2017 Football, Game 2: The Citadel vs. Presbyterian

Columbia, October 27 — Special: The Citadel struck a tartar in the light but aggressive Presbyterian College eleven when they met on the gridiron at the State Fairgrounds to-day, and could only manage to carry off the victory by a score of 14 to 0.

The entire Citadel team seemed to be experiencing an off day. The backfield was slow in getting into action and the heavy Blue line failed time and time again to break through the stubborn defense of their lighter opponents.

The cadets made their initial touch-down in the first quarter. After a forward pass had failed, [Johnny] Weeks punted out of bounds and the ball was put into play at Presbyterian’s 20-yard line. [Presbyterian quarterback] Galloway took one yard around left end. On the next play [Henry] Switzer pulled down a Presbyterian forward pass and sprinted twenty-five yards for a touch-down. Weeks kicked goal…

…Citadel scored her final touch-down in the third quarter…Galloway punted to Weeks, who gained forty yards. Weeks made 10 around left end. [Chesnee Cogswell] took 6 through centre, Bolton smashed the line for three more, and Weeks and Switzer got 5 yards over tackle in two bucks.

On the next play, Bolton was thrown for a loss of two yards, but Weeks carried the ball across for a touch-down and then kicked goal.

– The News and Courier, October 28, 1915

The Citadel vs. Presbyterian, to be played in Bailey Memorial Stadium at Claude Crocker Field in Clinton, South Carolina, with kickoff at noon ET on September 9, 2017.

The game will be streamed on the Big South Network. Presbyterian’s radio team of Ryan Clary and John Orck will provide the audio for the stream.

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

More TV/streaming information: the contest will be not streamed on ESPN3, though it will be available on the Big South Network (as noted above).

Scott Eisberg of WCIV-TV in Charleston tweeted that the game would be televised on WCIV’s “MeTV”, which is one of that station’s digital subchannels. As of Saturday morning, the game does not appear in any online TV listings, though it is quite possible (if not likely) that those listings could not be updated in time.

I’m going to guess that the game will be televised on MeTV in Charleston (WCIV’s digital subchannel 3) and that the production is via the Big South Network feed.

Links of interest:

Game moved from Charleston to Clinton and rescheduled for noon on Saturday (school release)

Back to Lookup Lodge

Grant Drakeford is profiled after an excellent performance against Newberry

Solid debut for some new Bulldog starters

– Game notes from The Citadel and Presbyterian

– SoCon weekly release

– Big South Conference weekly release

Presbyterian “quick facts”

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #13)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #14)

– Brent Thompson’s 9/5 press conference, with comments from Grant Drakeford and Aron Spann (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 9/6 radio show (video)

Presbyterian preview in The Post and Courier

Presbyterian preview from the Big South (video)

Another year, another game moved out of Johnson Hagood Stadium. In 2016, The Citadel played a “home” game at North Greenville.

This time, due to the impending threat of Hurricane Irma, the Bulldogs will travel to Clinton, South Carolina, and face Presbyterian at Bailey Memorial Stadium. PC’s home facility seats 6,500 and is fairly new, having made its debut during the 2002 season.

In front of the stadium is a 15-foot bronze statue called “Cyrus”. He seems to be rather moody.

In the next section, I’ll reference an unrelated “Cyrus”; they are two of the three times that name has appeared in the entire history of The Sports Arsenal.

The game referenced in the blurb at the beginning of the post was the first meeting on the gridiron between Presbyterian and The Citadel. It was played during the State Fair in Columbia, at the central fairgrounds.

The Bulldogs were not at their best, possibly due to the hot weather, but managed to prevail anyway. Presbyterian’s offense never advanced the football past The Citadel’s 40-yard-line.

A few other notes on that 1915 contest:

  • The game was played on Wednesday, October 28 (not the 23rd, as listed in The Citadel’s record book)
  • The first and third quarters were 15 minutes long, while the second and fourth quarters were 12 minutes long
  • Each team used 14 players during the game
  • The Citadel’s players were back at the barracks by 8:00 am the following morning, having taken a 3:00 am train back to Charleston

Other attractions at the fairgrounds on that Wednesday: horseracing, a “Lady high diver”, a bicyclist named “Dare Devil Doherty”, and “Cyrus and Mandy and their hay rack”.

Presbyterian was one of three Palmetto State colleges The Citadel defeated in 1915. In addition to wins over Newberry and South Carolina, the team also beat Porter Military Academy and the Charleston 6th Naval District squad en route to laying a claim to the state championship

Incidentally, for anyone who thinks the current trend of coaches not allowing fans/media to observe practice is something new, this tidbit was mentioned in the newspaper during a preview article on the game:

Secret practice has been the rule at Hampton Park this season. No one but those on the squad and those directly interested in the team have been allowed within the grounds during practice hours. Would-be visitors were politely informed that the cadets could not be seen.

This rule will be waived a little after this week. Coach Rogers announced yesterday that vistors would be welcomed at the park on Wednesday afternoons to the scrimmages. On other days the grounds will not be open to anyone.

How long has it been since The Citadel played a football game at Clinton?

1937.

That year, the Bulldogs defeated the Blue Hose (called the “Hosemen” in The News and Courier) 19-0, with the game taking place at Johnson Field. Two of the three touchdowns scored that day by The Citadel came off of blocked punts.

Both of those punt blocks came courtesy of the team captain, Francis King. The native of Georgetown was hailed by the newspaper for playing “superlative ball”.

King scored one of the two punt-block TDs himself; Tom Huguenin fell on the ball in the end zone for the second. The Bulldogs’ third touchdown was scored on a run by Clough “Mutt” Gee.

Gee went to The Citadel for three years, and then transferred to the United States Military Academy. He was killed in action during World War II when his airplane crashed in Lisieux, France. Gee is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery.

A few other notes on game locations in the series between The Citadel and Presbyterian:

– The last time The Citadel played PC somewhere other than Johnson Hagood Stadium was on October 12, 1963, when the contest was held in Savannah; the matchup was called the “Georgia Peach Shrine Game”, and was a benefit for the Greenville Shriners Hospital.

The Bulldogs won 24-0 behind 121 yards rushing from Jim Parker (on only 7 carries). Parker, Bruce Whitney, and Vince Petno all scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs, with Petno’s TD coming on a 5-yard pass from Wade St. John. Attendance: 7,000.

– The 1950 game between the two schools was played at the Orangeburg County Fair.

The Citadel won 7-0, scoring the game’s only touchdown in the first quarter. Deep in its own territory, Presbyterian tried a “quick kick” on third down. It was not successful, as Bulldogs safety Bobby Carter corralled the pigskin at the PC 25-yard line and returned it 20 yards.

Rudy Willcox raced around the right side of the line for 5 yards and a TD on the next play, with Don Davis adding the PAT. Jerry DeLuca was the defensive star that afternoon for the Bulldogs.

As was the case for the 1963 game, estimated attendance was 7,000.

– In 1948, The Citadel played PC at College Park, as the “new” Johnson Hagood Stadium was not quite ready to open. The Blue Hose won that game 7-0, as The Citadel did not run an offensive play from scrimmage in PC territory during the entire contest.

– Presbyterian and The Citadel played at the Sumter County Fair in 1940 and 1941, splitting the two matchups. In the 1941 game, won by the Bulldogs 21-13, PC’s entire student body traveled to the game, only to see the Bulldogs rally from a 13-7 halftime deficit to win the game 21-13.

Team captain Mike Newell scored two touchdowns for The Citadel, with Andy Victor adding a third and also successfully converting all three PAT attempts.

In 1955, The Citadel played Presbyterian at Johnson Hagood Stadium. It was Homecoming, and that week was chronicled by Life magazine as part of a profile of Mark Clark.

The photos taken by the magazine (specifically, photographer Robert W. Kelley) are now part of an archive created by Google. I’ve linked to them before, and I’m going to link to them again, because A) The Citadel is playing PC again, and B) they are endlessly fascinating.

