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?

2017 Football, Game 10: The Citadel vs. Furman

GREENVILLE — The Citadel Bulldogs, offensively on their best behavior of the fall, scored touchdowns in each of the first three periods Saturday night to breeze by Furman’s Hurricanes 24-6 at Sirrine Stadium…

…A chilly crowd, estimated at 8,000 persons, saw the Cadets dominate play throughout the game.

Dick Guererri got the soldiers moving in the first quarter with a fourth down, five-yard touchdown pass to halfback Billy Hughes. Sophomore Jerry Nettles, who still looks like the hottest article the Charleston ball club has come up with in a long time, directed the other two touchdown drives. Ray Woodworth slammed over from the two for a second-quarter score, and raced four yards for the other.

Employing a weird, semi-I formation on the extra point attempts, the Cadets made good on all three tries. Guererri passed to Hughes for one while Nettles hit Paul Maguire with a pass and ran another on the option.

…Workhorse for the Bulldogs was Joe Chefalo, the Southern Conference’s No. 2 rusher. Joe picked up 60 yards on nine carries…Big Barry Thomas carried six times for 49 yards.

– The News and Courier, October 26, 1958

The Citadel vs. Furman, to be played at Paladin Stadium in Greenville, South Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on November 11, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Bob Mihalic will handle play-by-play, while Sam Wyche supplies the analysis and Scott Cole reports from the sideline.

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/95.9FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Links of interest:

– Game preview, The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Furman

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Furman’s website

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked #32 if the poll went that far)

– Brent Thompson’s 11/7 press conference, including comments from Jonathan King and Dominique Allen  (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 11/8 radio show (video)

– Game story from Furman-Western Carolina [played two weeks ago; Paladins had a bye last week]

– ESPN3 replay of Furman-Western Carolina (video)

A quick turnaround for Furman

Freshmen linebackers have been getting it done for the Paladins

– My review of last week’s game against Western Carolina

– Link to ESPN3’s streaming coverage of The Citadel-Furman

Non-football links:

AD Jim Senter is a finalist for the same position at UTEP

Alumnus advances to further action (?) on the TV show “The Voice”

My sort-of preview of the upcoming basketball season for The Citadel

From Jeff Hartsell’s article on Furman’s season:

Attendance at Paladin Stadium is up about 25 percent this year over last, from 5,771 to 7,192 per game.

Furman home attendance this season:

  • Elon (September 9): 6,342
  • ETSU (September 20): 7,104
  • VMI (October 14): 7,216
  • Mercer (October 21, Homecoming): 8,108

Attendance at Paladin Stadium the last three times The Citadel has been Furman’s opponent:

  • 2010: 12,791
  • 2012: 8,127
  • 2015: 12,124

Future non-conference opponents for the Paladins:

  • 2018: Furman plays Clemson
  • 2019: Furman plays Georgia State and Virginia Tech (and also plays at Kennesaw State in a return meeting)
  • 2020: Furman plays Tennessee
  • 2021: Furman plays North Carolina State
  • 2022: Furman plays Clemson
  • 2024: Furman plays Mississippi

This will be the 40th time Furman and The Citadel have met in the month of November. The two schools have met on the gridiron in October 52 times, and in September on five occasions.

The Bulldogs are 15-23-1 against the Paladins in November, but have won the last four matchups held in the eleventh month. Next season, the two teams will meet on October 27 in Charleston.

This season, Furman is 6-3, 5-1 in the SoCon. After losing three games to start the 2017 campaign, the Paladins have won six straight contests.

Furman is a contender for an FCS playoff berth. The Paladins still have a slim chance at the automatic bid out of the SoCon, although that possibility will evaporate if Wofford wins at VMI on Saturday.

While an 8-3 record would almost certainly be more than good enough to get an at-large bid, I tend to doubt Furman will make the postseason with a 7-4 record. Thus, the Paladins probably have to win their final two games of the season to keep playing. After hosting The Citadel, FU closes its regular season with a matchup at Samford.

