Looking at the numbers, 2021 preseason: taking advantage of 4th down

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, this time I’m focusing on how to increase offensive productivity with a fully realized 4th down “go for it” philosophy. That isn’t a radical or new concept, but I just wanted to discuss the advantages a team can accrue on other downs when it has a high 4th down go rate.

First, links to other posts I’ve recently written in the leadup to the 2021 fall campaign:

As usual, I’ll start with the statistical spreadsheet for The Citadel’s spring 2021 season, which I’ll be referencing at times throughout:

The Citadel, 2021 Spring Football

Of note for this discussion, one of the tabs on that spreadsheet lists all decisions made on 4th down by The Citadel (and its opponents) in conference action; another catalogs short-yardage plays and results, including those on 4th down; and there is also a tab dedicated to down-and-distance plays by the Bulldogs and their opponents, broken down by run and pass.

Let’s start with the down-and-distance numbers. The Citadel in spring 2021, on offensive plays from scrimmage:

  • Rushed 85.6% of the time (all plays)
  • Rushed 87.1% of the time on 1st down
  • Rushed 88.0% of the time on 2nd-and-short (3 yards or less)
  • Rushed 94.0% of the time on 2nd-and-medium (4 to 6 yards)
  • Rushed 96.3% of the time on 3rd-and-short (2 yards or less)
  • Rushed 89.2% of the time on 3rd-and-medium (3 or 4 yards)

Those aren’t surprising percentages, of course. That is the nature of the triple option offense. On standard downs, The Citadel is going to run the football. It will run the football a lot on passing downs, too.

(“Standard” in this case means downs that aren’t considered expected passing downs in a regular offensive system.)

One thing that can be said about the Bulldogs under Brent Thompson is that the playcalling, from a run-pass perspective, has been consistent. Eerily consistent.

For example, take a gander at the numbers in conference games from his first season as head coach (2016) and the most recent campaign (spring 2021):

  • 2016: 494 rushing plays, 83 passing plays
  • 2021: 492 rushing plays, 83 passing plays

It doesn’t get much closer than that.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the results from those passing plays were not exactly the same. The adjusted yards per pass attempt for those seasons:

  • 2016: 7.41
  • 2021: 2.98

That is not a typo. When sacks allowed are included in the passing numbers (as they should be), The Citadel averaged fewer than three yards per pass play last spring. 

The Bulldogs were sacked on 17.07% of their pass plays, by far the highest rate suffered by any offense in the SoCon (Mercer was second at 10.45%; Furman 3rd at 8.81%). Samford threw 226 more passes than The Citadel, but its quarterbacks were only sacked three more times.

The Citadel’s sack rate allowed was 16.55% when including its four games in the fall. Among all 97 FCS schools that played at least once in the fall and/or spring, that was the third-worst percentage overall, with Cal Poly and Kennesaw State the only other two teams with worse rates. Kennesaw State is also a triple option outfit, while Cal Poly was transitioning out of a triple option offense into a spread offense under new coach Beau Baldwin.

Triple option teams do tend to be on the wrong end of this statistic, for a bunch of obvious reasons. In the FBS, Navy had the worst sack rate allowed (15.65%), while Army was 10th-worst (10.59%). On the other hand, Air Force (3.17%) had one of the lowest rates in the country.

The average sack rate for FCS teams (F20/S21) was 6.77%. The average in the SoCon this spring was 7.39%, a figure reduced to 6.88% if The Citadel’s totals aren’t included.

One major reason for the Bulldogs’ high sack rate on offense was that a significant percentage of The Citadel’s pass plays occurred in the 4th quarter, with the Bulldogs trailing. In the final period, The Citadel was 10 for 27 through the air, with one interception and nine sacks allowed.

A team that doesn’t throw the football very often was largely ineffective in the passing game when the opponent knew a pass was probably coming. This is not a shock to informed observers. It is also not a shock to uniformed observers.

The real issue, it seems to me, is that such a large percentage of the Bulldogs’ aerial attack came on obvious passing downs, instead of on standard downs.

The Citadel attempted 32 pass plays on 1st down or 2nd-and-short. Those are generally not passing downs, and so the element of surprise would normally be quite beneficial for the Bulldogs.

All but seven of those pass plays, however, came while A) trailing in the 4th quarter — often by multiple scores — or B) down 10+ points in one of the other three quarters. There was nothing unexpected about most of those plays.

For the record, here are the seven pass plays for The Citadel on 1st down/2nd-and-short in true “standard down” situations:

  • Against Mercer, down 7-0 in the 1st quarter, first-and-10 pass at TC 45 (result: incomplete)
  • Against Western Carolina, down 7-6 in the 1st quarter, first-and-10 pass at WCU 39 (result: incomplete)
  • Against ETSU, tied 7-7 in the 1st quarter, first-and-10 pass at ETSU 49 (result: 44-yard gain to set up TD)
  • Against ETSU, down 21-14 in the 3rd quarter, first-and-10 pass at TC 25 (result: 7-yard gain)
  • Against ETSU, down 21-14 in the 3rd quarter, first-and-15 pass at TC 31 (result: interception)
  • Against Furman, first play from scrimmage, first-and-10 pass at TC 25 (result: incompletion)
  • Against Furman, ahead 13-7 in the 2nd quarter, first-and-10 pass at Furman 40 (result: incompletion)

To be honest, the Bulldogs were not overly efficient on those occasions, either. Completing 2 of 7 passes for 51 yards (with a pick) is nothing to write home about. On a positive note, 7.29 yards per attempt isn’t half-bad, although it clearly needs to be a lot better for such plays.

The larger point is that The Citadel needs to be a bigger threat in the passing game, regardless of its status as a triple option offense. It needs to do so in order to keep defenses honest (which will also help the rushing attack), and to increase its number of explosive plays. 

I believe that the best way to do that, besides improvement in execution, is by throwing the ball more on standard downs. I don’t mean that the Bulldogs should be throwing 15 more passes per game or anything like that, though.

I think The Citadel should take advantage of its pugnaciousness on 4th down when calling plays on other downs, particularly first and second down. Basically, once the Bulldogs are past a certain point on the field (probably their own 30), the assumption should be that they are going to go for it on any 4th down play of 4 yards to go or less.

Instead of having three downs to make 10 yards, and almost always trying to grind out three runs to get there, a pass play on first down, or second-and-short (or medium), should be employed a little more often. If it doesn’t work, there are still three other downs available to move the chains. 

That should be the mindset.

Now, I freely admit that I am not a coach. I do not claim to have an advanced knowledge of the game (although I am a former championship football player¹). There are certainly a lot of things I don’t know about the program, especially related to personnel. I’m merely a dude with a computer; a less witty Statler.

It is just my unenlightened opinion that throwing the football on select first-and-second down plays a few more times per game (maybe once every other possession, or twice every three possessions) could open things up. The Citadel really needs more of those long gainers on offense, too; 22 plays of 20+ yards in eight contests is not enough.

Only three of those big plays came via the pass. Incidentally, all three of them came on first-and-10.

I’ve actually written about this concept before, but I believe that with the gradual increase in scoring in recent years, creating big plays is even more crucial to sustained offensive success. In the current game environment, a pure “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense has its limitations (and The Citadel is playing all 11 of its regular-season games this season on artificial turf, so there won’t be a lot of dust to kick up).

Having said all that, it must be duly noted that long, time-consuming drives should and will remain the Bulldogs’ bread-and-butter. As ESPN college football writer Bill Connelly has stated:

The key to explosiveness is efficiency. The key to making big plays is being able to stay on the field long enough to make one.

Negotiate the ball down the field. Pump it in there. Just keep matriculating the ball down the field. Yes, sir.

There are less than 50 days until the season starts. We’re getting closer.

 

¹City of Orangeburg (SC) Parks and Recreation Department — Pee Wee Division

Looking at the numbers, 2021 preseason: 4th down decision-making

When it comes to gridiron discussion, one of my favorite topics is 4th down decision-making. This is an area of the game in which I think it is still possible to gain a competitive advantage, simply by being slightly ahead of the curve from a tactical perspective.

First, a quick list of the posts preceding this one so far in July:

As always, I begin with the statistical spreadsheet for The Citadel’s spring 2021 campaign:

The Citadel, 2021 Spring Football

One of the tabs on that spreadsheet goes into 4th down decision-making at a somewhat granular level, both for The Citadel and its opponents; another lists the success rates for short yardage plays on 3rd and 4th downs.

Did the Bulldogs go for it on 4th down more often than other SoCon schools? You better believe it:

Team (offense)4th down conv4th down att4D%4D att/gm
The Citadel193259.4%4.00
Furman91850.0%2.57
VMI101566.7%2.14
Western Carolina41330.8%2.17
Samford61250.0%1.71
Chattanooga41136.4%2.75
Mercer51145.5%1.38
ETSU2922.2%1.50
Wofford6966.7%1.80
Total6513050.0%2.22

It should be pointed out that The Citadel also faced more 4th down situations than any other SoCon team. However, the difference on a per-game basis wasn’t enormous. The Bulldogs averaged exactly nine 4th down situations per contest, which led the league, but Samford (8.86) and Furman (8.71) weren’t far behind, and the two schools with the fewest per game, Chattanooga and Wofford, each averaged seven.

Now, The Citadel did have fewer possessions per contest than other teams, and that has to be taken into account. The Bulldogs averaged 10.88 possessions per game, and so on most drives were faced with at least one 4th down call to make. 

The Citadel was very aggressive in those situations, going for a first down 44.44% of the time, the highest percentage in the conference, and considerably higher than every other squad except Chattanooga. Here is a table illustrating that:

Team (offense)4th down attPunts4D FGA4D total plays4D go rate
The Citadel323467244.44%
Chattanooga111252839.29%
Furman183766129.51%
VMI1526115228.85%
Wofford92063525.71%
Western Carolina133445125.49%
ETSU92894619.57%
Samford1233176219.35%
Mercer114676417.19%
Total1302707147127.60%

Incidentally, “4D FGA” refers to the number of field goal attempts on fourth down. Most field goal attempts take place on 4th down, of course, but not all do (end-of-half clock situations, for example). Thus, field goal attempts that took place on other downs (which happened six times in league play) are not listed on the chart. 

As expected, I did not find any punts in league games that occurred on a down other than 4th. Those halcyon days of yore, when “quick kicks” were a regular feature of the game, are gone forever.

It can occasionally be disorienting to read complete play-by-play newspaper stories from contests played decades ago, when teams frequently punted on 3rd down. They were not averse to punting on first and/or second down, either.

Indeed, The Citadel’s 12-7 Homecoming victory over Clemson in 1928, one of the more famous upsets in school history, included several first down punts by both teams. The Citadel’s second touchdown was scored directly off a botched punt snap by Clemson on first down. The Bulldogs’ first score was set up by a blocked punt that came on third down.

The Citadel blocked a third down punt for a TD in its 19-7 victory over South Carolina in 1950 as well, so maybe that strategy should make a comeback after all, at least among certain power conference teams…

I noted in a couple of previous posts that trying to compare FCS statistics for F20/S21 is largely pointless, and also a difficult task at any rate. However, while I can’t determine 4th-down situational stats for every team in the subdivision that played, a perusal of readily available information allows me to say with a reasonable amount of confidence that The Citadel’s “go rate” would have ranked third overall in FCS for the spring campaign.

The two teams ahead of the Bulldogs in this respect were Davidson (54.17%) and Eastern Illinois (47.69%). EIU, which like The Citadel is located in a town called Charleston, is a program with at least a short history of going for it a lot on 4th down; the Panthers led the nation in 4th down tries in 2019, going 28 for 52.

Alas, in spring 2021 they were not nearly as successful, only converting 10 of 31 4th down attempts en route to a record of 1-5.

Davidson finished the spring season 4-3, but that included an FCS playoff appearance, as the Wildcats won the automatic bid out of the non-scholarship Pioneer League. Davidson was 15 for 26 on 4th down attempts, to go along with six 4th down field goal tries and just 16 punts — the only team in all of D-1 to have attempted more 4th down conversions that punts/FGA combined.

I also ran the numbers for FBS, with one caveat. I could not find a way to remove field goal attempts that were not 4th-down plays from the list, and I was not about to go through 551 game summaries. Sorry, but I do have my limits.

Therefore, the FBS numbers that follow are possibly off by a percentage point — probably no more than that, though (and in most cases less), and for some teams they will be completely accurate. Any change would be a slight increase in the go rate.

Last year’s leading riverboat gambler in the bowl subdivision, to the surprise of no one, was Lane Kiffin, with Mississippi going for it 33 times (with only a combined 37 punts/FGA). That adds up to a go rate of 47.14%, easily tops in FBS.

Kiffin is a naturally aggressive tactician and play caller; the fact that the Rebels were truly terrible on defense also factored into the equation. Expect more of the same this season, as Kiffin is still Kiffin and Mississippi’s D might not be much better.

Army was second (39.08%), which is not exactly a shock. Jeff Monken is now well known for his willingness to go for it on 4th down.

Some of the other teams near the top of the list suffered through tough seasons, which might have impacted their number of attempts. However, there were also very successful squads with high go rates — including BYU, Kent State (albeit in just four games), Buffalo, and Liberty.

At the other end of the spectrum was Maryland (127th and last), which in five games only attempted one 4th-down conversion (leading to a more-no-than-go rate of 2.78%). The Terrapins did make that conversion try, though, and thus finished with a 100% success rate on 4th down.

Some coaches leaned heavily on excellent field goal kickers, and that clearly affected their 4th down decision-making. Oklahoma had a go rate of just 12.99% (6th-lowest in FBS), in part because the Sooners attempted 28 field goals in 11 games (making 22 of them). Only Pittsburgh attempted more field goals per game.

Then there were a few teams that didn’t go for it too often on 4th down because there was basically no need to do so; teams in the bottom 25% of the category included Notre Dame, Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama.

Here is a list of select FBS teams and their 4th down “go rate”:

  • BYU, 34.92% (6th nationally)
  • Kent State, 34.78% (7th)
  • UCLA, 34.69% (8th)
  • Buffalo, 34.21% (10th)
  • Liberty, 32.35% (14th)
  • Navy, 32.26% (15th)
  • Northwestern, 31.33% (22nd)
  • Air Force, 30.56% (29th)
  • South Carolina, 28.40% (34th)
  • Coastal Carolina, 26.15% (48th)
  • North Carolina, 26.03% (49th)
  • East Carolina, 22.22% (72nd)
  • Kentucky, 20.24% (85th)
  • Georgia Southern, 17.89% (97th)
  • North Carolina State, 14.29% (113th)

Along these lines, I also took a quick look at punts per game. Kansas led the nation with 7.67 punts per contest, which sums up the Jayhawks’ football fortunes as well as just about anything. Massachusetts was second, as natural an outcome as could be imagined.

The teams with the fewest punts per game: Kent State (only 2.25 per contest), BYU, Liberty, Florida, and Alabama. Yep.

I’m very appreciative of Brent Thompson’s aggressiveness when it comes to going for it on 4th down, particularly in short-yardage situations. The Bulldogs faced 22 plays of 4th down and 3 yards or less in spring 2021, and went for it 21 times. 

There were actually three other short-yardage plays on 4th down that aren’t included among those 22, because of subsequent penalties; Thompson either went for it on those plays or would have, if given the chance. That means his intended go rate on 4th-and-short was 96%. That is the way it should be, especially given the core tenets of the offense.

