Game Review, 2019: Charleston Southern

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

Photo Gallery, The Post and Courier

– WCSC-TV game report (with video)

– School release

– Game highlights (video)

– Box score

Stats of note:

The Citadel Ch. Southern
Field Position* 35.17 (+9.31) 25.86 (-9.31)
Success Rate* 36.67% 27.94%
Big plays (20+ yards) 1 9
Finishing drives (average points)** 6.5 2.5
Turnovers 1 1
Expected turnovers 0.72 1.82
Possessions* 12 14
Points per possession* 1.83 0.93
Offensive Plays* 60 68
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 3.57 6.00
Yards/pass attempt (including sacks) 13.17 5.22
Yards/play* 4.53 5.59
3rd down conversions* 3 of 13 5 of 15
4th down conversions 1 for 1 0 for 2
Red Zone TD%** 2 for 2 0 for 3
Net punting 37.6 32.0
Time of possession 36:07 23:53
TOP/offensive play 34.40 seconds 21.07 seconds
Penalties 7 for 57 9 for 41
1st down passing 1/2, 54 yards, TD, sack 4/11, 64 yards
3rd and long passing 0/1 4/10, 92 yards
4th down passing 0/0 0/1
1st down yards/play* 5.00 5.54
3rd down average yards to go* 6.69 8.53
Defensive 3-and-outs+* 7 6

*does not include The Citadel’s final drive of game
**does not include Charleston Southern’s last drive of first half

Random musings on the game:

– I’m going to start with the biggest question I had after the game, easily.

Why on earth did The Citadel go for two points after its third TD? I absolutely did not (and do not) understand that move. There is no reason to go for two there.

The percentage play is definitely to kick the PAT. You want to force the other team to (eventually) make a two-point conversion to tie the game. Even if the Bulldogs had been successful, it would still have been a two-score contest.

It could have been a really damaging decision. The safety helped alleviate things in the end, but still.

– The Citadel’s offense wasn’t particularly sharp last night, which perhaps shouldn’t have been all that surprising, given the injury situation. Charleston Southern’s defense definitely deserves credit for holding the Bulldogs at bay through long stretches of the game, but there was a noticeable lack of cohesion on that side of the ball by the Cadets.

Some of that can be attributed to employing a different quarterback, though Brian Murdaugh certainly acquitted himself well in his first career start. He committed no turnovers (indeed, The Citadel’s only TO came on special teams), and made some tough runs. He made a fine pass on the run to Raleigh Webb for a TD.

Ultimately, the Bulldogs have to improve on first down (so they can improve on third down) once conference season rolls around, which happens to be next Saturday.

– The Bulldogs’ offensive success rate was its lowest in four games, though comparable to its numbers against Elon and Georgia Tech.

– The Citadel’s defense was outstanding most of the evening. The Bulldogs gave up too many big plays, but only one of them directly or indirectly resulted in a touchdown. The Citadel allowed its lowest success rate (by far) of the season versus CSU.

Willie Eubanks picked off a pass, the first of the year for The Citadel. Eubanks had an excellent game, with nine tackles (including a sack). Three of his tackles came on the last three offensive plays of the game for CSU, a significant part of a great goal-line stand by the Bulldogs.

Marquise Blount also stood out for the Bulldogs, tying Eubanks for the team lead in tackles, including 2 1/2 tackles for loss.

– Against Samford next week, The Citadel’s D needs to convert at least couple of those near-miss interceptions it had versus CSU into picks.

– Matthew Campbell’s “bobble the ball, then kick it 62 yards and have it downed at the 1-yard line” punt was one of the plays of the game. Massive credit should also go to Ryland Ayers for hustling down to bat the ball away from the goal line.

The next play was the bad snap/safety that gave the Bulldogs a two-score cushion, which they never relinquished. That doesn’t happen if CSU isn’t backed up to its own 1.

– 49 players participated in the game for The Citadel. That matches the total for the Towson contest. There were 48 Bulldogs who saw action versus Elon. Against Georgia Tech (according to the game summary, anyway), just 35 Bulldogs played.