Furman’s less-than-great shot at a playoff bid if it finishes 7-4 has almost as much to do with the way the Paladins’ schedule played out as it does the actual losses.

At 0-3, Furman was nowhere near the postseason; then, as the Paladins began their winning streak, they didn’t have a statement victory to make people (including FCS poll voters) really sit up and take notice. Colgate, ETSU, a struggling UTC squad, VMI…it was hard for Furman to get what might be called “poll momentum”.

The last two weeks have been better on that front, particularly the win at Western Carolina. Furman is now ranked in the STATS poll, but is still in the “receiving votes” category in the FCS Coaches’ Poll.

The problem is that a loss in either of its last two games would likely leave Furman out of the rankings in both major polls. While the polls aren’t the end-all and be-all in terms of playoff placement, they tend to drive the narrative, and my sense is historically that has had an effect on the selection committee.

Having said that, there could well be a couple of unranked teams that wind up getting at-large spots; in fact, I think the odds are good that at least one such team will receive a bid. However, a 4-loss team from the SoCon (that may also be the fourth team from the league in the pecking order) is not going to be in a good position.

I could be wrong about all of the above, of course, particularly since there is still a lot of football to be played.

Key stats for Furman after nine games:

Furman Opponents
Points per game 34.4 23.3
Rushing yardage 2187 1245
Average per rush 4.7 3.8
Average per game 243 138.3
TDs rushing 26 13
Passing yardage 1648 2143
Comp-Att-Int 96-155-3 193-292-8
Average per pass 10.6 7.3
TDs passing 14 13
Total offense 3835 3388
Total plays 623 620
Yards per play 6.2 5.5
Kick returns-yards 20-436 32-744
Punt returns-yards 8-21 15-129
Fumbles/lost 14-8 9-7
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 3.6/34.7 7.3/59.9
Net punt average 35.6 39.7
Time of possession/game 30:36 29:24
3rd down conversions 65/130 41/119
3rd down conversion rate 50.0% 34.5%
Sacks by-yards 24-159 5-29
Field goals-attempts 6-9 7-11
Red Zone touchdown rate (26-34) 76.5% (19-32) 59.4%
  • Furman is 19th nationally in scoring offense, and 43rd in scoring defense
  • The Paladins are 10th in rushing offense, 30th in rushing yards per play
  • FU is 46th in rushing defense, 47th in rushing yards allowed per play
  • The Paladins are 2nd in FCS in offensive pass efficiency; they are 91st in pass efficiency defense
  • Furman is 6th-best in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate, and 34th in defensive third down conversion rate
  • FU commits the second-fewest penalties per game in the division (VMI leads in that category)
  • Furman’s kick return defense is 109th nationally (out of 123 teams)
  • FU is 68th in FCS in net punting
  • The Paladins are 48th in time of possession and tied for 34th in turnover margin

Statistics of note for The Citadel through nine games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 23.8 19.2
Rushing yardage 2940 1108
Average per rush 5.3 4.0
Average per game 326.7 123.1
TDs rushing 21 13
Passing yardage 758 1587
Comp-Att-Int 43-112-6 142-236-11
Average per pass 6.8 6.7
TDs passing 7 10
Total offense 3698 2695
Total plays 664 512
Yards per play 5.6 5.3
Kick returns-yards 21-402 21-547
Punt returns-yards 18-164 8-55
Fumbles/lost 18/7 12/6
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.6/39.3 3.1/30.7
Net punt average 35.9 33.9
Time of possession/game 34:46 25:14
3rd down conversions 65/142 31/98
3rd down conversion rate 45.8% 31.6%
Sacks by-yards 16-87 5-33
Field goals-attempts 5-13 4-6
Red Zone touchdown rate (20-39) 51.3% (14-20) 70.0%
  • The Citadel is 67th nationally in scoring offense, and 20th in scoring defense
  • The Bulldogs are 2nd in rushing offense (behind only Kennesaw State), and 13th in rushing yards per play
  • The Citadel is 31st in rushing defense, 72nd in rushing yards allowed per play
  • Offensive pass efficiency has not been a strength of the Bulldogs, ranking 105th nationally; the team is 45th in pass efficiency defense
  • The Citadel is 13th-best in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate, and 15th in defensive third down conversion rate, one of the five best third-down rate combos in the division
  • The Bulldogs commit the 10th-fewest penalties per game in the division (tied with Samford for 10th)
  • The Citadel’s kick return defense is 120th nationally (out of 123 teams)
  • Net punting has been inconsistent at times, but overall The Citadel is 61st nationally in that category
  • The Bulldogs are 1st in FCS in time of possession and (like Furman) are tied for 34th in turnover margin