I know there are a few fans who believe The Citadel was a little too aggressive on 4th down. I respectfully but firmly disagree, however. In order to be successful, the Bulldogs have to maximize their opportunities. One of the best ways to do that is use all the downs which are available. 

I do think that The Citadel could be even more productive when it comes to taking advantage of the program’s 4th down mindset, though. That will be the subject of my next post.

The Citadel’s 2021 spring football season: a statistical review

Well, it is July, which is the last full month without any college football this year. That means gridiron activity is right around the corner.

After the last year and a half, a semi-normal fall college football season will be a wonder to behold. Of course, COVID-19 is still out there and remains an issue. The arrival of what I’ll call “NIL Fever” is also likely to be something worth watching in terms of producing unforeseen developments across the NCAA landscape.

As for this blog, there will be adjustments. After about a decade of weekly game previews, I’ve decided to change things up a bit. Part of the reason for that is due to time constraints. However, I also felt like things were starting to get a little stale in terms of what I wrote and how I wrote it.

I’ll probably be making shorter posts throughout the college football season. There won’t be a weekly game preview per se. I might also post about the college sports scene as a whole from time to time. It will be a variety pack of a blog, perhaps with more total posts than before, just not as individually lengthy. At least, that is my hope.

Also, WordPress threw me a curveball and I am now stuck with editing software that I do not like. There is still a chance I switch to another media format in the near future.

The main purpose of this specific post is to introduce a spreadsheet that incorporates statistics from the 2021 spring football season. You can access the spreadsheet at this link:

The Citadel, 2021 Spring Football

Almost anything anyone ever wanted to know from a statistical perspective about the Bulldogs’ 2021 spring gridiron campaign is included in that spreadsheet. Also included are many, many things no one ever wanted to know…

There are seven tabs. A quick overview of each:

General Info: This is exactly what it sounds like. It includes (for each of The Citadel’s SoCon contests) time of game, officiating assignments, attendance, and weather at kickoff. It also has the ever-fascinating coin toss data.

VMI did not include the weather conditions in its game summary, thus the “not recorded” entries for that game in those categories. I considered just listing the weather as “miserable”, based on historical precedent, but decided to let it go.

Readers will notice the Bulldogs were very good at winning the coin toss. The Citadel did not always defer, which is my preferred maneuver when it comes to the choice, but some thought does appear to have been put into the decision on a game-by-game basis. I’m good with that.

Run-Pass by down: The Citadel’s run-pass breakdown for the league games is listed by down and distance (there is an explanation of the categories at the bottom of the sheet). I’ve also listed the breakdown for the opponents, to show what the Bulldogs’ defense faced.

In a column on the far right, there is an average for each category based on run percentage — for example, on 3rd-and-long the Bulldogs ran 70.15% of the time, while their opponents rushed the football on 28.07% of 3rd-and-long plays.

I plan on making a post in a couple of weeks that will discuss some aspects of The Citadel’s run-pass ratio in further detail; it will be more along the lines of game theory/philosophy.

Offensive statistics: I would like to think that every significant and semi-significant category has been included. A few notes:

  • I consider sacks (and sack yardage) to be part of a team’s passing statistics, and calculate rushing/passing numbers accordingly. That is why you will see categories like “adjusted rush yards” and “adjusted yards/pass attempt”. The numbers are not the same as what appears in the official game summaries, but I believe them to be a more accurate reflection of how the games were played. This also means that pass plays include both actual attempts and sacks.
  • I also have some less-than-standard categories on the sheet, including average yards gained on first down and yards to go on 3rd down. I think those are important numbers when evaluating a team’s success moving the football.
  • This year I have added a special group of categories related to 4th quarter passing. I wanted to examine the difference for The Citadel’s offense in passing when in “desperation” mode, versus passing on regular (non-passing) downs earlier in the game.

Defensive statistics: These are the same exact categories as are listed for offense. I’ll mention here that some of those categories include trendy stats like “havoc rate” and “fumble luck”.

There are also categories for big plays allowed (my definition of a “big play” is 20+ yards, running or passing) and QB hurries (although I think that particular statistic is unevenly applied throughout the conference).

Red Zone numbers, 3rd- and 4th-down conversion rates, passes defensed — it is all there.

Fourth-down decisions: Ah, one of my personal favorite talking points. All fourth-down decisions in the eight games are listed, both for The Citadel and its opponents.

This tab includes some (really lame) color coding, and an alphabetical system that will probably annoy a few people. In my defense, I have never figured out a cleaner method for denoting a fourth-down decision.

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to get an explanation for both the zones and the A-B-C-etc. descriptions. This year, I’ve recorded the decisions by quarter as well as by zone.

Short-yardage conversion rate: This is something I haven’t catalogued before. I’ve broken down the numbers for The Citadel (and its opponents) for 3rd- and 4th-down plays of four yards or less. I have also noted the times on 4th down when the Bulldogs or their opponents did not go for it in a short-yardage situation.

Yes, your initial reading was correct: Brent Thompson went for it on 4th-and-1 every single time last spring. He went for it on 4th-and-2 every single time last spring. On 4th-and-3, he went for it every time but once.

One reason that is notable is because The Citadel had a lot of 4th-and-short plays last season. Regardless of where the Bulldogs were on the field, though, they were going for it.

Miscellaneous: This is basically a bunch of other stats that aren’t necessarily offense/defense specific. Time of possession, points per quarter, penalty yardage, net punting/kickoffs, things like that.

Some other statistics mentioned in this tab: average starting field position, three-and-out rate, scoring rate, and seconds per offensive play.

A quick observation: when putting together the spreadsheet, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall accuracy of the game summaries for the 2021 spring season. I was afraid there might be a lot of input errors given how stressed the staffs for each school must have been at the time, but those mistakes turned out to be minimal. I joked earlier about VMI not including weather information, but that was definitely an exception to the rule.

Sure, there were blips. A punt entered as a kickoff here, an absence of tackle-for-loss yardage data there. Still, nothing major, and all fixable. Credit must be given to the athletic media relations folks throughout the Southern Conference.

I tried to make the spreadsheet easily understandable, but I realize some of the categories are not intuitive. If anyone has any questions (or corrections!), feel free to ask me here or on Twitter @SandlapperSpike. I am probably more likely to see questions/feedback faster on Twitter, to be honest. Comments are welcome as well.

We’re getting closer to football season. Just not close enough.

2021 Spring Football, Game 6: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel at Wofford, to be played at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on April 3, 2021. 

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Jared Singleton supplies the analysis.

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

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

Links of interest:

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

– SoCon weekly release (when available)

– Preview on The Citadel’s website (when available)

– Preview on Wofford’s website (when available)

“Live stats” online platform

This will not be my standard writeup, for a couple of reasons. First, the events of this week from a conference perspective made writing your typical game preview seem less than relevant.

The second reason is that WordPress has now forcibly converted this blog to its new editing system, and I have really struggled to get a handle on it. I might be done with WordPress. (And yes, I might be done with blogging for a while, too.)

For now, I am going to stick to writing what amounts to an essay on the state of SoCon football in 2021, beginning with Chattanooga waving goodbye to the spring football season.

After Chattanooga announced it was “opting out” of the rest of the spring football campaign, the SoCon released a very short statement:

The Southern Conference supports Chattanooga in its decision to discontinue its 2020-21 football season as it is left unable to field a sufficient number of players at several position groups to meet the conference’s COVID-19 guidelines. The Mocs’ remaining scheduled games will be recorded as no-contests.

Also a no-contest: any attempt by the SoCon to compel Chattanooga to complete its schedule. At least a couple of media sources have suggested that the Mocs never had any intention of actually completing the spring campaign; those pundits believe that UTC’s move was a fait accompli from the time the season started.

Chattanooga head coach Rusty Wright was one of the leading voices in the “spring skeptics” camp, and he appears to have been supported in that viewpoint by his administration. The shutdown wasn’t cleanly executed, however; the bizarre decision to play almost no starters in UTC’s final game (against Mercer) appears to have been a bit impromptu.

As outlined by Gene Henley of the Chattanooga Times Free-Press:

On Monday, the combination of academic classload and concern for the unknown toll that could be inflicted on players’ bodies from potentially playing as many as 19 combined games this spring and fall, led “around 30” players — according to university sources to opt out of the remaining spring season...

Early in [Chattanooga’s game against Furman], the Mocs lost starting center Kyle Miskelley to a lower body injury. Miskelley had become the unofficial offensive line coach, since the Mocs didn’t have a coach at that position, and was beloved by his position mates as well as other teammates.

“That was the nail in the coffin,” Wright told the Times Free Press Monday.

Most of the veteran players attempted to opt out after that Furman game, with Wright again having to convince them to stay, albeit to handle scout-team work as it had been decided that younger players would play exclusively against Mercer last Saturday.

The SoCon drew some criticism for its eight-games-in-nine-weeks spring slate, in part because of the large number of games the schools would wind up playing in 2021 as a result (and also because it didn’t build any real schedule “buffers” in case of COVID issues). Nobody should be surprised that a lot of players weren’t overly excited about playing that many games in a calendar year.

The spring games have also arguably been a hindrance to long-term player development. Instead of the standard work done on the field (and in the weight room), coaches and players are having to prepare for weekly contests.

The reality is that the conference was split in terms of schools wanting to play in the spring, versus those that preferred waiting until fall 2021. Chattanooga was clearly in the latter camp.

The Mocs aren’t the only FCS school to have stopped playing this spring. So have Cal Poly, Illinois State, and Albany. There will almost certainly be more schools that do the same. The rumblings can even be heard in Fargo:

An ill-advised spring football season that until a few days ago looked like a farce from afar looks like a close-up farce now.

When they are debating the value of continuing the season in the heart of Bison country, you know something is up.

I am not sure why UTC just didn’t sit out the spring season entirely; perhaps there was pressure brought to bear by the conference, which presumably wanted all of its schools to move in the same direction. If that were in fact the case, it was a mistake (as was the effort to play a complete round-robin spring slate).

My only real criticism of Chattanooga is that it fielded what amounted to a ‘B’ team against Mercer, an act not really in the spirit of what could be called “competitive integrity” (although your mileage could definitely vary on that subject). It could potentially have an impact on the conference title race, which would be a nightmare for the SoCon.

There is a scenario in which the top of the league standings going into the final week of the season look like this:

  • VMI: 5-1 (scheduled to host The Citadel)
  • Mercer: 5-2 (scheduled to play at Samford)

In that situation, a loss by VMI and a Mercer victory would result in the league crown and auto-bid heading to Macon, with the difference in the records being Mercer’s win over Chattanooga (as the Keydets’ matchup with the Mocs has been declared a no-contest, per the SoCon).

Furman also has a possible route to the title, but its loss to UTC is problematic – especially because VMI and ETSU didn’t play Chattanooga (and a no-contest, while not as good as a win, is still better than a loss). I should note that the Paladins are a solid favorite (10 points) at Mercer this week.

There is also a possibility that East Tennessee State’s postponed game at Wofford could be very important in the league standings, as the Buccaneers are very much in the picture for the conference crown (and are a 1-point favorite at VMI on Saturday). The Terriers are supposed to play at Furman on the final weekend, while ETSU’s scheduled game against Chattanooga has been canceled. Would the league sideline the Paladins and have Wofford host ETSU instead if the latter matchup proves potentially consequential?

Now, if VMI beats East Tennessee State on Saturday, none of those would-be storylines will happen, as the Keydets would clinch the championship. That would undoubtedly be a relief to certain individuals within the league hierarchy.

VMI is one of the schools that wanted to play in the spring. From what I can gather, East Tennessee State, Furman, and Mercer were probably in that group as well, along with Wofford – although there might have been mixed feelings even in that cohort.

Furman’s coaching staff clearly believed the Paladins were capable of winning the league and having success in the FCS playoffs, which likely helped drive their position. VMI and Wofford also had promising teams — but their senior classes would only have the spring to compete for their respective institutions, as neither has a graduate school.

One other thing VMI and Wofford have in common is that it is relatively unusual for players to transfer into their football programs from other schools. That was surely also a factor in wanting to compete in the spring, although it turned out to be a double-edged sword – at least for Wofford.

The transfer portal can be a very difficult thing to navigate in the best of circumstances. When a school loses players to the portal but is not really in a position to receive other players in return (so to speak), it can be a real challenge.

Just this week, Wofford lost two of its top offensive players, who both elected to enter the portal. Each player had actually been listed on the two-deep for Saturday’s game against The Citadel (the game notes have since been changed to adjust the depth chart).

Of course, the Terriers already have had one game postponed this season (the aforementioned contest versus ETSU) because of a shortage of defensive linemen. In a newspaper article by Eric Boynton from the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Wofford head coach Josh Conklin was outspoken about what he sees as a clear competitive disadvantage between schools that can bring in numerous transfers and those which cannot:

“The reality of our situation right now is it’s going to be a tightrope every game,” Conklin said. “It’s going to be can we put six guys at defensive line to play. It’s a compound issue at one position and here we sit. The thing you battle as a head coach is you grind those guys through it and they don’t have a year to recover. They’ve got to make decisions on, ‘Do I get my surgery now and miss these games that are coming up or do I wait until the end of the season, get my surgery and have to miss half the season in the fall?’

“These are the issues we’ve talked about in theory, but now we’re here and it’s reality. We have 63 scholarships, we don’t have 85 and that’s a huge difference. Those are the issues you have when you’re trying to play a season in the spring and then turn around and play one in the fall and you have some injuries.”

…The Terriers looked at the transfer portal but found nobody who was a fit for the program both on the field and academically.

“That’s the reality,” Conklin said. “It’s disappointing and frustrating, especially when you look at a Chattanooga who had 30-something transfers I think and some of those guys were graduate transfers. Kennesaw State has somewhere between five and six grad transfers. Those are the things at our level that will have to be addressed at some point in time or it’s going to be an unfair advantage.”

I’m sure the league office was less than thrilled that Conklin specifically called out a fellow conference member. It could also be argued that when it comes to the issue of player movement, Conklin is not the ideal spokesman, given his tendency in recent months to throw his hat in the ring for just about every open FBS defensive coordinator job.

Conklin’s complaint is a reflection of a longstanding issue within the SoCon. The league has historically been a hodgepodge of schools, often with little in common other than geography (and sometimes not even that). At times, the different missions and sizes of the institutions are at odds with one another.

In this case, the conflict is between a small, private college (Wofford) and a larger, public commuter university (Chattanooga). It is no surprise that they might differ on smaller or larger points when it comes to roster construction for a football team.

What has usually happened in the league is that schools which eventually get too “large” for the conference (West Virginia, East Carolina, Marshall) eventually leave for more like-minded conferences. Sometimes, smaller schools depart as well, though in those cases the reasons are more institution-specific (Washington and Lee de-emphasized athletics; Davidson’s administration decided scholarship football was a fascist enterprise).

The bottom line is this: as I have said before (and will happily say again), being a member of the Southern Conference means accepting the differences that exist in the league schools, getting on the bus, and going to the game.

Is it time for The Citadel to pull the plug on this spring season?

Brent Thompson firmly says no:

“…I still think it is worth it to play for a lot of reasons, and some of them may just be personal reasons.

“Some of them are, we’re getting better, we’re improving. We’re playing a lot of our younger guys anyway, so let’s give those guys an opportunity. We’re playing some guys who are walk-ons, who are on partial scholarship and they are fighting their butts off. At this point, I think we’re more playing for the fall, but I certainly do think it’s worth it.