Many of these pictures are football-related, but I’ve also linked to some “general” shots (pun intended). The first few linked photos are in color, but the vast majority of pictures in the archive are black-and-white. This is just a small sampling of what is available for viewing; try this link to get started if you want to see more of them.

If you haven’t seen color photos of The Citadel’s 1955 uniforms before, you’re in for a surprise.

Why are Presbyterian College’s varsity athletic teams nicknamed the “Blue Hose”?

…probably the true story lies in a letter dated June 15, 1935, written by then athletic director Walter Johnson to an inquiring English professor in Virginia…[quoting from Walter Johnson’s letter] ‘It was about the second or third year, 1915, if I remember right, Stockings. I think it happened this way: I changed uniform colors to blue, wearing blue stockings and jerseys, and some sports writer started calling in his articles the Presbyterian College teams the Blue Stockings.’ …In later years “Stocking” became abbreviated to “the Hose,” particularly in newspaper headlines, and was more or less officially adopted by the student body in the late 50’s.

…“Johnson always insisted on the fact that his players wore long blue socks similar to stockings (after all, there were White Sox and Red Sox in baseball). Coach Johnson’s explanation may simply be coincidental to the fact that the phrase “Blue Stocking Presbyterian” goes back informally quite a few years in the denomination’s history.”

This particular Walter Johnson was not the great pitcher of the same name, but a former football player at Michigan who was a coach and administrator for many years at Presbyterian. He was the head football coach at the school from 1915 to 1918, and then from 1920 to 1940.

Johnson finished his football coaching career with 102 victories, more than any other PC coach except Cally Gault (who won 127 games between 1963 and 1984). Both Johnson and Gault are enshrined in the NAIA Hall of Fame.

In 2005, Presbyterian won the Division II South Atlantic Conference title, finishing with a 10-2 overall record. It was the first conference title for PC since winning the SAC in 1979.

The following year, the Blue Hose went a solid 7-4. However, as Presbyterian began the transition from D-2 to D-1, wins became a lot tougher to come by. The first all-D1 slate for the Blue Hose, in 2009, resulted in an 0-11 record.

Under former head coach Harold Nichols, Presbyterian won just 11 games over the next four seasons, but then pulled off a surprising 6-5 campaign in 2014 (despite playing three FBS teams).

The Blue Hose had a truly outstanding defense that year. PC beat Furman 10-7, Charleston Southern 7-3, Western Carolina 19-14 (with two defensive touchdowns), Monmouth 18-12, and Gardner-Webb 14-7 (Presbyterian’s first score coming on a blocked field goal). The sixth victory was an early-season walkover against Bluefield of the NAIA.

Unfortunately for Presbyterian, the next two years ended in identical 2-9 records, and Nichols elected to resign. His replacement is the man who was the head coach of that 2005 team and the defensive coordinator for that 2014 squad.

Tommy Spangler is a Georgia alum who compiled a 42-24 record as PC’s head coach from 2001 to 2006. He left to become the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, but returned to Clinton as the Blue Hose defensive coordinator in 2013.

His mission is to guide Presbyterian to consistent respectability in FCS. It won’t be an easy task, but Spangler’s prior success at the school has to be encouraging to PC supporters.

Spangler’s first game back at the helm of the Blue Hose was last week’s 51-7 loss at Wake Forest. It was not pretty for PC. On the other hand, it wasn’t really supposed to be.

Presbyterian did have the edge in time of possession by almost five minutes, in part because only nine of the Blue Hose’s 54 offensive plays from scrimmage were pass attempts. Two were completed; one was intercepted.

On the other side of the ball, Wake Forest rushed for 248 yards and passed for 239, averaging 6.8 yards per play.

The bright spot for PC was freshman running back Torrance Marable, who gained 162 yards rushing on 16 carries, including one scamper for 58 yards.

Statistics of note for Presbyterian’s 2016 season (11 games):

PC Opp
Points/game 8.9 30.9
Rushing yardage 1105 2670
Yards/rush 2.9 5.9
Rush TDs 4 28
Passing yardage 1551 2077
Comp-Att-Int 168-302-11 126-277-7
Average/pass att 5.1 9.1
Passing TDs 6 15
Total offense 2656 4747
Total plays 682 678
Yards/play 3.9 7.0
Fumbles/lost 18/7 13/7
Penalties-pen yds 66-551 71-686
Pen yards/game 50.1 62.4
Net punt average 39.1 39.7
Time of poss/game 30:43 29:17
3rd-down conv 42/159 42/121
3rd-down conv % 26.4% 34.7%
Sacks by-yards 13-86 23-125
Red Zone TD% 7-25 (28%) 23-35 (66%)

 

Um, ouch. There is not a lot to say about those numbers. PC obviously had trouble putting up points in 2016, being shut out twice (by Chattanooga and Liberty) and scoring 10 points or less in six other contests.

The Blue Hose finished last in all of FCS in scoring offense, and also finished in the bottom 10 of the following categories: offensive first downs, offensive 3rd down conversion rate, passing offense, total offense, yards per rush, yards per pass attempt, yards per pass completion, red zone offense, rushing defense, tackles for loss (last nationally), and punt returns (also last in FCS).

I guess there is nowhere to go but up.

Presbyterian returned seven starters from last year’s offense.

Ben Cheek (6’0″, 190 lbs.), a redshirt junior from Franklin, Georgia, started eight games for the Blue Hose last season at quarterback. Cheek completed 54.9% of his passes, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt, with two touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Against Wake Forest, Cheek carried the ball 22 times (though 3 of those were sacks credited in the rushing statistics).

As mentioned above, freshman Torrance Marable (5’10”, 185 lbs.) had a good game versus the Demon Deacons. Marable originally signed with Arkansas State out of high school. The native of Decatur, Georgia enrolled at PC in January of this year.

Although he did not return a kickoff last week, Marable is listed on PC’s two-deep as one of the starting kick returners for the game against The Citadel.

Wide receiver DaShawn Davis (5’9″, 155 lbs.) was a second-team All-Big South selection last season. The junior from Inman caught 42 passes last season, averaging 10.8 yards per reception. Davis also handled the majority of punt and kick return duties for the Blue Hose in 2016.

Presbyterian’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’2″, 282 lbs. Right guard Thomas Hughes (6’3″, 275 lbs.), a senior from Cordova who went to Edisto High School, has 17 career starts, most on the team.

PC’s defense normally lines up in a 4-3, but that obviously could change against the triple option.

Linebacker Grant Beidel (6’1″, 230 lbs.) led Presbyterian in tackles last season, with 75. The former walkon from Roswell, Georgia also intercepted two passes and had two sacks.

Fellow linebacker Nick Moss (6’0″, 225 lbs.) mans the middle for the Blue Hose. The sophomore finished second in tackles last season.

Starting DT Michael Branch (6’3″, 285 lbs.) is the largest defensive player on the two-deep. The native of Pleasant Garden, North Carolina is a sophomore.

Junior cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (6’1″, 190 lbs.) has more career starts than any other defensive player, with 14. His 61-yard fumble return for a TD against South Alabama was PC’s only defensive score last season.

Brett Norton (6’0″, 185 lbs.), a junior from Walhalla, serves as both the placekicker and punter for Presbyterian. He was 7 for 13 last season on field goal attempts, with a long of 36 yards. Three of his tries were blocked.

Norton had an impressive season punting the football, with 23 punts being downed inside the 20-yard line, and only one touchback.

Worth noting: Norton made a 57-yard field goal in high school, a game-winner. He is not the kickoff specialist for PC, however. That would be Tim Hartshorn (6’1″, 170 lbs.), a redshirt junior from Cumming, Georgia.

Brandt Cameron (6’3″, 195 lbs.), a native of Suwanee, Georgia, is in his third season as the Blue Hose long snapper.