Rushing yardage accounts for 57.0% of Furman’s total offense. The Paladins actually run the ball from scrimmage 74.3% of the time, however (not including sacks).

P.J. Blazejowski (6’0″, 195 lbs.) has somehow only started 22 career games for Furman, despite the fact that the senior quarterback from St. Augustine has seemingly been on the Paladins’ roster since 1995. Blazejowski may be best remembered by fans of The Citadel for his performance in the 2014 game between the two teams, when he accounted for 382 total yards in a losing effort.

This season, Blazejowski is completing 61.2% of his passes, averaging an outstanding 10.9 yards per attempt, with 14 touchdown tosses against only three interceptions.

Furman has plenty of guys who will carry the ball, from a variety of formations. Blazejowski actually ranks fourth on the team in rushing from the QB position.

The three backs ahead of him on the rushing yardage list are all good, including leading rusher Antonio Wilcox (6’1″, 230 lbs.), who has impressed Brent Thompson. “I really like the way Wilcox runs,” was the coach’s largely unprompted comment on his radio show. The senior had 201 yards and a TD against Western Carolina two weeks ago.

Redshirt junior Kealand Dirks (6’0″, 244 lbs.) has three 100-yard rushing games in his last five contests, while Darius Morehead (5’9″, 180 lbs.), a redshirt freshman from Nashville, is averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

Furman’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 288 lbs. Starting center Matthew Schmidt (6’3″, 290 lbs.) was a preseason first team All-SoCon selection. Schmidt and fellow senior Terrell Bush (6’4″, 298 lbs.), the left guard, have combined to start 62 games for the Paladins.

Eleven different Furman players have caught passes this year. Leading that list (in terms of receptions and yardage) is redshirt senior Logan McCarter (6’2″, 189 lbs.), who is averaging 20.2 yards per catch.

In the 2015 game between the two teams at Paladin Stadium, McCarter actually threw a TD pass, so the Bulldogs need to be aware of that specific brand of trickery.

Thomas Gordon (6’0″, 174 lbs.) is a sophomore from Charlotte capable of making big plays. The sophomore from Charlotte had a 77-yard TD reception against Elon earlier this season. Last year, he caught an 83-yard touchdown pass versus VMI.

Gordon also serves as Furman’s primary kick and punt returner.

Furman has often had impact players at tight end, and that is certainly true this year. Andy Schumpert (6’5″, 202 lbs.) is putting together a strong case for all-conference honors. The senior has seven touchdown receptions this season, including six in his last five games.

Starting noseguard Jaylan Reid (5’11”, 270 lbs.) is a force in the middle of the Paladins’ defensive line. The redshirt junior from Marietta had seven tackles versus Mercer three weeks ago.

Reid, who is the reigning SoCon champ in the shotput, has five tackles for loss this season, and five quarterback hurries as well. Reid had a good game against The Citadel last year, registering six stops and a forced fumble.

Two freshmen linebackers have given Furman a lot of production. Reynard Ellis (6’1″, 227 lbs.) was playing high school football in Birmingham at this time last season. Right now, he is Furman’s second-leading tackler (with 57) and is also one of six different Paladins with at least one interception.