Okay, let’s talk about Autry Denson’s night…

First, he more or less blew off a handshake with Brent Thompson after the game. It was not a great look.

That was followed up with this postgame quote:

We were the better team again tonight, I’ll stand behind that. The frustration is not with my guys, the frustration again is with the things we can’t control.

This is Denson’s first time as a college head coach. He’ll soon learn there are quite a few things he can probably control, including:

  • Playing the wrong guy at quarterback for the better part of three quarters
  • The consecutive dead-ball personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the Red Zone by the Bucs’ defense that helped the Bulldogs score their second touchdown
  • The sequence in the third quarter when Denson spent almost the entirety of the play clock preceding a 4th-and-1 play arguing with the line judge, perhaps one reason why CSU failed to convert that fourth down try
  • The less-than-stellar clock management at the end of the first half, with the Buccaneers leaving a timeout on the board that they could have really used
  • The timeout Denson had to call to (apparently) calm down his team, with the play immediately following the timeout the one that led to the aforementioned back-to-back dead-ball penalties

Also, when your offense only scores one TD, has zero or negative yardage on exactly half of its plays (34 of 68), gives up a safety on a bad snap, throws a pick inside its own 30, averages only 2.5 points per drive inside the 40-yard line, and is stuffed on four out of five plays in which it needed only one yard for a first down and/or touchdown…well, when you add it all up, there is a strong possibility that your squad was not “the better team”.

I didn’t even mention the TD pass CSU allowed on a 1st-and-25 play, or the Bulldogs’ sizable advantages in field position and time of possession.

Additional thoughts:

– The attendance was 9,626, not terrible (in terms of recent trends) but not that good, either, for the only night game of the season. As has been discussed before, Charleston Southern is simply not a big draw for fans of the Bulldogs, and doesn’t bring that many supporters in its own right.

That is just one of many reasons why any kind of home-and-home scenario between the Bulldogs and Buccaneers would be ridiculous, and not in the best interests of The Citadel. It also confirms the idea that these two programs don’t really need to play every year, because this “rivalry” is simply not that big a deal in the Lowcountry, no matter what the administration at Charleston Southern would like people to believe.

In fact, there seemed to be a limited presence of Charleston media at Johnson Hagood Stadium last night. The local newspaper thought so much of the game that it sent its general sports columnist to Clemson to watch 533 different Tigers run up and down the field against Charlotte.

– Speaking of our friends in the fourth estate: enough of the “inner city rivalry” and “crosstown rivalry” descriptions. Setting aside the rivalry argument for a moment, in what galaxy is this series ever an “inner city” or “crosstown” competition?

C’mon.

– I liked the light blue jerseys/pants combo. To be honest, as a certified old fogey, I prefer the light blue jerseys/white pants look for home games. However, the general concept was solid.

Next week, the Bulldogs make the trek to suburban Birmingham to take on another set of Bulldogs, Samford. The preview for that game will be posted later this week.

This week’s pictures include no 4th-quarter shots and very few 3rd-quarter photos, due to cellphone battery issues. The lack of pictures in those periods will hopefully not endanger democracy as we know it.

2019 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern

The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on September 21, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen supplies the analysis. Emily Crevani is the sideline reporter. 

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

Preview from The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Charleston Southern

SoCon weekly release

Big South weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Preview on Charleston Southern’s website

Jacob Godek is the reigning SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week

– Brent Thompson’s weekly radio show (9/18)

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (9/16)

The Dogs:  Episode 4 — Georgia Tech

Godek launched “the perfect ball” to clinch victory in Atlanta

My review of The Citadel’s win over Georgia Tech

Highlights of another brand of football: The Citadel soccer team’s 3-2 win over Presbyterian

With Charleston Southern making the trip to Charleston this Saturday, I might as well plug this post I wrote last week about football scheduling at The Citadel. CSU is just one of many programs mentioned.

In the game preview article in The Post and Courier (linked above), the now-traditional push by Charleston Southern to get another home game against The Citadel gets a mention:

Saturday’s game is the second of a four-game deal through 2021 that has all of the games being played at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium. The schools are working on a new contract that would extend the series into the foreseeable future.