In last week’s game program, five current Bulldogs were asked the following question: “What if your favorite day of the week?”

Here are their responses.

In related news, all of them are college football players.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Clinton, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 79 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 24-point favorite over Presbyterian. The over/under is 38.5.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 17-point favorite over Elon; Wofford is a 7-point favorite at Mercer; VMI is a 24-point favorite over Catawba; Samford is a 23-point favorite over West Alabama; East Tennessee State is a 40-point underdog at James Madison; Western Carolina is a 35-point favorite over Davidson; and Chattanooga is a 42-point underdog at LSU.

Around the Palmetto State, South Carolina is a 2.5-point underdog at Missouri, while Clemson is a 5-point favorite over Auburn. Coastal Carolina is off this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 18th in FCS, a drop of two spots from last week. Presbyterian is ranked 96th. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 130th, while Presbyterian is 292nd.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 31, Presbyterian 7. The Bulldogs are given a 96% chance of victory.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 10th, Chattanooga is 14th, Charleston Southern is 15th, Samford is 21st, Furman is 31st, Mercer is 35th, Western Carolina is 66th, VMI is 70th, South Carolina State is 81st, and East Tennessee State is 87th.

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

– Among Presbyterian’s notable graduates are three well-known football coaches: Art Baker, John McKissick, and Bob Waters. PC’s other alums include Medal of Honor recipient George L. Mabry, Jr. (who played football for the Blue Hose), author/journalist and Peabody award winner Douglas Kiker, and influential political strategist Harry Dent, Sr.

– Former Bulldog tight end Taylor Cornett is the tight ends coach at Presbyterian. Cornett is in his second year at PC, and his first as a full-time assistant coach.

– The game notes roster for Presbyterian includes 42 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (32 players), Florida (10), North Carolina (9), Alabama (4), and one each from Maryland and Minnesota.

– There are Blue Hose players from 37 different South Carolina high schools, including three from Strom Thurmond High School, and two each from Silver Bluff, Greer, Richland Northeast, Seneca, and Lewisville. However, no players from historic power Orangeburg-Wilkinson are on the Presbyterian roster, which is clearly a major recruiting misstep for the program.

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

The Citadel is favored to win this game, and rightly so. However, the change of venue (and time) will add a degree of difficulty for the Bulldogs, particularly in their game preparations.

The good news is that the coaching staff and players went through almost the same situation last year with the game against North Greenville. They will know how to maintain focus.

I’m mainly rooting for three things this week: a decent number of Bulldog supporters to make their way to Clinton; a victory for The Citadel; and that Hurricane Irma suddenly veers to the northeast and stays away from shore.

I’m reasonably confident that two of those three things will happen…

Inside the numbers: The Citadel’s 2016 run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and more (including coin toss data!)

In the past, I have written about tendencies in playcalling by the then-coach of the Bulldogs, Mike Houston (and his offensive coordinator, Brent Thompson, who took over as The Citadel’s head coach last season). I compared statistics over a rolling three-year period. Last year, for example, included numbers from Kevin Higgins’ last season in charge and the two years Houston helmed the program.

Now I’m going to take a look at what Thompson did in his first year running the show, and contrast those statistics with those from the 2015 and 2016 seasons for the Bulldogs (with a few exceptions where I don’t have readily available data for the previous campaigns).

My focus in this post will be on the following:

  • down-and-distance run/pass tendencies (for The Citadel and its opponents)
  • yards per play numbers (offense and defense, rushing and passing)
  • certain defensive passing stats (including sacks, hurries, and passes defensed)
  • success in the “red zone” (defined as scoring or preventing touchdowns)
  • plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more (“big” plays)
  • fourth-down decision-making (for The Citadel and its opponents)
  • situational punting (i.e. punting from inside the opponents’ 40-yard line)
  • the coin toss (of course)

I have another post that focuses on assorted “advanced stats”, including success rate, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers — the “five factors” of college football. In that post, I’m also listing some stats related to success on first down and third down, some of which are particularly illuminating with regards to The Citadel.

I decided to split those numbers into a separate post for reasons of clarity, and because I didn’t want this post to rival War and Peace for length. It might be best to read what is to come in sections; I can’t imagine getting through all this in one sitting. I certainly didn’t write it all at once.

Most of the statistics that follow are based on conference play, and only conference play. It’s easier and fairer to compare numbers in that way. The bottom line for The Citadel is that its on-field success or failure will be judged on how it does in the Southern Conference, not against Newberry, Presbyterian, or Clemson (this year’s non-league slate).

The conference schedules over the last three years looked like this:

  • The Citadel played seven games in 2014 versus SoCon opposition. The teams in the league that year: Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Mercer, Furman, Samford, and VMI.
  • The Bulldogs played seven games in 2015 against SoCon teams. The conference schools competing on the gridiron that year were the same as in 2014: Western Carolina, Wofford, Samford, Furman, Mercer, VMI, and Chattanooga.
  • The Citadel played eight games in 2016 versus Southern Conference opponents. The league schools last year: Mercer, Furman, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Wofford, East Tennessee State, Samford, and VMI (the additional opponent being ETSU).

As I did last year, I’ve put most of the conference-only numbers on a spreadsheet. It may be headache-inducing (there are nine different sub-sheets), but the stats are all there. Individual game statistics in each category are included.

I am reasonably confident in the overall accuracy of the statistics, though I am far from infallible. It would have been much easier if the SoCon had league-only online football statistics, but it doesn’t. C’est la vie.

If someone wants to look at the 2015 stats as well, here is last year’s spreadsheet: Link

Some definitions:

– 2nd-and-short: 3 yards or less for a first down
– 2nd-and-medium: 4 to 6 yards for a first down
– 2nd-and-long: 7+ yards for a first down
– 3rd-and-short: 2 yards or less for a first down
– 3rd-and-medium: 3 to 4 yards for a first down
– 3rd-and-long: 5+ yards for a first down

The first number that will follow each down-and-distance category will be the percentage of time The Citadel ran the ball in that situation in 2016. Next to that, in parenthesis, is the run percentage for The Citadel in 2015, and that will be followed by the Bulldogs’ run percentage for that situation in 2014 (which will be in brackets).

For example, when it came to running the ball on first down, the numbers looked like this:

– 1st-and-10 (or goal to go): 86.0% (89.1%) [88.9%]

Thus, The Citadel ran the ball on first down 86.0% of the time last year, while the Bulldogs ran the ball in that situation 89.1% of the time in 2015. The Citadel ran the ball 88.9% of the time on first down during its 2014 campaign.

Overall, the Bulldogs ran the ball 85.6% of the time in 2016, after rushing 86.5% of the time on its 2015 plays from scrimmage, and on 84.3% of all offensive plays in 2014.

Here are the rest of the down-and-distance categories (in terms of rush percentage):

– 2nd-and-short: 94.1% (89.2%) [84.0%]
– 2nd-and-medium: 96.1% (89.8%) [90.2%]
– 2nd-and-long: 83.8% (89.2%) [82.2%]
– 3rd-and-short: 100% (93.1%) [95.5%]
– 3rd-and-medium: 88.5% (82.4%) [90.3%]
– 3rd-and-long: 68.1% (66.0%) [57.4%]

It should be noted that there were a few called pass plays that turned into runs. However, if the result of a play was a sack, that counted as a passing down even if a pass wasn’t thrown. Of course, The Citadel’s offense only suffered one sack all season in league play (at VMI, for six yards).

