2018 Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel vs. Chattanooga, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on September 8, 2018.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dom Allen supplies the analysis. Danielle Hensley is the sideline reporter. 

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

Luke Mauro (the new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Cal McCombs. The sideline reporter will be Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

Feature story on Lorenzo Ward in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Chattanooga

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– AFCA Coaches’ poll

Brent Thompson’s 9/4 press conference, including comments from Lorenzo Ward

– Brent Thompson’s 9/5 radio show (video)

Noah Dawkins is the SoCon’s defensive player of the week

Against Tennessee Tech, the Mocs had a lot of big plays

UTC wants its offensive running game to be consistent

Mocs focusing on discipline against The Citadel’s triple option attack

UTC press conference (from 9/4)

– My review of last week’s game against Wofford

My review of The Citadel’s victory over Chattanooga last season

Heat was a bit of a theme last weekend, not just in Spartanburg, but in Clemson and Columbia and elsewhere throughout college football, especially in the southeast.

Fans of the Bulldogs were admittedly fortunate not to suffer through a noon kickoff, unlike the poor souls watching Furman-Clemson and Coastal Carolina-South Carolina. However, the weather was still oppressive on the visitors’ side of Gibbs Stadium, until the sun finally moved behind the stands at the beginning of the third quarter.

That came a bit too late for at least one supporter, who passed out about 15 feet from where I was sitting. After a while, he appeared to recover, but the entire episode was unnerving. It was a wonder there weren’t more incidents of that sort on Saturday.

(Shout out to the cadets who came over to help out, particularly the one who stayed with the fan and walked with him out of the stands.)

Back in the day, the football season didn’t always start so early.

This week’s game, the Bulldogs’ second of this year’s campaign, will take place on September 8. The Citadel’s football team first played a game on that date in 1973. At the time, it was the earliest a Bulldogs squad had ever played a season opener.

The Citadel played its 1977 lid-lifter on September 3, but did not play any other game prior to September 8 until 1985, when the Bulldogs debuted on August 31. From that point forward, the season has generally started the first week of September, although The Citadel did not play a game on September 1 until 2001 (the program has since played three more games in August).

The addition of the 12th regular season game in FBS (which became a permanent fixture in 2006) contributed to the season starting earlier, along with the rising influence of television.

Nevertheless, despite the potential hazards involved, football games in the heat of late August and early September are here to stay — and at least one media member says that fans should quit complaining about such contests.

According to (South Carolina) SportsTalk co-host Will Palaszczuk, “Any mentality that would prefer a game with no TV at night over being on the SEC Network at noon has no regard for the health of the program at large. Hydrate, maybe stay off the sauce for a week and lather up with sunscreen.”

That’s right folks, stay off the “sauce”, at least if you’re not a media member sitting in an air-conditioned press box, because “Television exposure pays the schools in the Southeastern Conference [and other Power 5 leagues] exponentially more than ticket revenue.” Never mind the fact that those fans in the stands aren’t profiting from all of that money; they’re still paying top dollar for tickets (and parking, etc.).

Listening to Palaszczuk’s rant on the subject (which opened the August 23 show in which Phil Kornblut interviewed Brent Thompson), I was struck by his lack of empathy for the fans. How dare they question kickoff times! What monsters!

Of course, as we learned last week, even a later kickoff time can occasionally be of only a limited benefit. This Saturday’s game against Chattanooga also kicks off at 6 pm ET (as do 12 other games taking place in the southeast). Let’s hope conditions are a little better in Charleston.

Now on sale in the West stands of Johnson Hagood Stadium: Beer!

The Citadel sold beer at home games for the first time in 2017, and ended up losing money on the initiative. Cadets were not allowed to buy beer at the stadium, and sales were restricted to a “beer garden” on the east (visitors’) side of the stadium.

In addition to [now] allowing cadets to buy beer, new Citadel athletic director Mike Capaccio said beer will be sold at three concession stands and a beer trailer on the west (home) side of Johnson Hagood Stadium. Hawkers also will sell beer in the stands on both sides of the stadium.

Does beer go well with boiled peanuts? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Selling alcohol to people sitting in the stands is not exactly a natural part of the bucolic college football experience. However, it is 2018 and The Citadel’s department of athletics has to investigate every potential revenue stream. I’m not crazy about it, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it, either.

I am glad they are selling it on the home side this season, instead of last year’s “pitch a tent on the visitors’ side and hope for the best” approach. That obviously didn’t go well. If you’re going to do it, make a commitment to the concept and do it right.

As for selling beer to cadets of age, I have mixed feelings. I would rather that it not be allowed, if I’m being honest, but I can also understand the point of view that part of demanding responsibility from an individual is granting that person the opportunity to be responsible in the first place.

My biggest gripe is that the new concessions deal will apparently result in Sierra Mist being sold instead of Sprite, which is an outrage.

Last season’s game between the Bulldogs and the Mocs was played at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga. How many more times the two schools will meet at that particular location is open to question.

Mounting frustration has led UTC to start looking into the possibility of building a new venue where it could start playing — and making money — soon. The school’s purchase of Engel Stadium in 2008 gives the school an option, and it has outlined a facilities master plan that includes the possibility of a 12,500-seat stadium that could be expanded to more than 15,000. The new facility could have as many as 25 suites with premium seating areas, and UTC would look into the possibility of moving its football building to the new site…

…UTC is charged $12,000 a month for use of the facility, where between now and the end of September it will play two football games and five home matches. In addition to the rental fee, Finley receives all of the revenue from suites, concessions and parking.

Back in April, the school was approached by Finley Stadium about a contract that would cost the school $268,000 a year over five years — nearly twice the rate of its current deal. The school declined, ultimately deciding on short-term deals with options to renew.

UTC has played at Finley Stadium since 1997, the year the facility opened. Previously, the Mocs hosted football games at 10,000-seat Chamberlain Field, which had been around since 1908.

The ability to garner all revenues from sporting events is clearly a focus for the school’s leadership, as well as not having to worry about sharing the building with multiple soccer franchises. Oh, and the director of athletics dropped this little quote too:

“If we leave, we can have our own facility at 12,500, pack it, create demand and put footings there where if we have the opportunity to go to Conference USA or the Sun Belt, let’s play.

Of the 103 players on Chattanooga’s roster, 29 are transfers from junior colleges or four-year schools. Of that group, 15 are on the two-deep, including eight expected starters (three offensive linemen, the quarterback and running back, a wide receiver, a defensive lineman, and a cornerback).

That is a lot of transfers. Part of the reason for the influx of new players is related to the change in head coaches (this is Tom Arth’s second year in charge of the Mocs). Even so, it is an unusually high number.

There are two issues at play. Well, actually, there is only one, because it shouldn’t matter in the least to its opponents how many transfers Chattanooga has on its roster, as long as they are students in good standing.

Sometimes fans get huffy about this topic, especially when they support schools for which transfers are somewhat unusual, if not rare. It isn’t a good idea to get all high and mighty about this, however, because a sense of righteousness doesn’t really mesh well with intercollegiate gridiron activity.

After all, we’re not talking about a morality play. It’s a football game.

Now, you could argue that league schools should more or less recruit in a similar fashion, and that isn’t necessarily a bad position to take — except that we’re talking about the Southern Conference. This is a league that has a 90+ year history of being a mixing bowl of disparate institutions, including the current setup (public and private schools, military colleges, a school without a football program, etc.).

These schools have vastly different missions. Being a member of the SoCon means accepting that fact, getting on the bus, and going to the next game.

The real issue with all the transfers, from Chattanooga’s point of view, is whether or not Arth can get them to mesh into a cohesive unit.

Another consideration, at least when building a program, is accounting for the constant churn on the roster. There is also the issue of “recruiting over” existing players on the squad by bringing in a transfer to take a spot (though this may be more of a problematic situation in basketball rather than football, depending on position).

Chattanooga will have two extra days to prepare for the Bulldogs, as the Mocs opened their 2018 season at home on a Thursday night, defeating Tennessee Tech 34-10. The game took almost six hours to play, thanks to a weather delay in the fourth quarter that lasted for two hours and forty-nine minutes.

While there weren’t many people in the stands when the game ended, the announced attendance was 9,020, which strikes me as a very respectable turnout for a Thursday night game.

UTC’s defense did not allow a touchdown, with Tennessee Tech’s only score coming on a pick-six that in my opinion was more of a fumble than an INT. The Mocs’ D had an interception return for a TD of its own.

Chattanooga’s offense produced 455 yards of total offense, with 318 of those yards coming through the air. The Mocs’ four touchdowns included TD passes of 89 and 63 yards.

Nick Tiano (6’5″, 240 lbs.), a transfer from Mississippi State in his second year with the Mocs’ program, had a fine opening game. The native of Chattanooga was 21 of 32 passing, with two touchdowns and the aforementioned dubious pick.

He’s a big guy, and he can run some, too, picking up a net of 33 yards on the ground last week. Tiano started the first four games of 2017 for the Mocs last year before getting hurt and missing the rest of the campaign. The Citadel did not face him in last season’s matchup.

Tyrell Price (6’0″, 220 lbs.) had 20 rushes for 98 yards against Tennessee Tech, with a long of 40 yards. He also caught five balls, so he has to be watched as a potential target out of the backfield. Price scored 24 touchdowns last season at East Mississippi Community College.