…Thompson said young players develop faster in games than they would in a normal spring practice.

“You look at (fullback) Nathan Storch, he’s getting better every single day,” Thompson said. “He’s had some really good days and some tough days in there … The only way to do it is to go in there and get live reps.”

Thompson doesn’t seem likely to pull the plug. Remember, he’s the coach who refused to shorten the second half of last year’s game at No. 1 Clemson, despite trailing 49-0 at the half.

I agree with the coach. At this point, I don’t see any reason to end the season. The Citadel made a commitment to play the spring schedule, whatever the misgivings of the school’s administration and coaches might have been, and the Bulldogs should complete the slate. The only caveat would be if circumstances dictated that it is unsafe to do so.

So, barring something unforeseen, the Bulldogs will play Wofford this Saturday in Spartanburg. It should be clear and cool (about 60°).

The Terriers are a 7½-point favorite, with an over/under of 48.

I don’t have any significant observations to make about the game. I am hopeful that The Citadel’s offense will not turn the ball over every other possession (seven turnovers on 15 full drives versus Samford). Just cleaning up some of the mistakes should result in a much more competitive contest.

I can’t be in Spartanburg (the first time I’ve missed a game there involving The Citadel in many years), but I’ll be rooting hard for this group of players. They deserve all the support Bulldog fans can muster.

One other thing: this is probably the last blog post of this abbreviated spring season (regardless of sport). As I mentioned above, I’m having some technical problems with the platform. I also have some issues with time, to be quite honest.

I don’t know yet what I will do in the summer/fall. I might continue my traditional previews and statistical analysis posts, but if so, the formatting could change. Or it might remain the same. I have no idea.

I just hope that the world of sports has returned to something approaching normalcy by the time football season rolls around (again). That’s more important than any blog, anyway.

Go Dogs!

2021 Spring Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. Samford

The Citadel vs. Samford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on March 27, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Dave Weinstein will handle play-by-play, while Jason Kempf supplies the analysis.

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

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

Darique Hampton gets his shot

– Game notes from The Citadel and Samford

SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Preview on Samford’s website

– The Chris Hatcher Show

The Citadel’s home attendance policies for spring football

– The Citadel releases its fall 2021 schedule

– “Live Stats” online platform

In this section, I establish the traditional ground rules for writing about The Citadel and Samford, as both teams are nicknamed “Bulldogs”. The SoCon did not require Samford to change its nickname in order to gain entry into the league, a ridiculous oversight.

Regardless, for the purposes of this post, “Bulldogs” refers to The Citadel. The reason: I graduated from The Citadel, and this is my blog.

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

I’m going to mostly copy/paste something I previously wrote about Samford’s history in the next couple of sections. (If you had the week I’ve had, you would be looking for shortcuts, too.)

For those of you reading this who are somehow unfamiliar with the Baptist Tigers/Bears, here is a quick review (the site I took this blurb from is currently offline):

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 really don’t understand why the students thought bears wouldn’t eat as much meat as bulldogs. Were Alabama’s bears back then strict vegetarians? Could it be that bears from all regions were not as physically imposing then as they are now? That would put a different slant on Paul “Bear” Bryant’s nickname, wouldn’t it?

We’ll never know. The mysteries of early-20th century university life remain largely unsolved.

Birmingham-Southern, by the way, is a Division III school (which was very briefly in NCAA Division I about 15 years ago) and a former rival of Samford. The two schools played in the first football game ever contested at Legion Field, on November 19, 1927. Samford (then Howard) won, 9-0.

While Legion Field was obviously close to home, in those days the Samford football program liked to travel. During the 1920s, SU played Duquesne in Pittsburgh (at Forbes Field) and North Dakota (in Grand Forks). There were even out-of-country junkets to Cuba (playing the Havana National University). Later, Samford played games in Mexico City against the National University of Mexico (in 1954 and 1963).

For you legal nerds out there: Samford’s law school, Cumberland, was actually purchased from Cumberland University of Tennessee in 1961. That doesn’t happen very often; in fact, in terms of moving a law school across state lines, I’m not sure it has ever happened anywhere else.

I am aware of only two other law schools that shifted to different universities (both in-state) — the University of Puget Sound School of Law, which is now part of Seattle University; and the law school at the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, which is now affiliated with Quinnipiac University.

I’m sure Quinnipiac polled the surrounding area for its opinion before acquiring the law school.

I posted links to game notes for The Citadel and Samford above, along with the SoCon’s weekly release. For anyone interested, here are links to this week’s game notes for the other league schools playing (Furman is off this week):

Participation report:

The Citadel had 41 players see action in the game versus East Tennessee State, an increase of six from the previous week. The Buccaneers had 46 participants.

Breaking down the Bulldogs’ numbers a little further: nine players had rushes/receptions, while 18 players recorded tackles.

Samford used 58 players last week against VMI (with 47 Keydets seeing the field).

Updated career points scored by Bulldogs on the active spring roster:

The Citadel’s listed depth chart for its matchup with Samford, by class:

  • Freshmen: 10
  • Redshirt freshmen: 8
  • Sophomores: 3
  • Redshirt sophomores: 12
  • Juniors: 11
  • Redshirt juniors: 5
  • Seniors: 1
  • Redshirt seniors: 0
  • Graduate students: 1

There were a few alterations to the depth chart from last week, though for the most part it remained unchanged.

Here is a breakdown of Samford’s projected depth chart for the game versus The Citadel, by class:

  • Freshmen: 11
  • Sophomores: 14
  • Juniors: 9
  • Seniors: 7
  • Graduate students: 9

SU does not identify players by redshirt status, so these numbers reflect eligibility more so than age or high school entry class. The graduate student classification includes mostly players who have played at Samford, graduated from that school, and retained at least one year of eligibility; the exception on the two-deep in this respect is defensive lineman Seth Simmer, a graduate transfer from Dartmouth.

It is perhaps a touch inconsistent to list graduate students and seniors separately without also listing redshirt status for other classes, but that is a very small point.

Samford does supplement its roster with transfers from other four-year schools (there are also two players who are products of junior colleges). The four-year schools represented on the Birmingham Bulldogs’ squad via transfer include Army, Ball State, Dartmouth, Jacksonville State, Kent State, Morehead State, North Carolina State, Sioux Falls, Southern Mississippi, South Florida, TCU, Texas Tech, and Vanderbilt.

SU is 2-3 so far this spring (the Crimson Bulldogs did not compete in the fall). The running theme for Samford has been taking a lead, then trying to hang on for the victory. It has not been entirely successful in doing that:

  • Samford jumped out to a 14-0 lead at ETSU and led 17-14 entering the 4th quarter, but the Bucs scored 10 points in the final period and won 24-17.
  • SU was ahead 41-27 after three quarters against Western Carolina, and then added two more touchdowns for a 55-27 victory.
  • The Birmingham Bulldogs led Furman 24-7 after the 1st quarter, and were still ahead 37-23 early in the 4th, but the Paladins tied the game on a 73-yard TD pass with 2:59 to play and eventually won 44-37 in OT.
  • Samford turned the tables on Wofford, coming back from an early 10-point deficit to outlast the Terriers 37-31.
  • Last week, Samford led VMI 30-17 with less than six minutes to play, but allowed two late TDs and lost in overtime, 38-37.

Not-so-random stat: Samford is the only team to return a punt for a touchdown in league play so far in 2021. Montrell Washington (who also starts at wide receiver for the Baptist Bears) took a punt 55 yards to the house against Furman.

SU also ranks second in the league in average kickoff return yardage.

(All statistics below are sack-adjusted and are for spring games only.)

Offensively, Samford is passing on 56.2% of its plays from scrimmage, averaging 7.31 yards per attempt, with 9 TDs against 6 interceptions. That yards per attempt is second-best in the SoCon (Chattanooga leads in the category). The Citadel’s defense is allowing 8.10 yards per attempt, worst in the league.

SU is averaging 4.79 yards per rush, third-best in the conference (trailing Wofford and Western Carolina). The Bulldogs’ defense is allowing 4.60 yards per rush, sixth-best in the SoCon.

Defensively, the Baptist Tigers allow 6.41 yards per pass attempt, which ranks fourth-best in the league. It should be noted that the three teams in front of Samford in that category have all played The Citadel, which offensively has the worst yards/pass attempt in the conference (3.46).

SU’s defense allows 4.83 yards per rush, third-worst in the SoCon (ahead of Mercer and Western Carolina). The Citadel’s offense is fifth in the league in yards per rush (4.29).

The Citadel has run the football on 81.7% of its offensive plays from scrimmage.

Samford’s offensive third down conversion rate is 39.0%, sixth-best in the SoCon. The Citadel’s defensive third down conversion rate is 33.3%, second-best in the league (Furman leads in that category).

SU is third in the conference in defensive third down conversion rate (34.1%), while The Citadel’s offensive is converting third downs at a 46.3% clip (second-best in the league).

The Citadel is the league’s most-penalized team, and its opponents are penalized more than any other league team’s opponents — which is to say that officials like throwing yellow flags around when the Bulldogs are on the field.

Samford, conversely, is a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of its own penalties, and draws fewer opponents’ flags than any other SoCon squad.

The Citadel leads the league in time of possession (no surprise), while SU is actually not last in time of possession (big surprise). The Crimson Bulldogs are seventh.

SU is second in the SoCon in turnover margin (+2), while The Citadel is tied for last (-3).

Samford has an offensive Red Zone TD rate of 50.0%, tied for the worst in the league. The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone TD rate is 70.0%, tied for sixth in the conference.

The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone TD rate is 78.6%, third-best in the SoCon. SU’s defensive Red Zone TD rate of 65.0% ranks fifth in the league.

In general, when it comes to the Red Zone, Samford has settled for too many field goal attempts this season — but so have its opponents.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms, and a high of 80°.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Samford (as of March 24) is a 10½-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 61½.

Other SoCon lines this week (as of March 24): VMI is a 4-point favorite at Wofford (over/under of 44½); Chattanooga is a 7½-point favorite over Mercer (over/under of 44½); and East Tennessee State is a 14½-point favorite over Western Carolina (over/under of 44).

A few more games of note in FCS: San Diego is a 17½-point favorite at Presbyterian; Davidson is a 7½-point favorite over Morehead State; Charleston Southern is a 3-point favorite at Monmouth; James Madison is a 17½-point favorite at William and Mary; Drake is a 15½-point favorite at Stetson; North Dakota State is a 21½-point favorite at South Dakota; Richmond is an 11-point favorite over Elon; Northern Iowa is a 4-point favorite at Western Illinois; and Jacksonville State is a 10-point favorite over Austin Peay (with that game one of seven FCS contests being played on Sunday).

– Samford’s notable alumni include actor Tony Hale (of Veep and Arrested Development fame), opera singer Elizabeth Futral, and longtime college football coach Bobby Bowden.

Two quotes from Bobby Bowden:

On his defense and its tendency to hit quarterbacks late: “We just hit until the echo [of the whistle] instead of the whistle.”

On why he didn’t suspend placekicker Sebastian Janikowski from the national title game (in the Sugar Bowl) when it was discovered that Janikowski had stayed out all night in New Orleans: “Well, he’s from Poland and he falls under the ‘International Rules’.”

– The Citadel is 7-6 in the all-time series against Samford. The Cadets have won three of the last four games played in Charleston.

– The Crimson Bulldogs’ 111-man roster includes 32 players from Alabama. Other states represented: Georgia (31 players), Florida (12), Tennessee (11), Mississippi (6), North Carolina (3), Arkansas (2), Indiana (2), Louisiana (2), Ohio (2), South Carolina (2), Texas (2), and one each from California, Missouri, New York, and Virginia.

SU’s punter, Bradley Porcellato, is from Melbourne, Australia.

– The two Palmetto State products on the Baptist Tigers’ squad are freshman placekicker Henry Bishop (who went to Spartanburg High School) and graduate transfer defensive lineman Connor Koch, a TCU alumnus who played high school football for Woodberry Forest in Virginia. Koch’s hometown is listed as Charleston, S.C.

Alas, no Samford player can claim to be an alumnus of South Carolina’s fabled football fortress, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. The failure of the Baptist Bears to recruit anyone who has worn the famed maroon and orange is a symbol of SU’s impending dissolution as a gridiron concern. The future of pigskin does not look bright in Birmingham, or in its surrounding suburbs.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s game notes) is as follows: South Carolina (48 players), Georgia (15), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Texas (3), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– The Citadel’s football team has an all-time record of 0-0 for games played on March 27. That is tied for the fewest wins, and fewest losses, for any date in program history.

– This week during the 1990 baseball season at The Citadel:

The Bulldogs entered the week 22-1 (5-0 in the SoCon). On March 21, The Citadel won its second straight game against LeMoyne, 5-2. Brad Stowell got the win, while Gettys Glaze picked up the save. The decisive blow came in the sixth inning, when Jason Rychlick hit his first career home run, a two-run shot. Rychlick had been inserted into the game as a defensive replacement; he had earlier that week spent time in the infirmary, suffering from the flu.

The Citadel then hosted Furman for a three-game series at College Park. On Saturday, March 24, the Bulldogs swept a doubleheader from the Paladins, 3-1 and 3-0. Both were complete-game victories on the hill, pitched by Ken Britt and Richard Shirer respectively. Shirer allowed just two hits en route to his shutout. The first game featured a two-hit, two-RBI effort from Chris Coker, including a bases-loaded double.

With the two wins, the Bulldogs established a new school record for consecutive victories.

The next day, The Citadel completed the series sweep with a 3-2 win. Billy Baker garnered the decision with 7 1/3 strong innings, striking out 10. Glaze finished the game to earn the save. Anthony Jenkins homered, and Tony Skole scored on a double by Rychlick. The other Bulldog run was scored by Dan McDonnell after a wild pitch.

On March 26, The Citadel defeated Kent State 13-3 for its 26th straight victory. It would prove to be the last win in the streak. The game was tied in the bottom of the seventh, when the Bulldogs erupted for eight runs, highlighted by a Jenkins grand slam. Stowell was the winning pitcher. Chris Lemonis started at DH and went 1 for 3, picking up one of his two hits that season.

The next day, the Bulldogs lost to Kent State, 2-1, ending the longest winning streak (26 games) in school history.

The Citadel was 5-1 during the week ending March 27. The overall record stood at 27-2 (8-0 SoCon).

I don’t really have much else to say. The Citadel has been snakebit this season, but it has at times earned those wounds.

This week presents yet another challenge, with the strong possibility of a new starting quarterback. Darique Hampton looked solid in his appearance against ETSU, which should make fans of the Bulldogs feel a little better about things.

The Citadel must make Samford earn its points. The defense cannot allow the soul-crushing big plays that have come all too often this season.

On the other hand, the offense needs a few long gainers of its own. I know I constantly focus on the Bulldogs’ lack of big plays on offense, but that is because the topic is important. The Citadel is not consistently putting the ball in the end zone on its longer drives, which makes getting yards in bunches even more necessary.

I’m ready for a victory. We all are.

2021 Spring Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State

The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on March 20, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Dave Weinstein will handle play-by-play, while Jason Kempf supplies the analysis.