  • Yes, The Citadel ran the ball on all 28 third-and-short situations in SoCon action last year. In 2015, the Bulldogs ran 27 out of 29 times on third-and-short.
  • The Citadel threw the ball a bit more often on first down against East Tennessee State and VMI. The Bulldogs passed slightly more than normal on second-and-long versus Wofford.
  • Against Chattanooga, The Citadel faced a third-and-long on eleven occasions, but only passed once in that situation (it fell incomplete).
  • After attempting only four passes on second-in-short in conference action in both 2014 and 2015, the Bulldogs only aired it out twice in that situation last season. Both were incomplete. That means over the last three years, The Citadel is 4-10 passing on second-and-short, for 108 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

I’m going to alternate between offensive and defensive statistics in this post. I hope that doesn’t prove too confusing. In this section, therefore, I’m listing what The Citadel’s conference opponents did in down-and-distance situations (but just for the 2016 season). This is information I had not previously compiled, but I thought might prove interesting to a few folks out there.

Overall, league opponents rushed on 49.7% of their plays against The Citadel last year. On first down, conference foes rushed 56.2% of the time. Here are the rest of the down-and-distance categories (in terms of rush percentage):

– 2nd-and-short: 75.9%
– 2nd-and-medium: 47.9%
– 2nd-and-long: 44.8%
– 3rd-and-short: 66.7%
– 3rd-and-medium: 36.4%
– 3rd-and-long: 27.3%

There was quite a bit of variance in these numbers.

Samford, for example, passed on 75% of its plays. The only down-and-distance category in which SU ran more than it passed against The Citadel was on 3rd-and-short. Conversely, Wofford threw the ball just seven times in 65 offensive plays from scrimmage.

All four of The Citadel’s home opponents passed the ball (or attempted to pass) more than they ran it. On the other hand, three of the Bulldogs’ road opponents rushed more than passed (Western Carolina was the exception).

  • The Citadel’s offense in 2014 in SoCon action: 75.4 plays per game, 11.0 possessions per game
  • The Citadel’s offense in 2015 in SoCon action: 70.7 plays per game, 11.9 possessions per game
  • The Citadel’s offense in 2016 in SoCon action: 72.1 plays per game, 11.4 possessions per game

*Overtime possessions are not included in any of the conference-only statistics, for the sake of consistency (and avoiding statistical sample size issues).

**I don’t count a drive as an actual possession when it consists solely of a defensive TD via a return, or when it is a defensive turnover that ends the half or game. I also don’t count a drive as a possession when the offensive team does not attempt to move the ball forward (such as a kneel-down situation). That’s how I interpret the statistic, regardless of how it may be listed in a game summary.

Last season, The Citadel had a time of possession edge in SoCon play of over seven minutes (33:41 – 26:19), an increase of almost three minutes from 2015 (32:13 – 27:47), and a two-minute edge over 2014 (32:40 – 27:20).

The Citadel held the ball longer than its opponents on average in three of the four quarters (the second quarter was the exception). The Bulldogs won the TOP battle in the fourth quarter in every game except one (at Wofford).

Nationally (counting all games), the Bulldogs finished second in total time of possession per contest, just behind San Diego (which won the Pioneer League and made the round of 16 in the FCS playoffs).

  • The Citadel’s defense in 2015 SoCon play: 65.7 plays per game, 12.0 possessions per game
  • The Citadel’s defense in 2016 Socon play: 57.6 plays per game, 11.4 possessions per game

Against Western Carolina, the Bulldogs’ D was only on the field for 44 plays from scrimmage. The Citadel controlled the ball in a similar fashion versus Chattanooga, only facing 47 offensive plays by the Mocs.

Wofford’s 65 offensive plays from scrimmage (in regulation) were the most run against the Bulldogs’ defense last season, just one more than the 64 by Samford’s offense — perhaps a bit curious, given the diametrically opposite styles of those two teams.

Note: while NCAA statistical records count sack yardage against rushing totals, the NFL considers sack yardage as passing yardage lost. I take the NFL’s position on this, so all conference statistics included in this post count sack yardage against passing stats.

  • The Citadel’s offense in 2014 in SoCon games: 5.56 yards per play, including 5.35 yards per rush and 6.8 yards per pass attempt
  • The Citadel’s offense in 2015 in SoCon games: 6.09 yards per play, including 5.57 yards per rush and 9.7 yards per pass attempt
  • The Citadel’s offense in 2016 in SoCon games: 5.58 yards per play, including 5.28 yards per rush and 7.4 yards per pass attempt

The numbers were not as good as the season before, though they do match up well with the 2014 season. While the rushing yards per play may have been down, that wasn’t really the issue.

– 2015 passing for The Citadel in seven conference games: 63 pass attempts for 609 yards (three interceptions)

– 2016 passing for The Citadel in eight conference games: 83 pass attempts for 615 yards (two interceptions)

Twenty more pass attempts, just six more yards receiving. That has to improve in 2017.

In this post, I’m also going to take a look at The Citadel’s per-play stats from a national perspective (all of FCS, and including all games, not just conference play). I’ll throw in some statistics from a few FBS teams as well (concentrating on teams of local interest and schools that run the triple option).

The Bulldogs’ offense was just 52nd nationally in yards per play, with a 5.53 average (all games). Sam Houston State’s 7.17 yards per play topped FCS. Samford and Chattanooga were 1-2 in the SoCon.

Western Kentucky led FBS in yards per play, with a 7.65 average. Other FBS teams of interest: Oklahoma (2nd), New Mexico (8th), Navy (11th), Clemson (34th), Air Force (tied for 47th), Army (59th), South Carolina (109th), Rutgers (128th and last).

However, The Citadel’s overall rate of 5.37 yards per rush was 10th-best in FCS (and led the SoCon).

The top two FCS teams in yards per rush were both Big South squads — Charleston Southern (6.02 yards per rush) and Kennesaw State (5.91 yards per rush). Others worth mentioning: Cal Poly (3rd), North Dakota State (4th), James Madison (5th), Gardner-Webb (17th), Chattanooga (21st), Wofford (24th), Western Carolina (38th), Mercer (52nd), Towson (53rd), Lehigh (59th), Furman (60th), Elon (69th), South Carolina State (74th), Samford (87th), ETSU (103rd), VMI (112th out of 122 teams).

New Mexico’s offense led FBS in yards per rush, at 6.61. Navy was 6th, Alabama 8th, Army 12th, Georgia Tech 16th, Air Force 41st, Clemson 73rd, South Carolina 107th, and Texas State 128th and last. That statistical category, and thus the subsequent rankings, counts yardage lost from sacks in its totals, however (this is true for both the FBS and FCS offensive and defensive national statistics/rankings).

  • The Citadel’s defense in 2014 in SoCon action: 7.02 yards per play, including 5.69 yards per rush and 9.1 yards per pass attempt
  • The Citadel’s defense in 2015 in SoCon action: 5.07 yards per play, including 3.69 yards per rush and 6.7 yards per pass attempt
  • The Citadel’s defense in 2016 in SoCon action: 4.94 yards per play, including 4.61 yards per rush and 5.3 yards per pass attempt

While yards per rush for opponents was up almost a full yard over 2015, the pass defense more than made up for it. The highlight may have been the game at Western Carolina; once sacks are taken into consideration, the Bulldogs allowed less than one yard per pass attempt in Cullowhee (30 pass attempts/sacks, 26 net yards passing).

Nationally in FCS, The Citadel was 49th in defensive yards per play (5.34). Stony Brook (4.18) was tops nationally. Also in the top 10: Jacksonville State (2nd), Charleston Southern (6th), Wofford (7th), and Chattanooga (9th). Western Carolina finished in the bottom 10.

To the shock of nobody, Alabama led all of D-1 in defensive yards per play (3.99). The rest of the FBS top 5 in that category included Michigan, Ohio State, Washington, and Clemson. Others of note: Army (25th, a major reason for its winning season), South Carolina (59th), Air Force (72nd), New Mexico (105th), Navy (109th), and Rice (128th and last).

The Citadel was 53rd in FCS in the national defensive yards/rush category (at 4.15, actually better than its league stats). Central Arkansas (2.29) led the nation, with Colgate, Princeton, Jacksonville State, and Stony Brook rounding out the top 5. Wofford was 9th, Chattanooga 21st, South Carolina State 25th, Charleston Southern 27th, Mercer 38th, Towson 49th, James Madison 51st, Samford 55th, Furman 81st, VMI 84th, ETSU 87th, Liberty 107th, Elon 108th, Western Carolina 115th, and Presbyterian 117th (out of 122 teams).