Bryce Nunnelly (6’2″, 185 lbs.) was the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week after a 7-catch, 161-yard performance against the Golden Eagles. That included an 89-yard scamper down the sidelines in the second quarter. The sophomore from Cleveland, Tennessee had two catches in last year’s game versus The Citadel.

Fellow wideout Bingo Morton (6’2″, 215 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection. The senior from Atlanta had three receptions against the Bulldogs last year, for a total of 56 yards.

Chattanooga’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’5″, 297 lbs. They include transfers from three FBS programs, along with a preseason all-league player.

Right tackle Harrison Moon (6’5″, 290 lbs.), like Nick Tiano, transferred from Mississippi State. Moon is from Sevierville, Tennessee (quite a few of UTC’s transfers grew up in the Volunteer State).

Imposing left tackle Malcolm White (6’7″, 315 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon pick. White is a junior from Johnson City who has started all 25 games of his college career.

UTC’s defense usually lines up in a 3-4, though obviously that can change against a triple option attack.

The key to the Mocs’ D, as is the case for many SoCon teams, is its defensive line. Isaiah Mack (6’3″, 305 lbs.) was a preseason first-team all-league choice this year after being a second-team pick by the coaches after last season. The senior from Tunnell Hill, Georgia had seven tackles in last year’s game against The Citadel.

Fellow defensive end Derek Mahaffey (6’2″, 310 lbs.) was also a second-team All-SoCon selection last year. He began his 2018 season with a nine-tackle effort against Tennessee Tech. Also worth mentioning: Mahaffey wears jersey number 5.

Linebacker Marshall Cooper (6’0″, 220 lbs.) had seven tackles last week versus the Golden Eagles, including a sack. Cooper is a junior from Hixson, Tennessee.

Kareem Orr (5’11”, 195 lbs.), a senior cornerback who started his college career at Arizona State before transferring home to Chattanooga, was a preseason All-SoCon selection. Orr had an interception in last week’s game.

The other starting cornerback, C.J. Fritz (5’11”, 180 lbs.), is also a senior from Chattanooga. Fritz has more career starts (26) than another other Mocs player.

The Mocs return their starting placekicker and punter from last season. The two specialists attended the same high school in Chattanooga.

Victor Ulmo (5’8″, 200 lbs.) is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The sophomore was 9 for 12 on field goal tries last season, with a long of 44 yards. Ulmo made two field goals last week versus Tennessee Tech.

Junior punter Colin Brewer (6’3″, 220 lbs.) also serves as the holder on placekicks. He is on the Mortell Holder of the Year Watch List, which proves conclusively that there is a watch list for everything in college football.

Long snapper Jared Nash (6’0″, 220 lbs.) started five games for UTC last year before suffering a season-ending injury.

Brandon Dowdell (5’10”, 195 lbs.), the Mocs’ starting safety, is Chattanooga’s primary return threat for both punts and kickoffs.

Dowdell was the preseason first team All-SoCon return specialist, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of The Citadel, after his superb performance against the Bulldogs last season. Then a freshman, Dowdell had a punt return of 37 yards, and ran back three kickoffs for a total of 130 yards, including a 50-yard return.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 30% chance of thunderstorms during the day, with a high of 88 degrees. The projected low on Saturday night is about 76 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 1-point favorite over Chattanooga, with an over/under of 46.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 2 1/2 point favorite at Elon; Mercer is a 26 1/2 point favorite over Jacksonville;  Wofford is a 29 1/2 point favorite over VMI; Samford is a 34 1/2 point underdog at Florida State; and East Tennessee State is a 37 1/2 point underdog at Tennessee.

Western Carolina is off this week.

– Also of note: Towson is a 30 1/2 point underdog at Wake Forest, and Alabama is a 36 1/2 point favorite over Arkansas State. The Citadel’s opponent on September 15, Charleston Southern, has a bye this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 61st in FCS (dropping four spots from last week). Chattanooga is ranked 53rd.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have an 55% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 24, Chattanooga 21.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey:  Yale (26th), Kennesaw State (27th), Furman (28th), Samford (29th), Wofford (32nd), Elon (37th), Towson (40th), Colgate (42nd), Mercer (44th), Western Carolina (47th), UT Martin (54th), Charleston Southern (58th), East Tennessee State (81st), Gardner-Webb (83rd), Presbyterian (96th), Tennessee Tech (100th), South Carolina State (102nd), VMI (117th), Davidson (123rd), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads: North Dakota State, James Madison, South Dakota State, Weber State, and Eastern Washington.

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Auburn, Wisconsin, Penn State, Notre Dame, and LSU. Virginia Tech is 11th, North Carolina State 13th, Wake Forest 25th, South Carolina 29th, Florida State 36th, Memphis 48th, Appalachian State 60th, North Carolina 65th, Toledo 68th, Wyoming 70th, Army 71st, Navy 72nd, Tennessee 76th, Air Force 79th, Georgia Southern 118th, Coastal Carolina 121st, Old Dominion 122nd, Liberty 123rd, Charlotte 126th, and UTEP 130th and last.

– Among Chattanooga’s notable alumni: actor Hugh “Ward Cleaver” Beaumont (who played football while at the school), writer and literary critic John W. Aldridge, and professional golfer Gibby Gilbert.

– Chattanooga’s game notes roster includes 49 players from Tennessee. Other states represented on its squad:  Georgia (27), Alabama (15), Florida (6), Mississippi (2), Texas (2), and one each from Colorado and Kentucky.

There are no natives of South Carolina playing for UTC, which means that for a second straight week The Citadel’s opponent has no graduates of famed football factory Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School on its team. Tom Arth surely must know that any future success for the program depends on adding stars from the Maroon and Orange to his group of Mocs.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47), Georgia (28), Florida (9), North Carolina (5), Texas (5), Tennessee (4), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

– This week’s two-deep is similar to the one released for the Wofford game. Noah Dawkins is now listed as the starter at inside linebacker (no surprise there). Also listed as starters this week: freshman defensive back Chris Beverly, freshman “bandit” Destin Mack, and redshirt freshman Haden Haas, who started at center against the Terriers and is back in that role versus the Mocs (with Tyler Davis at right guard).

– The Citadel has a 3-3 record on games played on September 8, winning the last three such contests, all at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

  • 1990:  34-31 over William and Mary, the season opener that year. Jack Douglas got into the end zone twice; Everette Sands, Speizio Stowers, and Bill Phillips also scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs. However, The Citadel still needed a late-game interception by Derek Moore to hold off the Tribe.
  • 2007:  76-0 over Webber International, the biggest blowout victory for the Bulldogs since 1909. Duran Lawson threw three touchdown passes to Andre Roberts, while Tory Cooper added two rushing TDs. The Bulldogs’ Mel Capers blocked a punt for a score, while The Citadel’s defense contributed a fumble return TD and a pick-six.
  • 2012: 23-21 over Georgia Southern, one of the more exciting games at JHS in recent years. Thomas Warren’s late field goal (his third of the game) was the difference, though Georgia Southern got a last-second field goal try of its own (but missed). Aaron Miller and Rah Muhammad came up big in the win over the third-ranked Eagles, although the lasting memory of this game for many fans was the postgame interview of Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken: “They whipped our fannies.

– Saturday is both Grandparents’ Day and Youth Football Day at Johnson Hagood Stadium, with ticket deals available for old and young alike.

This game features two teams that were picked to finish sixth or seventh in the SoCon standings by most prognosticators. Some had The Citadel ahead of Chattanooga, others listed the Mocs over the Bulldogs.

In other words, this is expected to be an even matchup. That is reflected in the line as well.

I can’t argue with that. I don’t have a really good sense of how this game will play out. Can the Bulldogs stop the Mocs’ passing attack? Will Chattanooga be able to run effectively against The Citadel’s defense? Can the Bulldogs throw the ball successfully at all?

Last year, The Citadel had a very good day running the football, and controlled the clock because of it. Despite that, Chattanooga had four chances to score and win the game from the Bulldogs’ 11-yard line as the contest came to its conclusion.

The Citadel managed to hold on for the victory last year. Can the Bulldogs make it three in a row over the Mocs?

Lots of questions. On Saturday, we will get the answers.

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2017: an annual review

This post will cover home attendance at The Citadel, which is a subject I’ve written about several times before. I’m also going to discuss NCAA football attendance in general (including FCS and SoCon-specific numbers), because I think it is important to consider the program’s attendance issues in context with the rest of the sport.

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2017

The above link is to a spreadsheet that tracks attendance for The Citadel’s home football games, and which has now been updated to include the 2017 season.

The spreadsheet lists year-by-year totals and average game attendance, and the win/loss record for the Bulldogs in each season. There is also a category ranking the years by average attendance.

Other columns refer to the program’s winning percentage over a two-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year period, with the “current” season being the final year in each category. For example, the three-year winning percentage for 1992 (69.44%, the highest percentage for that category since 1964) is made up of the 1990, 1991, and 1992 seasons. Incidentally, the second-highest percentage in this category since 1964 happens to be the overall record for The Citadel’s most recent three campaigns.

I include those categories primarily to see what impact, if any, constant winning (or losing) has on long-term attendance trends.

In past years, I’ve noted that walk-up sales appear to have had an impact on yearly totals; in other words, if the team is good, it is reflected in that season’s attendance. This is certainly not a spectacular revelation, but the numbers for The Citadel appear to be higher than expected when compared to attendance for the following year (when you might naturally expect an increase in attendance as a result of the previous season’s on-field success).

