Game Review, 2016: VMI

The Citadel 30, VMI 20.

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Video from WCIV-TV, including (via Twitter) “raw” interview with Brent Thompson

Video from WCSC-TV

– School release from The Citadel

– School release from VMI

– Game story, The Roanoke Times

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

– Brent Thompson’s post-game speech (via Twitter)

– More video via Twitter involving the SoCon trophy and (of course) Brent Thompson crowdsurfing

On-field end-game video via the Facebook page for The Citadel Sports, including the last two minutes and the Silver Shako presentation

Also via the Facebook page for The Citadel Sports, sideline game video with roughly 12 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter until the 3:20 mark

Mike Legg and Lee Glaze call Jonathan King’s strip sack/TD (audio)

Mike Legg and Lee Glaze call Jonathan Dorogy’s fourth-quarter TD (audio)

I wasn’t able to attend the contest on Saturday, but I decided to post a short game review anyway. After all, we’re still undefeated!

Trying to follow the game from afar was a bit of an adventure, especially after ESPN3 had a system-wide failure at halftime. I listened to the radio call, which I tend to do anyway when I watch The Citadel play on ESPN3 (in part because the audio is often 30 to 45 seconds ahead of ESPN’s stream, and I like to know what is happening in the game as soon as possible).

Eventually, The Citadel put up a live video feed on its Facebook page. I’ve linked that above (they are in two segments); most of the fourth quarter was made available. It wasn’t ideal, but it was certainly better than nothing, and was greatly appreciated.

While reviewing the video feed after the game,  it was clear that many people from all over the nation followed the action on Facebook — and that was on short notice, too. I saw posts from viewers in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Utah, Idaho, and California, and I’m sure I missed several states (and perhaps a few countries).

The folks in the department of athletics who pulled that off deserve plenty of kudos.

It also reminded me of one of my pie-in-the-sky ideas, so bear with me for a few paragraphs…

During Homecoming, there was a live video feed on Facebook of the parade. That was a great idea. However, I wonder if it is feasible to go one step further.

Every year, the Army-Navy game is televised by CBS. You knew that already. What you may not have known is that the pregame march-on by the U.S.M.A.’s corps of cadets and the U.S.N.A.’s brigade of midshipmen is also televised — by the CBS Sports Network, the cable sports affiliate of CBS.

I watched part of that show two years ago. Besides the march-on, a couple of on-field hosts/reporters interviewed cadets and officials from each academy. In a way, it came across as a more focused version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and was essentially a ninety-minute infomercial for the two institutions.

Given that The Citadel’s home games are now streamed by ESPN3, I’m wondering if the pregame march to the stadium by The Citadel’s corps of cadets could also be a part of a longer broadcast. For all I know, that may not be practical, but it might be worthwhile.

The game itself was a tough one for The Citadel, to the surprise of nobody. VMI was well-prepared, and took the “nothing to lose” concept to new heights with a wide variety of trick plays and gambits.

The Keydets tried an onside kick, successfully executed a wide receiver pass to the quarterback for a touchdown, added a flea flicker that set up another TD, ran multiple “wildcat” plays, attempted a fake punt (that worked due to a penalty on the Bulldogs), and generally zigged whenever zagging was expected.

The Citadel played without several of its regulars on offense (including Cam Jackson, Reggie Williams, and Jorian Jordan). That may have affected the timing of a few plays that didn’t work, though VMI’s defense also deserves credit on that front.

Inside linebacker Allan Cratsenberg was a particular standout for the Keydets. He finished with 20 tackles, the most by a VMI player in a game this century.

For only the third time all season, the Bulldogs did not have an edge in time of possession. Having said that, when The Citadel needed a put-away drive in the fourth quarter, Dominique Allen and company responded with a 16-play possession that took six minutes and forty seconds off the clock.

The Bulldogs also had a few much-needed big plays in the game that offset some of the offensive struggles. Allen’s 70-yard pass to Rudder Brown set up a touchdown, and so did Jonathan Dorogy’s 34-yard fourth-quarter run (with Dorogy finishing that drive himself by taking Allen’s pitch on 4th-and-3 for a 17-yard score).

Of course, the play that will make all the highlight reels was Jonathan King’s 54-yard mad dash to the end zone, after he ripped the ball out of the hands of VMI quarterback Austin Coulling. Someone at The Citadel might want to send the video of that TD to SB Nation for Piesman Trophy consideration.

The freshmen who made the trip to Virginia certainly made their presence felt. On the Facebook video clips, you can clearly hear the yelling and chanting from that side of the stadium, including the “I Believe That We Will Win” rallying cry and (amusingly) a few shouts of “Charleston Crab House!” whenever the Bulldogs made a first down.

As the clock wound down, another chant broke out, one that was unprecedented for cadets at The Citadel:

10 and 0! 10 and 0! 10 and 0! 10 and 0!

Ah yes, 10-0.

Parts of that 10-0 worth noting:

  • The victory at VMI was The Citadel’s sixth road win of the season, the most in school history
  • With the nine wins from last year, this is the most successful two-year stretch for the Bulldogs in program annals
  • The Citadel finished undefeated in Southern Conference play for the first time ever (the school joined the league in 1936)

It has been quite a year.

Unfortunately, there was a somber aspect to the long weekend. On Friday, assistant athletic director for facilities Mike Groshon died of complications from leukemia. He was 63 years old.

Groshon was best known in recent years as the “keeper of the dogs”, namely General and Boo. He grudgingly accepted that role about a dozen years ago, but came to enjoy it.

The 1976 graduate of The Citadel actually accepted a variety of roles in 35 years at his alma mater, including several years as the school’s tennis coach. He finished his tenure in that position with a winning record, then and now not an easy feat at The Citadel.

His main vocation was supervising maintenance and upkeep on the athletic facilities, and he was good at it.

In 2002, a high school band exhibition damaged the field at Johnson Hagood Stadium just one week prior to a home game. Groshon and his crew did such an outstanding job getting the field ready for play, then-coach Ellis Johnson said that Groshon “deserves a pay raise, a week’s vacation, a gold medal. That field was in pitiful condition, and he did a great job of getting it ready.”

His death sparked a large outpouring on social media of praise and sad reflection from people with whom he interacted over the years.

In the 1988 football media guide, Mike Groshon was described as a “vital cog in the operation of Bulldog athletics”. That was true then, and it was true for the next three decades as well.

Condolences to his family and friends.

Next up for The Citadel is another team that wears light blue and white: North Carolina. I’ll post a game preview for that contest later in the week.

It may not be one of my “standard” previews, to be honest. I’ll probably write about the upcoming playoffs as much as the Tar Heels.

In the meantime, I will conclude this post with a terrible photoshop effort, my take on the picks the CFP selection committee will be making on Tuesday…

cfp-2

Game Review, 2016: Wofford

The Citadel 24, Wofford 21 (OT).

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Notes, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Photo gallery, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Game story, The Greenville News

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Brent Thompson, Dominique Allen, Kailik Williams, Cody Clark, and Joe Crochet

Video from WCIV-TV, along with (via Twitter) some “raw” highlights and its video of Dominique Allen’s postgame interview

Video from WSPA-TV

Game wrapup, Southern Pigskin

– School release

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

Brent Thompson takes the trophy without breaking stride (video via Twitter)

Game highlights (ground level video)

– Kailik Williams scores the tying touchdown on a “Pitch Six” (video via Twitter)

I saw the football on the ground.

Sometimes when you’re in the stands, you can’t see everything that happens in a game, especially when the two teams are near one of the end zones. However, on the final play, I had a perfect angle to see the football suddenly pop out of the mass of players along the line of scrimmage.

For what seemed like forever, the ball rolled around on the grass. Then, at last, a Bulldog covered the pigskin.

The thing is, it didn’t really take that long. Ben Roberts pounced on the football nine-tenths of a second after it first hit the turf. (Yes, I timed it.)