I think knowing how league (and non-league) opponents rate in this category is instructive, not just in terms of comparing defenses, but in comparing them to how they might succeed (or fail) against The Citadel’s run-heavy offense. Of course, these were last year’s statistics; programs obviously change from year to year.

Alabama only allowed opponents an average of 2.01 yards per rush, far and away the best in FBS (Houston was 2nd, at 2.91). Air Force was 15th, Clemson 24th, Army 34th, Navy 77th, Georgia Tech 86th, New Mexico 88th, and South Carolina 92nd.

California was 128th and last, at 6.15 yards allowed per rush. In related news, Cal now has a new head coach who was formerly a defensive coordinator.

Counting all games, The Citadel allowed 6.9 yards per pass attempt, 52nd nationally in FCS. Before you think “well, take the UNC game away and the average would go way down”, keep in mind that the team that averaged the most yards per pass attempt versus The Citadel last season was…North Greenville (9.9 yards per attempt). That is what happens when your opponent throws two TD passes of 90+ yards.

San Diego ranked first in this particular category (5.31). The teams in the SoCon were ranked as follows: Chattanooga (14th), Wofford (16th), Samford (77th), VMI (85th), East Tennessee State (91st), Mercer (115th), Western Carolina (116th), Furman (117th).

Presbyterian, which travels to Johnson Hagood Stadium in 2017, was 121st overall, only ahead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Ohio State, Michigan, and Clemson ranked 1-2-3 in yards per pass attempt (defense) in FBS. South Carolina tied for 30th, while Navy was in the bottom 10. Rice was last, just as it was in yards per play.

  • The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2014: 66.7%
  • The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2015: 56.3%
  • The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2016: 64.5%

The 2016 campaign proved to be slightly better for the Bulldogs’ offense in this area than in the previous season, though it should be noted the 2015 squad had one more opportunity in the red zone during conference play (32 to 31) despite playing one fewer league game.

The national FCS leader in this category was Idaho State, at 84.6%. When all games are taken into account, The Citadel ranked only 97th (out of 122 FCS teams). The Bulldogs did not fare nearly as well in offensive red zone TD rate outside of league play, only converting 5 of 14 red zone chances into touchdowns in those contests. Thus, the season rate was just 52.1% (though that total includes two “kneel downs” in the red zone that I did not count in the Bulldogs’ league stats).

I think The Citadel should have a goal of converting at least 75% of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns, something that was done by only ten FCS teams last season.

National champion James Madison finished 14th overall in the category, with a 73.1% red zone TD rate. You will probably not be surprised to learn that the Dukes led all of FCS in red zone opportunities. Part of the reason for that is because JMU played 15 games; on the other hand, the Dukes’ 93 trips to the red zone were 22 more than any other team. James Madison had 44 rushing TDs from the red zone, which may be even more impressive.

The top 3 SoCon teams in red zone TD rate were Furman, Samford, and Chattanooga (with the Paladins pacing the league at 72.1%, 17th nationally).

Incidentally, three of the top ten teams in red zone TD% in FBS last year were triple-option teams — Navy, Army, and New Mexico (the Midshipmen led FBS with a 79.7% TD conversion rate).

  • The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2014: 60.0%
  • The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2015: 52.2%
  • The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2016: 66.7%

This is one of the very few defensive stats that wasn’t outstanding. However, it is also true the Bulldogs faced fewer trips inside the 20 by their opponents in 2016 than in 2015 (35 to 30) while playing one more conference game (mirroring The Citadel’s offense to a certain extent).

The Citadel’s defense had slightly better numbers when all games are considered; for the complete season, the Bulldogs’ D had a red zone TD rate of 58.3%, tied for 42nd nationally. Another group of Bulldogs, the bunch from Samford, also tied for 42nd overall. That was the best mark among SoCon teams (again, including league and non-league contests in the totals).

As mentioned above, Furman’s offense did a good job converting red zone chances into touchdowns last year. Unfortunately for the Paladins, the same was not true on defense. Furman’s D allowed opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone on 27 of 34 opportunities in 2016, the worse mark (by percentage) in the country.

Grambling State led FCS in the category, with an impressive defensive red zone TD rate of 34.4%. LSU’s defense was the standard-bearer for FBS, with an amazing rate of just 24.3%.

  • The Citadel’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon play, 2014: 46.3%
  • The Citadel’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon play, 2015: 50.0%
  • The Citadel’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon play, 2016: 50.4%

In all games last season (not just conference action), the Bulldogs had an offensive 3rd-down conversion rate of 47.7%, which led the SoCon and was ninth nationally. Cal Poly, another triple option playoff team, was the overall leader in that category at 53.6%.

Other FCS teams of interest: James Madison (4th overall), North Dakota State (12th), Mercer (17th), Wofford (31st), Gardner-Webb (34th), Charleston Southern (39th), East Tennessee State (44th), Furman (45th), Chattanooga (47th), Western Carolina (50th), Towson (54th), Liberty (77th), Samford (78th), VMI (94th), South Carolina State (109th), Presbyterian (118th).

Navy led FBS in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate, at 54.5%. P.J. Fleck’s Western Michigan squad was second overall. Air Force was 6th, Clemson 8th, Army 10th, New Mexico 19th, Georgia Tech 51st (and won nine games despite that), South Carolina 109th, and Tulane 128th and last.

  • The Citadel’s defensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2014: 41.5%
  • The Citadel’s defensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2015: 33.7%
  • The Citadel’s defensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2016: 33.3%

The Bulldogs had even better stats in this category when non-league contests are included. The all-games rate of 30.1% ranked 9th nationally in FCS, and led the Southern Conference.

That isn’t a typo, by the way. The Citadel finished 9th overall in both offensive and defensive 3rd-down conversion rate. That helps you tilt the playing field, which helps you win games.

Jacksonville State led FCS in defensive 3rd-down conversion rate. Montana, Grambling State, Campbell, and Columbia were the other teams in the top 5. South Carolina State was 20th, Chattanooga 25th, James Madison 26th, Presbyterian 30th, Liberty 37th, VMI 45th, ETSU 51st, Charleston Southern 61st, Furman 81st, Mercer 85th, Gardner-Webb 88th, Wofford 95th, Samford 100th, Elon 105th, Towson 119th, and Western Carolina 122nd (last).

Michigan led FBS in defensive 3rd-down conversion rate, at 21.0%. Clemson ranked 4th, Alabama 8th, Army 46th, South Carolina 95th, Air Force 102nd, Georgia Tech 126th, and Navy 128th.

The Midshipmen managed to lead FBS in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate (54.5%, as mentioned above) while finishing last in defensive 3rd-down conversion rate (53.5%). There were a lot of successful drives in Navy games last season.

  • The Citadel’s defense in 2014 in SoCon action: 8 sacks, 14 passes defensed in 176 pass attempts (8.0% PD)
  • The Citadel’s defense in 2015 in SoCon action: 20 sacks, 33 passes defensed in 212 pass attempts (15.6% PD)
  • The Citadel’s defense in 2016 in SoCon action: 21 sacks, 29 passes defensed in 211 pass attempts (13.7% PD)

Passes defensed is a statistic that combines pass breakups with interceptions.

Also of interest: the Bulldogs have increased their “hurries” totals in league play from eleven (2014) to seventeen (2015) to twenty-one last season. That helps create a little more havoc.

The Citadel averaged 2.63 sacks per game in conference play. Taking all games into account, the Bulldogs averaged 2.33 sacks per contest, which tied for 36th nationally. Grambling State averaged 3.42 sacks per game to lead FCS.