In the last few years, I have compared average attendance for the first two games of a season to the last two contests of the same campaign. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for discrepancies when making such a comparison (weather, opponent fan base, etc.), but it strikes me as something worth following. I’ve added the 2017 numbers, so there is now a seven-year period to check:

  • 2011 [4-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 12,756; final two home games, average attendance of 12,387 (including Homecoming)
  • 2012 [7-4 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,281; final two home games, average attendance of 13,715 (including Homecoming)
  • 2013 [5-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,370; final two home games, average attendance of 12,948 (including Homecoming)
  • 2014 [5-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 9,700; final two home games, average attendance of 9,563 (including Homecoming)
  • 2015 [9-4 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,356; final two home games, average attendance of 12,465 (including Homecoming)
  • 2016 [10-2 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,299; final two home games, average attendance of 13,996 (including Homecoming)
  • 2017 [5-6 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,718; final two home games, average attendance of 9,496 (including Homecoming)

Since 1964, the Bulldogs’ record at Johnson Hagood Stadium is 187-114 (62.1%). The average home attendance over that time period is 14,055. However, there has not been a season in which home attendance averaged more than 14,055 since 2006.

As the current stadium capacity is less than 12,000 due to the demolition of the East stands in the spring of 2017, it will be a while before The Citadel can expect to enjoy a season with average game attendance in excess of 14,055. Whether or not surpassing that benchmark is even realistic going forward, regardless of the size of the facility, is an open question.

Last season’s average home attendance of 8,994 was the lowest for any year since attendance figures at Johnson Hagood Stadium can be accurately determined (in other words, the lowest in the last 54 seasons).

Note: that cutoff for accuracy in attendance numbers means that years like 1959 (eight wins), 1960 (bowl victory), and 1961 (SoCon championship) cannot be included for comparison in this review, not to mention any of the other years from 1948 (when the most recent iteration of Johnson Hagood Stadium opened) through the 1963 season. “Official” attendance figures prior to 1948 are (for the most part) even more dubious.

Now let’s look at FCS attendance as a whole.

2017 NCAA football attendance (all divisions)

Montana easily led the division in average home attendance again, with 25,535 (six games). That was higher than 45 FBS programs, and higher than the average home attendance for three FBS conferences (Sun Belt, MAC, C-USA).

James Madison was second overall, averaging 21,724. That included nine games, three of which were playoff contests (all of these numbers include playoff games).

Without the postseason matchups (and their generally lackluster attendance numbers), JMU would have averaged 24,841 fans per home game.

Seven FCS schools averaged more than 18,000 fans per game. Last season, five FCS schools hit that mark (after eight had done so in 2015).

The Citadel ranked 34th out of 123 FCS schools, but only fourth in the Southern Conference (behind Western Carolina, Mercer, and Chattanooga). Last year, the Bulldogs ranked 1st in attendance among fellow league teams. It was the first time in the last 12 years that The Citadel did not finish in the top 30 in FCS attendance.

Here is a table that includes various FCS squads and their respective attendance totals:

Team G Total Average FCS Rank
Montana 6 141,212 23,535 1
James Madison 9 195,514 21,724 2
Florida A&M 4 76,190 19,048 3
Yale 5 94,699 18,940 4
Montana State 6 111,702 18,617 5
Jacksonville State 6 110,328 18,388 6
North Dakota State 9 164,996 18,333 7
Prairie View A&M 5 89,016 17,803 8
Delaware 6 99,890 16,648 9
North Carolina A&T 5 78,486 15,697 10
South Carolina State 5 59,414 11,883 19
Western Carolina 5 52,735 10,547 23
Mercer 5 52,725 10,545 24
Harvard 5 52,055 10,411 27
Eastern Washington 5 50,617 10,123 28
South Dakota 5 46,736 9,347 32
Chattanooga 5 45,848 9,170 33
The Citadel 5 44,972 8,994 34
Texas Southern 5 43,994 8,799 35
Austin Peay 5 41,708 8,342 39
Norfolk State 6 49,908 8,318 40
Sacramento State 6 49,891 8,315 41
William and Mary 5 41,182 8,236 44
Richmond 5 40,925 8,185 45
East Tennessee State 6 48,050 8,008 46
Nicholls 6 47,295 7,883 47
Furman 5 38,875 7,775 48
Princeton 5 36,831 7,366 51
Lehigh 6 42,827 7,138 56
Elon 6 42,118 7,020 58
Kennesaw State 7 46,874 6,696 63
Wofford 6 38,831 6,472 68
Villanova 5 28,244 5,649 74
Campbell 6 33,276 5,546 77
Towson 5 26,884 5,377 80
Samford 6 32,024 5,337 81
Penn 5 26,374 5,275 82
Gardner-Webb 5 23,017 4,603 90
VMI 5 21,623 4,325 94
Savannah State 4 17,046 4,262 95
Davidson 6 20,119 3,353 100
Charleston Southern 5 11,727 2,345 110
Presbyterian 8 18,558 2,320 111
Georgetown 5 10,829 2,166 116
Delaware State 4 8,432 2,108 119
Jacksonville 6 12,536 2,089 120
Robert Morris 5 10,099 2,020 121
Stetson 6 11,647 1,941 122
Saint Francis (PA) 5 8,065 1,613 123

Apologies if that table is a bit too long, but I was trying to include a varied cross-section of FCS teams. I didn’t want to list all 123, but I wound up including 49 of them anyway…

Observations:

  • Yale ranked 3rd overall in FCS attendance in 2015, 35th in 2016, and 4th in 2017. Why the yo-yo effect? It’s all about the location of the Harvard-Yale game, which was played at the Yale Bowl in both of the odd-numbered years. Last season, that matchup drew 51,426 fans.
  • The lowest average home attendance for a team that made the 2017 playoffs: San Diego (2,142, which ranked 117th). Lowest average home attendance for a team that actually hosted a playoff game last season: Wofford.
  • Furman’s home attendance jumped over 2,000 fans per game in 2017, from 5,771 to 7,775. For the first time in four seasons, Furman outdrew Wofford.
  • Montana and Montana State combined to average 21,076 per home contest. No other western school packed in more than 10,123 fans per game (Eastern Washington). Keep in mind that neither Montana nor Montana State made the FCS playoffs last year; the two Treasure State institutions had a combined record of 12-10.
  • North Alabama, which is transitioning from Division II to D-1 and will be in the Big South for football, averaged 7,498 fans per home game last season.
  • Other D-2 home attendance averages of interest: Benedict (5,180); Newberry (3,212); North Greenville (3,147); Lenoir-Rhyne (4,330); Chowan (2,904); Catawba (2,472); Carson-Newman (3,109).
  • Hampton, which is also moving to the Big South (assuming its nasty fight with the MEAC is finally over), averaged 7,088 fans per home contest in 2017.
  • Campbell is adding football scholarships and moving its football program from the Pioneer League to the Big South (you will need a scorecard to keep up with the Big South for the next few years). Average home attendance for Campbell last season: 5,546.
  • Moving the other direction, Presbyterian is going to be playing football in the Pioneer League, leaving the Big South in that sport. PC averaged only 2,320 fans per game last season. On the bright side, that isn’t out of line with its soon-to-be colleagues in the Pioneer League, four of which averaged less than that total in 2017. The highest-ranked Pioneer League school in terms of attendance was Morehead State (72nd overall).
  • The football additions for the Big South will greatly help that league in terms of fan support. Last season, four of the five schools in the conference (not counting Liberty) ranked 90th or below nationally in FCS attendance.
  • South Carolina State got a nice bump in attendance (an increase of 1,702 fans per home contest) thanks in part to games in Orangeburg against North Carolina A&T and Howard (the latter was Homecoming).

The average home attendance for SoCon teams was 7,827, a decline on average of 559 fans per game from 2016. League averages for the last four years:

  • 2014: 8,204
  • 2015: 8,210
  • 2016: 8,386
  • 2017: 7,827

East Tennessee State could be considered the median of the SoCon in terms of home attendance, finishing fifth in the league with an average of 8,008 fans per game.

Average attendance across FCS last season was 7,798, though the median attendance was 6,762. Thus, the SoCon was just slightly above the national average in terms of attendance, despite ranking only 9th out of 13 FCS conferences in average attendance.

I decided to break down attendance by league games only — in other words, not counting any non-conference home games (regular or post-season) played by SoCon teams. The average attendance for those games (a total of 36) was 7,937. The median attendance in this category was 7,783.

The most attended conference game last season was Wofford’s game at Mercer on September 9, with an announced attendance of 12,727. On October 7, Samford played at VMI, a game that drew just 3,310 spectators, the smallest crowd to watch a league contest in 2017.

Major-college football experienced its largest per-game attendance drop in 34 years and second-largest ever, according to recently released NCAA figures.

Attendance among the 129 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams in 2017 was down an average of 1,409 fans per game from 2016. That marked the largest drop since 1983 when average attendance declined 1,527 fans per game from 1982.

The 2017 FBS average of 42,203 fans per game is the lowest since 1997.

That average attendance drop marked the second-sharpest decline since the NCAA began keeping track of college football attendance in 1948. For the first time in history, average attendance declined nationally for four consecutive seasons…

…Since establishing an all-time high average attendance in 2008 (46,971), FBS attendance has slipped a record 10.1 percent over the last nine years.