That last play summed up the entire game if you were a fan of the Bulldogs. It was tortuous to watch, lasted for an interminable amount of time…but in the end, The Citadel emerged with a victory.

#DogsOnTop, indeed.

One reason the game took so long was that every other series seemed to end with a two-minute (or longer) “media timeout”. With 7:30 remaining in the first quarter, there had already been three media timeouts.

It can be very frustrating to attend a game with so many stoppages. Perhaps all that extra down time led to Bulldog fans leaving their seats and getting more to eat and drink; the visitors side concession stands reportedly had to close at halftime due to running out of food. I guess Wofford made a little extra money off of all the media timeouts.

Kailik Williams’ game-changing “Pitch Six” is a play that will be remembered by Bulldog fans for quite a while. In the box score, it is listed as an interception return.

Having watched it a number of times now, I am of the opinion that it was not an interception. I think it probably should be considered a fumble return, because the pitch was a lateral. (It was certainly intended to be a lateral.)

Williams made another outstanding ball-hawking play in the first quarter, stealing the ball from Wofford quarterback Brandon Goodson after a long run. However, the SoCon officiating crew ruled that Goodson was down, an obvious mistake by the officials. It turned out to be a significant error, as Wofford would score the game’s first touchdown a few plays later.

As the game progressed, the officials continued to vex the Bulldogs. On The Citadel’s only sustained drive of the first half, a blatant pass interference penalty went uncalled. The Bulldogs would have had a first down inside the Terriers 35-yard line, but no flag was thrown.

The possession was then completely short-circuited when the Bulldogs were called for a personal foul.

Before the drive began, WCSC-TV’s Kevin Bilodeau had tweeted that “One of the refs just went to the Dogs sideline and asked the coaches for help…said it’s getting chippy out there”.

Apparently the men in stripes were only interested in the “chippy” play of one of the two teams, though. While the penalty on the Bulldogs was being enforced, Terriers linebacker Dylan Young wandered over to a couple of Bulldogs and (not for the first time) proceeded to discuss something with them that was likely not related to the weather. This went on for about 45 seconds. The officials completely ignored it.

Brent Thompson wound up having to use a timeout during the sequence; I am not certain, but that may have been because he was not told whether or not the down would count. (It is also possible the coach used the timeout to remonstrate with the officials about their many failings.)

The best offensive play call of the day for The Citadel may have been the end-around pitch to Jorian Jordan on 3rd-and-goal on the Wofford 8-yard line. Jordan wound up scoring on the play…well, let me rephrase that.

Jordan would have scored on the play if the linesman had not erroneously ruled him out of bounds. That call had Bulldog fans remembering the 2014 officiating debacle all over again.

Fortunately, Dominique Allen scored on 4th-and-goal, which with the ensuing extra point gave the Bulldogs a relatively brief lead (14-13). Allen showed good strength by remaining in the end zone long enough for the officials to see he was over the goal line, despite the Terriers’ best efforts to push him back (and you can’t blame them; that tactic has worked for Wofford before).

Allen also showed some toughness on The Citadel’s other offensive TD, waiting until the last moment to pitch the ball to Reggie Williams. Allen took a big hit, one he probably knew was coming, but the play’s timing was perfect and Williams raced into the end zone for the Bulldogs’ first touchdown.

Those plays helped make up for what was otherwise a trying afternoon for The Citadel’s starting quarterback, who struggled with his passing accuracy (the occasionally strong crosswind was undoubtedly a factor). Allen was also largely bottled up on the ground by Wofford’s excellent defense.

Of course, no one from The Citadel had too much luck running the ball on Saturday. Wofford defensive linemen Miles Brown and Mikel Horton were as advertised (very good), and linebacker Datavious Wilson (15 tackles) was outstanding. Several other Terriers had notable games, including both starting safeties (Jaleel Green and Malik Rivera).

Rudder Brown was the recipient of all three of the Bulldogs’ completed passes, including a nifty 36-yard grab and a big third-down catch on The Citadel’s lone long scoring drive. Brown made a great catch in overtime for what would have been a touchdown, but he was ruled to have been out of bounds. The replay was not conclusive, though he may have actually got a foot down in the end zone. In fairness, it would have been a very tough call for the official to make.

Defensively, the Bulldogs played well for most of the contest. Among those who had good games: Tevin Floyd (12 tackles and a fumble recovery), Kailik Williams (who had 11 tackles in addition to his spectacular TD), Myles Pierce (a career-high 12 stops), and Joe Crochet (9 tackles and the forced fumble that ended the contest).

They had to be good to keep up with Lorenzo Long, a shifty back who was not easy to tackle. Wofford’s offensive line was solid, and a major reason why the Terriers averaged 5.0 yards per rush.

Both teams had kicks blocked; a punt for The Citadel, a field goal attempt for Wofford. That is something each will work on this week.

On the Terriers’ second successful field goal, it appeared not all of the Bulldogs were convinced the football had gone between the uprights. No replay (or view from the stands) had an angle that would have been telling, though.

It was great to see the turnout of Bulldog fans. The visitors side was packed with blue-clad supporters and ACU-wearing cadets (who made their presence felt throughout the day).

The announced attendance for Wofford’s Homecoming game was 11,102, the largest crowd at Gibbs Stadium since a 2011 playoff game against Georgia Southern. I think perhaps as many as half of those in attendance on Saturday were rooting for The Citadel.

The Citadel clinched a winning conference record with the victory, something that might have gone unnoticed, but definitely not irrelevant from a historical perspective.

It will be the ninth time in the last thirty seasons The Citadel finishes with a winning record in SoCon play. It will also be only the second time since 1992 that the program has had winning league records in consecutive seasons (the Bulldogs also accomplished this in 2006 and 2007).

The seven straight wins in an individual season ties the 1988 squad for the all-time record in that category.

Those wins in 1988, for the record: Navy, at Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Boston University, East Tennessee State, Marshall, and VMI.

That win over Navy also marks the last time an FBS (I-A) school visited Johnson Hagood Stadium. The victory over Marshall was an all-timer in terms of stadium atmosphere (and a lesson in how difficult it can be to tear down goalposts).

The game versus VMI was played at the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk, Virginia. In that contest, Bulldogs quarterback Gene Brown rushed for a school-record 286 yards on only 13 carries.

The Citadel won its fifth road game of the campaign on Saturday. That ties the all-time record for most road victories in a season. The Bulldogs will have a chance to set a new standard when they play at VMI on November 12.

The only other time the program won five road games in a season was 1992. The Citadel was 5-0 on the road that year, with victories over Arkansas, Army, Appalachian State, Western Carolina, and Furman.

The 1960 squad won four road games and a neutral-site contest. The road triumphs that season came against Davidson, Richmond, Furman, and Arkansas State. The neutral-site win was, of course, The Citadel’s victory over Tennessee Tech in the Tangerine Bowl.

A lot of things didn’t go The Citadel’s way against Wofford. The offense struggled for most of the game, the defense was occasionally bedeviled by big plays, there was a special teams letdown, and the officiating gave the Bulldogs (and their fans) a major headache.

Despite all of that, the team persevered. The players didn’t fold. They played through all the obstacles for the entire game, and then into overtime. At the end, one final play was made, and the Bulldogs won.

7-0.

I’m happy to ride along with this team. At this point, everyone should be on the bus. (Well, you don’t have to ride an actual bus.)

They play hard. They play well. It’s largely a workmanlike group, though there is just a hint of flash to them as well.

There are still four regular-season games to go, including three in conference play. The season is far from over.

Things are looking good, though. The next game is this Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium, against East Tennessee State. It will be a big game. That’s because when you keep winning, every game becomes a big game.

I like it when The Citadel plays big games.

The pictures: not Pulitzer-worthy. Actually, they range from lousy to terrible to “why did I bother uploading this”. I’m going to have to make a change in operations, or simply drop this laughable segment of the review altogether.

(Also, this week there is no annotation of game action photos. For anyone who cares, my apologies.)