Chattanooga ranked 12th overall (2.92 sacks per game). Other sack rankings among SoCon teams: Samford (47th), Wofford (48th), Mercer (49th), VMI (tied for 102nd), ETSU (also tied for 102nd), Furman (115th), Western Carolina (122nd and last).

Florida State led FBS teams in sacks per game (3.92). Apparently the ACC Atlantic was a sackfest, because three other teams in that division (Boston College, Clemson, and Wake Forest) finished in the top 11. South Carolina tied for 97th, while East Carolina finished 128th and last in the category.

Big plays! Big plays! Big plays! Big plays!

Just for clarification, I am defining “big plays” as offensive plays from scrimmage resulting in gains of 20+ yards, regardless of whether or not they are rushing or passing plays.

  • The Citadel’s offensive plays from scrimmage resulting in gains of 20 or more yards, 2015: 30 (19 rushing, 11 passing)
  • The Citadel’s offensive plays from scrimmage resulting in gains of 20 or more yards, 2016: 26 (15 rushing, 11 passing)

In 2015, 20 of the 30 big plays by the Bulldogs’ offense in conference play either resulted in touchdowns or led to touchdowns on the same drive. Last season, that was the case for 19 of the 26 long gainers.

That is an average of 3.25 big plays per game in league matchups. For all games, the Bulldogs averaged 3.58 big plays per game (seven such plays against North Greenville helped the average).

Just as a comparison to the offenses of a few other SoCon outfits:

– Wofford averaged 3.36 big plays from scrimmage per game (counting all 14 of its contests)

– Chattanooga averaged 4.62 big plays from scrimmage per game (counting all 13 of its contests)

– Furman averaged 4.27 big plays from scrimmage per game (counting all 11 of its contests)

– Mercer averaged 3.45 big plays from scrimmage per game (counting all 11 of its contests)

– Samford averaged 5.00 big plays from scrimmage per game (counting all 12 of its contests)

  • Plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more allowed by The Citadel’s defense, 2014: 47 (21 rushing, 26 passing)
  • Plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more allowed by The Citadel’s defense, 2015: 23 (9 rushing, 14 passing)
  • Plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more allowed by The Citadel’s defense, 2016: 28 (9 rushing, 19 passing)

In 2015, 14 of the 23 big plays allowed by the Bulldogs either resulted in TDs or led to them on the same drive. Last year, 18 of 28 long gainers given up led directly or indirectly to touchdowns.

I want to reiterate that the last two sections are about offensive plays from scrimmage in league action. Obviously, the defense can produce a “big play” of its own (like Jonathan King’s 54-yard sack/strip/fumble return for a TD against VMI), and the same is true for the special teams units (such as DeAndre Schoultz’s critical 81-yard punt return for a touchdown versus Gardner-Webb).

  • The Citadel’s offense on 4th down in league play in 2014: 12 for 20 (60.0%)
  • The Citadel’s offense on 4th down in league play in 2015: 3 for 8 (37.5%)
  • The Citadel’s offense on 4th down in league play in 2016: 8 for 16 (50.0%)

  • The Citadel’s defense on 4th down in league play in 2015: 8 for 13 converted against (61.5%)
  • The Citadel’s defense on 4th down in league play in 2016: 5 for 9 converted against (55.6%)

The 4th-down conversion rate for all SoCon teams (counting both conference and non-conference games) in 2016 was 54.5%, so the Bulldogs were basically league average on both sides of the ball. Ideally, The Citadel would be better than average on both offense and defense on 4th-down attempts.

Bumbling rumbling stumbling fumbling…

When evaluating fumble stats, keep in mind that recovering them is usually a 50-50 proposition (which makes perfect sense, if you think about it). There isn’t really much to evaluate beyond that, other than if a team is really loose with the football.

  • The Citadel’s offensive fumbles in SoCon action, 2014: 10 (lost 6)
  • The Citadel’s offensive fumbles in SoCon action, 2015: 12 (lost 8)
  • The Citadel’s offensive fumbles in SoCon action, 2016: 12 (lost 5)

For all games, the Bulldogs fumbled 22 times, losing 10 of those.

Please note that the official statistical record does not include a fumble against Mercer, which the Bulldogs recovered. That was apparently the result of an error by Mercer’s stats crew. (Hey, it happens.)

  • The Citadel’s defensive forced fumbles in SoCon action, 2014: 14 (recovered 7)
  • The Citadel’s defensive forced fumbles in SoCon action, 2015: 8 (recovered 7)
  • The Citadel’s defensive forced fumbles in SoCon action, 2016: 13 (recovered 8)

The Bulldogs only forced two fumbles in non-conference play, recovering neither.

  • Penalties enforced against The Citadel in SoCon action, 2014: 37
  • Penalties enforced against The Citadel in SoCon action, 2015: 42
  • Penalties enforced against The Citadel in SoCon action, 2016: 45

Well, at least the average number of penalties per game went down last year. However, penalty yardage per game went up over eight yards per contest, which is somewhat worrisome.

  • Penalties enforced against The Citadel’s opponents in SoCon action, 2014: 22
  • Penalties enforced against The Citadel’s opponents in SoCon action, 2015: 29
  • Penalties enforced against The Citadel’s opponents in SoCon action, 2016: 33

Penalty yardage against the Bulldogs’ opponents went up about 4 1/2 yards per game from 2015 to 2016.

  • Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2014, SoCon action: 6 (in seven games)
  • Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2015, SoCon action: 6 (in seven games)
  • Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2016, SoCon action: 1 (in eight games)

I almost didn’t bother adding this category to my spreadsheet, thanks to Brent Thompson. The coach only ordered one punt in opposing territory last season. That came on the opening drive of the game against Western Carolina, on a 4th-and-3 from the Catamounts’ 38-yard line.

In retrospect, it was a curious move, but it more or less worked out. Will Vanvick’s punt was downed on the WCU 3-yard line, and Western Carolina proceeded to go 3-and-out.

This year, I also checked to see how many times opponents punted while in Bulldog territory. As it happens, that only happened one time as well.

Late in the first half, Mercer faced a 4th-and-18 from The Citadel’s 43-yard line. Bobby Lamb elected to punt, which was eminently sensible. The ball was downed on the Bulldogs’ 3-yard line; The Citadel picked up one first down, ran three more plays, and then the half ended.

Let’s talk about 4th down…

Defining some terms (courtesy of Football Outsiders):

– Deep Zone: from a team’s own goal line to its 20-yard line
– Back Zone: from a team’s own 21-yard line to its 39-yard line
– Mid Zone: from a team’s own 40-yard line to its opponent’s 40-yard line
– Front Zone: from an opponent’s 39-yard line to the opponent’s 21-yard line
– Red Zone: from an opponent’s 20-yard line to the opponent’s goal line

Just as I did last season, on the spreadsheet I’ve categorized every fourth down situation The Citadel’s offense had in conference play (see the “4th down decisions” tab).

The Citadel punted all 18 teams it faced 4th down in the Deep Zone or the Back Zone.

In the Mid Zone, the Bulldogs punted 12 times and went for the first down 3 other times, successfully converting twice (the unsuccessful attempt came against Samford).

The Citadel didn’t have the mojo working in the Front Zone, at least on 4th down. The Bulldogs went for the first down 10 times in the Mid Zone, but only picked it up 4 times. Admittedly, one of those successful conversions was a key 34-yard TD run versus Wofford.

There were four field goal attempts from that zone, only one of which was made. As noted above, The Citadel also had one punt in this area.

The Bulldogs had five 4th-down situations in the Red Zone. Four times, The Citadel elected to attempt a field goal (all were successful). The other 4th-down play in the Red Zone resulted in a 17-yard TD run for Jonathan Dorogy against VMI.

Over the last three seasons, The Citadel has had 17 4th-down situations in the Red Zone during SoCon regulation play. Dorogy’s touchdown run is the only time the Bulldogs picked up a first down.