CSU athletic director Jeff Barber said he wants to continue the series but is seeking a deal that includes games at Charleston Southern.

“There is a clear desire on both sides to keep the series going,” Barber said. “It needs to be an equitable situation and that’s where we are right now.”

The only “equitable situation” for The Citadel, however, is that it continues to host any and all games between the two schools at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Playing CSU at Buccaneer Field would not be in the best interests of the military college, for a wide variety of reasons (some of which I mention in my post).

The Citadel is ranked 25th in the STATS FCS poll, which is a media poll. In the AFCA FCS poll (coaches), the Bulldogs are not ranked, receiving the 29th-most votes in that poll this week.

This is Hall of Fame weekend at The Citadel. Congratulations to all the new Hall of Famers, including the three former football players honored: Andre Roberts, James Lee, and Wade St. John.

Here is a quick look at The Citadel in the FCS national rankings, from a statistical perspective. This is a selection of stats that I think are interesting and/or relevant.

There are currently 116 teams in the rankings, as the Ivy League schools are just beginning play this week and two other teams (North Alabama and Merrimack) are not listed in the main statistical report because they are still in “transition” phase to D-1.

Also note that in these statistics, sacks are (unfortunately) part of rushing totals, rather than subtracted from passing yards. As I’ve said many times before, when it comes to rushing/sack stats, the NCAA is wrong and the NFL is right.

Time of possession: The Citadel is 1st (37:15 per game). Wofford is 2nd, followed by Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, and Davidson. Furman is 24th, while Charleston Southern is 53rd.

Samford is last in FCS (19:45 per game).

Yards per play, offense: The Bulldogs are 45th in FCS (4.45). North Dakota State (shocker) leads the nation in yards per play, at 8.06.

Mercer is 6th, and VMI is 12th. Charleston Southern is 87th.

Yards per play, defense: The Citadel is 105th nationally (7.31). Davidson leads FCS in this category, but keep in mind two of the Wildcats’ three opponents so far this season are non-D1 squads.

Kennesaw State is 2nd. Charleston Southern is 113th (8.58), but to be fair that is partly skewed by the Buccaneers’ 72-10 loss to South Carolina. The Gamecocks averaged 11.2 yards per play in that contest.

Rushing yards per play, offense: The Cadets are currently 50th (4.19 per rush). The Citadel is 6th in rushing yards per game, but it is to be expected that the Bulldogs would be among the national leaders in that category, since the offense is so heavily geared to running the football.

Central Connecticut State currently leads FCS in yards per rush, at 7.40. The rest of the top five: Incarnate Word, North Dakota State, Villanova, and Youngstown State.

Kennesaw State is 6th in yards per rush, and also leads the nation in rushing yards per game, so the Owls are both prolific and productive. (The same can be said for Central Connecticut State, North Dakota State, and Youngstown State, all in the top five in rushing yards per game.)

Furman is 9th in yards per rush, and ETSU is 12th. Charleston Southern is 77th in yards per rush (3.47).

It should be noted that two of the Paladins’ three opponents to date have been FBS squads, so that makes Furman’s numbers all the more impressive.

Central Arkansas is last in yards per rush, at 1.16, which is a bit of an eye-opener, since the Bears are 3-0 with a win over an FBS team (Western Kentucky). Some of that can be accounted for with sack yardage, but even if you took out sacks, UCA would only average 2.12 yards per rush.

Rushing yards per play, defense: The Bulldogs are 97th overall (5.83). Davidson leads this category as well. Elon is 19th. The highest-ranked SoCon team is Mercer (27th).

Charleston Southern is next-to-last (9.54), just ahead of Texas Southern. South Carolina averaged 13.0 yards per rush against the Buccaneers.

Passing yards per attempt, offense: The Citadel is 40th (7.69). In terms of total yardage, the Bulldogs are last in passing yards per game, just behind Wofford.

The difference: the Terriers are only averaging 4.41 yards per pass attempt, which is 109th in FCS.