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

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

Links of interest:

– Bulldogs looking for good news

– Game notes from The Citadel and East Tennessee State

SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Preview on ETSU’s website

The Citadel’s home attendance policies for spring football

– The Citadel releases its fall 2021 schedule

ETSU head coach Randy Sanders’ 3/15 press conference

Stump Mitchell: From too small to play college football to NFL assistant

ETSU’s Holmes not taking The Citadel lightly

– Fast start is key for the Buccaneers

Saturday’s game gives ETSU “exciting chance to snap [its] road skid”

– “Live Stats” online platform

I posted links to game notes for The Citadel and East Tennessee State above, along with the SoCon’s weekly release. For anyone interested, here are links to this week’s game notes for the other league schools playing (Wofford is off this week):

The Citadel’s volleyball team beat ETSU for the first time ever!

Could this be foreshadowing for the football game on Saturday? We can only hope.

In other non-gridiron news, Hayden Brown is returning to the hardwood for the Bulldogs.

Participation report:

The Citadel had 35 players see action in the game versus Western Carolina. The Catamounts had 56 participants.

Breaking down the Bulldogs’ numbers a little further: just five players had rushes/receptions, while only 12 players recorded tackles.

ETSU used 47 players last week against Furman.

Updated career points scored by Bulldogs on the active spring roster:

The Citadel’s listed depth chart for its matchup with ETSU, by class.

  • Freshmen: 10
  • Redshirt freshmen: 9
  • Sophomores: 3
  • Redshirt sophomores: 12
  • Juniors: 10
  • Redshirt juniors: 5
  • Seniors: 1
  • Redshirt seniors: 0
  • Graduate students: 2

There were several changes to the two-deep from last week. This week’s depth chart accounts for a couple of absences that were previously known. I was glad to see a two-deep that appears to be more accurate.

Here is a breakdown of East Tennessee State’s projected depth chart for the game versus The Citadel, by class:

  • Freshmen: 8
  • Redshirt Freshmen: 14
  • Sophomores: 6
  • Redshirt sophomores: 12
  • Juniors: 7
  • Redshirt juniors: 3
  • Seniors: 3
  • Redshirt seniors: 2
  • Graduate students: 1

East Tennessee State is 1-1 in the spring after not playing in the fall. The Bucs defeated Samford, 24-17, in their opener. Last week, they lost 17-13 to Furman. Both games were played in Johnson City, but they weren’t back-to-back affairs. The game versus Samford was followed by two open weeks, with one of those a scheduled bye and the other resulting from the Bucs’ contest against Wofford being canceled.

(All statistics below are sack-adjusted.)

ETSU has passed (or attempted to pass) on 56.3% of its offensive plays. The Bucs are averaging 4.5 yards per rush and 5.3 yards per pass attempt (1 pass TD, 1 interception).

The Bucs have an offensive third down conversion rate of 37.9%. East Tennessee State is 0-2 on 4th down attempts, with one of those tries in a desperation situation against Furman, and the other just outside the red zone against Samford (on a 4th-and-5). Another would-be fourth down attempt was converted via penalty (in a situation where the Bucs eschewed a long field goal attempt).

ETSU has nine offensive plays of 20+ yards from scrimmage in its first two games, three runs and six passes. Its longest rush has been 22 yards, while the longest pass play was 59 yards.

Defensively, East Tennessee State is allowing 5.0 yards per rush and 3.6 yards per pass attempt (with 8 sacks and 3 interceptions on 86 opponent passing plays, giving up just one passing touchdown).

ETSU has a defensive third down conversion rate of 35.5%. Opponents are 2-3 on 4th down tries, with Samford converting two 4th-and-1 plays (both via rush), while Furman failed to score on a 4th-and-goal from the Bucs’ 1-yard line (also a running play).

Through two games, the Buccaneers have allowed opponents to convert just 2 of 15 third down attempts in the second half. Samford only scored 3 second-half points versus ETSU.

However, Furman put all 17 points of its points on the board in the third quarter, scoring TDs in its first two possessions in that quarter. On those two drives, the Paladins only faced one third down.

ETSU has allowed six plays of 20+ yards, two runs (long of 35 yards) and four passes (with a long of 27 yards).

East Tennessee State’s net punting average is an excellent 42.6 yards. ETSU has made all five of its PATs and all three of its field goal attempts (with a long of 38 yards).

ETSU head coach Randy Sanders on the Buccaneers playing their first road game of the spring:

It’s our first road game so this is a new experience for the 40-45 guys that are on the buses headed to Charleston. This will be a different experience as well. The one thing right now with COVID is that you don’t have to deal with quite as much of the noise or hostility like you would in a normal season.

Another takeaway from Sanders’ press conference: he was not particularly pleased with the officiating in last week’s game versus Furman. This was in part detailed in an article written prior to his Monday presser:

One penalty in particular seemed to draw Sanders’ ire. ETSU quarterback Tyler Riddell threw a pass away to avoid the rush and was called for intentional grounding. The ball flew high over the head of his “intended” receiver and out of bounds.

“I’ve never seen an intentional grounding penalty go right over the top of two receivers,” Sanders said. “But I’ve learned something. I’d never won a game in February and I’ve done that. Now I’ve seen an intentional grounding penalty go right over the top of two receivers. The official said they had no chance to catch it and I’m like ‘Well, no kidding. There’s a reason he’s throwing it away.'”

Sanders stated that the league office had yet to respond to some questions he had about a few of those calls by the men in stripes.

Ah, SoCon officiating. Some things, unfortunately, never change.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 30% chance of showers, and a high of 54°. It could be a bit windy on the peninsula as well.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, East Tennessee State (as of March 16) in an 8½-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 39½.

Other SoCon lines this week (as of March 16): Furman is a 5½-point favorite over Chattanooga (over/under of 36½); Samford is a 5½-point favorite over VMI (over/under of 63½); and Mercer is an 8-point favorite over Western Carolina (over/under of 51).

A few more games of note in FCS: Davidson is a 5-point favorite over Presbyterian; Kennesaw State is a 19-point favorite over Dixie State; North Dakota State is a 3½-point favorite over North Dakota; Lafayette is an 8-point favorite at Bucknell; William and Mary is a 1½-point favorite over Elon; Sam Houston State is a 28½-point favorite at Lamar; and Jacksonville State is an 8½-point favorite over Southeast Missouri State (one of seven FCS contests being played on Sunday).

– East Tennessee State’s notable alumni include singer/bandwagon fan Kenny Chesney, actor/director Timothy Busfield, and Union Station bass player Barry Bales.

As I have written several times before, Bales has had one of the world’s best jobs over the years, as he has enjoyed the privilege of listening to Alison Krauss sing on a regular basis.

– The Citadel is 12-16 in the all-time series against ETSU. The Bulldogs have won three of the last four gridiron meetings between the two schools.

– East Tennessee State’s roster includes 40 players from Tennessee. Other states represented: Georgia (25 players), Florida (8), North Carolina (6), Ohio (5), South Carolina (3), Virginia (3), Alabama (2), and one each from California, Kentucky, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

– The three Palmetto State products on ETSU’s squad are freshman defensive back Tylik Edwards (Rock Hill High School); redshirt sophomore running back D.J. Twitty (Chapman High School); and freshman linebacker Colby Smith (who started his college career at Erskine and is listed on the Bucs’ roster as being from Rock Hill, but who played high school football in Charlotte).

Alas, no Buccaneer can claim to be an alumnus of South Carolina’s supreme expression of pigskin greatness, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. East Tennessee State’s abysmal failure to recruit any players who have worn the famed orange and white will forever limit the program’s ability to compete for national titles. Donnie Abraham has thrown up his hands in frustration.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s game notes) is as follows: South Carolina (48 players), Georgia (15), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Texas (3), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– The Citadel’s football team has an all-time record of 0-0 for games played on March 20. That is tied for the fewest wins, and fewest losses, for any date in program history.

– This week during the 1990 baseball season at The Citadel:

The Bulldogs entered the week 16-1 (3-0 in the SoCon). On March 14, the Bulldogs outlasted Mt. Olive 9-7. The Citadel scored six runs in the second inning, thanks in large part to three errors by the Trojans’ catcher. Base hits by Dan McDonnell and Phillip Tobin keyed the rally. The winner pitcher was Steve Basch, with Hank Kraft picking up a save by inducing a double play in the ninth to end the game.

The next day, the Bulldogs beat Belmont Abbey 7-3. Tony Skole had two hits and an RBI, while Anthony Jenkins added a double and two runs driven in. Gettys Glaze had three hits (including two doubles) in the contest. Bart Mays was the winner in relief, after Robbie Kirven had started the game for The Citadel.

In an article in The News and Courier that accompanied the box score, head coach Chal Port stated that he wasn’t worried about his players feeling burdened by the long winning streak. “This team is just playing for the fun of it. They’re not playing for streaks or rankings. We’re just swinging hard in case we hit it.”

Port also told the writer, a relative newcomer to the Bulldogs beat named Jeff Hartsell, that “our hat size is still the same.”

The Citadel next played a SoCon series against Appalachian State that was shortened to two games after a rainout. The Bulldogs swept a doubleheader from the Mountaineers.

In the first game, a six-run eighth inning (which was actually an extra inning, as the two games were scheduled for seven innings) paved the way for a 10-5 victory. Kraft picked up the win with 2 1/3 innings of relief work. Jenkins had three hits, including a double and a homer, and drove in three runs. Chris Coker, Mike Branham, and Mike Black each had two RBI.

The Bulldogs scored five runs in the second inning of the second game, and held on for a 5-2 win. Richard Shirer garnered the victory, with Glaze recording the save. The Citadel’s run-scorers were McDonnell, Coker, Tobin, Jason Rychlick, and Larry Hutto.

The following day, The Citadel defeated Howard 14-4. Basch got the win, with Hal Hayden and Kevin McGarvey also seeing action on the hill. The Bulldogs had four doubles (Skole, Jenkins, Branham, McDonnell) and five stolen bases (Skole, Jenkins, Branham, Coker, Hutto). Eight different Cadets crossed the plate safely at least once.

There were more fireworks against LeMoyne the next afternoon, and The Citadel needed all the runs it could muster to prevail, 16-11. Billy Baker managed to get through 7 difficult innings on the mound for the win; he also homered and doubled.

Eight different Bulldogs had multi-hit games; Jenkins joined Baker in the home run/double combo department, while Coker had a double, a triple, and a stolen base. Branham and Black also doubled for The Citadel, with Glaze adding a triple to the box score. McDonnell stole three bases and joined Coker in the three-runs-scored club.

The Citadel was 6-0 during the week ending March 20, with a winning streak of 21 games. The overall record stood at 22-1 (5-0 SoCon).

I decided to wait until the end of this post to write about last week’s game. It was a very disappointing performance, one of the worst losses in league play the Bulldogs have had in some time (regardless of time of year).

The defense held Western Carolina out of the end zone in the second half, but the damage had already been done. First, The Citadel allowed yet another quick score by an opponent (this one took three plays instead of one, but that didn’t make anybody feel better).

Then there was the long TD run the Bulldogs gave up at the end of the half. That was both deflating and (as it turned out) decisive.

The Catamounts had averaged only 3.83 yards per rush in their previous three games. Against The Citadel, however, WCU rushed for 7.45 yards per carry.

Offensively, the Bulldogs managed to move the ball without scoring. The mishaps included a red zone failure inside the 10, a missed field goal, and a lost fumble after a 52-yard drive.

The Citadel had nine full possessions during the game. Four of those drives totaled 50 plays — but resulted in zero points. That is not going to get it done.

Part of the problem was the absence of big plays on offense, a recurring issue. The Bulldogs only had two plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more, both rushes by Jaylan Adams — one for 21 yards, and the other his 20-yard TD in the third quarter.

Brent Thompson:

We brought a lot of this on ourselves. We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves. Things happen for a reason, and we’ll keep pressing through this.

One of the obvious problems can be seen in the participation chart. I think it is fair to say that a Division I football team should really be fielding more than 35 players in a competitive game. That is where The Citadel is right now, though, and the squad just has to persevere.

At least there isn’t any whining about it. That would be even more unacceptable than losing.

The Bulldogs will continue to show up (COVID-19 notwithstanding). They will learn from adversity, and they will get even tougher, and they will improve.

Ultimately, though, they’re playing to win, which is what makes all the effort worthwhile. Let’s hope things begin to move in a more worthwhile direction on Saturday.

2021 Spring Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Western Carolina

The Citadel at Western Carolina, to be played in Cullowhee, North Carolina, on the grounds of Bob Waters Field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on March 13, 2021. 

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Daniel Hooker will handle play-by-play, while Dan Gibson supplies the analysis.

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

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

Links of interest:

– Jaylan Adams shows his potential

Spring football is different

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Western Carolina’s website (when available)

– The Citadel releases its fall 2021 schedule

– “Live Stats” online platform

I posted links to game notes for The Citadel and Western Carolina above, along with the SoCon’s weekly release. For anyone interested, here are links to this week’s game notes for the other league schools (except for Chattanooga’s, as the Mocs are off this Saturday):

The Citadel’s listed depth chart for the game against Western Carolina, by class:

  • Freshmen: 10
  • Redshirt freshmen: 8
  • Sophomores: 2
  • Redshirt sophomores: 12
  • Juniors: 11
  • Redshirt juniors: 5
  • Seniors: 2
  • Redshirt seniors: 0
  • Graduate students: 2

There was actually a change from the two-deep for the Chattanooga game, as someone apparently decided that not including Nathan Storch on the depth chart this week would have been a bit too obvious.

Look, I appreciate receiving information about the program as much as anyone, but it would be better if that information was at least reasonably accurate. Releasing depth charts that bear little relation to the actual on-field activity is not particularly helpful.

I don’t think anyone is giving away state secrets by listing these players, either. Any opponent is unlikely to gather sensitive information via the school’s game notes. Besides, if anyone wants to know the status of, for example, the Bulldogs’ middle linebacker, all that person had to do this week was read the newspaper article that directly quoted Brent Thompson.

Also, I don’t think anyone is fooled by the mysterious “Desitin Mack” who has appeared on the two-deep at punt returner in every edition of The Citadel’s game notes this spring season. He looks a lot like Bulldogs starting cornerback Destin Mack. In fact, they wear the same uniform number.

Then there is the participation list, which for the Chattanooga game included at least one player who did not appear in the contest (and going by Brent Thompson’s comments, there were several others listed who were not participants).

That is a bigger problem than two-deep inaccuracies, as participation lists are supposed to be official records. Those fans of The Citadel with long memories will remember a time many years ago when a question of participation became a subject of controversy.

Bulldogs beat writer Jeff Hartsell noted that he had “never heard of” Nathan Storch prior to last Saturday’s game. After intensive research, however, it has been determined that by virtue of his 19-carry performance against UTC, the freshman from Dorman High School in Spartanburg is already the third most famous Storch in recorded history. His fame only lags behind music producer Scott Storch and legendary comedian/actor Larry Storch (a/k/a Corporal Agarn and Cool Cat).

Given his promising debut, I like Nathan Storch’s chances of eventually moving into second place in this category. He admittedly has a lot of ground to cover in order to pass Larry Storch (who incidentally is still alive as of this writing, at age 98).

Updated career points scored by Bulldogs on the active spring roster:

Here are a few Raleigh Webb career statistics to consider:

– Webb has now played in 40 games for The Citadel. He has 20 TDs from the WR position (18 receiving, 2 rushing), so he averages a TD every other game as a receiver in an option offense.

– He has 70 career receptions, which means he has scored a touchdown every 3.9 receptions. He has averaged 21.3 yards per reception.