This season, I also tabulated what the Bulldogs’ league opponents did on 4th down against The Citadel.

In the Deep and Back zones, conference opponents punted all 27 times they faced 4th down versus the Bulldogs.

In the Mid Zone, The Citadel’s opposition punted 12 times on 4th and went for a first down on five other occasions. All five attempts to keep the drive alive were successful (two of them were by VMI).

Opponents were 5 for 9 on field goal attempts in the Front Zone (two of the four missed were by Furman). Chattanooga went for a first down on 4th down twice, and went 1-for-2. VMI was 0-for-1 trying for a first down from this distance.

In the Red Zone, opponents were 1-2 trying to pick up a first down, and 3 for 4 on field goal tries.

Two seasons ago, The Citadel began what appeared to be a policy of deferring the option to the second half every time it won the coin toss. The Bulldogs won the coin toss 4 times in SoCon play in 2015, and deferred on each occasion.

Last year, The Citadel won the coin toss 6 times in 8 league games, going 3-1 both at home and on the road, a tribute to a consistent skill set. In five of the six games in which the Bulldogs won the toss, they deferred, just as they had done in 2015.

The exception was at Western Carolina, where The Citadel elected to receive after winning the toss. I’m not sure what to make of that.

There are two possibilities: one, that the box score mistakenly credited The Citadel for winning the coin toss when in fact the Catamounts actually won it (and deferred); or, for some specific reason related solely to that game, Brent Thompson decided he wanted the ball first.

I wouldn’t mind if someone asked the coach that very question some time. Of course, he may not remember.

As a reminder, this is the first of two statistically-oriented posts I’m making about the previous football season, with an eye to the upcoming campaign. Here is the link to the other one: Link

The season is getting closer. Aren’t you glad?

2016 Football, Game 11: The Citadel vs. North Carolina

The Citadel vs. North Carolina, to be played at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with kickoff at 3:34 pm ET on Saturday, November 19. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ACC Network Extra, with Dan Gutowsky providing play-by-play and John Gregory supplying the analysis.

The game 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.

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

This light blue vs. light blue matchup is brought to you by Eiffel 65:

I’m blue da ba dee da ba di da ba dee da ba di da ba dee da ba di…

Links of interest:

– Game notes for The Citadel and North Carolina

SoCon weekly release

The Citadel makes its case for a top-4 seed

Jonathan King, internet meme

UNC prepares to face the Bulldogs’ triple-option offense

Tar Heels to face another triple-option foe

Undefeated Bulldogs present legitimate test

– Larry Fedora says UNC only looking at The Citadel (video)

– The UNC coach is not overlooking the Bulldogs

– Fedora: “I don’t think we’ll take The Citadel lightly”

– If UNC doesn’t “beat the unbeaten Bulldogs by 50 points” it is because the Tar Heels are “still hung over from losing at Duke”

– Game preview from Campus Insiders

– SB Nation preview: Players to watch

Brent Thompson’s 11/15 press conference, including comments from Kevin Graham, Jonathan King, and Kyle Weaver (video)

Brent Thompson’s 11/16 radio show (video)

– Brent Thompson is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award

– FCS Coaches’ Poll

– STATS FCS Poll

– NCAA FCS selection committee rankings for November 15

The last time The Citadel played North Carolina (in 2009), the game was on ESPN3.com, and the announcers were Bob Picozzi and Paul Maguire. That was the first time Maguire had ever announced a game involving The Citadel (his alma mater).

This week’s ACC Network analyst, John Gregory, also has a connection to The Citadel, though perhaps not one he would fondly remember.

Gregory was Marshall’s starting quarterback in 1988. That season, the Thundering Herd began the year 8-0, rising to #1 in the I-AA polls.

Marshall then traveled to Johnson Hagood Stadium to play The Citadel. Very few games at the old stadium have ever matched that contest for intensity or general atmosphere. It was electric.

MU had been averaging 32.6 points per contest. Gregory was at the time the third-rated passer in I-AA.

However, that day wasn’t one of Gregory’s best. The quarterback finished with 12 completions on 25 attempts, for 176 yards. Three different Bulldogs intercepted Gregory passes (for the record, they were J.D. Cauthen, Terrance Young, and David Matherly).

All in all, it was a long afternoon for the visitors from West Virginia. The Bulldogs upset the Thundering Herd, 20-3.

To be fair, Marshall still shared the SoCon title that year, and advanced to the I-AA quarterfinals. Both of the Thundering Herd’s losses in 1988 were to Palmetto State schools — The Citadel and Furman. Gregory also led Marshall to a victory over The Citadel the following season, 1989.

The third (and thankfully, final) preliminary rankings list for the FCS playoffs was released on Tuesday night:

Rank School Last week
1 North Dakota State 3
2 Eastern Washington 2
3 Jacksonville State 1
4 James Madison 4
5 Sam Houston State 5
6 The Citadel 6
7 Central Arkansas 9
8 Richmond 8
9 North Dakota 10
10 South Dakota State NR

In each of the three rankings, the top 4 has changed, despite none of the teams in the top 4 having lost during that time period. However, The Citadel has been stuck at #6 on all three lists.

After North Dakota State debuted in the rankings at #4 on the initial list, angry shouts from Fargo could be heard throughout the land — or at least in the homes of the selection committee members, as the complaining appears to have had an effect.

Now, does NDSU deserve to be #1 or #2 in the rankings? Probably. How the Bison got there, though, does not reflect well on the committee. Neither does The Citadel’s status as a team with a demonstrably better case for a top-4 seed than either Sam Houston State or Jacksonville State, both of which are ahead of the Bulldogs in the rankings.

Alas, the selection committee apparently can’t get past SHSU’s gaudy offensive statistics (never mind the opposition). A cynic would suggest Jacksonville State is benefiting from having two OVC advocates for its cause on the committee — one the chairman, the other JSU’s own director of athletics.

Per the Massey Ratings, Sam Houston State’s best opponent to date is Nicholls, which is ranked 35th. Its second-best win is versus McNeese State (42nd). Meanwhile, The Citadel has played three opponents ranked in the top 14.

Jacksonville State’s best two wins are against Coastal Carolina (ranked 18th by Massey) and Liberty (26th).

In the NCAA’s “toughest schedules to date” category, The Citadel’s slate is ranked 22nd. Jacksonville State’s schedule is 101st; Sam Houston State’s, 116th.

All those pesky facts are likely to be ignored by the selection committee, however, based on the preliminary rankings (and the committee’s historical bent). I would really like to be wrong about that, but I don’t think I will.

The seeding order matters because home field advantage is very important in the FCS playoffs. The last champion to have won a game on the road en route to a title was Richmond, in 2008. That’s right — North Dakota State has not had to play a road game during its entire five-year championship run.

At least the Bulldogs are almost certain to get a seed. Avoiding a first-round game and getting to host a second-round game are both important keys to advancing in the tournament.

That is particularly true because the assignment of first-round host sites is a process driven by money. Some would argue that in a few cases, team selection is monetarily driven:

It’s down to the Brawl of the Wild Game, beat Montana State and with the Griz’ history of big crowds, [Montana will] make the playoffs.

The writer of that blurb isn’t wrong. Montana is a decent bet to make the field if it wins in part because the program is a money-maker. If you are a fan of the team that gets paired with the Griz for a first-round game, you might as well resign yourself to a road game, even if your team has a better résumé.

More than a few people wondered last year if the deciding factor in picking one particular at-large squad was because the school was within 400 miles of a potential opponent. Thus, it could be bused to the game, saving the NCAA the cost of an extra team flight.

The CFP setup is positively pristine when compared to the selection and seeding for the FCS playoffs.

North Carolina is 7-3 overall, 5-2 in the ACC.

After opening the season with a loss to Georgia in Atlanta, the Tar Heels won four straight games. UNC averaged over 44 points per game in those victories, which included a last-second defeat of Florida State in Tallahassee, a comeback victory over Pittsburgh, and easy wins against Illinois and FCS power James Madison.