Fellow true freshman Elijah McKoy (6’2″, 218 lbs.) is third on the team in tackles, with 55. McKoy was originally recruited by Furman as a safety.

Free safety Bryan Okeh (6’4″, 212 lbs.) leads the Paladins in tackles this season, with 60. That includes a 14-tackle effort by the sophomore against Western Carolina. There aren’t too many 6’4″ free safeties roaming the secondary for an FCS team.

Strong safety Aaquil Annoor (5’10”, 171 lbs.), a junior from Nashville, was a preseason second-team All-SoCon pick. So far this year, Annoor has two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 1 1/2 sacks.

Furman placekicker Grayson Atkins (5’10”, 184 lbs.) is 6 for 9 on field goal attempts. The freshman had two 46-yard field goals against North Carolina State. Atkins has made all 40 of his PATs.

Jon Croft Hollingsworth (5’11”, 161 lbs.), who was the Paladins’ main placekicker for the previous three seasons, is now Furman’s kickoff specialist. He remains the team’s punter, however.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Greenville, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with an expected high of 51 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 33 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Furman is a 13-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 52 1/2.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Western Carolina is a 2 1/2 point favorite over Mercer; Wofford is a 30-point favorite at VMI; and Samford is a 19 1/2 point favorite over East Tennessee State. Chattanooga is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 16-point favorite against Florida State; South Carolina is a 7 1/2 point favorite versus Florida; Coastal Carolina is a 17 1/2 point underdog at Troy; Presbyterian is a 17 1/2 point underdog at Liberty; South Carolina State is a 2 1/2 point favorite over Hampton; and Charleston Southern is a 5 1/2 point underdog at Kennesaw State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 52nd in FCS (out of 124 teams), a drop of five spots from last week.

Furman is ranked 18th in FCS, falling two places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 213th, while Furman is 123rd.

Massey projects a final score of Furman 31, The Citadel 17. The Bulldogs are given a 14% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 21st (unchanged from last week), Samford is 24th (up nine spots), Western Carolina is 32nd (up three places), Mercer is 40th (down six spots), Charleston Southern is 49th, Chattanooga is 67th (down one spot), East Tennessee State is 71st (down one spot), Presbyterian is 91st, South Carolina State is 97th, and VMI is 116th (down one spot).

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

– Since 1911, The Citadel has a 5-8 record in games played on November 11. Four of those five wins came in Charleston; one of them was the memorable 19-7 victory over South Carolina at Johnson Hagood Stadium in 1950.

The only road victory on that date in The Citadel’s football history came in 1972, when the Bulldogs defeated Furman 19-13 at Sirrine Stadium. A few tidbits from that contest:

  • It was Furman coach Bob King’s last game in charge of the Paladins after 15 seasons
  • The game was delayed for several minutes in the first quarter when the yardage chain broke
  • Harry Lynch, questionable to play after suffering broken ribs in the previous week’s game, started at quarterback for The Citadel and scored two touchdowns
  • Bob Carson rushed for 102 yards, including a 58-yard TD run
  • The Bulldogs had two running backs hit the century mark, as Jon Hall ran for an even 100 yards

– Among Furman’s notable graduates are Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, physicist Charles Townes, and journalist Eleanor Beardsley.

– Furman has worn white jerseys in each of its last four games against The Citadel. I’m guessing that the Paladins will don purple tops on Saturday.

– The roster for Furman (per its website) includes 29 players from the State of Georgia. Other states represented: South Carolina (19 players), North Carolina (13), Tennessee (11), Florida (10), Alabama (6), and one each from Massachusetts, Ohio, and Virginia.

The nineteen Paladins from the Palmetto State attended fifteen different high schools. Three players went to Dreher High School in Columbia; Wren High School and St. Joseph’s Catholic School both have two alums on the FU roster.