2016 Football, Game 7: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel at Wofford, to be played to be played at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on Saturday, October 22. The game will not be televised.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with audio from the Wofford radio team (Mark Hauser calling the play-by-play, Thom Henson providing the analysis, and sideline reporting by Van Hipp).

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

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

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

SoCon weekly release

– The Citadel faces challenges, dishes them out

– No secrets between the teams (well, I bet there are a few)

– This week is a matchup of ground game experts

– Jeff Hartsell writes about Wofford coach Mike Ayers

– About juice, but not the kind from oranges

Brent Thompson’s 10/18 press conference, including comments from Dominique Allen and Jonathan King (video)

Brent Thompson 10/19 radio show (video)

– Wofford press luncheon interviews of Mike Ayers, Brandon Goodson, and Dylan Young (video)

– Highlights of Wofford’s win over Western Carolina (video)

– The Citadel poses a challenge for Wofford (and vice versa)

– First responders can get free tickets to next week’s home game 

– Leadership Day 2016

FCS Coaches’ Poll

There is no question who is this year’s luckiest Wofford football player. That would be Michael Roach, whose gridiron career ended against Tennessee Tech:

Roach, a junior linebacker on the Wofford football team, went into cardiac arrest Thursday night as the Terriers were playing their season-opener against Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tenn. He stopped breathing for about 45 seconds.

He was revived on the sidelines and taken by ambulance to the Cookeville Regional Medical Center, where he stayed for two days and was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which enlarged heart muscle cells cause the walls of the ventricles to thicken and prohibit the proper flow of blood.

HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest among athletes in the United States and only about 5 percent those who go into cardiac arrest are able to survive.

 

“The game of football really did save my life and give me a second chance,” Roach said. “This could’ve happened anywhere. It could’ve happened when I was out by myself doing anything, riding a bike or running or something like that. I am extremely fortunate.” He has been fitted for an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, a device that will control the beats of his heart and serve as a pacemaker, if necessary.

I can relate to a lot of that, especially the part about being in the right place/right time…

About two and a half years ago, I went into cardiac arrest on the fourth floor of a building. On the third floor of the building? A group of EMTs. They were nice enough to shock me back into the world.

When I went into cardiac arrest for a second time, later that same day, I was already in a hospital cardiac care center.

I occasionally think about how lucky I was not to go into cardiac arrest earlier in the morning, or during the just-concluded weekend, or while I was driving back from Charleston on the Friday before the weekend — but I don’t think about it for long, because that’s not healthy.

Best of luck to Roach. I suspect he’ll be fine in the long run.

Wofford is 4-2, 2-1 in the Southern Conference.

The Terriers opened with a 21-7 non-conference victory at Tennessee Tech. Wofford trailed 7-0 after one quarter of play, but then-QB Brad Butler scored a rushing touchdown in each of the next three quarters. WC outrushed the Golden Eagles 346-41, and converted eight of twelve 3rd-down tries.

Wofford’s next game was also on the road, but against much stiffer opposition. Mississippi defeated the Terriers 38-13.

It wasn’t a bad effort at all for Wofford, all things considered. The Terriers frustrated the Rebellious Bears at times with ball control, winning the time-of-possession battle by almost eleven minutes.

The next game was the home opener, and Wofford blitzed Johnson C. Smith 59-0. The Terriers outrushed their Division II opponents 330-18. For some reason, Wofford threw 17 passes.

One week later, the Terriers pitched another home shutout, taking care of East Tennessee State 31-0. Wofford had 350 yards rushing, while ETSU had -7 (four sacks by the Terriers were part of that total). The Terriers had a 19-minute edge in time of possession, running 75 plays to the Buccaneers’ 42.

It wasn’t a perfect day for Wofford, though, as quarterback Brad Butler injured his knee against ETSU. Brandon Goodson, the #3 QB when fall practice started, became the new starter when the Terriers played Samford.

Goodson and the Terriers fell 28-26 to the Birmingham Bulldogs. The game, as expected, was a clash of offensive styles; Wofford dominated time of possession and ran 21 more plays, but the two teams had similar total offense numbers. Trailing late, Wofford got a TD run from Lorenzo Long, but failed on a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game.

Two weeks ago, Wofford traveled to Cullowhee and defeated Western Carolina, 31-19. The Terriers were only up 5 points early in the fourth quarter, but iced the game with an 8-minute, 80-yard drive that ended in a three-yard TD from Long.

Wofford was off last week, so the Terriers have had two weeks to prepare for The Citadel.

A few Wofford statistics of note:

Wofford Opp
Points Per Game 30.2 15.3
Total yards rushing 1872 302
Yards/rush 5.3 2
Rush TDs 19 2
Total yards passing 426 1225
Comp-Att-Int 36-60-0 128-185-5
Average/pass att 7.1 6.6
TDs Passing 1 10
Total offense 2298 1527
Total Plays 411 333
Average Per Play 5.6 4.6
Fumbles/lost 9/2 4/3
Penalties-pen yards 38-330 31-260
Pen yards/game 55 43.3
Net punt average 44.5 37.7
Time of poss/game 35:37:00 24:23:00
3rd-down conv 42/88 33/77
3rd-down conv % 48% 43%
Sacks by-yards 17-122 3-23
Red Zone TD% (17-23) 74% (10-14) 71%
  • Wofford has allowed 302 rushing yards in six games; that is an average of just over 50 yards per contest, which leads the nation
  • The Terriers are also fourth in scoring defense and second in total defense
  • Wofford is second in all of FCS in time of possession (trailing only — you guessed it — The Citadel)
  • One reason for the Terriers’ healthy TOP is that they are 13th in the country in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate
  • WC is second nationally in net punting
  • The Terriers are tied for 12th in turnover margin
  • Wofford is fourth in rushing offense, 35th in scoring offense

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at some of The Citadel’s statistics:

The Citadel Opp
Points Per Game 28.5 17.2
Total yards rushing 2286 650
Yards/rush 5.5 3.9
Rush TDs 18 8
Total yards passing 334 1155
Comp-Att-Int 19-42-1 88-165-6
Average/pass att 8.0 7.0
TDs Passing 3 5
Total offense 2620 1805
Total Plays 456 330
Average Per Play 5.7 5.5
Fumbles/lost 10/4 7/4
Penalties-pen yds 33-329 27-272
Pen yards/game 54.8 45.3
Net punt average 36.7 38.2
Time of poss/game 35:44:00 24:15:00
3rd-down conv 52/100 23/69
3rd-down conv % 52% 33%
Sacks by-yards 19-138 0-0
Red Zone TD% (14-26) 54% (6-10) 60%
  • The Citadel leads the nation in time of possession and rushing offense
  • In tandem with that TOP stat, The Citadel is sixth nationally in offensive third-down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs are sixth in scoring defense, thirteenth in rushing defense, and tenth in total defense
  • The Citadel is tied for 25th in defensive third-down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs are tied for 20th in turnover margin
  • The Citadel has yet to suffer a sack on offense this season and leads FCS in fewest tackles for loss allowed per game

In a way, Wofford’s statistics are skewed by its wide range of opposition, from Johnson C. Smith to Mississippi. On the other hand, the Terriers tend to approach all of their games in a similar manner, so I’m not sure there would be much of a difference in things like (for example) percentage of rushing or passing attempts.

As it is, 81.4% of Wofford’s total offense has come via the rush. The Terriers have run the ball on 85.4% of their total plays.

I mentioned earlier that Wofford has had some injury issues at the quarterback position. Current starter Brandon Goodson (6’0″, 205 lbs.) is a junior from Dacula, Georgia.

It should be noted that Goodson started three games last season for the Terriers, including the game versus The Citadel. This year, Goodson is completing 46.9% of his passes, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt, with no TD tosses or interceptions. He is not a big threat as a runner, averaging 1.7 yards per carry on only 22 rushes.

Of course, one reason Goodson doesn’t do a lot of running is because he can simply give the ball to Lorenzo Long (5’9″, 205 lbs.). The senior from Pensacola was a second-team All-SoCon pick last year who narrowly missed out on a 1,000-yard season.

