Football, Game 6: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

I’ll begin this post with what may become an annual riff on UTC nomenclature.  As I noted last year, trying to determine what to call the athletic teams of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga isn’t the simplest thing in the world to do:

Recently the school began using a ‘C’ mark, for “Chattanooga”.  The university’s teams have variously been referred to over the years as “UT-Chattanooga”, “Tennessee-Chattanooga”, “UTC”, and “Chattanooga”.

The nickname/mascot history is even more tangled.  A “moccasin” used to be a snake, then a shoe, then a cartoon Cherokee Indian called ‘Chief Moccanooga’, and now a mockingbird train conductor (and “moccasin” has morphed into “moc”, for mockingbird).

There is an explanatory page on the school’s website detailing some of the nickname history.

I’ve actually made a change from last year in how I am referring to the school.  While the school itself is still called the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, it is now consistently calling its athletic teams “Chattanooga” while still using the “UTC” acronym.  Therefore, I’ll drop the “UT-Chattanooga” usage.

Irrelevant but semi-interesting:  while surfing UTC’s website (the main one, not the athletics site) I found out that UTC was actually a private school until 1969, when it merged with the University of Tennessee.  Between 1889 and 1907, it was called U.S. Grant University.

Both UTC and The Citadel have had football programs that have been in the doldrums for a decade or more.  However, the Mocs appear poised to finally move up the ladder in the Southern Conference, under the direction of Russ Huesman.  Huesman inherited a program that had gone 1-11 in the year before he arrived.  In 2009, his first year at the helm, the Mocs improved to 6-5.

This season Chattanooga is 2-2, after losing its first two games to Appalachian State and Jacksonville State, both currently ranked in the FCS Top 5.  The Mocs rebounded with victories over Eastern Kentucky and Western Carolina, the latter game played in Cullowhee.

Those two losses may have excited the UTC fan base more than the two wins, as both were close games against quality opponents.  Chattanooga led Appalachian State 28-7 at halftime before the Mountaineers scored 28 fourth-quarter points to take a 7-point lead.  The Mocs scored what would have been the tying touchdown with under a minute to play, but Huesman elected to go for two.  It didn’t work, and Appalachian State escaped Finley Stadium with a victory.

Chattanooga also led Jacksonville State 17-7 entering the fourth quarter, only for the Gamecocks to respond with 14 fourth-quarter points.  JSU’s game-winning TD came on a 72-yard pass play with 1:16 remaining.  That game, played in Alabama, came one week after Jacksonville State’s stunning win over Mississippi.

UTC’s 42-24 victory over EKU included 548 yards of total offense, including 375 yards passing (4 TDs) from B.J. Coleman and 122 yards rushing from Erroll Wynn.

Against Western Carolina, the Mocs turned the ball over four times, one of those being a fumble returned for a touchdown (Chattanooga lost three fumbles overall).  UTC was also burned by a wide receiver pass for a TD, but prevailed 27-21 in part because the Mocs D forced four turnovers of its own.

Speaking of Coleman (a transfer from Tennessee), you may remember him from last year’s game, in which The Citadel blew a 15-point lead.  During the UTC rally, the Mocs went to a no-huddle offense, and the Bulldogs never stopped it, despite the fact Chattanooga could not run the ball.  Coleman somehow threw 61 passes without being sacked, and was only “hurried” once.

Obviously, The Citadel has to turn that around on Saturday, but it won’t be easy.  For one thing, UTC appears to actually have a running game now, with senior Erroll Wynn averaging exactly 100 yards per game in three games (he didn’t play against App State).  That should take a lot of pressure off Coleman, who is averaging almost nine yards per pass attempt and has thrown 10 TD passes (against only 3 interceptions).

Chattanooga doesn’t seem to be missing Coleman’s main target from last season, Blue Cooper, all that much, as Joel Bradford has already caught 30 passes and is averaging over 126 yards receiving per game (nearly 17 yards per reception). Bradford is also a fine punt returner.

Other than the fourth-quarter problems against Appy and JSU, the Mocs D has played well, holding both EKU and WCU to less than 60 yards rushing and forcing eleven turnovers in its last three games, including nine interceptions.  Four of the picks were made by freshman Kadeem Wise.

Defensive end Chris Donald is another Tennessee transfer making an impact for the Mocs.  He has 4.5 sacks so far this season.  UTC is currently ninth in the country against the run.  One reason for that is linebacker Ryan Consiglio, who is averaging almost eleven tackles per game.