That quoted section is from a story on college football attendance written by Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. Dodd also noted that the decline had even affected the ever-popular SEC. The reasons for the falloff in attendance are varied, but a former Southern Conference commissioner had some thoughts on the issue:

“It’s a technology issue,” said Wright Waters…”The public is ahead of us every day in what they can get from technology. We have not been able to keep up.”

A former TV executive quoted in the article put most of the “blame” on the lack of attendance on students not showing up to games, but a very good article in The Athletic strongly suggested that notion was a bit faulty. I’m not going to quote a lot from that particular piece, which is behind a paywall, but as the author (Michael Weinreb) wrote:

Let’s dispel with one stereotype up front: This decrease is not taking place merely because of the inherent laziness of millennials…

…It also is not about the lack of consistent Wi-Fi coverage at stadiums. Nels Popp, an assistant professor of sport administration at the University of North Carolina, says that despite colleges’ obsession with improving Wi-Fi, connectivity is the “lowest reliable variable” when it comes to attendance. In other words: People don’t stay home because of lousy Wi-Fi, even if they consider good Wi-Fi to be a bonus when they do show up.

“Our response when we see students aren’t coming tends to be, ‘Let’s throw more #### at them,'” says Robert Malekoff, Popp’s colleague in UNC’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science.

In a way, that might be true, but it’s not about literally hurling T-shirts or network passwords in their general direction (it may not be about social media blasts, either, if Popp’s research on the lack of impact of social media on attendance bears out with further study). It’s a more subtle, experiential thing.

That research article by UNC professor Nels Popp on the impact of social media on attendance is quite interesting. One of its conclusions: “Twitter ‘Followers’ and Facebook ‘Likes’ had no statistically relevant impact on either attendance or ticket revenue”. Rather, historical and current on-field (and on-court) success were the decisive factors, along with “belonging to a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Conference”.

The Citadel is probably not going to be joining a power-five conference anytime soon, so let’s just win a lot of games…

Circling back to the subject of attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, I have to mention the beer sales, or lack thereof:

The Citadel lost money selling beer at home football games in 2017, and it’s unclear whether beer sales will continue at Johnson Hagood Stadium for the 2018 season.

The school sold $21,718.24 worth of beer at five home games last season, The Citadel’s first effort to sell beer in public areas of the stadium.

But expenses to sell the beer, including $5,000 per game in rental costs to set up a beer garden, amounted to $32,858.62, leaving a net loss of $11,140.38.

The Citadel’s athletic department split the loss with corporate partner Sticky Fingers, leaving each party with a loss of $5,570.19 for the season.

Interim athletic director Rob Acunto told a committee of The Citadel’s Board of Visitors on Wednesday that the school’s beer vendor would not partner with The Citadel next season if the beer garden setup remains the same.

However, Acunto said, the beer vendor is interested in an expanded concept “because profitability would be virtually guaranteed if rental costs were eliminated.”

Without rental costs, he said, net revenue for beer sales would have been $13,859.62.

To be honest, I think $5,000 per game to set up a tent is a bit absurd, but maybe I’m missing something. Putting that aside for a moment:

  • The beer garden was located on the visitors’ side of the field, when most of the would-be customers were on the other side of the stadium
  • It was located next to a children’s play area
  • From what I understand, you couldn’t really watch the game from the tent; oddly enough, some people do like watching the game

I don’t know if selling beer is going to do much for attendance, and truthfully I’m somewhat ambivalent on the concept of selling beer at a small-college sporting event as it is. However, if you’re going to sell beer, my suggestion is to go ahead and make it part of the regular concessions package. Let the people sitting in the stands buy beer if they are of age (cadets excepted).

Also, if we’re determined to put food/beverage options on the visitors’ side (and why not?), add food carts to the mix.

One obvious issue with attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium is that currently about half of the stadium does not exist. Of course, right now nothing is going to happen on that front, because the school doesn’t have a president or a permanent director of athletics.

When the new president is in place, one of his top priorities should be getting a permanent structure built on the east side of the stadium. It should be the top priority for the new AD.

The first game of the season is less than five months away. Are you ready?

2017 Football, Game 8: The Citadel vs. VMI

…The Citadel came from behind twice in the fourth quarter against a VMI team that literally fought and clawed in an attempt to avoid its seventh loss in eight games and spoil the heavily favored Bulldogs’ championship hopes.

VMI, with its aggressive play, succeeded in making what happened while the clock was running a sidelight to the after-the-whistle skirmishes — even a fight that put a player from each team on the sidelines for the game. The two teams were penalized a total of 21 times for 183 yards.

The visiting Keydets’ strategy worked well. With 8:59 to play, they took a 24-20 lead, getting together an 80-yard drive that was capped by sophomore tailback Trent Bridges’ third touchdown of the day, a one-yard dive.

That put the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Citadel quarterback Robert Hill…

…Hill and flanker Lee Glaze combined for 17- and 49-yard pass plays on the game-winning drive, the 17-yarder coming on 3rd-and-15 from The Citadel 12-yard line and Glaze taking the ball away from a VMI defender on the 49-yard completion.

Hill scrambled for nine yards and a first down to the VMI four. Two running plays by Mike Lewis covered the four yards, the touchdown coming on a one-yard plunge into the middle with 4:47 left to play.

VMI still had time in the Military Classic of the South, [but] The Citadel defense rose to the occasion, twice intercepting passes by VMI quarterback Jim Daly. Scott Thompson, a 260-pound sophomore defensive tackle, got the first interception on a deflected pass that Daly threw to avoid being sacked. Sophomore linebacker Joel Thompson made the game-clinching interception with a minute to play.

The News and Courier, November 4, 1984

The Citadel vs. Virginia Military Institute, The Military Classic of the South, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 28, 2017.

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

Links of interest:

Game preview, The Post and Courier

– Where is the coveted Silver Shako?

Noah Dawkins: more sacks than the Visigoths

– Game notes from The Citadel and VMI

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

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

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked in a tie for #34 if the poll went that far)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/24 press conference, including comments from Grant Drakeford and Aron Spann III (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/25 radio show (video)

– Promo for VMI-The Citadel (video)

– Review/highlights/postgame package for VMI’s game versus Western Carolina

– ESPN3 replay of Western Carolina-VMI (video)

Game story from the Western Carolina-VMI contest

– My review of last week’s game against Chattanooga

Link to ESPN3’s streaming coverage of VMI-The Citadel

Non-football links:

– Don’t forget to meet the Bulldog hoopsters at the game on Saturday; posters and three-point shotmaking to be had

– Caroline Cashion: “I want to play again”

Homecoming Week is here, with all the traditional activities associated with it. The schedule: Link

Since 1953, VMI has been the Homecoming opponent for The Citadel 15 times. The Bulldogs are 11-4 in those games, winning the last five matchups. The most recent such contest came just two years ago, with The Citadel prevailing 35-14.

In that time period, the only team The Citadel has faced more often on Homecoming is Furman (16 meetings). Therefore, this week the Keydets will tie the Paladins for most Homecoming appearances by an opponent at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

It should be noted that there were Homecoming games prior to 1953. Furman was the opponent for the first such recorded contest, in 1924. The 1953 season just happens to be the starting point for tracking certain statistical and historical information in The Citadel’s record book.

In 2018, The Citadel’s Homecoming game will take place on November 10, and the opponent will be Samford.

This is the earliest meeting during the season between VMI and The Citadel since 1991. That year, the game was played on October 26, and was held at the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk, Virginia. The Bulldogs defeated the Keydets 17-14 that afternoon.

When the series began, the two schools usually met in mid-October. After World War II, however, the matchup shifted to early-to-mid-November.

Beginning in the late 1960s, the game moved to a mid-season date (usually in October). That status continued until the late 1980s, when the series again became a (mostly) late-season clash.

In 1978, The Citadel defeated VMI 14-3 on September 23 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. That is the only time the matchup has ever been played in September. The latest in the year the contest has been held? 2005, when The Citadel won 22-14 at Foster Stadium in Lexington; that season, the game was played on November 19.

VMI has played Virginia Tech 79 times, which is actually more often than the Keydets have played The Citadel (72 times). However, the Hokies have not met VMI on the gridiron since 1984.

That will change in 2026, when the two schools are scheduled to meet again. VMI also has scheduled games with North Carolina State (2023) and Virginia (2020).

Virginia is another school that VMI has played many times (82 times, to be exact). The Keydets have also had long-running series with William and Mary (87 meetings) and Richmond (86), though neither of those schools has appeared on VMI’s schedule in the last few years.

Next year, VMI has scheduled non-conference matchups at Toledo and at Old Dominion. The Keydets reportedly will also play at Gardner-Webb.

In 2019, VMI has non-conference games at Army and at Marshall.

Fast mascot/nickname facts about VMI:

– Why is VMI’s mascot a kangaroo? Shouldn’t it be a rat?

Back in 1947, two VMI cheerleaders saw a picture of a kangaroo on the front of the magazine and realized how uncommon the animal was as a mascot. As one of the mascots was finally procured, a contest was held to give the creature an appropriate name. The prize winning name was “TD Bound.”

Later the name of the mascot was changed to Moe, because A) Moe wasn’t a football-specific name, and B) “TD Bound” was kind of dumb. VMI actually had a live animal mascot until the 1970s; one of the real-life animals was actually a wallaby and not a kangaroo. I guess the folks at VMI weren’t too picky about things like that (can’t say that I blame them).