So far in 2016, Long is averaging almost 113 yards per game (5.9 yards per carry), with nine rushing TDs. He currently leads the SoCon in rushing.

Fellow halfback Will Gay (5’9″, 185 lbs.) is allegedly a fifth-year senior, but I’m almost positive he played for the Terriers in the previous century. Gay is averaging 7.1 yards per carry this season. He is also Wofford’s primary punt returner.

Tight end Chandler Gouger (6’2″, 230 lbs.) leads Wofford in receptions, with eight. The junior from Chattanooga is averaging eleven yards per catch.

Wofford’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’3″, 296 lbs. Four of the five have started every game this season for the Terriers.

The only exception? Left guard Dequan Miller didn’t start Wofford’s contest against East Tennessee State. Miller had a fairly decent reason; the Columbia resident was late for the game because he was taking the LSAT.

The line is anchored by right tackle Anton Wahrby (6’5″, 300 lbs.). The senior, a native of Sweden, was a foreign exchange student at Lexington (SC) High School. He was a preseason all-conference choice.

The strength of Wofford’s defense is its line. Last year, Miles Brown (6’1″, 310 lbs.) impressed many observers with his play at nosetackle.

This season, though, the Sidwell Friends product is working at defensive end, because Wofford needed to find a spot for true freshman Mikel Horton (6’0″, 315 lbs.). The two are a tough combination.

Another defensive lineman, junior Tyler Vaughn (6’1″, 270 lbs.), has four sacks for the Terriers.

Free safety JoJo Tillery (6’2″, 205 lbs.), a sophomore, leads Wofford in tackles with 34. Datavious Wilson (6’1″, 230 lbs.), a freshman from Hartsville, is second on the squad in stops, with 30.

Wofford rotates a lot of defensive players, which is illustrated by the fact that 30 Terriers have made at least three tackles so far this season.

Junior placekicker David Marvin (6’2″, 210 lbs.) is making a serious bid to be the all-league kicker this season. He is 7 for 10 on field goal tries so far in 2016.

Against Western Carolina, he made a 57-yarder. Marvin converted a 50-yard try versus Mississippi. The Charlotte native also handles kickoffs for the Terriers.

I mentioned earlier that Wofford leads the nation in net punting. While senior Brian Sanders (6’3″, 200 lbs.) is listed on the two-deep as the starter, and has punted seven times this season, Marvin has actually punted more times (12) for the Terriers. Both have excellent punting numbers. Sanders also acts as Wofford’s holder.

Sophomore long snapper Ross Hammond (6’1, 220 lbs.) is the son of South Carolina’s Secretary of State, Mark Hammond (who played college football at Newberry).

Ostin McPherson (5’8″, 168 lbs.), a freshman from Mobile, returns kickoffs for the Terriers.

On his weekly radio show, Brent Thompson fielded a question from the audience, read aloud by Mike Legg:

“Wondering if this is something normal or something new within [the offense]…you’re running the option, you have a fake…run up the line with the potential to pitch, but the quarterback drops back to throw at that point. Has it always been that way, or is that kind of a branch [off the option], or is that why everybody is calling things now the RPO (run/pass option)?”

Thompson’s answer:

Well, anytime that we throw the ball is probably a new wrinkle in our offense, for sure.

That drew plenty of laughter from the crowd, as it should have.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Spartanburg, per the National Weather Service: sunny with a high of 64 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel (as of Thursday night) is a 1.5-point favorite over Wofford, with a very low over/under of 40.

Earlier in the week, the game opened as a pick’em. Incidentally, last year’s game closed as a pick’em.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Chattanooga is a 24-point favorite over VMI; Samford is an 17-point favorite over Western Carolina; and Mercer is a 22-point favorite at Austin Peay. Furman is off this week.

On Thursday night, East Tennessee State (which entered the game as a 17.5-point favorite) defeated West Virginia Wesleyan 38-7.

Gardner-Webb is a 6-point underdog against Kennesaw State this week in Boiling Springs. North Carolina is a 9.5-point favorite at Virginia.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 7th in FCS (a jump of two spots). Wofford is ranked 20th (not surprisingly after a bye, that is unchanged from last week).

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have an 53% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 16, Wofford 14.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (9th), Samford (10th), Mercer (32nd), Furman (54th), Gardner-Webb (55th), VMI (67th), Western Carolina (70th), East Tennessee State (95th).

Chattanooga fell five spots after its loss to The Citadel.

– Wofford’s roster includes 29 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (18), Florida (12), Tennessee (9), Ohio (8), Kentucky (6), North Carolina (6), Alabama (2), Wisconsin (2), and one each from Virginia, Arizona, Maryland, and Oklahoma.

The Terriers also have one player who hails from Washington, DC (freshman offensive lineman Ronnie Brooks). As previously noted, offensive lineman Anton Wahrby is from Sweden — specifically, Karlskrona.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (23), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Alabama (4), Pennsylvania (4), Texas (4), and one each from Louisiana, Maryland, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, and West Virginia.

– There were no changes to The Citadel’s two-deep this week, the third consecutive week that has been the case.

– This is the fifth straight season that the game between Wofford and The Citadel will be streamed on ESPN3. It is the tenth time in eleven years the contest will be streamed or televised.

– The SoCon’s weekly release notes that league games can be stomach-turners:

Seven of the league’s 18 conference games this season have been decided by one possession. Since the start of the 2013 season, 45 of 108 (.438) league games have been decided by one possession.

Like everyone associated with the military college, I’m very pleased that The Citadel is busing all the freshmen to the game on Saturday. The school sent cadets to two road games last season (Furman and Chattanooga); hopefully, this will become a regular occurrence.

I think the freshmen will be joined by a significant number of aging (but still vociferous) blue-clad supporters. Games in the Upstate often lead to a solid turnout of Bulldog backers, but The Citadel’s success this year is likely to bring out even more fans.

Okay, let me write a few sentences about the elephant in the room. It wears a striped shirt.

Are The Citadel’s fans still angry about the officiating debacle in this matchup two years ago? Yes, they are. Very much so. They have every right to be.

Bulldog supporters also have every right to be concerned about how the game will be officiated on Saturday. There is a decided lack of confidence on that front.

I just hope it doesn’t come down to another blown call.

Winning on Saturday is going to be a difficult challenge for The Citadel. The Bulldogs are coming off a physically demanding game against Chattanooga, and now must travel to face a team that has had two weeks to prepare for the game.

Possessions will be at a premium, which will emphasize the importance of avoiding turnovers. Field position could also be a major issue, and Wofford’s kicking game has been very good so far this season.

Last week, I wrote that third down conversions could be a key factor in the game versus the Mocs. That turned out to be the case, a rare example of me making a good prediction.

This time, I’m going to focus on something else (though third down conversions should still be important).

As I wrote in my review of the Chattanooga game, The Citadel had no offensive plays from scrimmage of more than 15 yards against the Mocs. Keep in mind, the Bulldogs ran 81 plays in that game.

There cannot be an absence of “explosion” plays on offense this Saturday. The Bulldogs need to break out several long gainers against the Terriers. For one thing, I don’t believe The Citadel is going to convert 10 straight third-down attempts two weeks in a row.

If they can create some big plays on the offensive side of the ball, I think the Bulldogs have a good chance of going 7-0. It’s going to be a tough task, to be sure.

That’s okay, though.

Game Review, 2016: Chattanooga

The Citadel 22, Chattanooga 14.

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

Game story, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Game analysis, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Brent Thompson, Dominique Allen, Cam Jackson, Dee Delaney, and Jonathan King

Video from WCIV-TV

Video from WCBD-TV

Postgame comments from Russ Huesman

Postgame comments from Mocs players Cedric Nettles, Nakevion Leslie, Keionta Davis, C.J. Board, and Alejandro Bennifield

Game story, Southern Pigskin

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

Brent Thompson, crowdsurfer

Game highlights

I want to start by pointing out something that is obvious, but yet may go overlooked. With its victory on Saturday, The Citadel clinched a winning season. That matters.