– Webb also has one kickoff return TD, and one 2-point conversion.

Only Andre Roberts has scored more points from the wide receiver position as a Bulldog.

Western Carolina’s listed depth chart for the game versus The Citadel, by class:

  • Freshmen: 12
  • Redshirt Freshmen: 4
  • Sophomores: 7
  • Redshirt sophomores: 9
  • Juniors: 6
  • Redshirt juniors: 6
  • Seniors: 3
  • Redshirt seniors: 3
  • Graduate students: 1

The graduate student is starting quarterback Ryan Glover (who did his undergraduate work at Penn).

Western Carolina has struggled in its three spring games, losing 35-7 at Furman, 55-27 at Samford, and 30-7 last week against VMI (the Catamounts’ first home game of the 2021 campaign).

WCU ranks last in league play in both rush defense and pass defense, but just next-to-last in pass defense efficiency. As you might expect, The Citadel is last in that stat after its defense allowed 75-yard TD tosses to open each of its two SoCon contests.

Of course, rush/pass defense are both volume categories; it is more pertinent to note that the Catamounts are allowing 5.51 yards per rush (sack-adjusted). While it is one thing to allow 5 yards per carry to Furman, with the Paladins being essentially a run-first outfit, it is quite another to allow 7 yards per rush attempt to pass-happy Samford — and the Birmingham Bulldogs had six rushing TDs as well.

Offensively, Western Carolina is averaging 3.83 yards per rush and 5.89 yards per pass attempt (again, all stats are sack-adjusted). The Catamounts have two TD passes and have thrown three interceptions.

WCU ranks last in the league in both offensive (21.6%) and defensive (50.0%) third down conversion rate, and also trails the pack in time of possession (24:03). Western Carolina has committed more penalties per game than any team in the league except for (naturally) The Citadel.

On the bright side, the Catamounts have yet to lose a fumble and are break-even in turnover margin, as the defense has intercepted three passes in the three conference games.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Cullowhee, per the National Weather Service: a 20% chance of rain, with a high of 68°.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel (as of March 11) is a 14-point favorite at Western Carolina. The over/under is 50½.

– Other SoCon lines this week (as of March 11): Wofford is a 1-point favorite at Samford (over/under of 55); VMI is a 6½-point favorite over Mercer (over/under of 57); and Furman is a 10½-point favorite at East Tennessee State (over/under of 47).

A few more games of note in FCS: South Carolina State is a 10½-point favorite over Delaware State; Presbyterian is a 6½-point favorite over Morehead State; Holy Cross is a 7½-point favorite at Lehigh; Delaware is a 7½-point favorite over Stony Brook; Villanova is a 14½-point favorite over Rhode Island; Davidson is a 9½-point favorite at Stetson; Kennesaw State is a 16-point favorite over Charleston Southern; Northern Iowa is a 4-point favorite at Southern Illinois; Colgate is a 5½-point favorite at Lafayette; Eastern Washington is a 17-point favorite at Idaho State; and North Dakota State is a 12½-point favorite over Illinois State.

– Western Carolina’s notable alumni include triple option advocate Paul Johnson, comedian Rich Hall, and college basketball pioneer Ronnie Carr.

– The Citadel is 26-17-1 against Western Carolina in the all-time series.

– Western Carolina’s 97-man spring roster includes 49 players from North Carolina. Other states represented: South Carolina (19), Georgia (17), Alabama (4), Tennessee (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Florida, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania.

– Among conference schools, I believe Western Carolina is tied with VMI for having the fewest Florida natives on its roster (one).

– The following South Carolina high schools have graduates on WCU’s squad: Byrnes (3 players), Blythewood (3), Lakewood, Ridge View, Greer, Irmo, Hartsville, T.L. Hanna, Northwestern, Branchville, Wilson, Indian Land, Clover, Gilbert, and White Knoll.

– While there are plenty of Palmetto State products on WCU’s squad, none can claim to be an alumnus of the internationally renowned pigskin factory that is Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. Western Carolina will never reach the heights of 1983 again if it does not correct this shocking oversight. Ronnie Carr is simply appalled, as well he should be.

The incredible individuals who wear the famed maroon and orange are simply must-gets for any college football recruiting operation.

– WCU has four players who transferred in from four-year schools; those schools are Penn, Boston College, South Carolina State, and Western Kentucky. There are also six junior college transfers on the roster.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s game notes) is as follows: South Carolina (48 players), Georgia (15), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Texas (3), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– The Citadel’s football team has an all-time record of 0-0 for games played on March 13. That is tied for the fewest wins, and fewest losses, for any date in program history.

– This week during the 1990 baseball season at The Citadel:

The Bulldogs entered the week 10-1. On March 7, The Citadel won at Coastal Carolina, 7-3. Billy Baker pitched six innings and got the win; he also went 3 for 5 at the plate, with two doubles. Anthony Jenkins’ two-run double capped a four-run rally in the eighth inning.

The following day, the Bulldogs whipped Liberty 10-3. Chris Coker drove in five runs, while the red-hot Jenkins homered again.

That set up a big 3-game series to open SoCon play against Western Carolina. The Citadel swept the Catamounts, winning the three games by scores of 6-3, 7-3, and 10-3 (which made five straight games in which the Bulldogs’ opponents scored exactly three runs).

In a doubleheader sweep to open the series, Ken Britt and Richard Shirer both picked up wins, each striking out five batters. In the first game, Hank Kraft earned the save, his third of the season. Jenkins and Gettys Glaze had two-hit games in both contests.

The third game featured a 4-RBI afternoon from Tony Skole, including a two-run triple in the first inning. Baker (the winning pitcher), Jenkins, Phil Tobin, and Dan McDonnell also drove in runs for the Bulldogs.

On March 13, The Citadel rallied from an 8-4 deficit to beat George Mason, 9-8. The game was shortened to eight innings due to darkness (College Park still did not have lights at this time because of Hurricane Hugo). The Bulldogs only had three hits — all singles — but walked nine times, and took full advantage of five errors by the Patriots. Glaze got the win in relief.

The Citadel was 6-0 during the week ending March 13, with a winning streak of fifteen games. The overall record stood at 16-1 (3-0 SoCon).

This was not a long preview, partly because I didn’t have a lot of time to write it, and also because there really isn’t a whole lot to say.

The Citadel needs to win on Saturday. It would be a major disappointment to everyone who supports the military college if Western Carolina managed to break its eight-game losing streak.

The Citadel should be able to run the football on offense, and the defense should be able to consistently get stops. That is about the size of it.

I’m ready to watch the Bulldogs win on Saturday. Very ready.

2021 Spring Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel vs. Chattanooga, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on March 6, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Dave Weinstein will handle play-by-play, while Jason Kempf supplies the analysis.

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

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

Links of interest:

Cooper Wallace is fast

Ken Feaster, trailblazer

– Game notes from The Citadel and Chattanooga

SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Preview on Chattanooga’s website

The Citadel’s home attendance policies for spring football

– The Citadel releases its fall 2021 schedule

Chattanooga head coach Rusty Wright’s 3/2 press conference

Takeaways from Chattanooga’s victory over the Terriers

Mocs didn’t have to test depth to handle Wofford

Wofford-Chattanooga video highlights

– Chattanooga’s offensive line has experience

– “Live Stats” online platform

I posted links to game notes for The Citadel and Chattanooga above, along with the SoCon’s weekly release. For anyone interested, here are links to this week’s game notes for the other league schools playing:

“Is [the real Bulldogs team] the one that surrendered 28 unanswered points to Mercer in the first half? Or the one that twice stormed back to within one possession in the second half?”

Brent Thompson:

I think it’s the second-half team. I told the guys at the end of the game that what they showed inside of them was what I was most concerned about. You can fix mistakes, but you can’t always build heart and determination into a football team, and we showed some heart in the second half.

The Bulldogs did show some moxie in the second half, and that was good to see. Not every team that fell behind in a game last Saturday showed quite as much determination.

The Citadel is not about moral victories, however (particularly in league play). While the second half gave fans some hope for the rest of the spring season, the first-half performance was not acceptable.

Mercer scored touchdowns on three of its five first-half possessions, averaging 9.7 yards per play on offense. Meanwhile, on six first-half drives the Bulldogs’ offense averaged 2.2 yards per play and gave up a defensive touchdown on a bad pitch.

The second half was definitely a lot better, and something The Citadel can use as a building block. Not counting the end-of-game possession, Mercer’s offense had five drives and went three-and-out on four of them. (The next-to-last drive, a seven-play TD march, was a disappointing outlier.)

The Bulldogs were much better offensively in the second half, which featured several big plays, something that has occasionally been missing from The Citadel’s offensive attack in the last couple of seasons. The Bulldogs had five plays from scrimmage of 20+ yards in the second half, highlighted by Cooper Wallace’s 73-yard TD run. However, the offense also turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter.

It is hard to win any game — much less one in which you trail 28-0 at halftime — when you lose the turnover battle 3-0.

Those big plays, however, hold promise for the future. They arguably demonstrate what Jaylan Adams can bring to the table as the Bulldogs’ quarterback.

The Citadel is obviously going to have to work on pitch plays, and there are other issues that need to be fixed, but the potential is there for the Bulldogs to have a high-octane offense. It just has to avoid self-destructing.

Defensively, my main takeaway was that The Citadel needs to do a better job of tackling. The second half was an improvement in that respect. Pass coverage is something that will require some fine-tuning as well.

Participation report:

The Citadel had 40 players participate in last Saturday’s contest; Mercer had 48. Six of the Bulldogs who played are “true” freshmen.

Chattanooga had 44 players see action in its game versus Wofford. The Terriers fielded 55 players (which is more than I would have expected, given some of Wofford’s roster issues).

Updated career points scored by Bulldogs on the active spring roster:

The Citadel’s listed depth chart for its matchup with Chattanooga, by class. (There was no change in the two-deep from the Mercer game.)

  • Freshmen: 9
  • Redshirt freshmen: 8
  • Sophomores: 2
  • Redshirt sophomores: 12
  • Juniors: 11
  • Redshirt juniors: 5
  • Seniors: 2
  • Redshirt seniors: 0
  • Graduate students: 2

I saw this note while perusing The Citadel’s online game preview:

The Bulldogs scored 28 points in the second half against Mercer. It was the most points in a second half since putting up 35 points in the second half against Samford in 2018.

Ah, Samford 2018. Now that was a game…

Traditional paragraph devoted to nomenclature for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga:

On first reference, it is acceptable to refer to us as the “University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.” After that, we prefer to be called “Chattanooga” or
“UTC.” Our nickname is “Mocs”.

That blurb is from Chattanooga’s game notes. It works for me (notice that the school nickname is definitely not “Moccasins”).

Here is a breakdown of Chattanooga’s listed depth chart for the game versus The Citadel, by class. UTC is an “old” team, relatively speaking.

Chattanooga, probably because of the number of transfers on its roster, does not list its players in the same way as The Citadel (or Mercer, for that matter). I’ve gone through the two-deep to determine class standing, but it is not necessarily an exact comparison.

  • Freshmen: 7
  • Redshirt Freshmen: 4
  • Sophomores: 2
  • Redshirt sophomores: 7
  • Juniors: 4
  • Redshirt juniors: 8
  • Seniors: 2
  • Redshirt seniors: 10
  • Graduate students (5th year): 1
  • Graduate students (6th year): 2

Clearly, it is safe to assume that some of the redshirt seniors have already graduated, but I listed three players separately as graduate students. One is a grad transfer in his first year in the program (and fifth since entering college), long snapper Bryce Coulson. Another is a grad transfer in his first year in the program — but his sixth since entering college — LB/DE Montez Wilson.

Then there is starting left tackle Harrison Moon, who spent three seasons at Mississippi State (one year as a redshirt) before transferring to Chattanooga in 2018. Moon received a medical redshirt for the 2019 season, and thus is also a sixth-year player.

If you count spring 2021 separately from fall 2020, Wilson and Moon are actually participating in their seventh seasons of college football. Both entered college in 2015.

Chattanooga’s roster includes 27 players who transferred into the program from four-year colleges; 23 of them are currently eligible to compete for the Mocs. There are also three junior college products.

Those transfers from four-year schools began their college careers at the following institutions: Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Austin Peay, Bethel, Cincinnati (two players), Eastern Illinois, Lafayette, Jacksonville State, Louisville (two players), Minot State, Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee State, Northern Illinois, Old Dominion, Purdue, Rhode Island, South Carolina (two players), Tennessee Tech (two players), ULM, Western Kentucky (three players), and Western Michigan.

Transfers have been important for UTC in sustaining its program (and that has been true for a long time, not just during Rusty Wright’s brief tenure as head coach). Fifteen of the four-year school transfers are on the Mocs’ two-deep, as are two of the three JuCos. Eleven of those seventeen players are starters.

It occurs to me that someone reading this might get the wrong idea about why I’ve written about Chattanooga’s transfers. I do so because I’m interested in how programs construct rosters, from a geographical perspective as well as high school recruit/transfer comparisons, and in terms of class numbers.

As I wrote in 2018 (slightly edited):

It shouldn’t matter to its opponents how many transfers Chattanooga has on its roster, as long as they are students in good standing.

Sometimes fans get huffy about this topic, especially when they support schools for which transfers are somewhat unusual, if not rare. It isn’t a good idea to get all high and mighty about this, however, because a sense of righteousness doesn’t really mesh well with intercollegiate gridiron activity.

After all, we’re not talking about a morality play. We’re talking about football.

Now, you could argue that league schools should more or less recruit in a similar fashion, and that isn’t necessarily a bad position to take — except that we’re talking about the Southern Conference. This is a league with a 100-year history of being a mixing bowl of disparate institutions, including the current setup (public and private schools, military colleges, a school without a football program, etc.).

These schools have vastly different missions. Being a member of the SoCon means accepting that fact, getting on the bus, and going to the next game.

Rusty Wright on Chattanooga’s issues with trying to prepare for its spring opener:

We didn’t even cover a live kick until Saturday [against Wofford]. I mean, you talk about holding your breath.

It took UTC’s defense about a quarter to get warmed up against the Terriers, but after that Chattanooga’s D was solid. After Wofford scored on a 12-play, 71-yard drive to open the game, the Mocs did not allow another touchdown in seven possessions by the Terriers (two brief end-of-half drives are not included in that grouping).

Three of those seven Wofford drives were three-and-outs (one was technically a four-and-out). Another was a five-play possession that resulted in an interception by the Mocs. Wofford averaged only 4.3 yards per play on those seven possessions.

Another statistic of consequence: against Mercer, Wofford averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt (sack-adjusted). Chattanooga held the Terriers to 2.2 yards per pass attempt.

Middle linebacker Kam Jones and strong safety Brandon Dowdell combined for 20 tackles. Dowdell, an outstanding player who has twice been selected first-team all-conference, also had a pick. Dowdell serves as UTC’s primary punt and kick returner, too.

Chattanooga’s offense wasn’t necessarily spectacular, but it was consistent, and that was good enough. Drayton Arnold had a fine day at quarterback. He was composed, seemingly never in a hurry, in part because of a good performance from Chattanooga’s experienced offensive line (which allowed one sack on 26 pass plays).

Arnold averaged 8.1 yards per pass attempt, including a TD, and was not intercepted. One of the more important plays in the early part of the game was a pinpoint downfield pass from Arnold to Andrew Manning, a 30-yard completion on a 3rd-and-13 that set up UTC’s first touchdown.

