Game Review, 2017: East Tennessee State

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, Johnson City Press

– “Notes” section, Johnson City Press

– AP game story

Game story, Tri-Cities Sports

Game story, Bristol Herald Courier

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WJHL-TV

– School release

– Photo gallery from the school

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

– Replay of the ESPN3 streaming of the game

I don’t think it was surprising that East Tennessee State was much more competitive against The Citadel on Saturday than the Bucs were in the 2016 matchup. In its third year since restarting its football program, ETSU is improving, has better (and more) players, and also now has the benefit of playing in a new stadium.

That said, the Bulldogs should not have been trailing 14-7 at halftime, not after running 18 more plays from scrimmage and outgaining the Buccaneers 221-81, with a 13-5 advantage in first downs. However, The Citadel did a lot of things to hand East Tennessee State a lead, including a botched punt, a blocked field goal attempt, two bad penalties, and an interception.

The Bulldogs also appeared to be victimized by the clock operator at the end of the half, who let two precious seconds elapse after a completion, preventing a potential field goal.

The second half numbers were somewhat similar to those in the first half, with The Citadel outgaining ETSU 214-127, picking up 13 more first downs (the Bucs had eight in the second half), and continuing to possess the ball for a significantly longer period of time. In the second stanza, however, those superior numbers resulted in points, with the Bulldogs scoring on four consecutive possessions.

Let’s take a look at some more statistics:

The Citadel ETSU
Starting field position TC 32 ET 32
Efficiency 45.00% (36/80) 36.20% (21/58)
Explosiveness 1.116 1.121
Finishing drives 4.4/poss 4.8/poss
Turnover margin -1 1
Yards per play on 1st down 6.00 4.38
Avg. yards to gain on 3rd down 6.3 8.1
Passing down success rate 50.0% (10/20) 35.0% (7/20)
Time of possession 37:00 23:00
Off. plays from scrimmage 83 54
Yards per play 5.6 3.9
Yards per play (rush) 4.99 3.11
Yards per play (pass attempt) 9.5 4.2
Off. 3rd down conversion rate 52.9% (9-17) 16.7% (2-12)
Off. plays of 20+ yards 5 4
Penalties 5 for 60 yards 2 for 10 yards

It is perhaps a bit easier to see how this game wound up being close when these stats are taken into consideration, as opposed to the raw yardage numbers.

First, let me make a few technical explanations:

  • I didn’t count The Citadel’s last possession in the “finishing drives” category, because the Bulldogs were attempting to run out the clock, rather than score
  • The last play of the game, a 23-yard loss where Dominique Allen was just trying to stay on his feet for seven seconds, is not counted in the yards per play or yards per rush categories on the chart
  • I also adjusted ETSU’s rushing and passing stats to reflect that 30 “rushing yards” lost by the Bucs came on four Bulldog sacks; that is why if you look at the box score, you’ll notice a difference between those numbers and the ones on the chart
  • The offensive plays from scrimmage and the plays counted in the “efficiency” category are a bit skewed due to several penalties, particularly a couple of third-down infractions; also, as mentioned earlier I discounted the final Bulldog drive
  • The botched punt in the first quarter is considered a turnover (fumble lost) rather than a turnover on downs

– ETSU had a tiny advantage in “explosiveness”, but remember that is an average. The Citadel had many more successful plays from scrimmage (36-21). If you added up the total amount of explosive “points” in that category, the Bulldogs came close to doubling up the Buccaneers.

– Those penalties in the first half really hurt the Bulldogs, while ETSU was solid on that front. Both of the Buccaneers’ infractions came in punting situations.

– As I noted in my game preview, East Tennessee State did a good job in last season’s matchup of putting its offense in a position to succeed on third down.

That didn’t happen on Saturday, though, as ETSU’s offense faced third-and-long throughout the game. Eight of the Bucs’ twelve third down conversion attempts were 3rd-and-9 or longer.

– In “passing downs”, The Citadel ran a successful play 10 out of 20 times, an excellent percentage. Nine of those plays were running plays (naturally). The exception was the 28-yard TD pass from Dominique Allen to Raleigh Webb.

Carl Torbush (taken from multiple game accounts) on The Citadel’s offense:

They do a good job of mixing things up. They ran a belly dive which they hadn’t shown yet and they ran some traps up the gut which is a little bit different than what they normally do.
 
They’re one of those teams just like Georgia Tech is. I mean, they’ll get you here and if you take care of that then they’ll try something else till they find something that works. And they found a few things that worked. Their unbalanced line got us into a little bit of trouble, got us out of position several times on the pitch and we got us out of wack feathering the quarterback a couple of times.
Bucs QB Austin Herink (who I thought played well):
I have to get rid of the ball quicker, a lot of that’s on me and I’ll address that. The Citadel has a terrific defense with a great secondary and tough pass rush.
 
…With their offense, you aren’t on the field much because they control the time of possession. To get on the field and get into rhythm is difficult. When we do that we are a really dynamic offense. I think we did that in the third and fourth quarter.
Brent Thompson on the late-game pass from Allen to Josh LeBlanc (a 3rd-and-3 play):
My guys in the booth convinced me that play-action was the right call. And it was, because they are expecting run there. Dom made a great throw, and it was really a turning point in the game.

Thompson on breaking in a new B-back:

We’ve been sitting on Brandon [Berry] for a couple of weeks, and just decided to burn his redshirt if it was going to help us a win a game. He’s a big, bruising back and we’ll continue to work to get him going.

The Citadel is now 3-0 after three games for a second consecutive season. The last time the program started 3-0 in consecutive years?

It has never happened before.

The Bulldogs were undefeated after three games in two previous two-year stretches: 1908-1909 and 1956-1957. However, all four of those seasons featured a tie in the first three games of the season — in other words, The Citadel started each of those years 2-0-1.

This is only the tenth time The Citadel has started 3-0. The other years it has happened:

  • 1906 (when the Bulldogs were undefeated and shared the national title, according to the TSA Matrix Ratings System)
  • 1921
  • 1928 (started the year 4-0; the fifth game ended in a tie)
  • 1942 (started the year 4-0)
  • 1969
  • 1989 (started the year 4-0; the fifth game ended in a tie)
  • 1992 (started the year 6-0)
  • 2012
  • 2016 (started the year 10-0)

(I really need to write about that 1906 squad some time. Of course, The Citadel also won the 1871 national title, which I’ve written about before.)