Shockingly, none of Furman’s South Carolina-based players attended legendary pigskin powerhouse Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. There is no question that Clay Hendrix will be looking to change that; otherwise, Furman’s recent struggles on the gridiron will definitely resurface again.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

– The Citadel’s two-deep for the Western Carolina game includes no changes on offense or defense, the fifth consecutive week that has been the case. On special teams, Cam Jackson and Raleigh Webb are now listed as the primary kick returners. Joshua Roides is listed as the backup at placekicker and punter, while Tyler Davis is the emergency long snapper (which I suspect may have already been the case; it’s just noted on the depth chart now).

It should be noted that Josh LeBlanc did not play last week due to injury and is probably questionable for the game on Saturday. The same is true for Kailik Williams, who was only able to take part in about five plays against Western Carolina. Both are listed as starters on the two-deep.

– Several busloads of cadets, mostly freshmen, are expected to make the trip to Greenville on Saturday to cheer on the Bulldogs. In 2015, about eight busloads of freshmen made plenty of noise while watching The Citadel’s 38-17 victory that afternoon.

This was originally going to be the second road football excursion for the freshmen during the season, but Hurricane Irma put the kibosh on an anticipated trip to Samford.

–  Don Powers, for five seasons the head football coach at The Citadel, will be honored at Western Carolina’s home game this Saturday. Powers, a graduate of WCU, is the latest inductee into that school’s athletic hall of fame.

Most observers expect Furman to win on Saturday, and with relative ease. The Paladins are playing well and have a great deal of confidence, while the Bulldogs are coming off what in some ways was their most disappointing performance in the last three years.

The reasons that Furman should win are many. The Paladins are playing at home; they have won six straight games; the team is motivated because a potential playoff bid is in the offing; the Paladins are also motivated because The Citadel has beaten Furman three years in a row; FU defensive coordinator Chad Staggs knows how to defend The Citadel’s offense and will always stop it; the Bulldogs are coming off a tough loss, and could be without key defensive stalwart Kailik Williams; etc., etc., etc.

I offer one argument against all that. I think it’s a good argument, though.

There are still plenty of players on The Citadel’s roster who have been a part of two league championships. They didn’t forget how to win. They have a lot of pride. They’ve still got a chance to have a winning season, and popping a purple balloon would also be a very enjoyable way to end the SoCon schedule.

I think the Bulldogs will be ready to play on Saturday. I’m sure the Paladins are going to be prepared as well. That’s fine.

Kickoff is just a few hours away.

Game Review, 2017: VMI

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” section, The Post and Courier

– “By the numbers”, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

– Video from WCSC-TV, including postgame comments from Dominique Allen

– Video from WCIV-TV

– AP game story

– School release (The Citadel)

– School release (VMI)

– Extended box score

Game highlights, including postgame comments from Brent Thompson, Brandon Rainey, and Dominique Allen (video)

– ESPN3 replay of the game

The greatest trophy in all of sports, the coveted Silver Shako, will remain in Charleston for at least one more year. With any luck, the most lustrous of laurels shall continue to reside in the Holy City for many years to come.

Odds and ends:

– Saturday’s game had a lot of similarities with the last matchup between the two teams at Johnson Hagood Stadium:

  • The Citadel won the toss and deferred in 2015 and 2017; VMI defended the north end zone to open the game both times
  • Cam Jackson scored on the Bulldogs’ third play from scrimmage in 2015; Grant Drakeford scored on the Bulldogs’ third play from scrimmage in 2017
  • The Citadel held VMI’s offense to 87 rushing yards in 2015 and 72 rushing yards in 2017
  • VMI had 212 yards of total offense in 2015 and 219 yards of total offense in 2017
  • VMI threw 36 passes in both games
  • The Keydets punted 7 times in 2015 and 6 times in 2017 (and would have punted 7 times on Saturday, but a punt snap got mishandled)
  • In 2015, The Citadel ran 71 plays from scrimmage, VMI 70; in 2017, both teams ran 68 plays from scrimmage
  • The Citadel was 0 for 5 scoring TDs on red zone opportunities in 2015; the Bulldogs were 1 for 5 in 2017

When it came to the red zone, the difference between the game on Saturday and the 2015 contest was that in the latter game, the Bulldogs converted on all of their field goal attempts.