You may have seen Jeff Hartsell’s breakdown of The Citadel’s recent recruiting classes on “Bulldog Bites”.  Just for comparison, here is the two-deep from The Citadel’s playoff game against North Carolina A&T in 1992.  I could be wrong about a couple of these guys, but I should have most of this right.  The number by a player’s name is the year he entered The Citadel (for instance, Jack Douglas entered in the fall of 1988, hence “88”).

QB — Jack Douglas (88) and CJ Haynes (90)

FB — Everette Sands (89) and Travis Jervey (91)

LHB — Erick Little (90) and Terrance Rivers (90)

RHB — Cedric Sims (89) and Undra Mitchem (90)

TE — Marty Fagan (88) and Greg Perry (89, and originally a walk-on)

WR — Cornell Caldwell (89) and Damond Boatwright (90)

LT — David Morelli (88) and Doug Cobarras (89)

LG — Shayne Stephens (89) and Levi Davis (90)

C — Brett Copeland (88) and Bart Hearn (91 walk-on, I think)

RG — Lance Hansen (88) and Scott Reagan (89)

RT — Carey Cash (88) and Mike Wilkerson (91)

PK — Jeff Trinh (91)

DE — Garrett Sizer (89) and Ed McFarland (89, and originally a walk-on)

DE — Judson Boehmer (89) and Brad Keeney (92)

RT — LaQuincy Powell  (89, and yet another walk-on from that class), Todd Lair (91, maybe a walkon; not sure)

LT — Jake Erhard (89) and Lenny Clark (91)

LB — Micah Young (91) and Jim Wilson (88)

LB — Rob Briggs (89) and Tracey Gamble (90)

LB — Mike Wideman (89) and Kendall McKnight (90)

LCB — Torrency Forney (89) and Chauncey Chappelle (92)

RCB — Detric Cummings (90) and Corey Gay (90)

SS — Dan Johnson (89) and Ahren Self (91)

FS — Lester Smith (88) and Speizio Stowers (89)

P — Eric Willingham (88)

The return specialists were all part of the offense-defense two-deep.  Sizer was the long snapper.

46 players —

9 fifth-year seniors (including Douglas, Smith, and Cash)

17 players from the ’89 recruiting class, including three walk-ons

10 from the ’90 recruiting class

8 from the ’91 recruiting class

2 “true” freshmen

One quick note on the above:  the 1991 recruiting class was actually rather thin; only two other scholarship members of that class would contribute in future seasons. Whether that “lost class” was a key factor in the eventual decline in The Citadel’s gridiron fortunes is hard to say, although it certainly didn’t help.

I had plenty to say about the loss to Western Carolina last week, and about some things that rather obviously need to improve.  I’ll add a little to what I already mentioned, and note a couple of other things:

— I was glad to see that Kevin Higgins acknowledged the poor play of the secondary against WCU (you can read about his press conference here and here).  Watching the lack of ball awareness was excruciating.

— He also addressed game-planning for opposing defenses, explaining what he feels the issues are.  I suspect that this wouldn’t be as big a problem if the Bulldogs were in Year 3 or Year 4 of the triple option.

Teams that have run an option attack for a long time, like Navy or Air Force or Wofford, generally force the opponents to adjust to them, not the other way around.  That’s because their players have been in the system long enough to recognize different defensive looks, and understand basically (if not always specifically) what each person’s job is when facing a certain setup.

Having said that, I was a little concerned that Higgins seemed confident in what Russ Huesman’s defense will probably do on Saturday.  He’s basing that on what Huesman has done in the past against the option, but the Mocs have had a week off and presumably a lot more time to put in new things.  What if UTC comes out in a defensive formation for which the Bulldogs aren’t prepared?  Another lost half for The Citadel’s offense?

— Amidst all the talk about changing quarterbacks, his decision to change placekickers has seemingly gone under the radar.

— About those quarterbacks…

I’ll be honest.  I don’t care which quarterback starts.  If Higgins thinks Sam Martin starting might jump-start the team in the opening quarter, then by all means run him out there.  The bottom line is that both Martin and Matt Thompson are going to play, and they’re both going to play about the same number of plays — at least, that’s the plan.

Martin has looked more comfortable in the offense than Thompson, but he hasn’t been that much better.  We’re not talking about the second coming of a healthy Jamelle Holieway here.  At this point, we don’t know if we’re talking about the second coming of a healthy Brendan Potts (which would be okay by me).