Odds and ends:

– Brandon Berry was one of 46 players to see action against East Tennessee State. I believe he was the only Bulldog to make his debut in Johnson City.

– Dominique Allen’s TD pass to Raleigh Webb was a beautiful throw, possibly Allen’s best as a Bulldogs quarterback. His next pass, though, the 44-yarder to Josh LeBlanc, may have been even better.

– Myles Pierce, despite fighting what looked like cramps, was all over the field on defense. He was credited with five tackles (two for loss), a sack, a pass breakup, and three QB hurries. He should get some consideration for Defensive Player of the Week in the SoCon.

– Ja’Lon Williams made the big stop on fourth down to extinguish ETSU’s final drive, continuing his strong play so far this season.

– The ESPN3 stream was at least two minutes behind the radio feed, which was aggravating (at least to me).

– ETSU’s new playing surface appeared to cause some problems for Bulldog runners, who slipped making cuts on multiple occasions.

The pellets in the field also managed to turn The Citadel’s white uniforms to a dull gray shade over the course of the afternoon.

– Attendance for the game: 7,544. It took three hours and two minutes to play, thirty-six minutes longer than the matchup last week against Presbyterian.

– Speaking of PC, the Blue Hose defeated Campbell 28-16 on Saturday. Newberry also won its first game of the season, beating Virginia University of Lynchburg 55-7.

– It was a tough day for the SoCon. Three of the schools faced FBS opponents, so it was not surprising to see Samford and Furman struggle. Mercer, however, held its own against Auburn, thanks in part to five AU turnovers.

However, Chattanooga and VMI are both now 0-3 after losing on Saturday (to UT Martin and Robert Morris, respectively). The Mocs will get starting quarterback Alejandro Bennifield back after this week’s game, which just happens to be at VMI.

As for the Keydets, getting shut out by Robert Morris may have been almost as bad as losing at home to Catawba the previous week.

Western Carolina, on the other hand, appears to more closely resemble the 2015 Catamounts (which went 7-4) than last year’s 2-9 disaster. WCU matched its 2016 win total with a nice win at Gardner-Webb.

– Next Saturday, Wofford (which had a bye this week) hosts Gardner-Webb. As noted, Chattanooga travels to Lexington, Virginia, to play VMI. East Tennessee State stays in Johnson City and faces Mercer, while Western Carolina hosts Samford.

Furman is at Colgate. The Paladins may be the hardest team to read in the league to this point in the season, narrowly losing at Wofford, then losing at home to Elon, then predictably losing at North Carolina State.

Elon possibly made that loss a touch more palatable for the FU faithful by beating Charleston Southern 19-17 on Saturday.

As for The Citadel, the Bulldogs how have a bye before playing at Samford on September 30. I think it’s a good break from The Citadel’s perspective after a couple of trying weeks.

I’ll be taking a bit of a break too. Because of that, my preview of that Samford game probably won’t be posted until Friday afternoon — and it may be shorter than usual. That is probably a good thing, though.

However, an even better thing is being 3-0.

2017 Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. Newberry

Nothing remained today but to remove all pebbles and other noxious substances from the Hampton Park playing field…

…The cause of all this commotion in The Citadel camp, the Newberry Indians, are expected to reach Charleston tonight, and they will need no urging to remain over for the game tomorrow, for if the intentions laid at their door are correct, they expect to give the local cadets a bad time, and return to Newberry with an attractive Citadel defeat towing behind them. In short, the Lutherans are not coming here for a trouncing or even a tie game, but are keenly desirous of utterly squelching their hardy opponents.

Coach Rogers’ pupils are not worrying about the strength of the enemy, but are striving to increase their own prowess, for they haven’t even a tiny intention of submitting to any drubbing by those pretentious Newberrians, comparative upstarts in the pigskin world. The latter’s work this season has been enough to cause a scare, but the cadets have faced danger before now, and expect to walk over the top of their guests if they insist on staying in their way.

The Charleston Evening Post, Friday, November 6, 1914

 

Battling bitterly The Citadel barely nosed out a victory over the Newberry Indians in one of the fiercest contests on a Charleston gridiron, the final score being The Citadel 14, Newberry 13. The contest was a terrific struggle between the two teams, which were as nearly evenly matched as two elevens could be.

The individual honors of the afternoon were about evenly divided between Weeks of the Bull Dogs, and MacLean of the Indians. Sheppard roamed all over the field and smothered play after play of the Lutherans. Baker, Renken, and Ashbaugh showed considerable fondness in clinging on to the aerial messages of MacLean.

…In the last few minutes of play, with the Cadets one point in the lead, the play was fast, sharp, and hard, every inch being stubbornly contested. Ashbaugh made two attempts at field goals. The first was wide, but the second, a beautiful kick of about 45 yards, missed the post by about a foot. It was Newberry’s last chance.

Weeks was again the backbone of the Cadets and almost individually won the game. His offensive work was superb, his defensive playing great, and his grit and nerve some of the best ever shown at Hampton Park. Knocked out of the game with a bum shoulder, he came back and literally played on his nerve. It was Weeks who made one of the touchdowns and Weeks who kicked both goals.

MacLean, although weighing about 150 pounds, piloted his team in an able manner. His passing of the ball, tackling, and running in the open field stamps him as the best quarter in the State. Bumped and hammered about, he was as cool as the proverbial cucumber and tossed the pigskin with unerring accuracy on all the forward passes.

The Sunday News, November 8, 1914

The Citadel vs. Newberry, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on September 2, 2017.

The game will be televised by 7 Communications, and streamed on ESPN3.com. Kendall Lewis will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. Erin Summers 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 sideline reporter on the radio broadcasts is Jay Harper.

