
Red Zone touchdown rate (9-15) 60% (11-14) 79%
  • Samford is 6th nationally in passing yardage per game
  • SU is also 19th in FCS in kickoff return yardage (per attempt)
  • As far as third down conversion rates are concerned, Samford is 34th in the country on offense, and 85th on defense
  • Samford is 13th-best nationally in fewest penalties per game
  • SU is 33rd in scoring offense, and 98th (out of 122 teams) in scoring defense

Chris Hatcher said the following during his press conference earlier this week:

Offensively, we’ve got to do a better job of controlling that football a little bit more consistently for the entire game, and that will be the key to our success this week.

Here is a quick look at the last four years of The Citadel-Samford series from a time of possession/rushing point of view (it should be noted Hatcher has only been the head coach at SU for two of those seasons):

  • 2013: The Citadel controlled the ball for 35:42 and outrushed Samford 338-65
  • 2014: The Citadel controlled the ball for 37:42 and outrushed Samford 359-132
  • 2015: The Citadel controlled the ball for 35:15 and outrushed Samford 424-82
  • 2016: The Citadel controlled the ball for 38:17 and outrushed Samford 463-93

The Citadel won three of those games (losing the 2014 contest by a 20-17 score).

Under the direction of longtime defensive coordinator Bill D’Ottavio, Samford has generally employed a “Bear” front against The Citadel’s triple option attack. From 2010 to 2012, the Bulldogs had a difficult time moving the football against SU, with terrible third-down conversion rates (15% for that combined three-year period).

However, in recent years The Citadel has improved in that category against Samford:

  • 2013: 8 for 17, 47.1%
  • 2014: 7 for 19, 36.8%
  • 2015: 6 for 14, 42.9%
  • 2016: 11 for 21, 52.3%

The victory by Samford over Kennesaw State will probably turn out to be a good one for SU. The Owls have won two straight since SU’s 28-23 win on the opening Thursday of Week 1.

I watched part of the game, which was interrupted by a tornado warning (and subsequent lightning delays). It seemed to me that Chris Hatcher was trying to establish a rushing attack, so much so that SU actually had more runs than passing attempts (33 to 26, counting sacks as passing attempts).

Even taking sacks out of the equation, though, Samford finished with only 81 rushing yards on those 33 attempts (2.45 yards per carry).

I don’t know if the fact KSU is a triple option team had an impact on SU’s offensive play-calling. I do know that in the next three games, Samford went back to its pass-happy ways.

  • Against West Alabama, Samford had 48 pass plays (sacks included) and 30 rushing plays
  • Against Georgia, Samford had 38 pass plays (sacks included) and 20 rushing plays
  • Against Western Carolina, Samford had 67 (!) pass plays and 21 rushing plays

In that WCU game, Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges (6’1″, 205 lbs.) threw for a school-record 516 yards and four TDs. The native of Kimberly, Alabama was the SoCon offensive player of the year last season.

Hodges, a redshirt junior, began his career as a starter after Samford’s 2015 loss to The Citadel, and hasn’t looked back. In last year’s game between the two teams, he was 35 for 46 passing, for 280 yards and two TDs.

While not inclined to run, Hodges is far from a statue. He had a 57-yard TD run right up the middle against the Bulldogs last year on a called QB draw, and showed an ability to move (and escape) in the pocket.

So far this season, Hodges is averaging 7.6 yards per pass attempt, with 13 TDs against just two interceptions.

Kelvin McKnight (5’9″, 188 lbs.) already had 37 receptions this season. The junior from Bradenton, Florida is averaging 13.4 yards per catch. A preseason first-team all-league selection, McKnight had nine receptions against The Citadel last season, for 118 yards.

McKnight is also Samford’s primary punt returner, and he can be dangerous in that role as well. He averaged 8.7 yards per punt return last season. At his press conference, Brent Thompson noted that McKnight is not afraid to pick up a bouncing ball while on the run.

Another wideout, sophomore Chris Shelling (5’8″, 170 lbs.), had 12 receptions for 245 receiving yards last week. Shelling only had seven receptions all of last season (five of those were against Furman).

Average size of Samford’s projected starting offensive line: 6’5″, 291 lbs. The largest of that group is the center, 6’5″, 325 lb. Nate Lee, a sophomore from Valdosta, Georgia.

Samford had three defensive players named to the preseason first-team all-conference squad — Ahmad Gooden, Shaheed Salmon, and Omari Williams. They happen to be three of SU’s top four tacklers to this point in the 2016 campaign.

Ahmad Gooden (6’1″, 240 lbs.) is a defensive end who had 15 tackles in last season’s game versus The Citadel. This year, the redshirt junior from Talladega has 3.5 sacks after only four games.

Weakside linebacker Shaheed Salmon (6’2″, 232 lbs.) currently leads the Baptist Tigers in tackles, with 41. Salmon, a senior from Tampa, did not play against The Citadel last season due to injury. It is the only contest he has missed in his entire career.

Last year, Deion Pierre (6’3″, 230 lbs.) tied his career high for tackles versus The Citadel, making 11 stops. The senior is second on the team in tackles after four games this season.

