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!

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

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

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2020 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Eastern Kentucky

A home game like none other

– The SoCon isn’t playing football this fall

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Eastern Kentucky’s website

– Brent Thompson’s 9/21 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/23)

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

–  Eastern Kentucky vs. Marshall (WatchESPN video)

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

–  Athlon Sports preview of the game

–  EKU student newspaper game preview

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

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

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

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

Oh, one other thing…

I applaud Thompson for not agreeing to shorten the game:

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

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

Exactly right, coach. Exactly right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rumors are true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So EKU pitched a $10 million stadium renovation.

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

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

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

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

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

EKU said thank you, but no thank you.

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

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

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

The second problem was the weather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

– Massey Ratings

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

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

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

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

There are 130 FBS teams.

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

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

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

As noted above, punter Phillip Richards is from Australia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Dogs!

2020 Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Clemson

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

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2020 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier [link when available]

– Game notes from The Citadel and Clemson

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

– The Citadel is used to playing teams ranked #1

– The Citadel is also used to being #1

The SoCon isn’t playing football this fall

ACC weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Brent Thompson’s 9/15 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/16)

– The Citadel Football: Season Opener

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

Dabo Swinney’s 9/15 press conference

Swinney speaks after the Tigers’ 9/16 practice

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

However, I did delve into a couple of topics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s circle back to 2020…

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Massey Ratings

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

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

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

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

There are 130 FBS teams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 6-5 for games played on September 12. The Bulldogs are 1-4 in road contests held on that date. Among the highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Dogs!

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

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

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

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

— The Charleston Evening Post, September 23, 1918

 

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

— The Charleston Evening Post, October 17, 1918

 

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

The Charleston Evening Post, October 23, 1918

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

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2020 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and USF

The SoCon isn’t playing football this fall

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

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– A weird season for a weird year

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

– The Scotts complete a circle

No fans in the stands at Raymond James Stadium this Saturday

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

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

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

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

Focused Bulls ramp up preparations for season opener

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

Jeff Scott media availability (9/2)

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

– USF press conference (9/8)

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

However, I did delve into a couple of topics:

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

When the Bulldogs weren’t the Bulldogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twenty years later and I can remember his inflection perfectly.

We were three games old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whatchu doin’, boy,” Swinney asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USF’s stats (all games) in 2019:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Massey Ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are 130 FBS teams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aren’t we all?