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

According to the Southern Conference, the following television stations/cable outlets will be carrying the game:

WCIV-3 — Charleston, SC (this is the “MeTV” subchannel)
WYFF-2  — Greenville, SC (this is the “This” subchannel)
WITN-2 — Greenville, NC (this it the “MyTV” subchannel)
WILM — Wilmington, NC (could be a “joined in progress” situation)
WDWW- 7  — Atlanta, GA (yes, digital subchannel 7)
WHKY — Charlotte, NC
Cox Cable — Roanoke, VA
Cox Cable — Norfolk, VA
WFXB-4 — Myrtle Beach, SC (digital subchannel 4)
KPMF — Memphis, TN

Now, a warning. It is possible, if not likely, that all of the stations that carry the matchup will have it on a digital subchannel. For instance, the game will be seen in Charleston on WCIV’s “MeTV” subchannel — not “regular” WCIV or even “MyTV” WCIV, but WCIV-DT3.

If you live in one of the areas listed above and you don’t get ESPN3, turn on your TV at 6pm, and if the game isn’t on the listed channel, try the subchannels for each of these stations before giving up. Then and only then should you throw your remote control device into a nearby lake.

Newberry’s website states that the game will also be televised in Raleigh and Greensboro. We shall see. If it is, it may be on a subchannel for one of the CW affiliates in each of those cities.

If you live in Macon, you apparently will able to watch the game on WMUB, Mercer’s student TV station. MASN (a mid-Atlantic sports network) is also listed by Newberry as carrying the contest, but I suspect that is on a tape-delay basis.

My apologies if anyone is confused by any or all of that information. In my defense, I’m probably more confused than anyone else…

A few of my recent posts revolving around football, including the upcoming season for The Citadel:

Links of interest:

– Season preview from The Post and Courier

SoCon preview from The Post and Courier

– STATS SoCon preview (The Citadel is picked to finish third)

– College Sports Madness preview of the Bulldogs (The Citadel is picked to finish fourth in the SoCon)

SoConSports.com preview of The Citadel

– SoCon media and coaches’ preseason polls (The Citadel is picked to finish second in both polls)

The Citadel: Quick Facts

– Game notes from The Citadel and Newberry

– SoCon weekly release

South Atlantic Conference weekly release

Kailik Williams counts his blessings

Tyler Davis is an aging veteran

Dominique Allen is profiled in the Savannah Morning News

Bulldogs from the Houston area are keeping an eye on Hurricane Harvey

Freshmen have to be ready to play on Saturday

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel opens the season ranked #12)

STATS FCS poll (The Citadel opens the season ranked #16)

– Brent Thompson at The Citadel’s Media Day (video)

– Brent Thompson has a brief conversation with Phil Kornblut (8/18) on SportsTalk (audio)

– Brent Thompson’s 8/29 press conference, including comments from Dominique Allen and Myles Pierce (video)

Brent Thompson’s 8/30 radio show (video)

Newberry season preview from The Post and Courier

Interview (8/17) of Newberry head coach Todd Knight on WKNT-FM 107.5 in Columbia (audio)

Interview (8/3) of Newberry head coach Todd Knight on ESPN Upstate [begins at 9:45 mark] (audio)

Newberry picked to repeat as South Atlantic Conference champions

Seven players from Newberry received preseason first-team all-SAC recognition

Newberry hopes to spring the upset; this clip includes the much-discussed “The Citadel is arguably the second-best team in South Carolina” comment (video)

This article in The Post and Courier includes the two-deep for both schools

It’s time for football!

FOOTBALL!

FOOTBALL!!

FOOTBALL!!!

The Citadel has won 19 games and consecutive SoCon titles over the last two years. The upcoming gridiron campaign has been highly anticipated by Bulldog supporters, but there are on-field questions that must be answered, and in a decidedly positive manner, if The Citadel is to win the league and advance to postseason play for a third straight season.

There is also the issue of Johnson Hagood Stadium — or more precisely, what is left of Johnson Hagood Stadium:

The east side of Johnson Hagood Stadium has been reduced to piles of rubble as demolition work at the home of Citadel football continues.

The east side of the stadium contained about 9,300 seats, and demolition of the aging structure was approved by the city’s Board of Architectural Review in February.

 

On [August 6], The Citadel’s Board of Visitors approved a plan that would add 3,800 seats to the east side of the stadium, which was demolished earlier this year. The plan also calls for about 40,000 square feet of “office, education and/or residential space” on the east side.

The motion, approved unanimously by the BOV, requests that The Citadel Real Estate Foundation “develop detailed specifications, pricing and recommendations to finance and fund the cost of the new East Side facility” and update the board at its September meeting…

…The new plan also includes possible future addition of 2,400 seats on the east side, if needed. The Citadel averaged 12,987 fans for five games at Johnson Hagood in 2016, when the Bulldogs went 10-2 and won a second straight Southern Conference title.

The goal is to have the “new” East stands ready to go in time for the 2019 season. (If anything, that needs to be a requirement.)

There will be temporary bleachers on that side for this season, but they won’t be in place until The Citadel plays Mercer on October 7. Thus, for the home games against Newberry and Presbyterian, only the West stands will have seating, and the stadium capacity will be 11,700 (well, not counting the beer garden — more on that later).

The lack of seating isn’t great, but at least things appear to be moving forward. Of course, there is still the question of funding.

The non-conference football schedule for The Citadel is now set through the 2020 season.

  • 2017: Newberry, Presbyterian, at Clemson
  • 2018: Charleston Southern, at Towson, at Alabama
  • 2019: Towson, Charleston Southern, at Elon, at Georgia Tech (12-game season)
  • 2020: Elon, Charleston Southern, at Clemson

As a result, Newberry is the last D-2 school the Bulldogs will meet on the gridiron until at least the 2021 season.

The Citadel released its complete 2018 schedule last Thursday. There will be five home games next season, while the 2019 and 2020 seasons will have six home contests each.

By 2019 the “new” East stands will hopefully be ready to go. I don’t have any problem with only having five home games next year, given the stadium situation. Establishing home-and-home series with Towson and Elon in order to ensure six home games in the following two seasons was a good move by Jim Senter.

The Citadel’s new instant replay system for officials got a run-through during Saturday’s scrimmage. There are new goal-line cameras at each end of the field as part of the new system. The Citadel and Mercer will be the only SoCon teams with replay capability for referees this season.

Replay review will be in effect for every home game this season, including Saturday’s matchup with Newberry. Conversely, none of the Bulldogs’ road games will feature a replay review system, with the exception of the game at Clemson.