– They weren’t always Keydets, whatever Keydets are…

In ancient days of yore the football team was known as the “Flying Squadron”. The Keydets moniker is only around 85 years old.

If you’re keeping track of old-timey nicknames for SoCon schools, here are a few:

  • VMI: Flying Squadron
  • Furman: Purple Hurricane
  • The Citadel: Light Brigade (this was a thing in the late 1930s-early 1940s, but it didn’t quite catch on)
  • Samford: Baptist Tigers
  • Western Carolina: Teachers (and later chose Catamounts over Mountain Boomers, an atrocious decision)

Scott Wachenheim’s first two teams at VMI won two and three games, respectively. His third squad is in danger of winning fewer than two games, which would make Wachenheim the latest Keydet coach to suffer through a one-win or winless season.

Wachenheim is VMI’s 11th head football coach since 1953. Of the ten men who preceded him in the position, all but one had at least one season in which the team went winless or won only a single game. The exception to that unforunate rule was Wachenheim’s immediate predecessor, Sparky Woods.

Woods won at least two games in all seven seasons he coached the Keydets. Admittedly, in five of those seasons (including the last four) his squads won exactly two games.

Conversely, The Citadel has had 14 head coaches over that same time period — and in none of those seasons (65 in all) have the Bulldogs failed to win at least two games.

VMI is 0-8 this season, and has lost 14 straight games going back to last year. That is now the longest active losing streak in FCS, as last week Delaware State (helmed by Kenny Carter, a graduate of The Citadel) broke a 17-game losing streak by stunning South Carolina State in Dover, 17-14.

The slate for VMI so far:

  • Air Force crushed VMI in Colorado Springs, 62-0; the Keydets only picked up six first downs
  • Catawba, a Division II school, upset the Keydets 27-20, scoring the game-winning TD with 42 seconds to play
  • Robert Morris then shut out VMI, 23-0, the first time RMU had shut out an opponent in seven years
  • VMI opened SoCon play by getting hammered by Chattanooga, 63-7
  • After an early pick-six for the Keydets, Mercer scored 35 straight points and beat VMI 49-14
  • Samford defeated VMI 26-7 in Lexington after allowing the Keydets to score on the game’s opening drive
  • Furman broke open a close game at halftime, beating VMI 42-10; the Paladins had 523 yards of total offense
  • Last week, Western Carolina won 26-7 at Alumni Field, matching the Samford-VMI score

VMI will not have a bye week this season, playing on eleven consecutive Saturdays. After this week, the Keydets travel to Johnson City to face East Tennessee State on November 4, and then will close out their 2017 campaign at home versus Wofford on November 11.

Statistics of note for VMI through eight games:

VMI Opponents
Points per game 8.1 39.8
Rushing yardage 694 1699
Average per rush 2.98 4.39
Average per game 86.8 212.4
TDs rushing 4 23
Passing yardage 1025 1992
Comp-Att-Int 109-218-15 140-223-4
Average per pass 4.7 8.9
TDs passing 3 17
Total offense 1719 3691
Total plays 451 610
Yards per play 3.8 6.1
Kick returns-yards 42-716 14-276
Punt returns-yards 10-65 22-205
Fumbles/lost 10/5 1/0
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 3.1/26.4 5.9/49.1
Net punt average 37.5 38.5
Time of possession/game 26:28 33:32
3rd down conversions 30/110 56/116
3rd down conversion rate 27.3% 48.3%
Sacks by-yards 16-119 18-129
Field goals-attempts 3-8 9-12
Red Zone touchdown rate 3-8 (37.5%) 26-39 (66.7%)
  • VMI is last in FCS in scoring offense
  • The Keydets are also last in offensive pass efficiency, in part because they lead the nation in passes intercepted
  • Offensively, VMI is 119th in third down conversion rate
  • VMI is 116th nationally in scoring defense, and 119th (out of 123 teams) in third down conversion rate allowed
  • The Keydets have not recovered a fumble on defense this season, and somehow have only forced one
  • In terms of turnover margin, VMI is next-to-last in FCS (ahead of only Bryant); the Keydets are -16 in that category
  • VMI’s net punt average is solid and ranks 28th nationally
  • The Keydets are the least-penalized team in FCS, as they have been called for only 3.1 infractions per game

The Citadel’s key stats through seven games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 24.9 19.9
Rushing yardage 2166 783
Average per rush 5.07 3.75
Average per game 309.4 111.9
TDs rushing 17 12
Passing yardage 691 1307
Comp-Att-Int 40-95-3 106-179-10
Average per pass 7.3 7.3
TDs passing 6 7
Total offense 2857 2090
Total plays 522 388
Yards per play 5.5 5.4
Kick returns-yards 14-263 17-419
Punt returns-yards 11-83 6-53
Fumbles/lost 14/5 7/4
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.4/38.4 3.1/31.6
Net punt average 36.1 37
Time of possession/game 34:54 25:06
3rd down conversions 51/111 24/73
3rd down conversion rate 45.9% 32.9%
Sacks by-yards 11-61 4-27
Field goals-attempts 4-8 2-4
Red Zone touchdown rate (20-29) 69.0% (13-17) 76.5%
  • The Citadel is 62nd nationally in scoring offense, and 24th in scoring defense
  • The Bulldogs are 14th in offensive third down conversion rate, and 24th in third down conversion rate allowed
  • At 42.1%, the Bulldogs’ pass completion rate is the lowest in FCS (out of 123 teams)
  • The Citadel’s kick return defense is 115th nationally (last week certainly didn’t help in this category)
  • The Bulldogs are 19th in turnover margin
  • Rush report: The Citadel is third in rushing offense and 22nd in defense against the rush
  • The Citadel is second nationally in time of possession (behind only McNeese State; two undefeated teams, Columbia and North Dakota State, rank third and fourth, respectively)
  • The Bulldogs are 11th in FCS in the “fewest penalties per game” category

VMI quarterbacks have thrown the football (or been sacked attempting to throw) on 52.3% of the offense’s plays from scrimmage this season. Counting sack yardage, 52.2% of VMI’s yardage has come via the pass, so the Keydets have been more or less the same in terms of effectiveness on the ground and in the air.

The current starting quarterback for VMI is Duncan Hodges (6’3″, 220 lbs.), a redshirt freshman from Kimberly, Alabama. He is the younger brother of Samford QB Devlin Hodges.

For the season, Hodges is completing 53.0% of his throws, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt, with three touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also has two rushing TDs.

VMI’s leading rusher is Daz Palmer (5’10”, 180 lbs.), a sophomore from Norfolk. He is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, with a long of 56 (which was a TD run against Catawba). He also had a 51-yard run versus Furman.

Palmer can also catch the ball out of the backfield — indeed, he had three receptions against The Citadel last season, including a 30-yarder. This year, Palmer has 18 catches, second-most on the team.

Sophomore wide receiver Rohan Martin (5’10”, 175 lbs.) has started all 19 games of his VMI career. He leads the Keydets in receptions this season, with 19. Martin had a 3-yard TD catch against Furman.

Martin also occasionally returns punts (and is listed in that role on this week’s depth chart). He had a 34-yard punt return earlier this season.

Javeon Lara (6’2″, 178 lbs.), a sophomore from Schulenburg, Texas, is a breakaway threat. The Citadel’s defense must be particularly wary of Lara, who had a 79-yard TD reception against Mercer and a 73-yard catch for a touchdown versus Chattanooga.

VMI’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 272 lbs. The largest of the group is right tackle Sawaar Canady (6’5″, 290 lbs.). Canady, a native of Newport News, is one of three redshirt freshmen who start on the Keydets’ o-line.

VMI’s defense is led by senior Allan Cratsenberg (6’3″, 223 lbs.), a tackling machine from Natrona, Pennsylvania. Cratsenberg was a first-team All-SoCon pick by the media last season after averaging 11.5 stops per contest. That included a 20-tackle day against The Citadel, the first time this century a Keydet had been credited with 20 or more tackles in a game.

This season, Cratsenberg (described by Brent Thompson as “smart and savvy”) is again racking up stops, averaging 11 tackles per game (and leading the league). He has 35 combined tackles in VMI’s last two games.

Cratsenberg has added interceptions to his repertoire in 2017. He has three so far this year, including a 60-yard pick-six versus Mercer. That interception return for a touchdown, by the way, is the only time this season the Keydets have scored following an opposing turnover, either on a defensive return or on the ensuing offensive possession.

Fellow linebacker Brian Lipscomb (6’3″, 225 lbs.), a redshirt junior from Hampton, is having an outstanding season for the Keydets. Lipscomb leads the Southern Conference in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (7).

During his radio show, Brent Thompson had a lot of praise for Lipscomb, saying he has a “knack for the football [and] knows where to be. He is very athletic…he did a great job against us last year.”

Ryan Francis (6’1″, 215 lbs.), a redshirt senior from Knoxville, is tied for second on the team in tackles, with 73. The linebacker also has seven tackles for loss.

Safety Greg Sanders (5’11”, 195 lbs.) also has 73 stops for the Keydets. The native of Memphis had nine tackles against The Citadel in last season’s contest (and also recovered a fumble). Now a senior, the three-year starter was a second-team all-league selection last year.