The Bulldogs had a winning season last year too, of course. The last time The Citadel had consecutive winning seasons on the gridiron? 1991-1992.

The Citadel actually had three straight winning campaigns from 1990 to 1992, but the latter two years were the last time the Bulldogs had put together back-to-back over-.500 seasons until yesterday’s achievement.

It has been a long time coming.

From the post-game notes package:

Brent Thompson is the 1st head coach in The Citadel history to begin his career 6-0 and has tied Harry O’Brien for the most wins by a first-year coach in program history

Harry O’Brien’s six-win season came exactly 100 years ago, in 1916. That was arguably the most impressive season on the gridiron by the Bulldogs in the thirty years prior to World War II, as The Citadel finished 6-1-1, including season-closing victories over Clemson (a game played in Orangeburg and won by the Bulldogs 3-0) and South Carolina (a 20-2 shellacking in Columbia).

The stylish O’Brien was a Swarthmore graduate who also coached basketball and baseball at The Citadel. O’Brien later coached hoops at Drexel, too.

Saturday’s contest was a very well-played football game between two good teams. The Citadel won the game, and deservedly so, but there was very little that separated the Bulldogs from the Mocs.

The key to the game, in my opinion, was The Citadel’s offense converting its first ten third-down conversion attempts of the game. It was an amazing run which seemed to violate the rules of probability, and that’s before taking into consideration the fact that Chattanooga had entered the game leading the nation in defensive third-down conversion rate (22%).

It led to The Citadel’s enormous time of possession advantage (39:31 – 20:29), which resulted in Chattanooga’s high-powered offense being kept off the field for extended periods of time. That kept the Bulldogs’ defense fresh, and probably affected UTC’s rhythm on offense as well. The Mocs only ran 47 offensive plays from scrimmage, while the Bulldogs had 81 — a huge differential.

UTC had the edge in yards gained per play, 6.3 to 4.3, a statistic that is a bit deceiving. Not counting C.J. Board’s 75-yard TD reception (though obviously it very much counted in the game), Chattanooga’s average yards per play drops to 4.6.

In the second half, the Mocs ran 27 plays and gained a total of 74 yards, an average of just 2.7 yards per play.

On the first play from scrimmage for The Citadel’s offense, Dominique Allen rushed for a 15-yard gain. The Citadel would run 80 more offensive plays after that, but none of them would result in a gain as long as Allen’s run — a near-remarkable oddity.

In a way, that note serves to highlight an outstanding effort by UTC’s defense in not allowing any big plays. However, it also accentuates the Bulldogs’ success in converting on third down. They had to regularly convert on third down in the game to have a chance to score, much less win.

One reason the Bulldogs were so successful on third down in the first half was they were able to get outside and turn the corner. Basically, the conversions came in two categories: 3rd-and-short plays were mostly keepers by Allen, while third-and-long efforts were pitches to an A-back (usually Cam Jackson). Here are The Citadel’s third-down conversions in the first half:

  • 3rd-and-6, Cam Jackson carries for 13 yards
  • 3rd-and-6, Cam Jackson carries for 13 yards (yes, the same distance/result, and in the same drive)
  • 3rd-and-8, Cam Jackson carries for 9 yards
  • 3rd-and-2, Isiaha Smith carries for 3 yards
  • 3rd-and-4, Cam Jackson carries for 7 yards
  • 3rd-and-3, Dominique Allen carries for 3 yards
  • 3rd-and-3, Dominique Allen carries for 11 yards
  • 3rd-and-3, Rod Johnson carries for 8 yards
  • 3rd-and-3, Dominique Allen carries for 5 yards
  • 3rd-and-6, Dominique Allen carries for 7 yards

In the second half, the Mocs clearly made an adjustment, and thus the pitch to the outside was not as successful for the Bulldogs. However, The Citadel appeared to throw in a couple of new wrinkles in the fourth quarter, which resulted in key first downs picked up on outside runs by Reggie Williams and Tyler Renew.

So, to sum up: The Citadel won despite completing just one pass (for seven yards), not having a single offensive play from scrimmage result in more than a 15-yard gain, and without forcing a turnover.

It wasn’t a fluke victory, though — far from it. Heck, The Citadel even survived the almost customary hosing by the SoCon officials, who in the third quarter managed to twice deny the Bulldogs a clear first down inside the UTC 10-yard line. (It’s one thing to spot a ball poorly, but to do it on consecutive plays takes a considerable amount of talent.)

I thought the fan support was excellent. It wasn’t quite the overflow crowd that some were expecting, but it was substantial enough, and a lot of the folks in the stands were really into the game.

There were a few who weren’t, but that’s always true. Why they have to leave their seats every 15 minutes, only to return 10 minutes later, I have no idea…

After the game, I was asked by a couple of people how big a win this was for The Citadel. Where does it rank on the all-time list?

My answer, basically: “It depends on the next four games.”

The victory over Chattanooga won’t have a lot of meaning, historical or otherwise, if the Bulldogs don’t continue to win games. Beating UTC won’t matter nearly as much if the team loses two or three conference games down the stretch.

I mentioned this in my preview of the Chattanooga game, but it’s worth repeating: in 1992, Marshall and The Citadel played at Johnson Hagood Stadium in a top-10 matchup between SoCon teams undefeated in league play. Marshall won the game…but The Citadel wound up winning the conference title.

The win on Saturday afternoon was one step, a big one, but nevertheless just one step. As Cam Jackson pointed out in last week’s press conference, “Every conference game is just as important as the next.”

The next conference game is at Wofford. It’s just as important.

This week’s pictures are…well, they’re pictures.

2016 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Western Carolina

The Citadel at Western Carolina, to be played to be played in Cullowhee, North Carolina, on the grounds of Bob Waters Field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium, with kickoff at 3:30 pm ET on Saturday, October 1. The game will not be televised.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Pete Yanity providing play-by-play and Will Merritt supplying 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, is the flagship station. 

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

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

SoCon weekly release

Brent Thompson’s 9/27 press conference, including comments from Dominique Allen and Tevin Floyd (video)

Brent Thompson 9/28 radio show (video)

Dominique Allen returns as The Citadel’s starting quarterback

– Allen is back on board

– Allen had his moments in high school, too

– Catamount Football Weekly — previewing the game versus The Citadel (video)

– Mark Speir says the Catamounts were “embarrassed” by loss to ETSU

– Catamounts face long season if they lose to The Citadel

– Radio broadcast open for Saturday’s game (audio)

FCS Coaches’ Poll

This is going to be a somewhat abbreviated (if not erratic) preview, as I mentioned it might be when I reviewed the Gardner-Webb game two weeks ago. That’s because I’ve been out of the country for a week and am just getting back to a semblance of a routine. I’ve tried to provide the typical assortment of links, and my “Odds and Ends” section is in good order, but as for the rest of it…

I’m going to hurriedly make a few points and get this posted. Please excuse the absence of some of the usual statistical comparisons, although trying to incorporate that stuff would have been tricky this week anyway. Last year’s stats aren’t particularly relevant as the calendar hits October, but as Western Carolina and The Citadel have only played three games each in 2016, the current season statistics also have evaluative limitations.

Having said that, here are some Western Carolina stats for 2016, a quick blast. WCU’s three opponents this year: East Carolina (lost 52-7), Gardner-Webb (won 44-14), East Tennessee State (lost 34-31).

 

WCU Opp
Points/game 27.3 33.3
1st downs/game 23.7 25
Yards/rush 4.7 5.5
Yards/pass att 8.6 8.1
Yards/play 6.7 6.5
Plays/game 72.3 77.3
Penalties/game 9.7 5.3
Pen yds/game 74 53.7
TOP/game 26:04:00 33:56:00
3rd dn conv % 39 58.8
Red Zone TD% 64.3 78.6

Putting aside the game versus ECU, let’s take a quick look at the Gardner-Webb and ETSU matchups.