The league will not require teams to have replay review at their respective home facilities until 2019. Essentially, conference games will be played under different rules, depending on the location of the game. That strikes me as problematic at best.

Last week, The Citadel announced that it would be selling beer at home football games this season:

Beer sales will be limited to a 500-person “beer garden” tent inside Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The tent will be located in the southeast corner of the stadium, where aging stands were demolished this summer. There will be a three-beer limit per patron, and Citadel cadets of legal age (21) will not be able to buy beer in the tent…

…The beer garden will feature two TVs for fans to watch games, and bartenders to serve beer.

A friend of mine suggested that in addition to setting up a beer garden, The Citadel should establish a separate entry fee for the entire section, and incorporate food trucks into the mix. I like that idea.

I’m more of a “watching the game with a great deal of intensity” fan than a “casually downing a beer or two while eating a burrito and occasionally glancing at the field” fan, but I understand that the school has to appeal to a wide variety of supporters. In a way, this is an effort to bring part of the tailgating scene into the stadium.

Beer sales or no beer sales, hopefully Johnson Hagood Stadium will be packed with fans when Newberry comes to town on Saturday. Speaking of Newberry…

The Lutheran intellectual tradition creatively engages the dialectic tensions inherent in the dynamic nature of human life.

– Newberry College website

In 1854, the Lutheran Synod in South Carolina voted to make its seminary (which had existed for 23 years) a degree-granting college. At the time, the seminary was located in Lexington, South Carolina; the institution was moved to Newberry, where it was chartered in 1856 and named Newberry College.

The timing wasn’t ideal. As a result of the Civil War, most of the faculty and students went into military service. By 1868, the college was in financial trouble. For a while, the school was relocated to Walhalla; it returned to Newberry in 1877.

The seminary side of the setup was reopened after the war in 1866, and then it moved around a bit — to Walhalla in 1868; to Salem, Virginia in 1872; then back to Newberry in 1884; in 1898 to Mt. Pleasant; and, finally, to Columbia in 1911.

It is now known as the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS). In 2012, it merged with Lenoir-Rhyne University, and now operates as a satellite campus of that Hickory, North Carolina-based school. Therefore, LTSS actually has a connection to two different schools in the South Atlantic Conference — Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne.

Today, Newberry has an enrollment of 1,064 students (54% male). Four-fifths of its students live in on-campus housing. The college is situated on 94 acres of land.

Newberry began fielding a football team in 1913. Its first game was a 16-7 victory over Furman.

In 1914, the Indians played The Citadel for the first time; that is the contest referenced in the two newspaper blurbs at the beginning of this post. The record books for Newberry and The Citadel both list the 1914 gridiron clash between the two schools as having been played in Newberry, but it was actually played at Hampton Park in Charleston.

The Citadel was 0-7 passing in that contest, with one interception, while the radical passing attack of Newberry was 9-16 for one TD and a pick. Also worth mentioning: gentlemen had to cough up 75 cents to receive admission to the game, while ladies only had to pay 50 cents.

Prior to that game, Newberry had already defeated Furman and Wofford during the 1914 season, and tied South Carolina.

The Indians had also beaten Porter Military Academy 20-0 in Newberry, though the school’s record book lists that game as having taken place on September 26; it actually occurred on October 3. Newberry also lists a 20-7 victory in Charleston over Porter on October 17; the score and location are correct, but the game was played on November 9 (yes, just two days after Newberry played The Citadel; they did stuff like that back in those days).

Newberry no longer goes by the “Indians” moniker. As of 2010, the school’s varsity athletic teams are known as the “Wolves”. From the school website:

In August 2005, Newberry College was placed on a watch list by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) along with 17 other schools which deemed the use of “Indians” as hostile and abusive, and prohibited the use of Native American nicknames, mascots and imagery in postseason competition.

In September 2005, Newberry College appealed to be removed from the list of schools which were declared unable to host postseason play on the basis that none of the institutions uses of “Indians” were hostile and/or abusive toward Native Americans.

The next month, the NCAA rejected Newberry’s appeal.

A later agreement with the NCAA allowed the college to use the nickname for two more years. However, Newberry eventually went two school years (2008-09, 2009-10) without a nickname.

As you might imagine, not everyone at the school was thrilled about that, including then-sophomore Derek Bley, a baseball player:

Quite a tragedy. Here we are in the middle of nowhere, and we have no name.

…We are the notorious Block N’s. It carries no fear.

Former head football coach Zak Willis had another gripe, specifically with the NCAA: “I don’t know how a group in Indianapolis, Indiana, gets to tell us we can’t be the Indians.”

Back in the day, Newberry had occasionally been referred to as the “Lutheran Lads” by the sporting press, but that probably wasn’t going to fly in the 21st century, either. The decision by the school’s Board of Trustees to eventually pick “Wolves” as the new nickname/mascot mirrored the preference of the student body.

Todd Knight is entering his ninth season as Newberry’s head football coach. He was the school’s defensive coordinator for six years before getting the top job.

Prior to moving to Newberry,Knight served as the defensive coordinator at Charleston Southern (under David Dowd). He was also the DC at Lees-McRae, and a secondary coach at his alma mater, Gardner-Webb (Knight is a 1989 graduate of that school).

Newberry has had four seasons in its football history in which it won nine or more games. Knight has been the head coach for two of those years, and was the defensive coordinator for the other two.

He has a 50-38 record as the head coach. Over the last four years, the Wolves are 31-16, including a 19-9 mark in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC). Last October, the school extended Knight’s contract through the 2020 season.

During Knight’s tenure as head coach of Newberry, the Wolves have played four FCS opponents. While Newberry has lost all four of those matchups, each has been competitive (and three were one-score games).

In 2009, Austin Peay defeated Newberry, 34-23. The following season, Samford outlasted the Wolves 38-35. In 2014, Charleston Southern edged Newberry 16-10.

The next year (2015), Newberry actually hosted an FCS team — Jacksonville. The Dolphins prevailed 17-14.

In 2016, Newberry finished with a 10-2 record, 7-0 in the SAC (and 5-0 on the road). After losing the opener to Florida Tech, the Wolves won 10 straight games and the league title. Newberry then lost in the first round of the D-2 playoffs to Tuskegee.