VMI’s starting placekicker, Grant Clemons (6’2″, 185 lbs.), is 3 for 7 on field goal tries this season, with a long of 39 yards (accomplished twice, both against Catawba). Clemons, a sophomore who began his collegiate career at Georgia Military, also handles kickoffs for the Keydets.

Something worth watching on placekicks: holder Jake Paladino (6’1″, 205 lbs.) is a quarterback, and it would not be a major surprise if VMI attempted some trickery out of a field goal formation. Last season, in fact, Paladino played quarterback against The Citadel in a relief role, and the redshirt sophomore fared rather well (completing nine of thirteen passes for 100 yards and a TD).

Paladino can also punt, but VMI’s primary punter this season has been Bill Hogan (6’1″, 217 lbs.). The redshirt junior is in his second season as the regular at the position. He is averaging 43.4 yards per boot.

Six of Hogan’s 49 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line; one has been blocked.

Mason Dermott (5’8″, 167 lbs.) is a redshirt sophomore in his second season as the kick return specialist for the Keydets. He had a 71-yard return last season against Chattanooga.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 40% chance of showers, with an expected high of 78 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 61 degrees, with a 70% chance of precipitation.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 26-point favorite over VMI. The over/under is 42.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 3-point favorite at Western Carolina; Samford is a 15-point favorite over Chattanooga; and Wofford is a 15.5-point favorite at East Tennessee State. Mercer is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 14.5-point favorite over Georgia Tech; South Carolina is a 7.5-point favorite against Vanderbilt; South Carolina State is a 2-point home underdog versus Howard; Coastal Carolina is an 8-point favorite over Texas State; Presbyterian is 12.5-point home underdog against Kennesaw State; and Charleston Southern (starving for a conference victory) is a 3-point favorite versus Monmouth.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 46th in FCS, a drop of 2 spots from last week.

VMI is ranked 114th (out of 124 teams) in FCS, falling two places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 188th, while VMI is 414th.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 34, Virginia Military Institute 6. The Bulldogs are given a 98% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 21st (down ten spots), Samford is 22nd (unchanged from last week), Furman is 23rd (up four places), Western Carolina is 32nd (down three spots), Mercer is 40th (down six spots), Charleston Southern is 41st, East Tennessee State is 67th (up five places), Chattanooga is 75th (down five spots), Presbyterian is 84th, and South Carolina State is 95th.

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

– Since 1916, The Citadel has a 7-9 record in games played on October 28. The last time the Bulldogs played on October 28, in 2006, they defeated Georgia Southern 24-21. Tory Cooper had both a rushing and receiving touchdown in that contest; Duran Lawson was 18 for 27 passing for 201 yards and two TDs.

The Citadel has only one other home victory on October 28 in the last 65 years. In 1978, the Bulldogs defeated Delaware 21-14 on a rainy afternoon in Charleston. In that contest, The Citadel scored on offense (a 51-yard run by Stump Mitchell), on defense (an 84-yard pick-six by Joe Harvey), and on special teams (after Mike Cunningham blocked a Blue Hens field goal attempt, Mike Adams picked up the ball and ran 71 yards for the game-winning TD).

– There are no changes to The Citadel’s two-deep for the VMI game, the third consecutive week the depth chart has remained the same.

Through seven games, the Bulldogs’ starting lineup on offense has remained unchanged. The same is true for ten of the eleven starting spots on defense; the only exception came at cornerback, when Shy Phillips started the Wofford game in place of Tyus Carter.

– The Citadel has been outscored 56-35 in the first quarter this season. In the other three quarters, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 139-83 (including 90-41 in the second half).

– In eight games this season, VMI has scored a total of 17 points in the second half.

– Among VMI’s notable graduates are actor Fred Willard, playwright/screenwriter Fred Finklehoffe, and civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels.

– Baseball player Dan Crawford is arguably the most well-known VMI alum on the athletic side of the ledger. He later had a conspicuous career in politics.

– The roster for VMI (per its website) includes 66 players from the State of Virginia, slightly over 70% of the total number of players. Other states represented: Tennessee (6 players), North Carolina (6), Pennsylvania (4), Alabama (3), Georgia (2), Texas (2), and one each from West Virginia, New York, California, Maryland, and Kentucky.

There are no Palmetto State players among the Keydets, not even from pigskin powerhouse Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. A quick Google search suggests that no player from that school has suited up for VMI in at least the last 35 years, which if true would be simply staggering. Not coincidentally, the Keydets have not had a winning season on the gridiron during that stretch.

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

The beginning of this post features an excerpt from the game story for a 1984 contest played between VMI and The Citadel. Why did I choose that particular game to highlight?

  • It was a Homecoming game played at Johnson Hagood Stadium
  • The Citadel had a solid team that year, while VMI was scuffling
  • The Bulldogs were heavily favored to win, and had a big game on tap for the following Saturday

Does any of that seem familiar?

I could have picked out several other games between these two schools with a similar profile. Bulldog fans of every era can remember games like that in this series. Some of them didn’t end on a positive note for the Bulldogs, either.

Heck, last year would have been a decent example. The Citadel was trying to complete a first-ever perfect conference campaign, while VMI was 3-6, but when the fourth quarter rolled around the Bulldogs were only up by three points and the Keydets seemed to have the momentum.

VMI tried just about everything in the trick-play handbook in that game, and some of it worked. Back in 1984, the Keydets apparently employed slightly different tactics, but the principle was the same — do whatever it takes to win this game.

“You can throw the records out when these teams play” is such a trite sports cliché, and one that is often not true — but it is very much true when these two institutions meet on the gridiron. Over the years, both schools have played spoiler.

Of course, this game is about a lot more than just conference standings or making a late-season playoff push.

It is the Military Classic of the South. VMI and The Citadel will both be ready for battle on Saturday. The action will be fast and fierce.

The coveted Silver Shako is at stake, the greatest trophy in all of sports. The Bulldogs must do everything in their power to retain it, and keep it in Charleston, where it rightfully belongs.

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…

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2016: an annual review

Other links related to The Citadel’s upcoming gridiron campaign:

– A quick glance at the 2017 SoCon non-conference football slate

– Inside the Numbers: The Citadel’s run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and various per-play statistics, along with the highly anticipated coin-toss data

– A look at “advanced statistics” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign

– Preseason rankings and ratings

Attendance is a popular topic of discussion among fans of The Citadel. In February I wrote about how well Bulldog supporters “travel”. This post will cover home attendance, a subject I’ve written about several times before.

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2016

The above link is to a spreadsheet that tracks attendance for The Citadel’s home football games, and which has now been updated to include the 2016 season.

For anyone curious about why the time period in question begins in 1964, that year marks the earliest season in which reliable attendance figures for all home games can be reasonably determined. Individual game totals prior to 1964 are sometimes available, but not for a complete season.

I’ve mentioned this before, but attendance numbers prior to the mid-1960s tended to be released as “round” numbers, and that’s when there was an official attendance announcement at all. The News and Courier‘s game reports back in the day routinely questioned the accuracy of the official totals provided by the school. That led to newspaper estimates like these for the 1962 home schedule:

  • Davidson: 10,200
  • Presbyterian: 10,500
  • William and Mary: 10,300
  • VMI: 10,100
  • Memphis State: 10,600

Sure…

Thus, years like 1959 (eight wins), 1960 (bowl victory), and 1961 (SoCon championship) cannot be included in this review, or any of the other years from 1948 (when the “modern” Johnson Hagood Stadium opened) through the 1963 season. For that matter, attendance figures prior to 1948 are just as sketchy.

The spreadsheet lists year-by-year total and average game attendance, and the win/loss record for the team in each season. There is also a category ranking the years by average attendance.

Other columns refer to the program’s winning percentage over a two-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year period, with the “current” season being the final year in each category. For example, the three-year winning percentage for 1992 (69.44%, the highest percentage for that category since 1964) is made up of the 1990, 1991, and 1992 seasons.

I include those categories primarily to see what impact constant winning (or losing) has on long-term attendance trends.

In previous years, I’ve noted that walk-up sales appear to have had an impact on yearly totals; in other words, if the team is good, it is reflected in that season’s attendance. This is not exactly surprising, but the numbers for The Citadel seem to be higher than expected when compared to attendance for the following season (when you might naturally expect a “bump” in attendance as a result of the previous year’s successful campaign).

Last year, I began comparing averaging attendance for the first two games of a season to the last two contests of the same campaign. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for discrepancies when making such a comparison (weather, opponent fan base, etc.), but I thought it was interesting. This time, I’ve added the 2016 numbers, so now there is a six-year period to check:

  • 2011 [4-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 12,756; final two home games, average attendance of 12,387 (including Homecoming)
  • 2012 [7-4 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,281; final two home games, average attendance of 13,715 (including Homecoming)
  • 2013 [5-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,370; final two home games, average attendance of 12,948 (including Homecoming)
  • 2014 [5-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 9,700; final two home games, average attendance of 9,563 (including Homecoming)
  • 2015 [9-4 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,356; final two home games, average attendance of 12,465 (including Homecoming)
  • 2016 [10-2 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,299; final two home games, average attendance of 13,996 (including Homecoming)

Of course, The Citadel only played four regular-season home games in 2016 (I’m not counting the playoff contest as the final home game, because postseason attendance numbers skew everything). You also had a game moved for weather reasons (North Greenville); that game was originally scheduled to be the second home contest of the 2016 campaign.