Against G-W (a game played in Cullowhee), Western Carolina’s offense:

  • completed 36 of 43 passes, averaging 9.9 yards per attempt, with 5 TD tosses (two picks)
  • was not sacked on any of those 43 pass attempts
  • averaged 6.1 yards per rush (263 total rush yards), with one TD
  • scored 5 TDs in 8 trips to the Red Zone
  • had 6 TD drives of 62 yards or longer
  • scored touchdowns on its first two possessions
  • had 19 pass completions of ten yards or more; 10 of those came on first down
  • also had 6 rushing plays of ten yards or more

As a comparison, The Citadel’s offense had a total of 13 plays from scrimmage against Gardner-Webb that went for 10+ yards (12 of them were rushes). It should be noted that Western Carolina ran 86 plays from scrimmage against G-W (The Citadel had 73).

Now for the other side of the ball. Against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, the Catamounts’ defense:

  • allowed only 3.4 yards per pass attempt (25 throws)
  • gave up just 4.8 yards per play
  • allowed 5.5 yards per rush (271 total rush yards)
  • after allowing a TD on G-W’s first possession, didn’t give up more than 48 yards on any subsequent drive
  • shut G-W out over its last nine drives

The game versus ETSU (played at Bristol Motor Speedway) didn’t go quite as planned. WCU’s offense:

  • completed 26 of 39 passes, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, with 2 TDs (no interceptions)
  • was sacked four times
  • averaged just 3.7 yards per rush (100 total rush yards), with 2 TDs
  • was in the Red Zone four times, but only scored one touchdown
  • had 5 drives of 55 yards or longer; 3 resulted in TDs

Then there was the Catamounts’ defense, which:

  • allowed 7.3 yards per pass attempt (37 passes)
  • gave up 5.4 yards per play
  • allowed 4.1 yards per rush (205 total rush yards)
  • gave up 4 TDs and a field goal on ETSU’s last five possessions (all 67 yards or longer)

East Tennessee State picked up 364 yards of total offense on those five drives (the last possession of the first half and the first four of the second), averaging 6.6 yards per play. The Bucs were 13 of 19 on third-down tries, converting nine of their last ten.

Check out this amazing third-quarter drive by East Tennessee State that gave the Bucs the lead for the first time in the game:

  • ETSU 1-10 at Etsu24 ETSU drive start at 08:46.
  • ETSU 1-10 at Etsu24 Austin Herink sacked for loss of 8 yards to the ETSU16 (Jake Helms).
  • ETSU 2-18 at Etsu16 PENALTY WCU unsportsmanlike conduct (Daniel Nash) 15 yards to the ETSU31, 1ST DOWN ETSU.
  • ETSU 1-10 at Etsu31 Jajuan Stinson rush for 2 yards to the ETSU33 (Tyler Junius).
  • ETSU 2-8 at Etsu33 D. Monroe rush for 3 yards to the ETSU36 (Tyson Dickson).
  • ETSU 3-5 at Etsu36 PENALTY WCU offside defense (Andrew Mayton) 5 yards to the ETSU41, 1ST DOWN ETSU.
  • ETSU 1-10 at Etsu41 D. Monroe rush for 2 yards to the ETSU43 (Avery Worsham).
  • ETSU 2-8 at Etsu43 Austin Herink pass complete to Vincent Lowe for 7 yards to the 50 yardline (Avery Worsham).
  • ETSU 3-1 at Etsu50 D. Monroe rush for 4 yards to the WCU46, 1ST DOWN ETSU (Jake Helms).
  • ETSU 1-10 at Wcu46 Austin Herink rush for 8 yards to the WCU38 (Fred Payne).
  • ETSU 2-2 at Wcu38 Austin Herink pass incomplete to Hank Black (Trey Morgan).
  • ETSU 3-2 at Wcu38 Jajuan Stinson rush for 3 yards to the WCU35, 1ST DOWN ETSU (Daniel Nash).
  • ETSU 1-10 at Wcu35 Jajuan Stinson rush for loss of 1 yard to the WCU36 (Daniel Nash).
  • ETSU 2-11 at Wcu36 PENALTY WCU personal foul (Daniel Nash) 15 yards to the WCU21, 1ST DOWN ETSU.
  • ETSU 1-10 at Wcu21 Falon Lee rush for no gain to the WCU21 (Ezavian Dunn; Tyson Dickson).
  • ETSU 2-10 at Wcu21 Falon Lee rush for 9 yards to the WCU12 (Keion Crossen).
  • ETSU 3-1 at Wcu12 Falon Lee rush for 5 yards to the WCU7, 1ST DOWN ETSU (Marvin Tillman; Daniel Nash).
  • ETSU 1-G at Wcu07 Falon Lee rush for 3 yards to the WCU4 (Andrew Mayton).
  • ETSU 2-G at Wcu04 Falon Lee rush for 2 yards to the WCU2 (Marvin Tillman).
  • ETSU 3-G at Wcu02 Austin Herink pass complete to Matt Thompson for 2 yards to the WCU0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 01:20.
  • JJ Jerman kick attempt good.

No play from scrimmage during that 16-play, 76-yard drive went for longer than nine yards. ETSU was five-for-five on third-down conversion attempts, and was also bailed out of two 2nd-and-long situations by personal fouls (committed by the same WCU player). Time of possession: 7:26.

That drive aside, the game arguably turned on a play near the end of the first half:

The Cats had a 21-3 lead when it appeared they were going for the kill. [Tyrie] Adams threw a long pass to Spearman Robinson, who gained 43 yards before losing a fumble that ETSU recovered at its 29. The Bucs then drove 71 yards for a touchdown before halftime to begin the comeback.

“Spearman fumbles the ball, and they  get the ball and go on a two-minute drive. Who knows what the ball game would be (if that hadn’t happened),” [WCU head coach Mark] Speir said.

Western Carolina committed 12 penalties in the loss to East Tennessee State. The Catamounts were also flagged 12 times in their 30-point win over Gardner-Webb, so your mileage may vary.

While WCU is essentially a 50-50 run-pass team, much of its yardage (64.8%) comes via the pass. That speaks to a fairly solid transition from longtime quarterback Troy Mitchell to the new starting QB, redshirt freshman Tyrie Adams.

Adams is a 6’2″, 180 lb. native of St. Petersburg, Florida. A track and field star as well (he was the indoor and outdoor SoCon high jump champion in 2016), Adams is completing an impressive 69.3% of his passes, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, with seven touchdown tosses against three interceptions.

Running back Detrez Newsome (5’10”, 210 lbs.) was the preseason choice for offensive SoCon player of the year after being a first-team all-league selection in 2015. Newsome rushed for 1,109 yards last season and nine touchdowns (and added three more TDs on pass receptions).

Newsome rushed for 121 yards (on only 16 attempts) and a TD last year versus The Citadel. He is also the primary kick returner for the Catamounts.

WCU has several pass-catching candidates (including Newsome). Terryon Robinson (5’11”, 190 lbs.) leads the team in receptions so far this season, with 22. He is not to be confused with redshirt senior Spearman Robinson (6’4″, 215 lbs.), a Greenwood High School product who has seemingly played for the Catamounts since the late 1990s.

Jordan Mathis (5’10”, 200 lbs.) is third on the team in receptions, with 12. C.J. Goodman (5’11”, 185 lbs.) had a career-high seven receptions against The Citadel in 2015.

The Catamounts suffered a blow when preseason first-team All-SoCon tight end Tyler Sexton was lost for the season in August with a knee injury.

Western Carolina’s starting offensive line averages 6’3″, 293 lbs. The largest member of that group is right guard Nathan Dalton (6’7″, 315 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore who was a preseason second-team all-conference pick.

In its last two games, WCU has missed linebacker Daniel Riddle (6’1, 225 lbs.), a preseason first-team all-league pick who had 15 tackles against the Bulldogs last season. The injured Riddle is listed as a backup on the depth chart this week.