The Wolves had been ranked No. 14 in D-2 prior to that game. Newberry finished with a final ranking of No. 16.

Newberry’s schedule and results, 2016:

  • Florida Tech (home): lost 42-28
  • Virginia Union (home): won 42-22
  • North Greenville (road): won 29-28
  • Tusculum (road): won 37-10
  • Catawba (home): won 35-14
  • Mars Hill (road): won 35-21
  • Carson-Newman (home): won 34-19
  • Brevard (road): won 34-7
  • Lenoir-Rhyne (home): won 53-14
  • Limestone (road): won 49-7
  • Wingate (home): won 27-22
  • Tuskegee (home): lost 35-33
 —

Newberry video from 2016:

Highlights package

Highlights of Newberry’s 29-28 victory over North Greenville

Most of the first three quarters of Newberry’s 37-10 win over Tusculum

Highlights of Newberry’s 34-19 victory over Carson-Newman

Highlights of Newberry’s 27-22 win over Wingate

You can also watch video replays of Newberry’s 2016 home games — for instance, the Wolves’ 53-14 demolition of Lenoir-Rhyne: Link

Statistics of note for Newberry’s 2016 season (all 12 games):

Newberry Opponents
Points/game 36.3 20.1
Rushing yardage 1926 1794
Yards/rush 4.13 3.82
Rush TDs 29 12
Passing yardage 3536 1999
Comp-Att-Int 287-423-16 158-330-13
Average/pass att 8.4 6.1
Passing TDs 30 18
Total offense 5462 3793
Total plays 889 800
Yards/play 6.1 4.7
Fumbles/lost 19/9 12/5
Penalties-pen yds 91-795 95-858
Pen yards/game 66.2 71.5
Net punt average 35.5 33.9
Time of poss/game 30:27 29:33
3rd-down conv 78/163 53/171
3rd-down conv % 47.9% 31.0%
Sacks by-yards 34-211 20-128
Red Zone TD% (47-63) 74.6% (18-34) 52.9%

Newberry finished 29th in D-2 in scoring offense, and 22nd in scoring defense. NC was 35th nationally in offensive yards per play and 25th in yards allowed per play.

The Wolves were 21st nationally in both offensive and defensive pass efficiency. Newberry’s pass completion rate of 67.8% was fourth-best in the division.

Another category Newberry fared well in was 3rd down conversion rate, both offensively (16th in D-2) and defensively (24th).

The Wolves rolled up some very impressive total offense numbers, including a 729-yard effort against Lenoir-Rhyne.

On special teams, Newberry finished 13th nationally in kick return defense and topped the division in punt return defense, allowing a total of 1 net punt return yard for the season. No, that is not a typo.

I’m guessing that the lack of punt return yardage is based on a coaching philosophy of simply not giving an opponent any chance of returning a punt. If so, it certainly worked in 2016.

On the other hand, the strategy must not have always been employed in previous years, as Newberry’s yearly total punt return yardage allowed has yo-yoed from 35 to 97 to 212 to 1 in the past four seasons.

Last season, Newberry’s pass-run ratio was very close to 50-50. The Wolves threw 423 passes while being sacked 20 times, for a total of 443 assumed passing plays, while rushing 446 times (excluding sacks). Obviously, some plays that were would-be passes turned into runs.

Despite the even distribution of rushes and passes, almost 65% of the Wolves’ total offense came through the air. Newberry averaged more than twice as many yards per passing play as by rushing attempt.

Many of the players responsible for that production are gone, including last year’s starting quarterback, lead running back, and two quality wide receivers (one of whom operated at times as a “wildcat” QB). The Wolves also lost two starters on the offensive line, the left tackle and left guard.

The starting quarterback this season for Newberry will be Nick Jones (6’0″, 220 lbs.). A redshirt sophomore from Florence, Jones appeared in six games last season, starting late in the season against Wingate when regular QB Raleigh Yeldell was suspended.

In the game versus Wingate, Jones was 16-21 passing for 242 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions and was sacked three times.

During the spring, the Newberry coaching staff moved reserve wideout Darius Clark (6’1″, 205 lbs.) to tailback. At the SAC Media Day, Todd Knight suggested that the junior “could be poised for a breakout season”. Clark is a product of St. John’s High School. He also served as a kick returner last season.

Average size of Newberry’s projected starters on the offensive line, as per the school’s 8/25 two-deep: 6’2″, 297 lbs. Four of the five listed starters weigh 300+ lbs.

Starting center Dakota Mozingo (6’0″, 260 lbs.), a Rock Hill native, was a preseason SAC all-conference pick. Fellow senior Austin Turner (6’3″, 320 lbs.) was a second-team selection. Turner, a senior from Lexington, is the Wolves’ right guard.

Tyler Anderson (6’3″, 300 lbs.) started five games last season for Newberry. The redshirt sophomore was a preseason second-team All-SAC choice and is slated to start at left tackle this year.

On the other side of the line is none other than Tyler’s twin brother, Austin Anderson (also 6’3″, 300 lbs.). The brothers went to Wren High School.

Left guard Wade Rouse (6’1″, 305 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman who went to West Ashley High School in Charleston, where he also threw the shotput and discus for the track team.

Backup right tackle Sam Hall (6’2″, 260 lbs.) was named a first-team Academic All-American at the end of last season. The biology major is a senior from Conway.

Markell Castle (5’8″, 165 lbs.) is a slot receiver who caught 67 passes last year for 976 yards and seven touchdowns. A case could be made that the junior from York is Newberry’s best returning player.

You can bet that the Bulldogs will be paying attention to #13 on Saturday, especially after watching video like this: Link

Another 5’9″ wideout, J.T. Waters (listed at 175 lbs.) is holding down the “W” receiving spot on the Wolves’ two-deep. The junior has seven career receptions. Waters went to Palmetto Christian Academy in Mt. Pleasant, where he put up big numbers as a quarterback at the small school.

Tight end Baptiste Staggers (6’4″, 230 lbs.), like Mozingo and Castle, was named to the preseason first team SAC all-conference team. Unlike those two players, however, Staggers (who went to Fort Dorchester High School) may be challenged for playing time this fall.