– Speaking of the red zone:

“There were a couple of times we got inside the red zone and shot ourselves in the foot,” said [Brent] Thompson, whose team totaled 407 rushing yards against VMI (0-9, 0-8) and 405 in last week’s 20-14 win at Chattanooga. “We had some opportunities to put the ball in the end zone, and that’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all season. And that’s something we are usually pretty good at.”

The Bulldogs’ red zone TD rate for the season is 55.9%, which is actually slightly better than last season (52.1%). However, in SoCon play The Citadel’s red zone TD rate is only 45.8%.

– I was a little surprised that Brent Thompson elected to try another field goal late in the game. From a “game theory” point of view, I probably would have gone for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal, even from the six-yard line.

If the Bulldogs punch in the TD in that spot, they go up by three scores and completely ice the game. A successful field goal wouldn’t have altered the two-vs.-three score dynamic.

Also, if The Citadel didn’t make it, VMI probably would have wound up with the ball around or inside its own 5-yard line. The odds of the Keydets marching 95+ yards down the field (just to get within one score) were not good.

However, game theory aside, there is also something to be said for sending a message to your kicker, which in effect was this: “You’re struggling, but you’re still our kicker, and we are still counting on you and have confidence in you.”

Thompson also might have decided that whether or not the Bulldogs could go up two/three scores was irrelevant, because his defense wasn’t going to give up any more points anyway. If that was in fact his thought process, it was a very reasonable assumption.

– Brandon Rainey and Lorenzo Ward combined for 25 carries from the B-back position. Between them, they averaged 8.2 yards per carry. That will work.

From the quarterback position, Dominique Allen and Jordan Black combined to tote the football 20 times for 93 yards. The A-backs had 11 carries for 113 yards.

– Even though he was only 1 for 8 passing, I thought Dominique Allen threw the football fairly well. VMI made a couple of good defensive plays, and Bulldog receivers could have (and perhaps should have) caught at least two other pass attempts.

– VMI entered the game committing fewer penalties per game than any other FCS team, and didn’t hurt its reputation on that front against The Citadel. The Keydets were only whistled for one infraction all afternoon.

– It was good to see members of the VMI band make the trip. As usual, the Keydets brought a decent number of fans to Charleston. Considering the geographic distance, school size, and the program’s record over the last few decades, the fact that VMI often meets or exceeds other SoCon opponents in terms of “traveling” is very impressive.

– I have a suggestion: no matter where The Military Classic of the South is played, Charleston or Lexington, each team should wear a solid-colored jersey. In other words, it should be color-on-color, with The Citadel wearing light blue jerseys and VMI sporting red tops.

I think it would look great. The schools’ colors are not dissimilar to those for UCLA and Southern California, which have had well-received color-on-color matchups the last few years.

It is likely such a move would require league approval, but I don’t see why the SoCon would have any issues with it.

– I enjoyed the “Meet The Bulldogs” event for the basketball team held on the plaza at Johnson Hagood Stadium prior to the football game.

Along with the players, the cheerleaders and Spike the Bulldog showed up for the festivities. A bunch of kids had a good time, and it appeared that the players did as well.

I have no idea what kind of getup Spike was wearing, though…

– It was fun to watch all the reunion classes “march” into the stadium before the game. I was impressed to see several graduates of the Class of 1952 on the field, armed with a giant flag and a sign that read ‘1952’.

– The ceremony after the game is nice, but the P.A. announcing got a little bit behind the action. That caused some confusion (and also led to the start of The Citadel Alma Mater being drowned out).