Incidentally, the official home attendance average for 2016 was 11,727. That includes the contest played at North Greenville, which was technically a home game for The Citadel.

Personally, I don’t count that as a home game; after all, it wasn’t played at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The two games played at Williams-Brice Stadium in 1989 are not considered home games (nor should they be). Therefore, I think it is much more consistent not to include the matchup with NGU as a home game.

The average attendance for the five home contests played at JHS last season (including the playoff game) was 12,986.

Since 1964, the Bulldogs’ record at Johnson Hagood Stadium is 185-111 (62.5%). The average home attendance over that time period is 14,140. However, there has not been a season in which home attendance averaged more than 14,140 since 2006.

That streak will almost certainly continue this season, given that the stadium capacity for 2017 is currently around 11,700 after the demolition of the East stands.

Now let’s look at FCS attendance as a whole.

2016 NCAA football attendance (all divisions)

Montana easily led the division in average home attendance again, with 25,377 (six games). That was higher than 45 FBS programs, and higher than the average home attendance for four FBS conferences (Sun Belt, MAC, C-USA, Mountain West).

James Madison was second overall, averaging 19,844. That included eight games, two of which were playoff contests (all of these numbers include playoff games).

Without the attendance-sapping postseason matchups, JMU would have averaged 21,646 fans per home game.

Five FCS schools averaged more than 18,000 fans per game. Last season, eight FCS schools hit that mark.

The Citadel ranked 20th overall, and that is counting the North Greenville game. Not including the NGU contest would move the military college up to 17th.

Even with the North Greenville game mixed in as part of the average, The Citadel had the highest attendance in the SoCon, just ahead of Mercer (11,237, which was 21st overall). Last season, it was Mercer that was slightly ahead of The Citadel in home attendance.

Western Carolina finished 23rd overall (10,465) despite a 2-9 record, which may be a tribute to the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band.

Others of varying interest among the 124 FCS squads (counting Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word, which are transitioning to the division, but not Coastal Carolina, which is moving to FBS):

  • North Dakota State: 5th (18,556 per game)
  • Jacksonville State: 7th (17,576)
  • Liberty: 9th (16,478)
  • Harvard: 11th (14,742)
  • North Carolina A&T: 12th (14,472)
  • William and Mary: 24th (10,168)
  • South Carolina State: 26th (10,148)
  • Princeton: 32nd (8,990)
  • Chattanooga: 33rd (8,886)
  • Yale: 35th (8,795)
  • North Carolina Central: 39th (8,242)
  • Sam Houston State: 42nd (7,940)
  • Richmond: 44th (7,926)
  • Kennesaw State: 48th (7,768)
  • East Tennessee State: 50th (7,668)
  • Elon: 58th (7,146)
  • Wofford: 61st (6,789)
  • Lehigh: 64th (6,527)
  • VMI: 68th (6,191)
  • Samford: 73rd (5,897)
  • Furman: 76th (5,771)
  • Towson: 78th (5,703)
  • Campbell: 82nd (5,523)
  • Gardner-Webb: 97th (4,295)
  • Davidson: 102nd (3,529)
  • Presbyterian: 105th (3,299)
  • Monmouth: 107th (3,172)
  • Charleston Southern: 112th (2,712)
  • Georgetown: 120th (2,005)
  • Delaware State: 121st (1,975)
  • Jacksonville: 122nd (1,849)
  • St. Francis (PA): 123rd (1,617)
  • Duquesne: 124th (1,554)

Odds and ends:

– Yale dropped from 3rd overall in attendance in 2015 (20,547) to 35th last season (8,795). Most of that differential can be attributed to the location of the Harvard-Yale game.

The Elis hosted the game in 2015, and drew 52,126 fans to the Yale Bowl. The average home attendance for Yale in its other three home games that year: 10,021.

– Duquesne ranked last in the division in home attendance, as it did in 2015 when it made the FCS playoffs.

– St. Francis (PA), a playoff team last year, ranked next-to-last in the division in home attendance.

– Over the past four seasons, Montana has averaged 24,418 fans per home contest, while fellow Treasure State school Montana State has averaged 18,460. No other Big Sky team has averaged as much as 10,000 per home game for any of those four years.

– Furman finished last in average home attendance among SoCon schools, which meant that for a third consecutive season, FU finished behind Wofford in home attendance. I think it is safe to say that part of new Paladins head coach Clay Hendrix’s mission is to change that trend.

– Coastal Carolina averaged 8,392 fans per home contest last season. The Chanticleers played eight games at Brooks Stadium in 2016; they will play six games there this season, the second of two FBS transition years.

– A few “FYI” numbers from Division II: Benedict was 16th overall in D-2 home attendance (6,490 fans per home game); Newberry was 57th (3,502); and North Greenville was 76th (3,051).

NGU’s home attendance does not include its game versus The Citadel, despite the fact the game was played in Tigerville. That contest drew a record 5,435 fans to Younts Stadium.

– The Citadel had a higher home attendance average than six FBS schools — Akron, Ball State, Florida Atlantic, Kent State, Northern Illinois, and New Mexico State. I have to point out that Northern Illinois played in the Orange Bowl just five years ago.

Undergraduate enrollment for those six institutions:

  • Akron: 22,619
  • Ball State: 17,011
  • Florida Atlantic: 24,687
  • Kent State: 23,684
  • Northern Illinois: 15,079
  • New Mexico State: 14,698

The Citadel has finished in the Top 30 of FCS attendance in each of the last eleven seasons. All in all, that’s quite good for a small military college.

As I’ve said before (and will undoubtedly say again), no matter what you think of the attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium in recent years, The Citadel still enjoys a significantly greater level of support than would normally be expected for a school of its size — both in terms of undergraduate enrollment and alumni base.

Sometimes, people forget that.

The Citadel’s football fans aren’t afraid to travel

This is just a quick post, with a theme more or less borrowed from an Andy Solomon “Solomon’s Mines” column. Solomon’s observations arrive via email from The Citadel Football Association (which you should join today!).

So, thanks and apologies in advance to Andy and the CFA…

Solomon pointed out something well-known to veteran observers, but not mentioned very often: The Citadel is absolutely the current top dog in the SoCon when it comes to fan attendance at road games in the league.

Our fans enjoy going on road trips, especially to scenic places like Western Carolina.  We have loads of fans in the Greenville/Spartanburg area, so our away games to Furman and Wofford rival their crowds for the higher number.  Games at Mercer are seeing better Citadel attendance, and while Chattanooga, Samford and VMI are the furthest away, we have better than respectable attendances there. And because I-26 now concludes in Johnson City, the future road games at ETSU should also see a large Citadel contingent.

He then put together a nice little table that included league average attendance for each school, alongside attendance at The Citadel’s 2016 four conference road games, and attendance at FCS institutions in South Carolina. We’re #1 on that list, too.

I want to further expound on The Citadel’s conference road attendance numbers.

The Citadel’s four road games in league action last season were against Mercer, Western Carolina, Wofford, and VMI.

– The game against Mercer was played on Thursday night, and had an announced attendance of 12,542. That number probably reflects tickets sold (it certainly doesn’t reflect actual attendance).

At any rate, that was the highest-attended game played at Mercer last season, even though it was played on Thursday night. It was also the most-attended game since Mercer began playing football again in 2013.

– Attendance in Cullowhee for The Citadel’s game against Western Carolina: 12,283. WCU averaged 10,465 per home contest; the matchup with the Bulldogs produced the Catamounts’ biggest crowd of the season at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.

In 2014, the game in Cullowhee between the two teams drew a crowd of 13,323, which was the largest home attendance that season for the Catamounts. It was also the largest crowd for a home game at Western Carolina since 2010.

– Wofford averaged 6,789 per home contest in 2016, but drew a season-high 11,102 fans for its game against The Citadel. No other game in Spartanburg had an attendance greater than 8,102 last year.

The contest was the highest-attended football game at Gibbs Stadium since 2010. Matchups against The Citadel also resulted in Wofford’s best-attended home games for the 2008, 2012, and 2014 seasons, and the most-watched regular-season home contest in 2010.

– Last season, a crowd of 8,251 was on hand in Lexington, Virginia, to watch VMI and The Citadel battle for the coveted Silver Shako. The Keydets’ other three home games in 2016 all drew between 5,000-6,000 fans.

From what I can tell, it was the largest home crowd for a VMI game since 2007, when 9,183 fans watched the Keydets play…The Citadel.

The 2014 matchup at Alumni Memorial Field was VMI’s highest-attended home game of that season. The Bulldogs and Keydets also played in the most-watched 2012 contest.

I also took a look at recent attendance for The Citadel’s road games against Furman, Chattanooga, and Samford.

– The attendance for The Citadel’s 2015 game at Furman was 12,124. That is the largest attendance for any game at Paladin Stadium since 2011.

– The Citadel’s game at Chattanooga in 2015 was the most-attended SoCon game (11,594 fans) at Finley Stadium that season. It was also better attended than any of the Mocs’ home games in 2016.

The 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 matchups between the two teams produced the second-highest attendance for a SoCon matchup in Chattanooga in each of those respective years.

– One place where The Citadel’s fans have been less likely to appear in large numbers is Seibert Stadium, home field for Samford. Average attendance for the last three meetings between the two schools in suburban Birmingham: 5,915. Samford’s average home attendance in those three years was 6,731.