Omari Williams (6’1″, 200 lbs.), a local product from Birmingham, was named first-team all-SoCon by the coaches and the media after last season, a year in which the cornerback led the league in passes defended with 19 (including four interceptions). Williams returned an interception for a touchdown against West Alabama.

Darius Harvey (5’11”, 185 lbs.) is the other starting cornerback for Samford. Harvey also had a pick-6 versus West Alabama, a game in which the junior from Tallahassee added a 93-yard kickoff return TD.

Samford’s punter, Austin Barnard (6’4″, 210 lbs.) was a second-team preseason all-league choice. The senior also handles kickoffs for SU.

The placekicker for Samford is redshirt freshman Jordan Weaver (6’2″, 195 lbs.), who is 2 for 3 on field goal attempts in 2016, with a long of 32 yards. His miss, a 37-yard effort against Georgia, was blocked.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Homewood, Alabama, 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 1-point favorite over Samford. The over/under is 60.5. That line has moved about 2 points, as SU opened as the favorite.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 13.5-point favorite over East Tennessee State; Mercer is a 25.5-point favorite over VMI; and Chattanooga is an 8.5-point favorite over Western Carolina.

There is no line for the Presbyterian-Wofford game. If there were, I’m guessing it would be around 30 points or so (in favor of the Terriers).

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is an 8-point favorite at Louisville; South Carolina is an 8-point underdog at Texas A&M; South Carolina State is a 14-point home underdog against North Carolina A&T; Coastal Carolina is a 4.5-point underdog at ULM; and Charleston Southern is a 42-point favorite versus Mississippi Valley State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 30th in FCS, actually improving four spots by not playing. The previous two weeks saw the Bulldogs fall a combined 16 spots despite two victories.

Samford is ranked 38th in FCS, dropping seven positions from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 155th, while Samford is 166th.

Massey projects a final score of Samford 31, The Citadel 29. The Cadets are given a 48% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 18th (up one spot), Chattanooga is 32nd (up five places), Charleston Southern is 40th, Furman is 43rd (up 18 spots), Wester Carolina is 47th (also gaining 18 spots), Mercer is 59th (down 10 places), South Carolina State is 84th, Prebyterian is 99th, and VMI is 106th (down six places).

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, Western Illinois (jumping into the top five after dismantling Coastal Carolina), South Dakota State, and Jacksonville State.

– Since 1916, The Citadel has a 6-5 record for games played on September 30. The most notable of those victories was probably the 1989 game against South Carolina State, which was played at Williams-Brice Stadium in the wake of Hurricane Hugo.

The Citadel won that game 31-20. Charleston’s Bulldogs have actually defeated Orangeburg’s Bulldogs twice on September 30, having also done so in 2000, by a 45-16 score.

The last time The Citadel played on September 30, in 2006, the Bulldogs defeated Chattanooga 24-21. However, The Citadel has not won a road game on 9/30 since a 42-14 victory at Maine in 1967.

– Changes to The Citadel’s two-deep for the Samford game: Grant Drakeford is now listed as a potential starter at A-back, and there are also three new additions to the defensive depth chart — A.J. Stokes, Israel Battle, and Willie Eubanks III.

– Samford has won eight straight home games.

– Among Samford’s notable graduates are actor Tony Hale (who has won two Emmy awards for his work in the HBO comedy Veep), actress Gail Patrick (best known as the trailblazing producer of the Perry Mason TV show), and longtime college football coach Bobby Bowden.

– The roster for Samford (per its game notes) includes 41 players from the State of Georgia, more than from Alabama (37). Other states represented on its roster: Florida (18 players), Tennessee (11), Mississippi (4), North Carolina (3), and one each from Maryland, Arkansas, Texas, and California.

There are no players from South Carolina on the Samford squad, not even from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, a legendary hotbed of gridiron supremacy.

– 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.

– Not football-related, but worth mentioning: Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier had a good feature this week on Bulldog hoopster Leandro Allende, a native of Puerto Rico. Allende is understandably concerned about the devastation of the island caused by Hurricane Maria:

For Allende, the plight of his fellow Puerto Ricans hit home when he saw an acquaintance on the news.

“I have a friend who does not live in a very nice place,” he said. “I saw him on a kayak going through the flooded streets. That broke my heart when I saw that.”

I suspect the game on Saturday will be high-scoring. Samford will try to take advantage of The Citadel’s secondary, while on the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs will attack an SU defense that gave up 290 yards rushing (5.1 yards per carry) last week against Western Carolina.

The key defensively for The Citadel will be to pressure Samford QB Devlin Hodges; as last year’s game proved, that will not be an easy task. The offense has to maintain its edge in time of possession to take the heat off the defense, and the Bulldogs also have to make their drives count and score touchdowns. Avoiding turnovers is paramount.

Last season, Tyler Renew wrecked Samford’s D from the B-back position. I wonder if the move to play Brandon Berry against ETSU was designed (at least in part) to get him ready for Samford, with the coaching staff perhaps thinking that more of a “bruiser” would be needed at the position this week. That may be something to watch.

We’ll be watching anyway, of course. The first three games are in the books, and the bye week has been completed. It’s time for the business end of the 2017 season to begin.

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.