Two option teams, Cal Poly and Kennesaw State, rank 1-2 in yards per pass attempt, but Samford is 3rd (SU’s offense is reasonably efficient when it is actually on the field).

Furman is 34th in yards per pass attempt. ETSU is 41st. Two teams that like to throw the ball, VMI and Charleston Southern, are 92nd and 96th respectively.

Passing yards per attempt, defense: The Citadel is 102nd (9.33). That has to get better if the Bulldogs want to compete for the SoCon title.

Of course, ETSU is second nationally in this category (trailing only North Dakota), yet the Buccaneers managed to lose at home to pass-happy VMI last Saturday. Charleston Southern is 49th overall.

3rd down conversion rate, offense: The Bulldogs are 12th (51.1%). The top five: San Diego, Davidson, North Dakota State, Towson, and Kennesaw State.

Samford is 17th, while Furman is 18th. Charleston Southern is 89th.

3rd down conversion rate, defense: The Citadel is 92nd (46.9%). Illinois State tops the list in this category, followed by Sam Houston State, Hampton, James Madison, and Idaho.

VMI is 6th (!). Charleston Southern is 39th.

Net punting: The Bulldogs are 2nd nationally (43.45). Bucknell is first overall, which is a good thing for the Bison given how often that squad punts (22 in three games).

Furman is 5th, while Samford is 13th. Charleston Southern is 28th (and is tied for 7th nationally in total punts, with 23).

Penalties per game: The Citadel has been whistled for an average of 5 accepted penalties per contest, which is tied for 24th-fewest in FCS with several teams, including Charleston Southern. Holy Cross leads the nation is fewest penalties per game, at 2.5; the teams tied for second include Samford and Presbyterian.

Prairie View A&M is averaging an absurd 14 penalties per contest through three games, worst in the country. The Panthers had 18 penalties in their game versus Texas Southern.

Turnover margin: The Bulldogs are 101st (-1.33 per game). The Citadel has no interceptions and only one recovered fumble on defense through three games. The Bulldogs have to be more opportunistic.

Youngstown State’s turnover margin per game is 3.0, which not surprisingly leads the nation. This is another category VMI is faring well in so far (tied for 3rd with Towson and William & Mary).

Charleston Southern is tied for 92nd.

Samford has no defensive turnovers through three games, which has led to a -2.0 turnover margin average. The only team with a worse average than that in FCS is Marist.

Fourth down conversions and attempts: The Citadel is 6 for 7 on fourth down attempts so far in 2019. The six successful conversions is more than all but five teams in FCS. The seven attempts is tied for 18th-most in the sub-division.

The team with the most fourth down attempts (UC Davis, with 13), is also tied for the most conversions (8). The other two teams with eight conversions, Jacksonville and Tennessee Tech, have attempted 11 and 10 fourth down tries, respectively.

Among teams that have attempted more than two fourth down attempts, The Citadel has the highest success rate (85.7%). Wofford (5 for 6) is right behind the Bulldogs.

Autry Denson was an outstanding running back at Notre Dame. He is still the all-time leading rusher in Fighting Irish history, and his name pops up in the career top 10 for several other offensive categories (including points scored and all-purpose yardage).

At the time he took the CSU job, he was the running backs coach at his alma mater. When Denson was interviewed for the position with the Buccaneers, Charleston Southern AD Jeff Barber asked the obvious question.

“As a faith-based school we have unique opportunities, and a unique niche,” said [Barber]. When he first spoke with Denson, “I said, ‘I’m just going to get the elephant out of the room: Why would you leave Notre Dame to come to an FCS program?’ He said, ‘Jeff, I serve God, and I feel like God is telling me and my family to be there.’ I’m a guy who believes the same type things.”

Denson has made similar moves before, giving up a comfortable career as a financial advisor before getting into coaching at the high school level, then breaking into the college game with an unpaid position at Bethune-Cookman, all because he believed that was the direction he was supposed to take. Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher, Denson to outsiders has always been defined by football, even though it’s clear the game doesn’t define him.