During an appearance on WYRD (ESPN Upstate) earlier this month, Todd Knight stated that “we’ve got a really good tight end in Baptiste Staggers who I think is the best tight end in the league, [but] we’ve got a kid who transferred in here, who’s pushing him to the point where he’s almost beating him out — so we’re probably looking at playing a lot of two tight end sets this year, which we’ve never done before, but we’ve got to put the best 11 out there.”

Knight was presumably referring to 6’7″, 250 lb. junior Sean Smith, a transfer from Middle Tennessee State. As a senior at Summerville High School, Smith was rated as a 3-star prospect by Scout.com and received offers from Georgia State and Florida Atlantic, as well as MTSU.

Newberry returns most of its starting defense from last season, including its three leading tacklers, all of whom were preseason all-league choices.

Jamarcus Henderson (5’10”, 230 lbs.) was a destructive force last season at defensive end. The second-team All-American had 22 tackles for loss, including 9 1/2 sacks.

Now a redshirt junior, Henderson was a star at Union County High School, where he played for former South Carolina quarterback Steve Taneyhill. He was named the Spartanburg Herald Journal‘s defensive player of the year as a senior, despite playing for a 2-8 team.

Backup DE Keito Jordon started three games as a freshman at Hampton in 2014. Newberry’s roster lists the Hopkins resident as a sophomore.

Defensive tackle Josh Spigner (6’0″, 265 lbs.) is a senior who went to Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville. He started one game last season for the Wolves.

Inside linebacker Joe Blue (5’10”, 225 lbs.) is a junior from Dillon. Last year, Blue led Newberry in tackles with 91, including 68 solo stops.

Will Elm (6’3″, 215 lbs.) finished third on the team in tackles, behind Henderson and Blue. Elm is a senior from Irmo.

Elm’s fellow outside linebacker, Rameak Smith (6’3″, 195 lbs.) recorded 48 tackles last year. Defensive back LaQuan White (6’1″, 185 lbs.) only started three games last season, but led the Wolves in interceptions, with four (against Catawba, he returned one pick for 55 yards). Smith and White both went to Woodland High School in Ridgeville.

Devin Dexter, a 6’0″, 250 lb. “true” freshman from Byrnes High School, may be another Newberry defender to watch, despite not being listed on the two-deep. One veteran observer of the S.C. high school scene told me that Dexter, a defensive lineman, has a “high motor” and is very strong.

Last year, he was the Spartanburg Herald-Journal‘s defensive player of the year, just as Henderson was in 2013. Dexter also played in the North-South All-Star game at the end of last season.

Shea Rodgers (6’0″, 175 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Indian Land, handled most of the placekicking, punting, and kickoff duties for Newberry last season. He has been named to the watch list for the Fred Mitchell award.

Rodgers only attempted five field goals, but made them all, with a long of 32 yards. He was 42-48 on PAT attempts. Rodgers was a second-team All-SAC preseason selection.

The kicker-holder duo is an all-Indian Land affair, as junior holder Manny McCord (5’11”, 185 lbs.) and Rodgers were high school classmates. McCord is also a reserve wide receiver.

Perry Able (5’11”, 170 lbs.), a Newberry native, will return as the Wolves’ long snapper.

As mentioned above, Darius Clark served as a kick returner last season, as did 5’10”, 185 lb. senior running back Rondreas Truesdale.

However, Newberry’s two-deep lists Keinan Lewis (6’2″, 205 lbs.) as the primary kick returner. The senior from Belton, who began his collegiate career at Georgia Military, also starts at wide receiver (and scored four touchdowns last season).

The two-deep indicates that Markell Castle will be the Wolves’ punt returner. He returned two punts last season.

The Citadel and Newberry had one common opponent last season, North Greenville. Both played NGU in Tigerville.

Let’s look at some stats from those games, starting with Newberry-North Greenville. The Wolves prevailed 29-28, scoring a touchdown (and converting the PAT) with 1:04 to play in the contest.

Newberry NGU
Points 29 28
Rushing yardage 192 275
Yards/rush 4.8 7.6
Rush TDs 3 2
Passing yardage 215 96
Comp-Att-Int 21-38-0 14-34-0
Average/pass att 5.7 2.8
Passing TDs 1 1
Total offense 407 371
Total plays 78 70
Yards/play 5.2 5.3
Fumbles/lost 1/0 0/0
Penalties 14 13
Penalty yards 120 120
Net punt average 35.3 34.6
Time of possession 31:47 28:13
3rd-down conv 7-17 4-14
3rd-down conv % 41.2% 28.6%
Sacks by-yards 0-0 1-1
Red Zone TD% (4-5) 80% (2-2) 100%

Phew, look at all those penalties! The elapsed game time was 3:19; at least 35 minutes of that must have been used by the officials just to march off penalty yardage.

Now, those same categories for The Citadel-North Greenville:

TC NGU
Points 38 14
Rushing yardage 559 56
Yards/rush 7 2.4
Rush TDs 4 0
Passing yardage 40 316
Comp-Att-Int 3-6-2000 14-32-1
Average/pass att 6.7 9.9
Passing TDs 1 2
Total offense 599 372
Total plays 86 55
Yards/play 7 6.8
Fumbles/lost 3/1 0/0
Penalties 3 6
Penalty yards 40 71
Net punt average 34.7 38.9
Time of possession 39:08 20:52
3rd-down conv 7-15 2-12
3rd-down conv % 46.7% 16.7%
Sacks by-yards 3-27 0-0
Red Zone TD% (2-6) 33% (0-0) 0%

The Citadel didn’t do a great job in the Red Zone, but with 559 rushing yards, it didn’t matter. The Bulldogs also got burned on two big pass plays (which is reflected in the yards/attempt category).

North Greenville’s completions/attempts were very similar in the two games, but thanks to those big gainers the Crusaders put up much better offensive passing numbers against the Bulldogs than they did versus the Wolves.

I also took a quick glance at Newberry’s games against Lenoir-Rhyne from 2010 through 2013, when Brent Thompson was the offensive coordinator for L-R. Newberry still has the same head coach (Todd Knight) and defensive coordinator (Stephen Flynn) it had for those four contests.