This is not altogether surprising, as it is the longest trek for Bulldog fans to make in the conference. However, that strikes me as a good reason for fans of The Citadel to make a special effort to attend the game between the two squads in 2017 (it takes place on September 30).

As mentioned by Andy Solomon, I-26 now runs through Johnson City, Tennessee (it ends one mile into the state of Virginia, past Kingsport). That wasn’t the case when ETSU was previously in the Southern Conference, so the trip for Bulldog fans should be that much easier when the two teams meet on September 16 in Johnson City.

The Citadel’s fans support their team. They travel, they stay in hotels, they eat in town and at the game, and they buy game programs.

(That reminds me: I’m guessing that Wofford will be better prepared when the Bulldogs play in Spartanburg again in 2018. The visitors side concession stand ran out of food at halftime during last season’s matchup.)

It is also something the coaches can point to when recruiting. Not only will future Bulldogs play in front of significant home crowds at Johnson Hagood Stadium, but they will see plenty of blue and white when they play on the road, as well.

By request, here is a table listing the top 20 league games in terms of attendance in the SoCon over the last three years. The Citadel played in seven of the top eight (four at home, three on the road) and twelve of the top 20 (six at home, six on the road).

Year Road team Home team Attendance
2016 Samford The Citadel 15015
2015 VMI The Citadel 14925
2016 Chattanooga The Citadel 14590
2016 Western Carolina ETSU* 13863
2014 The Citadel Western Carolina 13323
2016 ETSU The Citadel 12978
2016 The Citadel Mercer 12542
2016 The Citadel Western Carolina 12283
2016 Western Carolina Mercer 12247
2014 Furman Mercer 12227
2015 The Citadel Furman 12124
2015 Samford Western Carolina 12014
2016 Furman The Citadel 12009
2015 The Citadel Chattanooga 11594
2015 Western Carolina Chattanooga 11495
2014 Furman The Citadel 11488
2015 Samford Mercer 11273
2016 The Citadel Wofford 11102
2016 Mercer Chattanooga 11039
2016 ETSU Mercer 10913

* The Western Carolina-ETSU game last year was played at Bristol Motor Speedway, nominally a home game for the Buccaneers. Of the top eight SoCon contests (in terms of attendance) over the last three seasons, this is the only game in which The Citadel was not one of the two teams involved.

The Blue-White spring game is less than a month away. The 2017 opener against Newberry is getting just a little closer…

Updating history: attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2015

As always, home attendance is never far away from the thoughts of the person responsible for this blog. This year’s review of last season’s attendance follows.

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2015

The above link is to a spreadsheet that tracks attendance for The Citadel’s home football games, and which has now been updated to include the 2015 campaign.

For anyone wondering, 1964 marks the earliest year in which reliable attendance figures for all home games can be reasonably determined. Individual game totals prior to 1964 are sometimes available, but not for a complete season.

Thus, I am unable to include seasons like the title-winning campaign of 1961, or any of the other years from 1948 (when the “modern” Johnson Hagood Stadium opened) to 1963 (when the home finale was attended by the former king of Italy, Umberto II).

The spreadsheet lists year-by-year total and average game attendance, and the win/loss record for the team in each given season. There is also a category ranking the years by average attendance.

Other columns refer to the program’s winning percentage over a two-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year period, with the “current” season being the final year in each category. For example, the three-year winning percentage for 1992 is made up of the 1990, 1991, and 1992 seasons.

I include those categories primarily to see what impact constant winning (or losing) has on long-term attendance trends. Last year, I wrote:

…the numbers seemed to suggest that a good season tends to drive walk-up sales more than might be expected, particularly compared to season ticket sales for the following campaign. It is also true that due to The Citadel’s struggles on the gridiron over the last two decades, it is hard to draw hard-and-fast conclusions about what the school’s attendance goals should actually be in this day and age.

I think that was borne out again in 2015, though there are obvious sample size issues. For the first two home games of the season (night games versus Davidson and Western Carolina), the average attendance was 8,356. For the final two games at Johnson Hagood Stadium last season (day games against Mercer and VMI), average attendance was 12,465.

Of course, one of those late-season games was Homecoming, so I decided to go back four more seasons:

  • 2014: First two home games, average attendance of 9,700; final two home games, average attendance of 9,563 (including Homecoming)
  • 2013: First two home games, average attendance of 13,370; final two home games, average attendance of 12,948 (including Homecoming)
  • 2012: First two home games, average attendance of 13,281; final two home games, average attendance of 13,715 (including Homecoming)
  • 2011: First two home games, average attendance of 12,756; final two home games, average attendance of 12,387 (including Homecoming)

During the seasons in which The Citadel finished with winning records (9-4 in 2015 and 7-4 in 2012), home attendance improved over the year, albeit not by a lot in 2012.

There was a similar attendance boost in 2007, when the Bulldogs also finished with a winning record (7-4). I am hesitant to put a great deal of stock in that increase, though, due to a wide variation in the quality of opponents (and the resulting fan interest level for the matchup).

The Citadel beat Webber International 76-0 in the second home game that season before 8,547 diehard supporters. I suspect that if the game had been scheduled later in the year, there wouldn’t have been much difference in the total attendance.

The Bulldogs were 5-7 in both 2013 and 2014, and 4-7 in 2011. That lack of on-field success is arguably reflected in the attendance totals.

Of course, it has to be mentioned that attendance in 2014 was at its lowest point in the 52 years that comprehensive records have been kept. While last year was an improvement, 2015 still ranked only 47th out of the seasons in that 52-year period.

The average attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium since 1964 is 14,164. However, there have now been ten consecutive years in which that number has not been reached for a season attendance average.

The folks in the ticket office continue to work hard at increasing sales for the general public. The most recent example of this is a Groupon promotion.

Not that anyone in the department of athletics needs me to say this, but I think it’s worth noting that The Citadel cannot afford to relax its sales push once the season begins. Attendance for late-season home contests can’t be taken for granted, regardless of the team’s record or if a particular game is scheduled on Homecoming weekend.

Let’s take a quick look at attendance from the viewpoint of the FCS as a whole (including the SoCon).

Link to NCAA attendance figures for the 2015 season

Montana led the division in average home attendance, with 24,139 (seven games, including the playoffs; all of these numbers include postseason contests). Eight FCS schools averaged more than 18,000 per game, with a significant dropoff after that (the ninth-highest, Delaware, averaged 15,826).

The Citadel ranked 22nd overall (10,678), just behind Mercer (10,692). Chattanooga (25th, averaging 10,152) and Western Carolina (26th, averaging 10,119) were other Southern Conference schools that finished in the Top 30.

Others of varying interest among the 125 FCS squads (counting Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word, which are transitioning to the division, but not Charlotte, which is moving to FBS):

  • Jacksonville State — 2nd (20,598 per game)
  • Yale — 3rd (20,547)
  • James Madison — 4th (19,498)
  • Montana State — 5th (19,172)
  • Liberty — 6th (18,990)
  • North Dakota State — 7th (18,497)
  • South Carolina State — 10th (15,629)
  • Harvard — 17th (12,799)
  • Eastern Kentucky — 23rd (10,350)
  • William & Mary — 33rd (8,967)
  • Kennesaw State — 35th (8,820)
  • Coastal Carolina — 36th (8,818)
  • Richmond — 45th (8,099)
  • Elon — 46th (7,841)
  • East Tennessee State — 55th (7,128)
  • Wofford — 58th (7,007)
  • Furman — 60th (6,795)
  • Villanova — 61st (6,767)
  • Samford — 79th (5,544)
  • VMI — 90th (4,778)
  • Charleston Southern — 96th (4,487)
  • Gardner-Webb — 100th (3,882)
  • Presbyterian – 102nd (3,810)
  • Jacksonville — 104th (3,580)
  • Davidson — 113th (2,758)
  • Duquesne — 125th (1,372)

Odds and ends:

– Duquesne, a playoff team last year, ranked last in the division in home attendance.

– Furman finished behind Wofford in home attendance, the second consecutive season that has happened.

– Montana’s home attendance average was higher than 41 FBS programs, including every single school in the Sun Belt and the MAC. It was higher than the average home attendance for the Mountain West and C-USA.

– Montana State may have only had the second-best home attendance in its own state, but that was still higher than 17 FBS programs.

– The Citadel had a higher home attendance average than three FBS schools — Georgia State, Ball State, and Eastern Michigan (which averaged only 4,897 fans per game).

Undergraduate enrollment for those three institutions: 32,842 (Georgia State), 18,621 (Eastern Michigan), and 16,652 (Ball State).

– The decision of the Sun Belt to extend a membership invitation to Coastal Carolina instead of Liberty was definitely not based on money, and it clearly wasn’t based on fan support either, if football attendance is any guide.

– For those curious, without the home playoff game last season Charleston Southern would have averaged 3,694 per home contest.

– Despite declining attendance numbers at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel has still finished in the Top 30 of FCS attendance in each of the last ten years. I think that’s pretty good for a small military college.

While there has been a bit of angst concerning attendance (or lack thereof) at home games in recent years, it has to be remembered that The Citadel still enjoys a wildly greater level of support than would normally be the case for a school of its size — both in terms of undergraduate enrollment, and alumni base.

Sometimes, that gets lost in the shuffle. For example, I distinctly remember at least two members of the local media cohort who forgot that last season.

Football season is getting closer…