“I told our players, don’t be confused: This isn’t a football program, this is an outreach ministry that has an important football component,” Denson said prior to his first spring practice last month. “It is important, because the world speaks in wins and losses. We need that hook to get the message out. But at the end of the day, we’ll win because they know we love them. They’ll play hard for us. The good guys have to win, too.”

Just remember, coach — sometimes the players on the other team are good guys, too…

Other than one year at a Florida high school, Denson has never been a head coach. Barber ultimately decided that didn’t matter.

For Barber, any concerns about hiring a career college position coach were assuaged by a 30-minute conversation with former Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips.

“He did the same thing, he hired a wide receivers coach,” Barber said, referring to Phillips’ elevation of Dabo Swinney to the top job after Tommy Bowden was fired in the middle of the 2008 season. “I asked him for the traits that he saw in Dabo that made him think he could get the job done, and he listed seven or eight different things. I told Terry Don, ‘I think I’ve got that very same guy.’ … So (Denson) checked all the boxes.”

[Lou Holtz, who coached Denson at Notre Dame,] isn’t concerned by Denson’s lack of college coordinator or head coaching experience, either. “I was the same way,” said Holtz, who was defensive backs coach at Ohio State before landing his first head coaching position at William & Mary, the initial step in 249 career victories.

Denson is going to run the Air Raid offense at Charleston Southern. He hired former LaGrange College OC Felton Huggins to install it.

There will be a significant transition from CSU’s traditional option-based attack to the Air Raid, the second week in a row the Bulldogs will play a team making such a move.

Early on, though, the offense has been a little bit more balanced between rushing and passing than might be expected. Denson is presumably adjusting for the personnel he currently has at his disposal, which strikes me as a sensible decision.

Stats of interest for Charleston Southern’s two games this season versus FCS competition (sacks are counted as pass plays, with the yardage charged to passing and not rushing totals):

CSU offense

Plays Yds./play Rush att Rush Yds/play Pass plays Pass Yds/Att Fumbles Lost Int 3d conv 3d  att RZ TD conv RZ TD att
@Furman 65 5.80 34 5.94 31 5.65 1 0 5 14 1 2
N.C. A&T 66 4.26 23 2.65 43 5.12 0 2 3 14 2 3
Totals 131 57 74 1 2 8 28 3 5
Average 65.5 5.02 28.5 4.61 37 5.34 0.5 1 28.6%

CSU defense

Plays Yds./play Rush att Rush Yds/play Pass plays Pass Yds/Att Fumbles Lost Int 3d conv 3d  att RZ TD conv RZ TD att
@Furman 63 8.08 39 9.61 24 5.58 0 0 6 12 4 4
N.C. A&T 72 6.49 39 7.82 33 4.91 1 0 2 13 0 2
Totals 135 78 57 1 0 8 25 4 6
Average 67.5 7.23 39 8.72 28.5 5.19 0.5 0 32.0%

Charleston Southern did throw it a lot more last week against North Carolina A&T, but the Buccaneers actually had more runs than pass plays versus Furman. Looking at the numbers, it appears Denson may have been more conservative in his approach to the matchup with the Paladins.

In a way, the game plan versus Furman had some positive results. CSU averaged 4.24 yards on first down, which isn’t great, but the third down yards-to-go average of 5.79 was quite respectable. It didn’t really lead to more third down conversions, though. In the end, Furman won easily, 46-13.

Against North Carolina A&T, the Buccaneers only averaged 3.64 yards on first down, and on third down Charleston Southern had a yards-to-go average of 7.64, which generally isn’t going to get it done.

That said, CSU led the Aggies (a very good FCS program) in the fourth quarter. North Carolina A&T scored 21 points in the final period to pull out a 27-21 victory.

On defense, the Buccaneers have struggled against the run. CSU has given up several long gainers, including three rushes of 40+ yards by Furman and two long TD runs by North Carolina A&T running back Jah-Maine Martin. The second of Martin’s TD runs was a spectacular 76-yard effort with a little over five minutes remaining that gave the Aggies a two-score lead.

CSU also gave up six runs of 35 yards or more against South Carolina.