Mocs wideout Reginald Henderson was very impressive. He had seven receptions for 102 yards, and narrowly missed out on a couple of would-be TD catches (the second of which would have been spectacular if his foot had not been just out of bounds).

UTC took advantage of its opportunities, especially after what might have been the key play in the game, a muffed punt by Wofford late in the first half. The Mocs converted that mistake into a go-ahead TD.

Chattanooga did not run the ball all that effectively, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry, but UTC’s running backs picked up tough yards when it mattered (seven first downs via the rush and two rushing TDs).

Note: Besides adjusting for sack yardage, I also did not include in the Mocs’ rushing totals a 23-yard loss on a botched punt late in the game. That was also Chattanooga’s only real miscue in the contest (UTC did not commit a turnover).

Chattanooga went for it a couple of times on fourth down plays in situations where you might have expected a field goal attempt (particularly on a 4th-and-4 at Wofford’s 20-yard line early in the third quarter). One reason for that is UTC’s expected regular at placekicker is out with an injury.

Skyler Wilson, a freshman who handled placekicking duties for the Mocs on Saturday, did make a 26-yarder against Wofford (he missed another effort from 40 yards). Kickoffs were handled by punter Gabe Boring. Incidentally, Boring was the SoCon’s special teams player of the week after he averaged over 50 yards per boot last Saturday (including a 72-yarder late in the contest).

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: partly sunny, and a high of 56°.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Chattanooga (as of March 3) is a 6½-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 46½.

– Other SoCon lines this week (as of March 3): VMI is an 8½-point favorite at Western Carolina (over/under of 63), and Furman is a 9½-point favorite over Samford (over/under of 54½).

A few more games of note in FCS: Gardner-Webb is a 12-point favorite over Presbyterian; Richmond is a 3½-point favorite over William and Mary; James Madison is a 21½-point favorite at Elon; Delaware is a 2½-point favorite over Maine; Grambling State is a 9½-point favorite over Jackson State; North Dakota State is a 20-point favorite at Missouri State; South Dakota State is a 22½-point favorite over Western Illinois; Prairie View A&M is a 19½-point favorite over Texas Southern; Southeastern Louisiana is a 9½-point favorite over McNeese State; Eastern Washington is a 14½-point favorite over Northern Arizona; Incarnate Word is a 13½-point favorite at Lamar; Southern is a 10½-point favorite over Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Northern Iowa is an 8½-point favorite over Illinois State; Albany is a 2-point favorite at New Hampshire (a game being played Friday night); Villanova is a 9½-point favorite at Stony Brook; and Southern Illinois is a 6½-point favorite at Youngstown State.

Last week was a huge week for underdogs across FCS. Twenty of the ranked teams in the FCS Stats Perform Poll played, and eleven of them lost. The games ranged from the shocking (Southern Illinois beating North Dakota State 38-14) to the bizarre (Eastern Washington losing after a made field goal was ruled no good, thanks to a brutal combination of hilariously bad officiating and the Kibbie Dome).

– Three SoCon teams are not playing on Saturday. Mercer had a scheduled bye week, while the East Tennessee State-Wofford game was postponed (likely canceled) due to COVID issues in Wofford’s program.

– Chattanooga’s notable alumni include Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins, writer and literary critic John W. Aldridge, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens.

– The Citadel is 19-32-2 against Chattanooga in the all-time series. UTC has played the Bulldogs more times than any other opponent. The reverse is not true; The Citadel has played five opponents more often than Chattanooga — Furman, Wofford, Presbyterian, VMI, and Davidson.

– Chattanooga’s 93-man roster (per its game notes) includes 32 players from Tennessee. Other states represented: Georgia (28 players), Alabama (12), South Carolina (5), Florida (4), Ohio (3), North Carolina (2), and one each from Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia.

Wide receiver Jahmar Quandt is from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and had not played organized football before enrolling at UTC. Quandt also attended Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired accredited academic institution in the United States.

Backup long snapper Bryce Coulson is a native of Brisbane, Australia. Coulson is getting a master’s degree in public administration from UTC after playing at (and graduating from) Eastern Illinois.

– As noted, there are five Palmetto State products on Chattanooga’s squad. Wide receiver Kanore McKinnon (listed as a starter on the two-deep) went to Dillon High School before beginning his collegiate career at Georgia Military College. Starting quarterback Drayton Arnold starred at Myrtle Beach High School before starting his college journey at Old Dominion.

Running back Ailym Ford (West Florence High School) was the SoCon Freshman of the Year in 2019, but suffered a knee injury late in that season. He did not play last week for the Mocs against Wofford (but did participate in Chattanooga’s fall matchup against Western Kentucky, rushing for 92 yards on 25 carries).

Based on comments made by Rusty Wright during his Tuesday press conference regarding injured players on his roster, I suspect that Ford will probably not play against The Citadel. (Wright did not specifically discuss Ford.)

Tight end KeShawn Toney, a transfer from South Carolina, played his high school football at Williston-Elko. He will be eligible to play for UTC in fall 2021. Freshman wideout Will Harris went to Walhalla High School.

Alas, none of the Mocs can claim to be an alumnus of South Carolina’s legendary bastion of football supremacy, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. While its relatively close proximity to Atlanta might give UTC a tenuous foothold on a prime recruiting territory, for long-term success Rusty Wright and company must successfully bring in some of those special individuals who have worn the famed maroon and orange. Otherwise, Chattanooga will never rise to the level of an elite program.

– Two UTC players who would otherwise be eligible for spring football have opted out but are still listed on the roster. A third opt-out was a transfer who would not have been able to play on the field this spring anyway.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s game notes) is as follows: South Carolina (48 players), Georgia (15), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Texas (3), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– The Citadel’s football team has an all-time record of 0-0 for games played on March 6. That is tied for the fewest wins, and fewest losses, for any date in program history.

– This week during the 1990 baseball season at The Citadel:

The Bulldogs entered the week 8-1. A scheduled doubleheader at Campbell was reduced to one 6-inning game due to steady rain in the greater Buies Creek metropolitan area. Ken Britt struck out eight batters en route to a 4-0 shutout and his second win of the season. Billy Baker hit a solo homer, and Phil Tobin tripled and scored. Gettys Glaze had 2 RBI.

The Citadel hosted Norfolk State the following Monday afternoon and triumphed over the Spartans, 5-2. Richard Shirer struck out 10 batters in 7 innings and picked up the win. The hitting star on the day was Anthony Jenkins, who went 4-4 with two homers, a triple, and 3 RBI. Attendance at College Park: 66.

The Citadel was 2-0 during the week ending March 6, with a winning streak of nine games. The overall record stood at 10-1.

This will not be an easy game for the Bulldogs. Chattanooga will bring to Charleston an experienced, confident team, one with serious aspirations of contending for the SoCon title.

While no one has doubted the talent on UTC’s roster, there has been some question as to how interested the team (or school) was in playing this spring. All I can say is Chattanooga looked more than interested in competing last Saturday.

The Citadel did, too. The Bulldogs just got off to the worst of starts, and dug themselves a hole too deep to escape. It happens.

I expect a better performance this weekend at home on the peninsula. However, the opponent is going to be tougher. UTC has impact players at a number of positions, and no real weaknesses offensively or defensively (special teams might be a touch more problematic for the Mocs).

For The Citadel to emerge with its first spring victory, it has to win the battle of the clichés. What do I mean by that?

Well, the Bulldogs have to win the turnover battle. They have to run the ball successfully, and stop the run. They have to be strong in the kicking game.

Those are all hoary clichés — but for this game, they’re also true, particularly the bit about turnovers.

The Citadel also needs more of those big plays on offense. Chattanooga has the capability of breaking off long gainers, even more so than it showed against Wofford. At the very least, the Bulldogs have to match that firepower.

A football game in March, at Johnson Hagood Stadium. It is going to be a little different.

Let’s hope the outcome of the game is different this week, as well.

2021 Spring Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. Mercer

The Citadel at Mercer, to be played to be played at Five Star Stadium in Macon, Georgia, with kickoff at 3:30 pm ET on February 27, 2021. 

The game will be televised by Nexstar Broadcasting and streamed on ESPN+. David Jackson will handle play-by-play, while Jay Sonnhalter supplies the analysis. Kristin Banks will be the sideline reporter.

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

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

Nexstar affiliates:

  • WMYT (Charlotte)
  • WYCW (Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville)
  • WMUB (Macon)
  • WWCW (Lynchburg/Roanoke)
  • WCBD-d2 (Charleston)

Note: I am tentatively including WCBD as one of the affiliates for the contest, even though it is not part of the affiliate list provided by the SoCon’s weekly release. The station itself issued a release indicating that the game would be aired on one of its digital subchannels (2.2). However, the game is currently not on WCBD’s programming schedule.

If I receive final confirmation one way or the other, I’ll adjust this section accordingly.

Links of interest:

Enthusiasm is up for spring football at The Citadel

– Jaylan Adams is the Bulldogs’ new starting quarterback

– Mercer prepares for home opener

– Game notes from The Citadel and Mercer

SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Preview on Mercer’s website

The Citadel’s home attendance policies for spring football

– The Citadel releases its fall 2021 schedule

– Willie Eubanks III is the preseason SoCon Defensive Player of the Year

Raleigh Webb is back for another season

– “Live Stats” online platform

Spring football fever…catch it!

If you haven’t quite got the fever yet, though, I can’t say that I blame you.

To be honest, I’m not overly excited about this bizarre FCS gridiron campaign. There are several reasons for my hesitancy.

The first and biggest reason is simply that we are still battling a pandemic. I won’t say that we’re in the middle of the pandemic; I would like to think we’ve passed the midway point and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, this has been a marathon and not a sprint, and the race won’t be over until long after the spring football season has concluded.

I don’t think the current situation is all that dissimilar from where we were last August, when it was decided to cancel the 2020 FCS season (with a few out-of-conference games as exceptions). It is okay to play now, but it wasn’t then? Perhaps so, but the practical difference is marginal.

I also have concerns about the players’ welfare on a variety of fronts, including the fact that some of them might play 20 games (or more) this calendar year. The 2021 fall season is going to be significantly impacted by the 2021 spring campaign, when it really didn’t have to be.

There is also a question about logistics for the schools, especially at the FCS level, where staffing is not voluminous even during the best of times. Resource allocation could be problematic.

Having said all of that, I’m still along for the ride. I have a great deal of respect for the players and coaches who are committed to this spring season, who want to play and coach, and who are representing their respective schools to the best of their abilities.

If they are going to give it their best shot, then the least I can do as a fan is support them. That seems like the right thing to do.

Please understand, though, if from time to time I seem a bit skeptical of the proceedings.

Speaking of skepticism, that was the reaction of more than a few people (including me) when the SoCon released its spring football schedule. Naturally, this being the SoCon, the league actually had to release the schedule twice.

First, the league hastily decided The Citadel should forfeit a contest for daring to play four games in the fall. That ruling ignored historical precedent and was destined to boomerang against the conference in multiple ways if it had actually been implemented. Only eight days after the league’s decision, however, the military college was granted a waiver by the NCAA, and the initial SoCon slate was quickly adjusted.

It just wasn’t adjusted enough.

All nine league schools will play eight times, a true round-robin. Oh, and each team has only one bye week, so the entire conference schedule has to be completed in nine weeks. Seriously. Did anyone in the league office watch the fall season at all?

The season had not even begun before problems began to surface, with Chattanooga postponing (canceling?) its opener against VMI because of COVID issues. The Mocs are hoping to complete enough practices to be ready for their game versus Wofford this Saturday; Chattanooga’s first practice of the spring came on February 6.

Several other FCS conferences are playing four- and six-game league schedules, which is a far better idea than trying to cram eight games into nine weeks.

Here is what I would have suggested. I am not saying it is perfect (far from it), but this would have been, in my opinion, a more realistic scheduling plan:

Each team would have played four games, spread out over seven weeks, with the eighth week reserved for a league title game and the ninth week as backup in case it was needed; if not, the conference champion would have two weeks to prepare for the FCS playoffs.

There would be two divisions.

  • Pete Long Division — The Citadel, Furman, Wofford, Western Carolina, VMI
  • Tom Frooman Division — Samford, Mercer, Chattanooga, ETSU

In the Long Division, the arithmetic would be easy. There would be a simple round-robin between the five teams.

In the Frooman Division, each team would play a round-robin (three games each), then a fourth contest would be a second “rivalry” matchup. For example, Chattanooga would play Mercer, Samford, and two games against ETSU. Mercer would play Chattanooga, ETSU, and two games versus Samford.

That way, every team would play four games. The division winners would meet in the league title game (I’ll let you, the reader, decide what tiebreakers would be used if necessary); the conference title game winner would get the SoCon auto-bid and an all-but-guaranteed matchup against a Big South team.

Teams that didn’t win a division could play a fifth game if they wanted, or even a sixth, matching up with other squads in those eighth and ninth weeks.

Again, I’m not saying this setup is ideal. It isn’t. I just think it makes more sense than what the league is trying to do.

Now, the SoCon might get away with it (and I certainly hope it does), but the odds are not exactly in the conference’s favor. Anyone who believes otherwise just needs to take a gander at how the league’s hoops schedule is faring right now.

I posted links to game notes for The Citadel and Mercer above, along with the SoCon’s weekly release. For anyone interested, here are links to this week’s game notes for the other league schools (except for ETSU’s, as the Bucs are off this Saturday):

One thing someone reading the game notes will notice is that the records from the fall officially carry over to the spring. Therefore, The Citadel and Mercer technically both enter Saturday’s action with 0-4 records; so does Western Carolina. Chattanooga is 0-1 after playing one fall contest.

However, I’m not listing the games that way. The title of this post references Game 1 of the 2021 spring season for the Bulldogs. That is because I do not consider the contests from fall 2020 to be connected to spring 2021 action any more than the 2018 and 2019 seasons are connected to each other. The notion that spring 2021 is a continuation of fall 2020 is specious at best.

There have been personnel changes since the fall season for all teams (including The Citadel and Mercer). There are players who opted out in the fall but are playing this spring; there are players who participated in the fall but are taking a break for the spring. There have been mid-season transfers in and out of programs.

The fall included only non-conference games (even when teams from the same league were playing each other); the spring will mostly feature conference matchups. The fall scheduling was decidedly haphazard, while the spring schedules weren’t formulated until most of the autumn contests had already been played. (Heck, the Patriot League did not release its spring slate until February 5.)

Despite all of that, the FCS playoff selection committee will allegedly consider fall games (and results) when making at-large selections for the FCS playoffs in April. This strikes me as ludicrous. Then again, we’re talking about the perpetually flawed FCS playoffs, so perhaps it is not too surprising.

It doesn’t really matter. I suspect the only team potentially affected would be Jacksonville State, which defeated an FBS team (FIU) in the fall, and which also picked up wins over North Alabama and Mercer. If the Gamecocks don’t win the OVC but otherwise have a solid spring campaign, they would presumably have a strong case for an at-large bid.

Chattanooga would have also had an argument, if it had not lost its lone fall contest, a 13-10 setback at Western Kentucky in which officiating ineptitude cost the Mocs a game-winning kickoff return TD. Ultimately, I think the league title is probably the only avenue for a SoCon team to make the FCS playoffs this spring.