– After the presentation, the colors were lowered. Those in the stadium (and on the field) stood silently as the flag was removed from the pole. In fact, it was so quiet that you could hear the cranking as the flag was lowered.

In a way, I was appreciative of the fact you could hear the crank. On the other hand, it may be time to break out the WD-40.

– During the postgame press conference, the assembled media learned that Dominique Allen has a “small budget”. Much hilarity ensued.

(Check out his postgame interview session on the second of the two WCSC-TV links listed above for context.)

– With the victory on Saturday, The Citadel has won 24 games over the past three seasons. The Bulldogs won 9 games in 2015, 10 games in 2016, and 5 games (so far) in 2017.

That total of 24 wins is one short of the record for victories over a three-year period. The Citadel won 25 games in the 1990-1991-1992 seasons.

I took quite a few photos this week, including a few related to some of the activities surrounding Homecoming. Some of the pictures are actually half-decent.

 

Game Review, 2017: Chattanooga

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

“By the numbers”, The Post and Courier

Game story, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Game story, University Echo

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WRCB-TV

Game story, The Chattanoogan

AP game story

School release (The Citadel)

School release (Chattanooga)

Extended box score

Postgame comments from UTC coach Tom Arth (video)

ESPN3 replay of the game

The Citadel needed that win. It wasn’t easy, to the surprise of no one, but that’s okay — it wasn’t supposed to be. The bottom line is the Bulldogs went to Chattanooga and got the victory.

Random observations:

– The Citadel’s special teams weren’t at their best on Saturday. The missed 27-yard field goal hurt, but the real problem came in defending kickoffs and punt returns.

Chattanooga freshman Brandon Dowdell had 167 return yards, which is why three of UTC’s eleven possessions began at or inside the 50-yard line, despite the fact the Bulldogs committed no turnovers during the contest. Dowdell’s 37-yard punt return in the second quarter gave the Mocs a first down on The Citadel’s 35-yard line, and UTC scored its second (and final) touchdown of the game on the ensuing drive.

For the game, Chattanooga had a 14.0-yard edge in average field position, a significant margin. As a comparison, the largest field position differential advantage in all FBS games on Saturday was 16.7 by TCU against Kansas, a game the Horned Frogs won 43-0.

– Chattanooga only had four second-half possessions. The first three drives for UTC in the second half resulted in just 54 total yards and five first downs. Two of those first downs came via a defensive penalty; one of those calls was dubious, and the other was a simply terrible officiating decision.

Despite the bizarre rulings by the men in stripes, the Bulldogs’ defense kept the Mocs in check throughout the second half until the final possession, when The Citadel almost unfathomably gave up 69 yards to Chattanooga in just five plays.

However, the defense held Chattanooga at bay when it counted, with Aron Spann’s second interception of the afternoon sealing the victory.

– The Citadel was 8 for 17 on third down, which is solid. Meanwhile, Chattanooga was 0 for 7 trying to convert on third down. That discrepancy explains the difference in time of possession (37:02 – 22:58) and plays (72 to 50).

The Mocs actually averaged more yards rushing per attempt than The Citadel, 7.5 to 6.2. Of course, the Bulldogs had many more rushes (65 to 19).

If you took out plays of 30+ rushing yards (along with sacks and kneeldowns), Chattanooga would have averaged 4.82 yards per rush, while The Citadel would have averaged 3.97 yards per carry.

– Breakdown of running plays for The Citadel: the A-backs got 28 carries, including 15 from Cam Jackson. The B-backs had 19 carries, the quarterback position finished with 14, and the wideouts had two rushes.

– The Citadel had four rushing plays of 30+ yards on Saturday. Dominique Allen, Grant Drakeford, Raleigh Webb, and Rod Johnson all had one each.

In their four previous SoCon games this season, the Bulldogs had a combined total of *one* 30+ yard rushing play.