A few Charleston Southern offensive players to watch:

  • Jack Chambers (5’10”, 170 lbs.): The redshirt sophomore from Lilburn, Georgia has started all three games at quarterback for the Buccaneers. For the season, Chambers is completing 58.5% of his passes, averaging 5.84 yards per attempt (not including sacks), with one touchdown pass against four interceptions. He also has two rushing TDs.
  • Ross Malmgren (6’3″, 210 lbs.): A freshman, Malmgren is from the same town (Acworth, Georgia) as Brandon Rainey and Brandon Webb, but went to a different high school. He has appeared at QB in each of the Buccaneers’ last two games, completing 19 of 24 passes for 122 yards and two TDs.
  • Kameron Brown (6’3″, 220 lbs.): Brown was a preseason All-Big South pick in 2018, but was injured and missed all but three games last year. The redshirt senior went to Midland Valley High School. Against North Carolina A&T, Brown hauled in 9 catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He is a fine player, and could be a difficult matchup for the Bulldogs.
  • Terrence Wilson (5’8″, 200 lbs.): Though not listed as the starter on the CSU two-deep, the junior running back from Leesville is a big-play threat. He had a 52-yard TD run versus Furman in the season opener. Wilson led the Buccaneers in rushing touchdowns last year and averaged 6.2 yards per carry.
  • Zack Evans (6’2″, 285 lbs.): The starting left guard was a preseason All-Big South selection this year. Evans, a redshirt senior from Florence and a team captain, started all eleven games for CSU last year, mostly at right guard.

Average size of the projected starters on Charleston Southern’s offensive line: 6’3″, 276 lbs.

Some CSU defensive players of note:

  • Nick Salley (5’10”, 225 lbs.): The senior from Walterboro is a defensive end by trade (he lines up in the “Buc” position for CSU). He had nine tackles against The Citadel last season. Salley began his career as a walkon and is now a team captain.
  • Anton Williams (6’3″, 215 lbs.): The junior from Marianna, Florida did not play in 2018, and also did not participate in the Buccaneers’ first two games this year. However, the defensive end made his season debut last week against North Carolina A&T, finishing with 8 tackles (including 2 1/2 for loss). He was also credited with a pass breakup. Williams is not listed on this week’s two-deep, but make no mistake — he will be a presence on Saturday.
  • J.D. Sosebee (6’0″, 215 lbs.): A redshirt senior linebacker from Gainesville, Georgia, Sosebee was an all-Big South choice in 2018 and is a preseason all-league selection this year. Last week against North Carolina A&T, Sosebee had seven tackles, including a sack.
  • Cody Cline (6’1″, 185 lbs.): A native of Concord, North Carolina, Cline leads the Buccaneers in tackles after three games. The free safety is a true freshman.

Charleston Southern special teams performers include:

  • Kyle Reighard (6’2″, 197 lbs.): Last year, Reighard was a second-team all-conference pick at punter. He is a redshirt senior from Salem, Virginia who also holds on placements.
  • CSU has had three different placekickers this season: Alex Usry (5’10”, 185 lbs), who converted three PATs against North Carolina A&T; Miller Braddock (6’1″, 160 lbs.), who made a field goal and an extra point at South Carolina; and kickoff specialist Nathaniel Toole (5’10”, 170 lbs.), who also kicked PATs at Furman.
  • Ethan Ray (6’0″, 185 lbs.): A redshirt junior from Boiling Springs, Ray was the second-team All-Big South long snapper last season, and the preseason first-team choice this year. (No, the SoCon does not have an all-conference designation for long snappers.)

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny with a high of 84 degrees. The low temperature on Saturday night is projected to be 70 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters (as of Wednesday evening), The Citadel is an 18 1/2 point favorite over Charleston Southern, with an over/under of 53.

When that line opened this week, The Citadel was a 17 1/2 point favorite, and the over/under was 55 1/2.

Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Wofford is an 18-point favorite over Gardner-Webb; Furman is a 10-point favorite over Mercer; Samford is a 22-point favorite versus Alabama A&M; VMI is a 14-point favorite over Robert Morris; Chattanooga is a 21 1/2 point underdog versus James Madison; and East Tennessee State is a 4 1/2 point underdog against Austin Peay. Western Carolina is off this week.