Tyson Dickson (6’1″, 220 lbs.) was also a preseason all-SoCon choice at linebacker. In 2014, he had 16 tackles in the Catamounts’ victory over the Bulldogs.

The aptly named Fred Payne (5’10”, 180 lbs.) is a strong safety who had a fine game versus The Citadel last year, making seven tackles and also forcing and recovering a fumble.

Cornerback Trey Morgan (6’0″, 185 lbs.) is a senior who has made 38 starts during his career. As a sophomore, he led the SoCon with six interceptions.

The Catamounts are in good shape when it comes to kickers. Redshirt sophomore Ian Berryman (6’0″, 190 lbs.) was the preseason All-SoCon punter, while Logan Howard (also 6’0″, 190 lbs.) was the second-team preseason pick at placekicker.

Howard’s bio on Western Carolina’s website states that he holds “a black belt in martial arts and is a three-time world champion kick boxer”. The website also notes that Howard hit a career long 46-yard field goal last season.

For the fourth straight season, Chandler Addertion is handling long-snapping duties for the Catamounts. His grandfather, Floyd Wicker, had a brief career in the major leagues with four different National League teams (including the original Expos). Floyd Wicker hit one career home run — off a pitcher named Floyd Weaver.

I was reading Bill Connelly’s excellent preview of the upcoming Louisville-Clemson game when I came across this passage:

Through four games, Clemson has only four gains of 30+ yards. Only four teams have fewer: Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, and Texas State. Two have played only three games. And of those four big gainers [for Clemson], none came via rush…

You can survive without big plays. Navy has for years…Scoring without explosiveness requires consistent execution. Any penalty or loss virtually ends a drive.

A lack of big plays puts a lot of pressure on you to execute in the red zone; you aren’t scoring from 40 yards out, so you have to continue moving as the defense gets more packed in.

Would you care to guess how many gains of 30+ yards The Citadel’s offense has had in its first three games this season? The answer is: five.

One against Mercer (Tyler Renew’s 70-yard run on the Bulldogs’ second play from scrimmage). One against Furman (Josh LeBlanc’s amazing 50-yard reception). Three versus Gardner-Webb (including Dominique Allen’s big 41-yard run on the game-winning drive).

Last year, the Bulldogs had 16 gains of 30 yards or more in seven conference games, averaging slightly more than two such plays per contest in league play. As Connelly points out, if an offense doesn’t get those kind of “explosion” plays on at least a semi-regular basis, it has to be extremely consistent, because a bad play will usually short-circuit a possession.

The Citadel has certainly seen a few possessions end on bad plays this year (mainly drive-killing penalties). Obviously, the Bulldogs need to eliminate the major fouls as much as possible, but they also need more big plays.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Cullowhee, per the National Weather Service: sunny and a high of 75 degrees. It should be a great day for a football game.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 4.5-point favorite over Western Carolina. The over/under is 57.5.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Chattanooga is a 33.5-point favorite at East Tennessee State; Mercer is a 5.5-point favorite at VMI; Samford is a 5.5-point favorite over Wofford; and Furman is a 14.5-point favorite over Kennesaw State.

Gardner-Webb is a 33-point favorite over Benedict this week in Boiling Springs. North Carolina is an 11-point underdog at Florida State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is 13th among FCS teams. Western Carolina is ranked 47th.

Massey projects The Citadel to have an 62% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of 31-27.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (4th), Samford (22nd), Wofford (26th), Furman (44th), Mercer (46th), VMI (53rd), Gardner-Webb (61st), East Tennessee State (85th).

– Western Carolina has 57 players on its squad from North Carolina. Other states represented on the Catamounts’ roster: Georgia (23), South Carolina (8), Tennessee (3), Florida (3), and Connecticut (1).

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (23), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Alabama (4), Pennsylvania (4), Texas (4), and one each from Louisiana, Maryland, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, and West Virginia.

– Western Carolina has two FBS teams on its schedule, an annual tradition in recent years for the Catamounts. WCU has already played East Carolina this season, and will face South Carolina later in the year.

The Catamounts will have FBS bookends on their 2017 slate, travelling near (UNC in late November) and far (Hawai’i in early September). Western Carolina will also play UNC in 2018, and has scheduled two games against North Carolina State (in 2019 and 2024).

WCU has played at least two FBS opponents every season since 2012, including Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Alabama (twice).

In 2013, Western Carolina played three FBS teams — Middle Tennessee State, Virginia Tech, and Auburn. That year’s schedule for the Catamounts also included two games against schools transitioning to FBS (Appalachian State and Georgia Southern). All five contests were road games; WCU, not surprisingly, lost all five en route to a 2-10 season.

– Triple option oddity, repeat factoid edition: through three games this season, more Bulldogs have caught passes (eight) than had rushing attempts (seven). Against Gardner-Webb, Rod Johnson and Isiaha Smith got their first rushing attempts of the season, with Johnson also catching his first pass reception of the 2016 campaign.

– Saturday’s game is the second of three that The Citadel will play in the state of North Carolina this season, against opponents that compete in three different leagues — the Big South (Gardner-Webb), the SoCon (Western Carolina), and the ACC (North Carolina).

– Western Carolina has won seven straight home games, and eleven of its last twelve. The only loss during that 2014-16 stretch was a big one, admittedly — 51-0 to Chattanooga in 2014.

– There wasn’t a lot of movement on the depth chart over the bye week. One notable addition: Evan McField is now listed as the third B-back. Perhaps he could see action for the first time this year, after he suffered an injury prior to the season opener. Brent Thompson confirmed that McField would be available during his Wednesday radio show.

Which Western Carolina team will The Citadel see on Saturday? The one that dominated Gardner-Webb as the game progressed? Or the one that blew its collective gasket (and the lead, and the game) against ETSU?

My guess would be the former, particularly since the Catamounts were at home for that one, and are at home for this game as well.

Two years ago in Cullowhee, The Citadel committed three turnovers (all in WCU territory), and also had two false-start penalties in fourth-down situations. The defense didn’t fare much better, allowing 9.6 yards per play. It was a rough afternoon all the way around, although the Bulldogs were in the game for much of the contest.

If that happens again on Saturday, there won’t be any opportunity for another fourth-quarter comeback this time, much less a relatively comfortable win.

The Bulldogs have to be sharp coming off their bye week. If they are, they have a chance to go 4-0 for the first time since 1992.

Let’s hope they take that chance.

Game Review, 2016: Gardner-Webb

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

School release

Game story, The Shelby Star

Photo gallery, The Shelby Star

Video from WCSC-TV

Box score

Post-game notes

DeAndre Schoultz’s punt return for a TD

Dominique Allen’s big fourth-quarter run

Normally, I don’t post a game review if I wasn’t in attendance, but as the Bulldogs are entering their bye week, I decided to make a quick post about the victory over Gardner-Webb anyway.

Once the game was over, my initial reaction was as follows: “Phewwwwwwwwwwwwww.”

The Citadel rushed for 419 yards (averaging 6.3 yards per carry), was 9 for 18 on third-down conversions, 2 for 3 on fourth-down conversions, had an edge in time of possession of over three minutes, only committed two offensive penalties…and yet, at times the offense seemed to really struggle. Why?

Well, only completing one pass (in seven attempts) was one reason. So was one of the two aforementioned penalties, a 15-yarder that took the Bulldogs from 1st-and-goal on the 2-yard line to 1st-and-goal on the 17 — followed immediately by a lost fumble.

The Citadel also was not quite as efficient on first down as it would like to be. The Bulldogs ran 31 first down plays (30 runs, 1 pass). On 13 of those plays, The Citadel gained three yards or less. It’s hard to consistently pick up first downs when faced with 2nd-and-long or 3rd-and-long (the Bulldogs had nine of those), especially when the passing game isn’t in sync.