  • 2010: Newberry won 40-36; Lenoir-Rhyne rushed 47 times for 376 yards and 4 TDs (one lost fumble) while going 6-15 through the air for 92 yards and a TD (against two interceptions)
  • 2011:  Lenoir-Rhyne won 54-42; L-R rushed 52 times for 346 yards and 4 TDs (one lost fumble), and also completed 3 of 6 passes for 133 yards and two TDs
  • 2012: Lenoir-Rhyne won 44-21; the Bears rushed 59 times for 395 yards and 4 TDs while completing 3 of 6 passes for 77 yards and a TD
  • 2013: Lenoir-Rhyne won 35-14; L-R rushed 74 times for 428 yards and 5 TDs (one lost fumble), and completed 3 of 5 passes for 80 yards

Lenoir-Rhyne rushed for 1545 yards in four games, which comes out to 386.25 yards per contest. The Bears averaged 6.66 (ooh, spooky) yards per rush and scored a total of 17 rushing touchdowns.

As far as the passing statistics were concerned, L-R was 15-32 through the air (46.9%) for an average of 11.9 yards (!) per attempt.

The Bears’ 3 completions in the 2011 contest included a 70-yard TD and a 42-yard reception, while the 2012 game featured a 50-yard TD reception by a Lenoir-Rhyne receiver named Artis Gilmore. (How he didn’t wind up playing for Gardner-Webb or Jacksonville, I’ll never know.)

With those results in mind, I thought it was a bit curious that Newberry waited until very late in its preseason to make an adjustment to its practice schedule. Instead of an anticipated scrimmage, the Wolves’ coaching staff elected to “[alter] its practice schedule to focus on preparing for The Citadel’s unique ground-based scheme.”

Newberry’s football team has an honor council known as “The Order of the Gray Stripe”. Among other things, the Wolves’ game captains are chosen from this group.

During the game, these individuals can be identified by their helmets, which have a gray stripe down the center. Other players will have solid white helmets with no striping. Newberry’s helmets also feature a stylized red “N” that incorporates a wolf in the logo.

The Wolves are one of many schools that have mix-and-match uniforms, with their togs provided by adidas. Expect either an all-white or white jerseys/scarlet pants look on Saturday for Newberry, which is 6-2 since 2015 wearing those two combinations, while the Wolves are only 1-1 wearing gray pants with the white jerseys.

At the SAC’s Media Day, Todd Knight discussed the advantages of playing a game at The Citadel:

Charleston has always been a hotbed of recruiting for us. I think just getting our face out there in Charleston that day will be beneficial for us. I just hope we have a good show. We’ve got so many players already on the team from Charleston, Baptiste Staggers being one of the main ones. Darius Clark, LaQuan White, Rameak Smith are all from there and are key guys for us. Josh Spigner too. And three of our NFL guys came from that area as well.

Last week, the Newberry coach told Columbia radio station WGCV that “I’m not gonna have to do a whole lot to get our kids fired up for The Citadel. We’ve got one kid whose family has already bought up 100 tickets.”

Newberry’s abundance of Lowcountry players earned the program an article in The Post and Courier last November.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: mostly cloudy, with showers and thunderstorms likely during the day; expected high temperature of 87 degrees and a 60% chance of precipitation. The low temperature Saturday night is projected to be 75 degrees, with evening thunderstorms a possibility (40%). Not ideal.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 30-point favorite over Newberry. The over/under is 50.5.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Wofford is a 13-point favorite against Furman; Mercer is a 20-point favorite versus Jacksonville; Samford is am 8.5-point favorite against Kennesaw State; East Tennessee State is a 28.5-point favorite versus Limestone; and VMI is a 31.5-point underdog at Air Force.

While the Kennesaw State-Samford game is expected to be high-scoring (over/under of 67), the same cannot be said for Furman-Wofford (over/under of 45.5).

Around the Palmetto State, Presbyterian is a 40-point underdog at Wake Forest; Clemson is a 40-point favorite versus Kent State; South Carolina State is a 2-point favorite at Southern; Charleston Southern is a 21-point underdog at Mississippi State; Coastal Carolina is a 1.5-point underdog at home versus Massachusetts; and South Carolina is a 4.5-point underdog against North Carolina State, with that game being played in Charlotte.

After losing 27-13 to Jacksonville State in Week 0, Chattanooga is off this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 16th in FCS as Week 1 approaches. Newberry is ranked 66th in D-2. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 130th, while Newberry is 344th.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 42, Newberry 13. The Bulldogs are given a 97% chance of victory.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford (8th), Chattanooga (9th), Charleston Southern (10th), Chattanooga (15th, down six spots after losing last weekend), Samford (21st), Furman (34th), Mercer (43rd), Kennesaw State (51st), Gardner-Webb (52nd), Western Carolina (58th), VMI (64th), ETSU (91st), South Carolina State (89th), Presbyterian (95th).

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, Eastern Washington, Youngstown State, and Jacksonville State (which jumped two spots after beating UTC).

– In the 2017 preseason AFCA D-2 poll, Newberry was in the “receiving votes” category. It would have ranked 30th if the rankings had been listed to that placement.

– Newberry offensive coordinator Bennett Swygert is a former quarterback at Western Carolina and Summerville High School. This is his fifth season as the Wolves’ OC.

His wife, Lyndsey Swygert, is the cheerleading coach at Newberry. She also oversees the school’s other spirit programs, including the Wolves’ dance team (a group known as the Scarlet Poms).

– C.J. Frye was recently hired as Newberry’s tight ends coach, a position he also held in 2012-13. Frye played football at South Carolina (he is the son of longtime Gamecocks track coach Curtis Frye) and for the past two years was the head football coach at Andrew Jackson High School, until he unexpectedly resigned in July.

– The Wolves play their home football games at Setzler Field, which has the distinction of being the oldest on-campus football stadium in South Carolina. It has a seating capacity of 4,000.

The school averaged 3,502 fans per home game last season, which was 58th-best in Division II (out of 172 institutions). That average was better than 22 FCS programs, including two in South Carolina — Presbyterian (which averaged 3,299 patrons per home contest) and Charleston Southern (2,712).

– Setzler Field is also the home of Newberry’s women’s lacrosse team — and as of the spring of 2018, the new men’s lacrosse program. Nine of the eleven schools in the SAC sponsor men’s lacrosse.