– Also of note: Elon is a 27 1/2 point underdog at Wake Forest, while Towson is a 3 1/2 point favorite over Villanova. Georgia Tech is off this week.

In games between FCS schools, the biggest spread is 38 1/2, with Princeton favored over Butler.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 29th in FCS, while Charleston Southern is 96th. The win over Georgia Tech vaulted the Bulldogs up 37 spots in the rankings.

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 87% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 35, Charleston Southern 17.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest:  Towson is 8th, Villanova 14th, Delaware 19th, Elon 24th, Jacksonville State 25th, Kennesaw State 28th, North Carolina A&T 31st, William & Mary 33rd, Furman 34th, Samford 51st, Mercer 54th, Holy Cross 56th, Chattanooga 59th, Wofford 60th, Grambling State 69th, South Carolina State 72nd, VMI 77th, East Tennessee State 82nd, Western Carolina 92nd, Campbell 98th, Gardner-Webb 104th, Davidson 107th, Bucknell 118th, Presbyterian 125th, and Robert Morris 126th and last.

– Charleston Southern’s notable alumni include U.S. senator Tim Scott, TV sports reporter Kelsey Riggs, and former major league pitcher R.J. Swindle.

– Charleston Southern’s roster includes 36 players from South Carolina. Other states represented: Florida (19 players), Georgia (16), North Carolina (14), and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Maryland, and Ohio.

The best-educated player on CSU’s squad, without question, is offensive lineman D’Andra Thompson. The 6’3″, 250 lb. junior is an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.

Thompson is listed as a backup on the Buccaneers’ two-deep; given the traditional athletic excellence of those who have worn the famed maroon and orange (regardless of sport), it can only be assumed that Autry Denson is waiting for a special moment to unleash Thompson’s talents on an unsuspecting opponent. That may not happen this week, but you never know.

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

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

– This week’s two-deep for The Citadel includes a new B-back listed on the depth chart, freshman Logan Billings. At kick returner, redshirt freshman Jaylan Adams is listed for the first time.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 1-7-1 for games played on September 21, so the Bulldogs need to establish a new winning tradition for that date.

The one victory came in 1996, with The Citadel defeating Western Carolina 28-14 before 10,362 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Bulldogs rushed for 354 yards, with 80 of those coming on a Stanley Myers run just two plays into the contest.

Aaron Green also scored for the Bulldogs, and Lorenzo Jackson intercepted a fourth-quarter pass that essentially sealed the victory, which broke an eight-game conference losing streak. Jackson’s pick (which he returned 58 yards) was one of only two for The Citadel during the entire 1996 season.

This year’s Bulldogs need to intercept a few more passes than that. Right now, though, as mentioned earlier, they don’t have any. Perhaps that will change on Saturday.

I hope that fans of the Bulldogs come out in force for this contest. The team certainly deserves all the support it can muster after a great performance against Georgia Tech.

There was a lot of celebrating and congratulating after that game (on his radio show, Brent Thompson mentioned that he had received 125 text messages, including some from people he didn’t know). However, the team now has to be prepared and ready for this week’s opponent.

I think it will be. I expect the Bulldogs will be focused and alert. They need to be. Charleston Southern will not be an easy opponent.

Last year’s game was decidedly chippy — something noted by Thompson at his Monday presser, and a memory the coach clearly did not enjoy. I hope (and suspect) this year’s contest will be more cleanly played from that perspective.

Offensively, The Citadel needs to keep doing what it did against the Yellow Jackets, and keep the chains moving. I would like to see more big plays, however.

Big plays are what the Bulldogs’ defense needs to avoid. Charleston Southern will try to get its skill position players into space. The Citadel’s defenders must tackle well, and get off the field on third down.

Tackling is also something that the kick return coverage units must improve upon this week. Another thing to watch: in last year’s game, both teams blocked a punt for a TD.

The Bulldogs need to win this game, thus consolidating their victory from last week, and setting up what should be an exciting and challenging conference campaign.

We’re all ready for some fun at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday night.