Sure, the final number says The Citadel converted third downs at a 50% clip, but they weren’t consistently picked up throughout the game. Three of the nine conversions came on the game-winning TD drive, and another was a 33-yard scramble on 3rd-and-18 by Dominique Allen that set up the Bulldogs’ second touchdown.

The Citadel had eleven possessions in the contest. There was a five-possession sequence (last drive of the first half, all four drives of the third quarter) in which the Bulldogs ran only 20 offensive plays from scrimmage for a total of 61 yards.

That highlights just how big DeAndre Schoultz’s punt return really was. His TD scamper came after those five possessions, and basically wiped out the advantage Gardner-Webb had built up in the third quarter.

On the other hand, for a third game in a row the offense came through when it had to score. This time, it was a 10-play, 72-yard drive that decided the game, with Allen’s 41-yard run on 3rd-and-7 the key play.

The defense’s performance during the game was a bit uneven. Gardner-Webb was held to a third-down conversion rate of 35.7%, which is excellent. However, the Bulldogs allowed four scoring drives of 61 yards or more, including one for 91 yards on the possession that immediately followed Schoultz’s punt return.

The Citadel did not force a turnover, and 57 minutes into the contest had not recorded a sack. Those last three minutes, though…

Gardner-Webb’s final six plays on offense:

  • Five-yard loss on a sack by Jonathan King
  • Two-yard run, with Dee Delaney and company stopping the action right there
  • Ten-yard loss on a sack by Noah Dawkins
  • Incomplete pass
  • Incomplete pass
  • Nine-yard loss on a sack by Kevin Graham

That’s how you finish.

– Quick note: Kailik Williams has made 26 tackles in the last two games. He is starting, finishing, and doing a whole lot in between.

The Citadel has won three games by a combined 13 points. The Bulldogs trailed with less than three minutes to play in all three of them.

While it is more than fair to suggest that The Citadel must get better on both sides of the ball if it plans on adding to the win total, there is definitely something to be said for having the mental fortitude (and physical endurance) to come through when the game is on the line. Being in those situations will probably be beneficial down the road, too.

The Bulldogs haven’t been at their best so far this season, but they’ve been tough enough to win all three of their games anyway. That inner resolve is perhaps best exemplified by senior linebacker Dondray Copeland:

On Friday morning, Dondray Copeland was at his mother’s bedside as she died at the way-too-young age of 48.

On Saturday night, Copeland took the field with his Citadel teammates and played a major role in the Bulldogs’ 31-24 win at Gardner-Webb before 6,850 fans at Spangler Stadium.

Copeland had seven tackles in the game, tied for second-most on the team.

The Bulldogs now get a well-deserved bye week. The Citadel’s next game is at Western Carolina on October 1.

I’m also taking a week off — well, more like ten days off. My preview of the WCU game will probably be of the abbreviated variety (not necessarily a bad thing), and it won’t be posted until a week from Thursday, or maybe the following Friday morning.

(Hey, at least I scheduled my break for the bye week.)

Go Dogs!

Game Review, 2016: Furman

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” column, The Post and Courier

School release

Game story, The Greenville News

“Notes” section, The Greenville News

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Brent Thompson, Dominique Allen, and Jordan Black

Video from WCIV-TV

Game story, The Moultrie News

Short game story, Southern Pigskin

Game video highlights

Josh LeBlanc catch

Box score

Post-game notes

The Citadel 19, Furman 14.

It was not the most elegant of contests. Both offenses had plays they would like to have had back. The special teams weren’t all that special.

Then again, the defenses for both sides had a lot to do with the way the game was played. That, and the hard-fought nature of the matchup (which came as a surprise to no one).

Both teams ran 61 plays. Furman averaged 4.5 yards per play, The Citadel 4.9.

The Bulldogs only averaged 3.5 yards per rush, well under expectations, but the Paladins were even more anemic on the ground, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.

It wasn’t a complete debacle for the offenses. The two teams combined to score five touchdowns on five Red Zone opportunities. The Citadel actually converted on 50% of its third down attempts (8-16).

The Bulldogs would have converted at an even better clip if not for some ill-timed penalties. One wonders if the SoCon office had a word with the officiating crew after The Citadel was only called for one penalty last week.

During the course of the game, the two teams combined for a fumbled kickoff, a muffed punt, three missed field goals, and a botched PAT. Yeesh.

The Citadel led 13-7 at the break, with each side taking advantage of special teams miscues for TDs. The difference over the first thirty minutes was the touchdown scored by Jordan Black to conclude The Citadel’s opening drive, by far the longest sustained possession of the half by either squad.

Furman would eventually take the lead late in the third quarter, driving 67 yards for the score. The key play was an outstanding 31-yard reception by Paladins receiver Andrej Suttles, setting up a first-and-goal on the 1-yard line that was converted into a TD two plays later.

The Citadel’s offense would have three opportunities to regain the lead. The first ended in a missed field goal attempt.

The second, a drive set up by Dee Delaney’s second interception of the game, ended after a 4th-and-1 run by Dominique Allen was ruled short of the line to gain by the officials. It was a very poor spotting decision in the eyes of many observers (including mine).

Brent Thompson tried very hard not to say too much when asked about that after the game:

I certainly thought we got it, and I thought we got it pretty clearly…you just hope that nobody really…changes the outcome of a game because of a decision like that.

The Bulldogs persevered, however, and four plays later Furman had to punt. The ensuing drive would be the decisive one, with the critical play a 29-yard completion from Allen to DeAndre Schoultz on 3rd-and-7 from The Citadel’s 25-yard-line.

Two plays later, Thompson and offensive coordinator Lou Conte dialed up their best play call of the night, a 1st-and-10 pass to Tyler Renew that went for 21 yards. Five rushing plays later, Allen scored what proved to be the winning TD.

Furman’s last chance was snuffed out by a Malik Diggs interception, one of three picks by the Bulldogs.

Random thoughts:

– If you’re an official and you decide to call a taunting penalty on a player for pointing at an opponent, perhaps you should also consider the action that led to the player pointing at the opponent — and penalize that individual as well. Just an idea.

– The Citadel needs to clean up its placekicking mechanics. I’m not necessarily talking about the kicker, but all the elements involved.

– The first-half injury to Furman running back Darius Morehead further exacerbated what appears to be the Paladins’ biggest problem, namely a lack of offensive playmakers.

– Dee Delaney was a preseason first-team All-American, and he had an All-American kind of game against Furman. He had two interceptions (both impressive), two pass breakups, and four tackles.

– Kailik Williams was all over the field (12 tackles), and Noah Dawkins was also a prominent on-field presence (8 tackles).

– The Citadel’s defense had no sacks, but I thought it got decent pressure on the passer for a good portion of the game. Tevin Floyd helped create the first of Dee Delaney’s two interceptions with what was recorded as a “hurry”; another hurry (by Dawkins) led to the second of Delaney’s picks.

– In the “links of interest” section above, I included a link of freshman wide receiver Josh LeBlanc’s first career reception. It was certainly a memorable one. LeBlanc is a native of Houston, Texas.

– Brent Thompson’s answers in his post-game Q-and-A sessions with the media have included some of the more quietly thoughtful, introspective comments you will hear from a coach in that type of setting. He clearly hasn’t been a head coach for long.

– It was the first home game of the season for the folks running the PA. Let’s hope things will improve by the time North Greenville comes to town.

– All things considered, it was a solid crowd for the home opener (particularly given the stadium seating situation). It was by and large a good show, too, on the field and off. That should pay dividends for attendance at home games later in the season.

Next up: a non-conference road game against Gardner-Webb. I’ll have a preview for that one later in the week (maybe by Thursday).

As usual, I took pictures, which can be seen below (most of them are annotated). As is often the case, they are mostly bad.

If you’re wondering about the paucity of action shots (such as they are) for the third and fourth quarters, my camera’s batteries died on me shortly after halftime. Then my cellphone’s battery started a downward spiral of its own late in the game. It was one of those nights.

I’ll trade all that for the victory, however.