The big play has been all too absent for much of this year for The Citadel’s offense. Hopefully its return against Chattanooga is a sign of things to come.

– I’m glad Grant Drakeford didn’t get hurt on his 35-yard run in the third quarter. Drakeford was brought down by a horsecollar tackle, and it was ugly. He could easily have been seriously injured on that play.

Speaking of injuries, let’s hope Kailik Williams can return to action soon. He missed much of the second half on Saturday with what was called a “lower leg deal” by head coach Brent Thompson.

– I thought UTC coach Tom Arth may have made a mistake early in the fourth quarter when he elected to punt on 4th-and-9 from the Bulldogs’ 35-yard line. At the time UTC trailed 17-14.

I understand that 4th-and-9 is not an easy conversion opportunity, but it seemed to me trying to pick up the first down that deep in opposing territory was the better move than giving up a possession (particularly in a game like that; as mentioned, UTC only had four second-half possessions).

Instead of pinning the Bulldogs deep, the punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback. On the very next play from scrimmage, Dominique Allen burst through the UTC defense for a career-long 54-yard run. That took care of any field position advantage.

– Chattanooga has now gone four straight games without causing a turnover.

– The Citadel is now 2-1 on the road in league play this year, with a conference game at Furman still to play. The Bulldogs have won at least half of their SoCon road games in each of the last seven seasons.

– The Bulldogs had 405 yards rushing against UTC, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Last year, there were three conference games in which the Bulldogs had 400+ rushing yards while averaging six or more yards per carry — Samford, East Tennessee State, and Western Carolina.

Upcoming: a big, big week. Not only is it Homecoming Week at The Citadel, but the coveted Silver Shako is on the line as VMI comes to town.

It’s time to ratchet the intensity up another ten or twenty notches…

 

 

Game Review, 2017: Wofford

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” package, The Post and Courier

“By the Numbers”, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

– AP game story

– Game story, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– School release

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

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

– ESPN3 video of the game

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

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

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

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

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

Let us hope she makes a complete recovery.

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

A few random thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2017 Football, Game 6: The Citadel vs. Wofford

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

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/95.9FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Links of interest:

– Preview article in The Post and Courier

Russell Hubbs, linebacker and weightlifter

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

– SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

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

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

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

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

Promo for Wofford-The Citadel (video)

Wofford weekly media lunch (video)

Wofford highlight/postgame package for its game versus Western Carolina

ESPN3 replay of Western Carolina-Wofford game (video)

Wofford piling up wins

Offensive line paves way for Terriers’ running game

Game preview from SB Nation

My brief review of last week’s game against Mercer

Non-football links:

The Citadel plans to rebuild/replace Capers Hall

– Basketball season is right around the corner

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

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

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

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

Key statistics for The Citadel through five games:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wofford stats of note through five games:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the June 9/10 meeting:

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

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

[The Chairman] reviewed the remaining agenda items…

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

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

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

From the August 3/4 meeting:

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

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

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

From the August 7 meeting, a motion:

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

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

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

From the September 14 meeting:

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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

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

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

I am hoping to see that happen on Saturday.

Game Review, 2017: Mercer

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” package, The Post and Courier

– AP game story

– School release

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

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

ESPN3 video of the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Samford

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9 FM/660 AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

Links of interest:

The Citadel is ready for action after its bye week

Assessing the SoCon after four weeks

Another look at the league through September 28

The Citadel keeps on winning

Ja’Lon Williams likes pizza (as he should)

– Game notes from The Citadel and Samford

– SoCon weekly release

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

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

Brent Thompson speaks to the Orangeburg Touchdown Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Southern Pigskin “SoCon Podcast” (audio)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell that to Cam Jackson and company, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Homewood, Alabama, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with an expected high of 81 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 1-point favorite over Samford. The over/under is 60.5. That line has moved about 2 points, as SU opened as the favorite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Samford has won eight straight home games.

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

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

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

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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