Neither Martin nor Thompson has mastered the center/QB exchange (to be fair, neither have the centers).  Thompson seems to still struggle with the “mesh”, and should also heed the advice of John Wooden — be quick but don’t hurry.  However, he’s a true freshman with some obvious talent, and he deserves a chance to show what he can do (as does Martin).  This is, as I’ve said before, a transition season, although not everyone seems to understand that.

While leaving the stadium on Saturday after the WCU game, I overheard a Bulldog fan say, in a non-ironic way, that the loss to the Catamounts meant “we won’t go to the playoffs now.”  You don’t say…

One thing both quarterbacks must improve (and for that matter, their receiving corps): the Bulldogs currently have a pass completion rate of 35.4%.  While The Citadel doesn’t throw the ball a lot in this offense, it has to do better than that.  Completing less than 36% of your pass attempts is just horrendous.  If that percentage holds up, it would be the lowest completion percentage for a Bulldog squad since 1965.  Care to guess how many games that 1965 team won?

Two.

The Bulldogs will be Underdogs on Saturday, and deservedly so.  However, I’ll close this post by pointing out that there is hope for the game against UTC:

1)  Chattanooga, while improved, hasn’t really proven that it’s made a move to the next level in the Southern Conference, at least not yet.  Those two games against Appalachian State and Jacksonville State were both impressive in a lot of ways, but they were also both losses.  Last year The Citadel also lost a close game to Appalachian State at home, in overtime.  It did not lead to a winning season.

I’m not quite ready to buy stock in a team which to this point in the season has only beaten Eastern Kentucky (which has just one win on the season) and Western Carolina.

2)  The Bulldog offense may continue to struggle, but I find it hard to believe that the defense (particularly the DBs) will have two consecutive clunkers.  I think there is a lot of talent on that side of the ball, and sometime (hopefully soon) it will begin to show. Also, there is something to be said for regression to the mean.

We’ll find out Saturday.

A big win, but don’t get carried away just yet

Let’s start this column with the newest installment of the “Milestone Report”, chronicling just a few of the latest firsts, streaks, and records set by this season’s edition of the basketball Bulldogs:

  • The Citadel’s 18th win on the season tied the 1985 squad for second-most in school history, with only the 1979 team winning more games (20)
  • The Citadel continues to set a new school standard for Southern Conference victories with its 13th league win of the season, and extends its record run of SoCon road wins (the Bulldogs are now 7-2 on the road in conference play)
  • With that 13th win, the Bulldogs shattered an 82-year-old SoCon record, the mark for biggest league turnaround in consecutive seasons, which had been established by Auburn in 1927; the Tigers went from one conference victory to twelve that season, while The Citadel has gone from one win to thirteen (and counting)
  • The Citadel broke a 14-game losing streak to Davidson
  • The Citadel won for the first time at Davidson since a 1990 contest, a game played during a brief four-year period (1989-1993) when the Wildcats were not in the Southern Conference; as a result, Wednesday night’s victory was the first time The Citadel had won a league game at Davidson since 1961

Davidson entered the game with an RPI of 49.  The Wildcats have dropped out of the top 50 of the RPI following the loss to The Citadel (as of Thursday the Wildcats are at 56), but will almost certainly finish the season in the top 100.  To be honest, I am not completely sure when the Bulldogs last recorded a victory over a “Top 100 RPI” team.  I believe that it has not happened since 1989, when The Citadel beat South Carolina.

Incidentally, The Citadel’s RPI has jumped up to 148 (I’m using ESPN’s RPI numbers).  The Bulldogs are one spot ahead of none other than VMI. 

Of course, Davidson didn’t have Stephen Curry last night, and that certainly made a difference.  Whether it made enough of a difference to have changed the outcome of the game is debatable.  In the first game between the two teams, Curry put up 32 points (with only 16 FG attempts) and added five assists  — one assist more than Davidson had as a team last night.  Even if you didn’t count Curry’s shooting numbers, though, Davidson still had a good FG% as a team in the game at McAlister Field House (although obviously with teams having to concentrate on Curry, his teammates have better opportunities).

The Citadel and Davidson are 1-2 in the league in FG% defense (the Wildcats lead that category) and in 3FG% defense (with the Bulldogs ranked first).  Given that, it’s not surprising that the game featured poor shooting by both teams, and without its star, Davidson never got into a shooting rhythm.  The Wildcats could not even make free throws (9-17 for a team that averages 71% from the line).