This is normally the point where I start posting charts of statistics for the Bulldogs’ opponent from the previous year, listing several key players on its two-deep, etc. For this particular season, however, I believe doing so would be a largely pointless exercise.

I could tell you that in 2019, Mercer had the 7th-worst turnover margin in FCS (throwing 17 interceptions didn’t help), or that the Bears were the 8th-worst team in the subdivision in defensive third down conversion percentage, or that Mercer was in the bottom 10 of average time of possession.

I could tell you all that and more, but none of it is exceptionally relevant, partly because 2019 might as well have been a century ago as far as college football is concerned, but mostly because Mercer has a new head coach.

His name is Drew Cronic. Mercer hired him after a five-year stretch in which he spent two years as the head coach at Reinhardt (combined record: 22-3), one year as Furman’s offensive coordinator (the Paladins made the FCS playoffs that season), and two years running the show at Lenoir-Rhyne (combined record: 25-3).

Cronic had also spent nine years earlier in his career at Furman as a position coach and recruiting coordinator.

That kind of résumé will get a lot of people’s attention — and it isn’t like schools haven’t had success with former Lenoir-Rhyne head coaches before. The folks at MU decided to move on from Bobby Lamb (speaking of former Furman coaches), and brought in Cronic.

On offense, Cronic employs a variation of the Wing-T. I say “a variation” because it is clearly a different animal from the Wing-T that your standard high school has used on offense for the last few decades. I think Tubby Raymond would have been impressed, though.

Cronic’s assistant coaches include a couple of names familiar to fans of the Bulldogs. Bob Bodine is the co-offensive coordinator for the Bears; he is a former OC at The Citadel (2010-2013).

Mercer’s defensive coordinator is Joel Taylor, who spent five years at the military college before joining Cronic at Lenoir-Rhyne. Taylor will run a 4-2-5 defense, one that includes a “Bandit” position.

Incidentally, the Bears’ offensive depth chart includes spots for five linemen, a quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, running back, and two “Jokers”.

Given that the Mercer two-deep has both Jokers and Bandits, I thought there was a chance for a cheesy pop culture reference, so I spent several minutes trying to shoehorn a Steve Miller song lyric into this space, and then tried out several jokes based on one of the Batman movies. None of the asides were remotely worthy of even this little blog, so I deleted all of them.

You’re welcome.

Mercer played three fall contests in 2020, Cronic’s first games in charge of the program.

October 10: On a rainy day at Jacksonville State, the Bears lost 34-28 despite an ideal start, as Deondre Johnson returned the game’s opening kickoff 100 yards for a TD. (He will be playing for MU this Saturday, both as a kick returner and at the “Joker” position.) The Gamecocks scored 24 points in the second quarter to take a 27-14 lead into the break, but Mercer was down just 6 late in the fourth quarter and in JSU territory when a Bears fumble was returned 64 yards for a touchdown.

October 17: MU traveled to West Point to face Army. On the game’s opening possession, the Bears put together a 15-play, 56-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. After that, though, the home team dominated, as the Black Knights won 49-3. Not counting a one-play drive at the end of the first half, Army had nine possessions and scored touchdowns on seven of them.

October 31: Mercer hosted Abilene Christian and led 17-10 in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats tied the game. ACU then kicked a field goal on the last play of the contest to win, 20-17. Bears safety Lance Wise (who remains on the roster this spring) had 20 tackles. Mercer QB Harrison Frost was 11 for 15 passing for 126 yards and a TD (Frost was the Bears’ backup quarterback last week).

Mercer lost two fumbles against Abilene Christian, which for the Bears was part of an unfortunate trend. In its three fall games, MU fumbled nine times, losing four of them. Mercer also threw four interceptions in those three contests.

Against Wofford in the Bears’ spring opener, there were no interceptions — but MU fumbled three times and lost all of them.

Mercer’s offense scored 14 points against the Terriers on 11 drives. MU went 3-and-out five times.

The Bears averaged 5.2 yards per rush and 3.8 yards per pass attempt (all of these statistics are sack-adjusted). All but one of Mercer’s 25 passes were thrown by freshman Carter Peevy, who completed 11 of 24 attempts for 131 yards; the Bears’ leading receiver (four receptions) was another freshman, Ethan Dirrim.

MU rushed the football on 58.8% of its offensive plays versus Wofford. My general impression is that Mercer would prefer running the football more often than that; in its matchup with Abilene Christian, for example, the Bears rushed on 74.6% of their plays.

Defensively, Mercer gave up 31 points on 10 drives (not counting one-play end-of-half possessions). The Bears forced three Wofford 3-and-outs. The leading tackler for Mercer was linebacker Alvin Ward Jr., a graduate transfer from Georgia Southern.

MU’s defense allowed 9.1 yards per pass attempt against the Terriers, clearly not something the Bears want to see repeated. Four of Wofford’s 12 completions (in 19 attempts) went for 18 yards or longer.

Wofford averaged 4.8 yards per rush against Mercer. Eight of the Terriers’ 42 runs went for 10 yards or more (with a long of 21).

Quick statistical notes on The Citadel’s offense from 2019 (conference games only, and sack-adjusted):

  • The Citadel rushed on 79.6% of its plays from scrimmage in 2019. As a comparison, the Bulldogs ran the ball 83.7% of the time in 2018, after rushing 77.9% of the time in 2017 and on 85.6% of all offensive plays in 2016.
  • The Bulldogs averaged 74.3 plays from scrimmage per game in 2019. In 2018 that number was 69.0 per contest; in 2017, it was 70.1; and in 2016, 72.1.
  • The Citadel averaged 5.39 yards per play in 2019. In 2018, the Bulldogs averaged 5.36 yards per play; in 2017, that number was 5.38 yards per play; and in 2016, the squad averaged 5.58 yards per play.
  • The average yards per pass attempt in 2019 was 7.7, in line with the numbers from 2018 (7.8), 2017 (7.0), and 2016 (7.4).
  • The Citadel averaged 4.80 yards per rush, which is the lowest figure for the Bulldogs in this category since I began regularly tracking these statistics in 2013.

Quick statistical notes on The Citadel’s defense from 2019 (conference games only, and sack-adjusted):

  • The Bulldogs’ defense faced a rushing play 52.8% of the time in 2019. During the 2018 campaign, opponents rushed on 43.5% of their plays from scrimmage. In 2017, that number was 54.7%.
  • The Citadel’s opponents averaged 63.0 plays from scrimmage in 2019. That compares to 62.3 plays per game in 2018; 58.8 plays/game in 2017; and 57.6 plays per contest in 2016.
  • In 2019, the Bulldogs’ defense allowed 5.69 yards per play. During the 2018 season, it allowed 6.18 yards per play; in 2017, 5.69 yards/play; and in 2016, 4.94 yards per play.
  • Opponents averaged 4.91 yards per rush. In 2018, that number was 5.69; it was 4.87 in 2017 and 4.61 back in 2016.
  • The Citadel’s D allowed 6.6 yards per pass attempt, with the figures from past years looking like this: 6.5 in 2018; 7.5 in 2017; and 5.3 in 2016.

The Citadel’s listed depth chart for the game against Mercer, by class:

  • Freshmen: 9
  • Redshirt freshmen: 8
  • Sophomores: 2
  • Redshirt sophomores: 12
  • Juniors: 11
  • Redshirt juniors: 5
  • Seniors: 2
  • Redshirt seniors: 0
  • Graduate students: 2

Mercer’s listed depth chart for the game versus The Citadel, by class:

  • Freshmen: 10
  • Redshirt Freshmen: 7
  • Sophomores: 8
  • Redshirt sophomores: 5
  • Juniors: 4
  • Redshirt juniors: 7
  • Seniors: 0
  • Redshirt seniors: 2
  • Graduate students: 3

Career points scored by Bulldogs listed on the updated spring roster:

McCarthy is on the baseball team and is not expected to compete on the gridiron this spring.

No current Bulldog has scored a defensive touchdown. The only one to have tallied a special teams TD is Webb, on a 77-yard kickoff return against Charleston Southern in 2018.

Trivia time: The Citadel has yet to score a defensive two-point conversion since the rule was implemented at the college level in 1988.

Odds and ends:

From The Citadel’s game notes comes this interesting tidbit:

Defensive back Javonte Middleton will become the first Bulldog to wear #0 this spring. The number was introduced in the fall by the NCAA and will be worn by the Military Captain each year for the Bulldogs.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Macon, per the National Weather Service: partly sunny with a 20% chance of rain, and a high of 72°. As the week has progressed, the projected high temperature has continued to rise.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel (as of February 24) is a 6-point favorite at Mercer. The over/under is 51½.

– Other SoCon lines this week (as of February 24): Wofford is a 2½-point favorite at Chattanooga (over/under of 46); Samford is a 15½-point favorite over Western Carolina (over/under of 58½); and Furman is a 24½-point favorite at VMI (over/under of 62½).

A few more games of note in FCS: James Madison is a 35½-point favorite over Robert Morris; South Dakota State is a 7½-point favorite at North Dakota; Elon is a 17½-point favorite at Gardner-Webb; Howard is a 3½-point favorite at Delaware State; McNeese State is an 11-point favorite over Incarnate Word; and Jackson State is a 10½-point favorite over Mississippi Valley State.

– Mercer’s notable alumni include TV personality Nancy Grace, missionary/spy John Birch, and music promoter Phil Walden.

– The Citadel is 11-5-1 against Mercer in the all-time series.

– Mercer’s roster includes 64 players from Georgia. Other states represented: Florida (8), North Carolina (7), Tennessee (3), South Carolina (2), and one each from Alabama, California, Hawai’i, Ohio, and Texas.

There are two Palmetto State products on MU’s squad. Offensive lineman Ni Mansell is a freshman from Anderson who played at Westside High School; he is on the two-deep as the backup right guard.

Of course, The Citadel is more than familiar with linebacker Jordan Williams, a graduate transfer from none other than the military college itself. Williams (listed as a ‘KAT’ on Mercer’s depth chart) went to Spring Valley High School in Columbia.

Alas, no Bear can claim to be an alumnus of South Carolina’s most celebrated institution for gridiron greatness, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. For long-term success in Macon, the new coaching staff must successfully recruit at least a few of those remarkable individuals who wear the famed maroon and orange. Otherwise, Mercer’s program will remain lost in the desert, forever unquenched.

– There are ten players on Mercer’s roster who have transferred into the program from four-year colleges since Drew Cronic became the head coach. Those schools include The Citadel (as mentioned above), along with Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Lenoir-Rhyne, Liberty, Navy, Virginia Tech, and Wofford. Four of those players (right guard John Harris, tight end Drake Starks, wide receiver Ty James, and running back Nakendrick Clark) are projected as starters on offense, as is right tackle Santo DeFranco, a junior college transfer from Hartnell College in California.

Clark and Starks are two of the three Bears who joined the program at the semester break.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s game notes) is as follows: South Carolina (48 players), Georgia (15), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Texas (3), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– The Citadel’s football team has an all-time record of 0-0 for games played on February 27. That is tied for the fewest wins, and fewest losses, for any date in program history.

– This week during the 1990 baseball season at The Citadel:

The Bulldogs entered the week 2-1, having beaten North Carolina State 12-1 in their most recent matchup. On February 21, The Citadel defeated Augusta College 9-4, the first collegiate victory for starting pitcher Steve Basch, a freshman from Lansing, Michigan.

The Citadel then won three straight games against Davidson. A doubleheader sweep was highlighted by Jason Rychlick’s game-winning two-run single in the nightcap. In the final game of the series, the Cadets whipped the Wildcats 15-4, with Anthony Jenkins, Billy Baker, and Dan McDonnell all homering. McDonnell’s round-tripper would prove to be the only one he would hit all season.

Chal Port’s Bulldogs completed a perfect week on the diamond with two triumphs over Gannon. In the first matchup, Chris Coker’s four RBI highlighted a 12-hit attack in a 9-2 victory. The second game was a 10-6 win; Brad Stowell pitched six solid innings to garner the decision. Six different players had multiple-hit games in the contest, which (we must report, to be fair) also featured a triple play turned by the Golden Knights.

The Citadel was 6-0 during the week ending February 27, with a winning streak of seven games. The overall record stood at 8-1.

I don’t really know what to expect on Saturday. The Citadel will have a new starting quarterback and a lot of younger players sprinkled throughout the two-deep (particularly at A-Back and in the defensive line rotation). It goes without saying that the performance of Jaylan Adams at QB will be a major key.

Mercer will have the advantage of having played one game, which in this unicorn of a season could be a big deal, although I’m not entirely sure it is. I’m not entirely sure about anything when it comes to spring football.

The games between the two programs since Mercer joined the SoCon have always been close. The largest margin of victory in the series during that timeframe is 11 points, which came in the last meeting — The Citadel’s 35-24 win in 2019.

I won’t be in Macon, but I’ll be watching on ESPN+ while simultaneously listening to the radio call. The “live stats” online platform will be at the ready.

I would say it is that time of year, except it really isn’t — and yet, here we are anyway. What a world.

Go Dogs!

2020 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Army

The Citadel at Army, to be played on Blaik Field at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on October 10, 2020. 

The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. Ben Holden will handle play-by-play, while Ross Tucker supplies the analysis and Tina Cervasio patrols the sidelines.

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

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Kyle West

The Citadel Sports Network — 2020 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Army

Not many secrets between the two coaching staffs

Other sports at The Citadel are competing (and doing well!) during the pandemic

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Brent Thompson’s 10/5 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (10/7)

Jeff Monken’s 10/6 press conference

Select quotes from Monken’s presser

– The budget crunch

Mutual respect flows in The Citadel-Army matchup

– Army’s “virtual” game program

I first want to comment on a quote from Mike Capaccio in Jeff Hartsell’s article on The Citadel’s budget issues:

Capaccio reiterated that if the SoCon plays a league schedule in the spring, The Citadel will participate, even though the school did not vote for a spring schedule in league meetings.

“I think we will have football in the spring, but what that looks like, we don’t know,” he said. ”(The league) hasn’t decided on the number of games. They are looking at some tentative schedules, and we should know shortly.”

Capaccio pointed out that the Colonial Athletic Association just announced a six-game schedule for the spring.

“I think you’ll see teams playing four to six games,” he said.

Capaccio said he continues to field calls from teams interested in adding games this fall.

“I could schedule three games today,” he said. “I won’t rule it out, but that’s probably not going to happen.”

While at this point I suspect The Citadel won’t add any more football games in the fall, I have to wonder if Capaccio would be more likely to add a game or two if the Southern Conference releases a spring football schedule with six or fewer games for each school.

For example, let’s say the SoCon slate in the spring is for six games. The Citadel could add one more fall contest and have eleven total games for the 2020-21 scholastic year; thus, the school would not require a waiver from the NCAA (as it would not exceed the FCS games limit for the academic calendar).

This is not an outlandish consideration, particularly given that most observers believe the SoCon schedule will not exceed six games (and could be just four contests per school). I think that makes it all the more important for the league to release its spring slate sooner rather than later.

I would not be surprised if the reason the conference has yet to announce its schedule is because some member schools are hesitant to commit to football for the spring. If that is the case, commissioner Jim Schaus has to give those schools a deadline to make a decision — like tomorrow. 

There are nine schools that play football in the Southern Conference. It would not be a shock if at least two of them don’t compete in the spring. 