– Newberry started a major fundraising campaign in late 2014. Part of the campaign includes a “stadium renovation and athletic village construction project” with the objective of modernizing and upgrading the football stadium (including the scoreboard and press box), locker rooms, and coaches’ offices. The monetary goal for that project is $8 million.

– Earlier in this post, I mentioned Newberry’s connection to Lenoir-Rhyne. The two Lutheran schools play every year for the “Bishops’ Trophy”, which was created in 1987 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne have played 83 times, including every season since 1946.

– For many years, Newberry’s chief gridiron rival was Presbyterian (95 meetings), with the annual game between the two schools often taking place on Thanksgiving Day. They played for one of the better trophies in college football, the Bronze Derby. It didn’t have the grandeur and mystique of the coveted Silver Shako, but it was a fine bauble.

Alas, the Newberry-Presbyterian series has been dormant since 2006, due to the Blue Hose moving to FCS.

– Newberry’s most famous alum is probably the late political strategist Lee Atwater. The current Secretary of State for South Carolina, Mark Hammond, is also a Newberry graduate (and a former football player as well). Hammond’s son Ross is Wofford’s long snapper.

– The game notes roster for Newberry includes 89 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (3 players), Florida (3), Alabama (2), and North Carolina (1).

There are Wolves from 64 different S.C. high schools, including three each from Summerville, South Florence, Byrnes, Lexington, Indian Land, Marlboro County, Fairfield Central, and South Pointe. However, no players from traditional power Orangeburg-Wilkinson are on the Newberry roster, a glaring oversight which will undoubtedly prove costly to the program over the course of the 2017 campaign.

– 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 the first time The Citadel and Newberry have met since 1997, a 33-13 win for the Bulldogs. In that matchup, Carlos Frank had two punt return touchdowns (of 53 and 80 yards, respectively).

His game total of 177 punt return yards remains a Southern Conference record. Frank also caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Stanley Myers during the contest.

However, I remember the previous meeting between the two schools even more, a game played in 1995.

Like this Saturday’s contest, that game was played on September 2. It was also the season opener for both teams. The Citadel had won 36 games over the previous five years, while Newberry was coming off a 4-7 campaign.

The Citadel raced out to a 13-0 lead thanks to touchdown runs by Myers and Kenyatta Spruill in the game’s first seven minutes, but the offense would not score again until the fourth quarter. By that time, the Indians led 14-13.

The Bulldogs regained the lead, but Newberry had a chance to win the game late, scoring a touchdown with 3:17 left to get within 21-20. However, Indians head coach Mike Taylor decided to kick a PAT rather than go for two (this was before the college game had overtime). The debatable decision backfired when Scott Belcher blocked the extra point, and the Bulldogs escaped with a one-point win.

Belcher had 29 tackles in the game, a school record, but the narrow victory foreshadowed a difficult year ahead. The Citadel finished 2-9 that season.

I don’t think the 2017 Bulldogs are in danger of going 2-9, but this week’s game is not going to be a walk in the park. Newberry is a quality D-2 program coming off a great season. It must replace a lot of offensive talent, but does return several impact players on that side of the ball. Defensively, the Wolves should be solid, with plenty of experience.

I suspect that Newberry head coach Todd Knight believes his team has a decent chance of winning on Saturday. It seems to me that he has put a slightly more public emphasis on the game than might have ordinarily been expected, even for a season opener.

When he called The Citadel “arguably the second-best team in South Carolina” while talking to a local TV station in Columbia, it was not an offhand or impulsive remark. Knight had said the exact same thing in an earlier interview with a Greenville radio station. He was laying the groundwork, so to speak.

Of course, I may be (and probably am) reading too much into that. Knight is nothing if not media-friendly, as can be noted by his barrage of TV/radio appearances around the state. He also opens his practices to the press, with a uniquely descriptive “Don’t Get Concussed” media policy.

At any rate, the Bulldogs better be ready to play on Saturday. If they aren’t, it could be a very long night for the home team.

I’m confident they will be ready, though. I know The Citadel’s fans will be.

Heck, I’m ready now…

Game Review, 2016: VMI

The Citadel 30, VMI 20.

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

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

Video from WCSC-TV

– School release from The Citadel

– School release from VMI

– Game story, The Roanoke Times

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah yes, 10-0.

Parts of that 10-0 worth noting:

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

It has been quite a year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Condolences to his family and friends.

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

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

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

cfp-2

Game Review, 2016: Wofford

The Citadel 24, Wofford 21 (OT).

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Notes, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Photo gallery, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Game story, The Greenville News

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

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

Video from WSPA-TV

Game wrapup, Southern Pigskin

– School release

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

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

Game highlights (ground level video)

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

I saw the football on the ground.

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

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

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

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

#DogsOnTop, indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7-0.

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

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

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

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

I like it when The Citadel plays big games.

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

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

2016 Football, Game 7: The Citadel vs. Wofford

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

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

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

SoCon weekly release

– The Citadel faces challenges, dishes them out

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

– This week is a matchup of ground game experts

– Jeff Hartsell writes about Wofford coach Mike Ayers

– About juice, but not the kind from oranges

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

Brent Thompson 10/19 radio show (video)

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

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

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

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

– Leadership Day 2016

FCS Coaches’ Poll

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few Wofford statistics of note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thompson’s answer:

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chattanooga fell five spots after its loss to The Citadel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s okay, though.

Game Review, 2016: Chattanooga

The Citadel 22, Chattanooga 14.

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

Game story, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Game analysis, Chattanooga Times Free Press

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

Video from WCIV-TV

Video from WCBD-TV

Postgame comments from Russ Huesman

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

Game story, Southern Pigskin

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

Brent Thompson, crowdsurfer

Game highlights

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

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

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

It has been a long time coming.

From the post-game notes package:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

SoCon weekly release

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

Brent Thompson 9/28 radio show (video)

Dominique Allen returns as The Citadel’s starting quarterback

– Allen is back on board

– Allen had his moments in high school, too

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

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

– Catamounts face long season if they lose to The Citadel

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

FCS Coaches’ Poll

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there was the Catamounts’ defense, which:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hope they take that chance.