What should concern Davidson more than the bad shooting, though, was the fact that the Wildcats were not able to contain the Bulldogs on the boards.  The Citadel had a season-high 48 rebounds last night to Davidson’s 31 (after Davidson won the rebounding battle 35-25 in the first matchup).  Demetrius Nelson had a big night scoring inside, but he had scored 18 points in the first game, so that wasn’t a major surprise.  The difference was that he also added 14 rebounds (after only having 4 against Davidson at McAlister) to the Bulldogs’ cause. 

Davidson did have 13 offensive rebounds, but when you miss 73% of your shots from the field, you’re going to get more opportunities for boards on the offensive end of the floor. 

John Brown had 12 rebounds in 22 minutes of action.  That’s the fifth time this season he’s had 12 boards in a game (he’s now hit that mark three times in a row).  Brown has played more than 20 minutes in ten games this season.  He has had double digit rebound totals in seven of them (and nine boards in of one of the others).  That’s not even counting his 12-boards-in-15-minutes performance against Samford.  Brown is averaging 13.47 rebounds per 40 minutes of play (14.75 per 40 over his last four games).  When he stays out of early foul trouble, he is a force. 

Davidson leads the league in turnovers forced, and The Citadel committed a few too many last night (13).  The Bulldogs had 19 turnovers in the first matchup, so they improved a little, but again Curry’s absence has to be considered (he had five steals in the January game).  On the flip side, despite missing its point guard, Davidson only committed seven turnovers.

Nelson missed five free throws, the only blip in an outstanding effort.  Cameron Wells was 8-8 from the charity stripe, though, which alleviated an off-shooting night for him from the field.

Everyone who has been following the Bulldogs is excited right now, and deservedly so, but I want to sound a note of caution.  I mentioned earlier in this post that the last time The Citadel won a road game against a top-100 opponent was against South Carolina in 1989.  That year had some parallels to this season. 

In 1989, The Citadel was trying to rebound from an 8-20 campaign.  The team started the year slowly, but gradually improved.  The win over the Gamecocks was the exclamation point on a run during which the Bulldogs won six out of seven games, including a beatdown of longtime hoops bully Marshall (the final game ever played at Deas Hall, the most fantastic Division I basketball arena in human history).  Earlier in the year The Citadel had also beaten the College of Charleston on the road, which would be the last win at the CofC for the Bulldogs until this season.  With two games remaining in the regular season, the Bulldogs were in a position to claim second place in the SoCon regular season, with an outside shot at first.

The Citadel wouldn’t win another game.  The Bulldogs lost a tight game on the road to Western Carolina, then lost at UT-Chattanooga, and then lost in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament to East Tennessee State (which would then proceed to win the tourney).

I’m not saying we’re in for a repeat of 1989.  For one thing, this year’s team is simply better.  You can ask Ed Conroy — after all, he played on the 1989 team.  It’s just that there is still work to be done this season, and to consolidate all the gains made on the court this year, the team needs to finish strong.  Also, while I don’t want to be perceived as being overly pessimistic, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the margin of error for the program is still small.  It’s not as small as it has been, though, and that’s a credit to Conroy and the players. 

The Southern Conference tournament is going to be tough for everybody.  If you’re The Citadel, you have to worry about Davidson (with Curry), UT-Chattanooga (a good team, and the tourney host), the College of Charleston (can the Bulldogs really beat that team three times in a row?), and a bunch of other squads that could pose matchup problems.  Drawing Elon or Appalachian State in the tourney would not be fun. 

Of course, those teams have to worry about drawing The Citadel…

That’s why getting the bye is so important.  Speaking of that, the “magic number” for The Citadel to clinch a bye in the tournament is now 2.  For those unfamiliar with the “magic number” concept (it’s a baseball expression), what that means is any combination of two Bulldog victories or College of Charleston losses will guarantee a bye for The Citadel.  Two Bulldog wins would do it, as would two CofC losses.  One Bulldog win and one Cougar loss would be enough.  The CofC has four games remaining, and The Citadel has three.

The Citadel now has eight days before its next game.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  I’m inclined to think it’s a good thing, because the Bulldogs probably need a bit of a break.  There is always the fear that the team will lose momentum, but I believe it helps that when they play again, it will be at home before what should be a very good crowd.  I can’t wait.