Revisiting the past — Part 1

October 12, 1991: The Citadel 20, Army 14

The trip to West Point got off to an uncertain start. After checking in at the team hotel, David Russinko and Bill Melby entered their room at 2 am on Friday, only to discover two people sleeping in it. The two players were quickly assigned another room.

There were apparently no issues with the squad’s arrival at the stadium on Saturday, however. The Bulldogs started fast and held on for the win, beating the Black Knights for the first time. In the first half, two field goals by Rob Avriett were sandwiched around a 28-yard TD run by Jack Douglas; then, Everette Sands scored from two yards out, and The Citadel led 20-0.

Army came charging back, and cut the lead to six points late in the third quarter. However, the home team was ultimately undone by five turnovers. Four different Bulldogs — Jim Wilson, Lance Cook, Geren Williams, and Lester Smith — recovered fumbles, and Shannon Walker intercepted a wayward Army pass. A late-game stop by Derek Moore on fourth down ended the Black Knights’ hopes for a comeback victory.

Revisiting the past — Part 2

September 26, 1992: The Citadel 15, Army 14

For the second consecutive season, the Bulldogs defeated the Black Knights, but this time they didn’t lead throughout the contest. In fact, The Citadel didn’t take its first lead of the game until Jeff Trinh converted a 37-yard field goal with 2:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Everette Sands, who rushed for 174 yards and a touchdown, had a great game, but things were looking grim when C.J. Haynes had to replace an injured Jack Douglas in the third quarter. However, Haynes proceeded to complete 7 of 7 passes for 100 yards, leading two scoring drives, including the one that eventually decided the game.

Cedric Sims scored The Citadel’s second touchdown on a two-yard run. Trinh’s field goal was set up by two pass completions from Haynes to Cornell Caldwell, the second of which came on a fourth down play. Army’s last chance ended when the Bulldogs’ Mike Wideman recovered a fumble. For the sixth time in seven tries, The Citadel had beaten a I-A opponent.

“This is,” Trinh said outside a jubilant locker room, “the happiest moment of my life.”

Okay, back to this year — not that anyone really wants to return to 2020, for any reason. However, we must…

Army is 3-1. The Black Knights mauled Middle Tennessee State, ULM, and Abilene Christian, while losing a tough game to nationally ranked Cincinnati. A potentially interesting game against BYU was postponed for COVID-related reasons.

All three of Army’s victories have come at home, as Michie Stadium is getting plenty of use this season. Before the BYU postponement, the Black Knights were scheduled to play eight home games. In addition to the game against the Bearcats (which was played at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati), Army is playing UTSA and Tulane on the road, and Navy in Philadelphia.

While Army is known for its triple-option offense, the Black Knights’ defense has arguably been the star unit this season. Opponents are averaging just 4.95 yards per play, which is 17th-best nationally. That number actually improves to 4.44 yards per play against FBS-only opposition, which ranks 9th overall.

Much of that defensive success revolves around Army’s stinginess against the run. The Black Knights are allowing only 2.62 yards per rush, 10th-best nationally. Against FBS squads, that number drops to 2.29 yards per rush, 4th overall.

Army is tied for 9th in FBS in turnover margin, and is 19th nationally in 3rd down conversion against (32.7%). Opponents have gone for it on 4th down six times against the Black Knights, converting three times.

In the Red Zone, Army has allowed four touchdowns on ten opponent trips. 

Offensively, Army is averaging 6.10 yards per rush, fifth-best in FBS. The Black Knights are converting exactly 50% of their 3rd down tries (26 for 52), and are six for ten on 4th down attempts.

Army’s offense in the Red Zone has scored touchdowns on 66.7% of its chances (10 for 15). 

The Black Knights have had 37 rushes of 10 yards or more, by far the most in FBS (SMU is second in that category, which I thought was interesting). Army also leads the nation in runs of 20+ yards (17 of those), 30+ yards (8) and 40+ yards (5).  

A quick rundown on some key Army players, starting with the offense:

Christian Anderson (6’1″, 195 lbs.) is a junior from the Bronx. Anderson has started at quarterback in each of Army’s four games, but was injured against Abilene Christian and may not start (or play) this week. Against ULM, Anderson rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Jemel Jones (5’10”, 210 lbs.), a sophomore from Texas, replaced Anderson in the game versus ACU and rushed for 149 yards and two TDs. He threw the ball fairly well, too (4 for 7 for 52 yards and a touchdown). Jones also holds on placekicks.

A freshman from Dallas, Georgia, Tyrell Robinson (5’9″, 180 lbs.) is fast, as in SEC speed fast, not service academy fast. He is a true gamebreaker and the Bulldogs cannot let #21 loose in the open field (or in a closed field, for that matter). He is averaging 12.7 yards per carry (!) and is also a threat as a punt returner.

Army’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 291 lbs.

Defensive performers of note:

Jon Rhattigan (6’1″, 245 lbs.) is a linebacker from Naperville, Illinois. The senior leads the team in tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee State. He is nicknamed “Jonny Nation”.

Strong safety Marquel Broughton (5’10”, 213 lbs.) is second on the team in tackles. The sophomore from Lawrenceville, Georgia intercepted a pass and forced a fumble versus ULM.

Cedrick Cunningham Jr. (6’0″, 215 lbs.) is a native of Cassatt, South Carolina. The junior free safety was named the Chuck Bednarik Award Player of the Week for his efforts in Army’s win over Middle Tennessee State, a game in which he had seven tackles, including a sack and forced fumble.

Nolan Cockrill (6’3″, 280 lbs.), a junior from Centreville, Virginia, had six tackles against ULM and a sack versus Abilene Christian. He has also broken up two passes this season, something not necessarily expected from a noseguard.

A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, Landon Salyers (6’1″, 180 lbs.) is in his first season as the regular placekicker for Army. He has been the kickoff specialist since 2018. So far this year, the senior has made all 3 of his field goal tries, with a long of 43 yards.

Zach Harding (6’5″, 220 lbs.) holds down the punting duties for the Black Knights, as he did for most of last season. The junior from St. Peters, Missouri has a career average of 47.8 yards per punt and has never had one blocked.

Odds and ends:

– While Army is occasionally referred to as the Bulldogs of the Hudson, for this post I elected to call the football team exclusively by its official nickname (Black Knights) in order to avoid confusion.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in West Point, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny and breezy, with a high of 67 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel (as of October 7) is a 29-point underdog at Army. The over/under is 47½.

The line actually opened at Army -31½, but both the spread and the total have fallen slightly since the initial posting.

Other lines of note this week (as of October 6): Clemson is a 14-point favorite over Miami (FL); Temple is a 3-point favorite at Navy; Notre Dame is a 21-point favorite over Florida State; Jacksonville State is a 6½-point favorite over Mercer; South Carolina is a 13-point favorite at Vanderbilt; Liberty is a 19½-point favorite over ULM; BYU is a 34-point favorite over UTSA; FIU is a 3½-point favorite over Middle Tennessee State; USF is a 4½-point favorite over East Carolina; and Georgia is a 13-point favorite over Tennessee.

– Massey Ratings

Massey projects a predicted final score of Army 38, The Citadel 10. According to the ratings service, the Bulldogs have a 3% chance of victory.

Of the 127 schools in FCS, fifteen announced plans in August to play at least one game in the fall. Massey’s rankings (in FCS) for those teams, as of October 6:

North Dakota State (1st), Central Arkansas (19th), Missouri State (49th), Austin Peay (50th), Jacksonville State (52nd), Chattanooga (53rd), Houston Baptist (57th), Abilene Christian (59th), Eastern Kentucky (63rd), Stephen F. Austin (66th), Mercer (67th), The Citadel (68th), Western Carolina (77th), North Alabama (85th), Campbell (88th).

– Massey’s FBS rankings (as of October 6) for select teams: Alabama (1st), Ohio State (2nd), Clemson (3rd), Georgia (4th), LSU (5th), Florida (6th), Notre Dame (7th), Auburn (11th), Tennessee (13th), Texas (18th), Texas A&M (20th), BYU (21st), North Carolina (22nd), Virginia Tech (30th), Air Force (32nd), Kansas State (39th), Cincinnati (40th), Arkansas (45th), UCF (46th), SMU (47th), South Carolina (52nd), Boston College (59th), Navy (66th), Louisville (67th), Tulane (76th), Army (77th), Georgia Tech (80th), Coastal Carolina (86th), Florida State (87th), Liberty (96th), Georgia Southern (104th), USF (107th), Texas State (115th), East Carolina (119th), Middle Tennessee State (127th), ULM (130th).

There are 130 FBS teams.

– The U.S.M.A.’s notable alumni include astronaut E.E. “Buzz” Aldrin; former Costa Rica president José María Figueres; and actor Mark Valley.

– The Black Knights are 7-2 against The Citadel in the all-time series. Army is 15-1 versus VMI, with the Keydets’ only victory coming in 1981 (the last year in which VMI had a winning season).

– Army’s roster (as of October 6) includes…well, a lot of guys. There are 166 Black Knights listed on the online roster. The state most represented is Georgia, with 28 players, followed by Texas (21 players), California (12), Florida (11), Virginia (10), Maryland (9), New York (8), Pennsylvania (8), North Carolina (7), Illinois (6), Ohio (5), New Jersey (5), Arizona (5), Missouri (4), Louisiana (4), Tennessee (4), Kentucky (3), Alabama (3), South Carolina (2), Indiana (2), Iowa (2), Hawai’i (2), and one each from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Michigan, and West Virginia.

As mentioned earlier, junior free safety Cedrick Cunningham Jr. is from Cassatt, SC. He went to North Central High School in Kershaw County. The other Palmetto State product for Army is sophomore offensive lineman Blake Harris, an Irmo native who attended Ben Lippen.

Both Cunningham and Harris spent a year at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS). In all, 94 of the 166 players on Army’s roster attended its prep school.

Alas, no Black Knight can claim to be an alumnus of South Carolina’s most revered football institution, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. While Army’s coaching staff has undoubtedly made inroads in the southeastern part of the country, it has yet to land a truly prized prospect, one who wears the famed maroon and orange. The absence of such players on the roster make further program advancement difficult, if not impossible.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (59 players), Georgia (19), Florida (10), North Carolina (7), Virginia (4), Texas (3), Alabama (2), Oklahoma (2), Tennessee (2), Pennsylvania (2), and one each from Kentucky, Ohio, Nebraska, and New York.

Defensive lineman Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– Here are the guarantees The Citadel will be receiving from FBS schools over the next few years:

  • 2020: South Florida — $275,000
  • 2020: Clemson — $450,000
  • 2020: Army — $225,000
  • 2021: Coastal Carolina — $315,000
  • 2023: Georgia Southern — $320,000
  • 2024: Clemson — $300,000
  • 2025: Mississippi — $500,000

The guarantee amounts listed above for this season’s games are from a Jeff Hartsell article in The Post and Courier: Link

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 7-7-1 for games played on October 10. The Bulldogs are 1-3-1 in road contests held on that date. Among the highlights:

  • 1914: Before a large crowd at Hampton Park (“both sidelines were pretty well jammed with craning spectators” reported The News and Courier), The Citadel shut out Porter Military Academy, 12-0. Johnny Weeks and Francis Sheppard scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs. The Citadel was shorthanded, due to several players having been badly burned the week before in a game played at Georgia. The groundskeeper in that contest had lined the field with unslaked lime; the substance got wet and soaked through the players’ uniforms, resulting in significant burns for some of them. (Yes, you’re cringing while reading that.)
  • 1942: At the original Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel outlasted George Washington, 14-2. Marty Gold and Andy Victor both scored TDs for the Bulldogs (with Victor adding both PATs). The defense kept the Colonials out of the end zone, with Tom Marcinko a stalwart on D and as the punter (with multiple boots of 60+ yards). Team captain Eddie Overman had a big game, too, and punctuated the victory with a 15-yard sack on the game’s final play. More than 6,000 fans watched the action on a sweltering afternoon.
  • 1964: An estimated crowd of 10,200 at Johnson Hagood Stadium was on hand as The Citadel whipped Richmond, 33-0. The Bulldogs’ defense held the Spiders to just 68 yards of total offense. Head coach Eddie Teague credited Frank Murphy and Ricky Parris for excellent defensive signal-calling, while Mike Addison iced the game with a pick-six. The Citadel had taken a commanding lead thanks to touchdown runs from Ed Brewster and Francis Grant, along with a TD pass from John Breedlove to Punch Parker. Pat Green added two field goals for the Bulldogs.
  • 1970: The Citadel disappointed a Homecoming crowd of 10,000 in Williamsburg, Virginia, by defeating William and Mary 16-7. Jim Leber’s 27-yard field goal in the third quarter gave the Bulldogs their first points of the day, and then Jeff Varnadoe returned two interceptions for touchdowns (the first of which went for 100 yards) to provide the winning margin.
  • 1992: The Bulldogs defeated Chattanooga, 33-13, in front of a nighttime crowd of 19,622 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Jack Douglas rushed for 159 yards and four touchdowns, while Everette Sands added 136 rushing yards to The Citadel’s total of 434 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs’ defense recorded eight sacks, including two each by Rob Briggs and Ed McFarland.
  • 2015: The Citadel walloped Wofford, 39-12, on a soggy day at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Bulldogs’ defense forced two turnovers and held the Terriers to just 2.43 yards per rush. Tevin Floyd had 11 tackles and was named the SoCon Defensive Player of the Week. Dominique Allen rushed for two TDs and threw another (to Brandon Eakins), while Tyler Renew and Reggie Williams also scored.

For the last two decades, many supporters of The Citadel have hoped the program could make another trip to West Point. Finally, the Bulldogs are making the journey, but will play in a (mostly) empty stadium.

Army’s home games at spacious Michie Stadium have been limited to only the Corps of Cadets and game personnel, or roughly 5,000 people for the first three contests against Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Monroe and last Saturday’s affair with Abilene Christian. That, too, will be the case for next Saturday’s game with The Citadel.

That is too bad, but it is how the world is working right now. Perhaps in the near future the two schools could meet once more on the gridiron, with fans actually in attendance. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

In his presser on Tuesday, Army head coach Jeff Monken noted that the two teams are not scheduled to face each other again. Practically speaking, it is probably a tough matchup to schedule from the perspective of both programs.

That said, I would like to see The Citadel play Army and Navy more often. I also think it is worthwhile for the school to occasionally schedule a game in other regions of the country, regardless of whether or not the game is against a service academy.

Brent Thompson, closing his press conference on Monday, was asked where he hoped his team would be by the end of the game on Saturday:

We have proven that we can play. We have gotten a lot better, and I’ve said this every single week, we don’t have exactly the roster that I was expecting. However, I’ve got a bunch of guys out there that are out there [because they] want to play football…every one of them was given a reason or the opportunity not to play this year, so those guys that stayed, those guys that were out there, they got better. We’ve increased our depth…we’ve gained in practice time, we’ve gained in game reps. Unfortunately, it’s come at the expense of some tough losses there. But you know what? That’s okay. Eventually, this is going to pay off for us. We’re going to get better from it. We’re going to build our depth from it, and I know the guys right now who are here, they’ve improved. And that was the whole reason why I wasn’t going to go easy last week [during the bye] and just try and get through the season. We were going to prepare ourselves for the spring season last week, and [prepare] to go out and beat Army this week.

I hope the game on Saturday is a good one. A victory by The Citadel would be a somewhat unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to what has been an incredibly strange 2020 season (assuming that it is actually the last game of the year).

Go Dogs!