Quick note:  I’ve had a few more visitors to the blog than normal; I’m glad some of you have enjoyed it.  To answer a couple of questions that have been asked:

  • The photos at the top are of General, Anthony Jenkins, and Jack Douglas, as most fans of The Citadel know.  I don’t really have a lot of pictures from sporting events involving The Citadel; the shots of Jenkins and Douglas are scanned newspaper photos, and I struggled to get a decent scan of them (as you can probably tell)
  • The blog is intended to be a general sports blog with an emphasis on the mighty Bulldogs; I’ve actually focused a little more on The Citadel’s athletic teams than I had originally anticipated (mainly because of the hoopsters, although I am more than ready for Fred Jordan’s crew to take the field)

Retention means aggression, attrition means regression

Well, that was ugly.  I’m not shocked Samford won the game, but it wasn’t close.  Kevin Higgins made a somewhat surprising decision to start Cam Turner at quarterback, and it didn’t come close to working out.  Turner was put in the game because Higgins felt the QB position needed a better runner.  Left unsaid, in my opinion, was that Higgins’ decision was more an indictment of the play of the offensive line than Bart Blanchard’s abilities.  The fact that the team doesn’t have an established running back hasn’t helped either.

The Citadel again had a forgettable second quarter, essentially an exact copy of the Furman game, and after the first half trailed in time of possession by almost exactly 10 minutes.  That’s what happens when you get dominated on the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively.

It doesn’t look good for the rest of the season.  The Citadel will be favored against UT-Chattanooga but will be underdogs against an erratic Georgia Southern team (which beat Western Carolina yesterday in overtime after trailing 31-3 in the fourth quarter), Wofford (which hammered Elon and may be on the same level with Appalachian State right now) and, of course, Florida.  Considering The Citadel went 7-4 last season, including a winning record in SoCon play, and there were high hopes for at least a similar season this year, it’s hard to argue that the program has regressed a bit.  Particularly disconcerting, from my point of view, are the losses to “young” teams like Elon and (especially) Samford.

I wish Higgins would redshirt every freshman who has yet to see action this season, just to build up depth for the future, but he may elect to play more of them to see what he’s got.  What Higgins definitely needs to do is pay close attention to the lessons of attrition, something I am sure he is, but just to make it clearer, let’s look at some numbers.

This year’s freshman class is Higgins’ third at The Citadel.  The class that preceded his arrival had a brutal attrition rate (there are only six players from it still on the team).  His first two years of recruiting, per Jeff Hartsell’s research, look like this:

2006 — 20 still on the team, 8 gone

2007 — 21 still on the team, 11 gone

I don’t know how many of those players were scholarship recruits, but regardless, that’s not a good percentage either year.  One thing that the two classes have in common is the large number of recruits in general.  I am not a fan of the “bring in 30, maybe half will pan out” approach to recruiting.  Ellis Johnson did this too, and it doesn’t work.  I think it’s better to identify about 12-18 players who you think can help you and can stay in school, and recruit accordingly.  This seems to be something that takes coaches at The Citadel in all sports two or three years to understand.  Some of them never seem to understand…

This year, things look pretty good — so far.  He brought in 26 guys, which again is too many, but so far only one has left school.  I hope that the other 25 hang in there.

Just as a comparison, I looked at Charlie Taaffe’s first recruiting classes.  I don’t have information from his first year, and only partial information from his second class.  The second class must have been excellent, though, not just in terms of quantity but in quality, because there were nine 5th-year seniors on the ’92 SoCon title team, including Jack Douglas, Lester Smith, and Carey Cash.

Taaffe’s third through fifth years of recruiting break down like this:

1989 — 16 recruits; all 16 were on the team at least two years, and 15 of them completed four years of play for The Citadel.  This class was the backbone of the ’92 title team, with 14 of them on the two-deep (one missed the year with an injury).  In addition, 3 walk-ons from that year also made the ’92 two-deep (I looked at the two-deep from the playoff game against North Carolina A&T as a baseline).  When you recruit 16 players and you wind up having 18 players from that class make a contribution, I guess you can say you had a good year recruiting.

1990 — 17 recruits, 13 of whom eventually lettered.  10 of them were on the ’92 team’s two-deep.  That’s not a bad class.  Not great, but okay.

1991 — 18 recruits, only 8 of whom eventually lettered, and it may be worse than that, because I think two of the eight eventual letter-winners were actually walk-ons who weren’t among the original 18 recruits.  That’s a horrendous recruiting class, even if four of the players had significant careers at The Citadel (Travis Jervey, Micah Young, Ahren Self, Jeff Trinh).  The lack of depth created by that class surely contributed to the gradual decline in on-field success.  The win totals, starting in 1990, when that ’89 recruiting class were sophomores, were 7 wins, 7 wins, 11 wins, 5 wins, 6 wins, and 2 wins (the two -win campaign was Taaffe’s last at The Citadel).  That decline in recruiting and wins are obviously not coincidental.

It’s Samford, not Stanford

Samford (not Stanford) is the opposition for The Citadel on Saturday.  What do we know about Samford?

Well, we know that Samford is located in a Birmingham suburb.  We know the sports teams at Samford are called the Bulldogs, just like The Citadel’s.  We know that the football team plays its games at Seibert Stadium, and that it is coached by Pat Sullivan, who once won the Heisman Trophy.  We know that a long time ago, Bobby Bowden coached there, winning 31 games that count toward his career wins total, which makes a lot of Penn State fans angry.

We also know that Samford was once called Howard, but when it became a university, it changed its name in part to avoid confusion with Howard University in Washington, DC, and now everyone just gets it confused with Stanford instead.

The Citadel and Samford have met once before in football, in 1989, and apparently neither sports media relations department is sure what the score was.  The Citadel’s game notes list scores of 35-16 and 35-17 in different parts of the first page of the release, while Samford’s notes mention the score twice as well — 35-16 in one instance, and 36-16 in the other.

The score was 35-16.  Trust me, I was there…

It was the first game played in Johnson Hagood Stadium after Hurricane Hugo damaged the stadium, and decimated much of the surrounding area, in September of 1989.  A crowd of 15,214 (!) watched a reasonably entertaining game that saw The Citadel take control in the second half, outscoring Samford 14-0 in the third and fourth quarters.  The Citadel, in full wishbone mode, only attempted two passes, completing one of them for 16 yards.  The military Bulldogs rushed 69 times for 402 yards, with both Jack Douglas and Tom Frooman (three touchdowns on the day) rushing for over 100 yards.  Raymond Mazyck added 92 yards, and Kingstree legend Alfred Williams chipped in with 55 of his own.  Samford had a much more balanced attack, with 148 yards passing and 141 yards rushing, but lost the time of possession battle by almost 10 minutes and also committed both of the game’s turnovers.  Samford would go on to finish the season with a 4-7 record.

It would be the last victory of a surreal season for The Citadel.  The campaign included two games played at Williams-Brice Stadium following the hurricane.  The first one of those, against South Carolina State, was shaping up to be much-hyped contest, but wound up as almost an afterthought.  However, I believe it’s still the only football game The Citadel has ever played to have been featured in The Nation.  The other game at Williams-Brice, against Western Carolina, resulted in the final tie in the school’s football history.  The Citadel started the season 4-0, including a win at Navy in which the winning score was set up by a Middie punt that went for -5 yards (the winds from the remnants of the hurricane had something to do with that).  However, the almost inevitable slide after Hugo blew through left the Bulldogs with a final record of 5-5-1.

Back to this year’s game.  When the season began, I suspect most supporters of The Citadel were penciling in Samford as a probable win.  It’s now anything but, as the Bulldogs (Charleston version) have struggled to run the ball on offense and have struggled stopping the run or pass on defense, particularly on the road.  In three road games The Citadel has allowed an average of 42 points and 477 yards of total offense.

Samford has been surprisingly competitive in the conference so far, winning at Western Carolina easily while giving Elon (at Elon) all it wanted and acquitting itself well in an 11-point loss to Appalachian State.  Samford running back Chris Evans has rushed for over 100 yards in all three conference games, including 166 yards against Western Carolina.  He’s averaging a shade over 120 yards rushing per game.  Evans transferred to Samford from UAB.

Samford has an odd turnover statistic.  In its three wins Samford has turned the ball over eight times.  In its three losses Samford has turned the ball over only twice.

Defensively, Samford has been pretty good against the run, but has allowed significant passing yardage, including 307 yards to Armanti Edwards of Appalachian State (3 TDs) and 291 to Scott Riddle of Elon (2 TDs, one of which went for 91 yards).  Edwards had a 76% completion percentage as well.  Division II West Georgia also had success throwing the ball against Samford.

If The Citadel is to win this game, it must contain Evans.  The best way to do this is control the ball, which won’t be easy (Samford leads the SoCon in time of possession).  Bart Blanchard needs to play with confidence and authority (which he didn’t do against Furman), Andre Roberts needs to break off at least two big plays, and one of the running backs must step forward.  The defense has to get some takeaways, too.  In seven games so far, The Citadel has only forced nine turnovers (two interceptions, seven fumbles).

It’s going to be tough.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen tomorrow afternoon.