However, North Carolina’s surge was ended rather emphatically by a combination of Virginia Tech and Hurricane Matthew. The final score was 34-3; it could be argued that the Hokies were stylistically more suited to play a game in poor weather conditions, though perhaps not so much as to win by 31 points.

UNC recovered from that debacle to win three more games, beating Miami and Virginia on the road before returning home and thumping Georgia Tech, 48-20.

Then came last Thursday night, when the Tar Heels blew an early 14-0 lead and lost to a 3-6 Duke team, 28-27. It was the most disappointing result of the season for UNC.

Statistics of note for North Carolina:

UNC Opp
Points/game 33.5 26.4
Rushing yardage 1482 2223
Yards/rush 4.8 4.5
Rush TDs 20 24
Passing yardage 3058 1936
Comp-Att-Int 255-360-4 157-278-0
Average/pass att 8.5 7.0
Passing TDs 22 9
Total offense 4540 4159
Total Plays 672 769
Yards/play 6.8 5.4
Fumbles/lost 11/8 23-9
Penalties-pen yds 79-636 73-624
Pen yards/game 63.6 62.4
Net punt average 40.9 37.3
Time of poss/game 24:42 35:18
3rd-down conv 63/130 68/161
3rd-down conv % 48.5% 42.2%
Sacks by-yards 20-122 16-94
Red Zone TD% (30-45) 66.7% (28-44) 63.6%
  • No, that’s not a typo — the Tar Heels have yet to intercept a pass this season, which is really amazing
  • On the other hand, UNC quarterbacks have only thrown 4 picks, which is tied for 4th-fewest in FBS
  • North Carolina is ranked 16th in FBS in offensive third down conversion rate (second in the ACC, to Clemson)
  • One way to consistently convert on third downs is to complete passes, and UNC’s 70.8% completion rate is third-best nationally
  • Conversely, the Tar Heels are 93rd in the country in defensive third down conversion rate
  • UNC is 17th in FBS in net punting, and has only allowed a net of one (1) punt return yard all season
  • The lack of interceptions by the defense is a major reason why the Tar Heels are 93rd in turnover margin
  • North Carolina is among the most-penalized teams in the nation
  • UNC has the third-lowest time of possession in all of FBS; only Missouri and Iowa (!) have possessed the football for less time this season

North Carolina’s ranking in rush defense is 106th nationally, a statistic that has been bandied about in a few places this week. However, in terms of yards per rush, the Tar Heels don’t look quite as bad, ranking 79th in that category.

Stats of consequence for The Citadel:

The Citadel Opp
Points/game 30.7 18.8
Rushing yardage 3599 1211
Yards/rush 5.5 3.8
Rush TDs 31 13
Passing yardage 673 1808
Comp-Att-Int 39-96-2 155-267-8
Average/pass att 7.0 6.8
Passing TDs 5 10
Total offense 4272 3019
Total Plays 745 583
Yards/play 5.7 5.2
Fumbles/lost 16-7 13-8
Penalties-pen yds 51-538 42-400
Pen yards/game 53.8 40.0
Net punt average 36.8 36.8
Time of poss/game 33:56 26:03
3rd-down conv 80/162 39/123
3rd-down conv % 49.3% 31.7%
Sacks by-yards 28-185 1-6
Red Zone TD% (25-44) 56.8% (13-21) 61.9%
  • The Citadel leads FCS in rushing yards per game (359.9); the Bulldogs’s average per rush attempt of 5.5 is 7th-best nationally
  • The Bulldogs are 7th in offensive third down conversion rate
  • The Citadel is 13th in FCS in defensive third down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs are 4th nationally in time of possession
  • The Citadel’s offense suffered its first sack of the season last week against VMI
  • Despite being tied for 18th in fewest penalties per game, the Bulldogs have committed more penalties than their opponents
  • The Citadel is 20th in turnover margin
  • The Bulldogs are 11th in FCS in scoring defense, 22nd in rushing defense, and 21st in pass defense

North Carolina has had its fair share of great players over the years, from Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice to Lawrence Taylor.

However, the most successful NFL quarterback to have been a UNC alum is T.J. Yates, who started against The Citadel when these two schools last met. Yates has thrown six career TD passes in the NFL, just five more than Stump Mitchell.

A lot of people think UNC may finally have produced a future pro all-star QB, though, in current signal-caller Mitch Trubisky (6’3″, 220 lbs.), a junior from Metter, Ohio. Trubisky is in his first year as a full-time starter, and he has excelled for the Tar Heels.

For the season, Trubisky is completing 70.6% of his passes, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt, with 22 touchdown tosses against only four interceptions. Trubisky had a streak of 243 consecutive passes without an interception end versus Virginia Tech.

Elijah Hood (6’0″, 200 lbs.) is a junior running back from Charlotte who rushed for 1,463 yards last season, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, with 17 touchdowns.

I have friends who are UNC fans. The common refrain from them last season was that Hood should have been featured even more than he was (particularly in the Tar Heels’ borderline ridiculous loss to South Carolina).

This year, Hood has had some injury issues that have limited his productivity, but he has still rushed for 719 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per rush.

Hood’s occasional absences from the lineup have been somewhat mitigated by the fine play of another running back, T.J. Logan (5’10”, 190 lbs.), a senior who has stepped up for the Tar Heels. Logan is also averaging 5.9 yards per carry, with a total of 533 yards rushing and 7 TDs.

North Carolina has several outstanding receivers.

Ryan Switzer (5’10”, 185 lbs.) leads the team in receptions, with 75. Switzer is also a great — not good, great — punt returner, probably the outstanding return man of this era. The senior from the other Charleston (in West Virginia) has been compared more than once to Wes Welker.

Bug Howard (6’5″, 210 lbs.) is averaging 15.8 yards per reception. The senior leads the team in touchdown catches, with six.

Austin Proehl (5’10”, 175 lbs.) is a junior who has 34 catches and three touchdowns. His father Ricky played in the NFL for several decades.

UNC sustained a tough loss last month in its receiving corps when Mack Hollins suffered a broken collarbone. The senior wideout was leading the team in yards per reception.

North Carolina’s starters on the offensive line average 6’5″, 300 lbs.

The o-line has been somewhat depleted by injuries, but still features several experienced performers. Center Lucas Crowley (6’3″, 290 lbs.) and right tackle Jon Heck (6’6″, 310 lbs.) have combined to make 84 career starts.

Middle linebacker Andre Smith (6’0″, 240 lbs.) and strong safety Donny Miles (5’11”, 205 lbs.) are tied for UNC’s team lead in tackles, with 89. Both will have important roles for the Tar Heels on Saturday, particularly Smith, a sophomore from Jacksonville who drew praise from Brent Thompson during the coach’s radio show.

Smith is a player with excellent lateral movement, according to Thompson. One of the keys to the game for the Bulldogs’ offense is to keep him from making plays (“limit him” in Thompson’s parlance). Against Georgia Tech, Smith had 12 tackles.

Miles made 11 tackles in UNC’s victory over Florida State. The junior from Miami had nine tackles and recovered a fumble in the Tar Heels’ win over Pittsburgh.

Thompson described North Carolina’s defense as “big up front, long up front. They can lock you out a bit if you don’t watch out.”

Defensive tackle Nazair Jones (6’5″, 310 lbs.) certainly qualifies as “big” and “long”. The junior leads UNC in tackles for loss, with 7 1/2. Jones had eight stops against Georgia Tech.

Mikey Bart (6’3″, 270 lbs.) leads the Tar Heels in sacks, with four. Bart has made 25 career starts during his time in Chapel Hill.

Cole Holcomb (6’1″, 220 lbs.) is a former walk-on who ranks third on the team in tackles, with 87. The junior had eleven stops against Duke.

Nick Weiler (6’0″, 190 lbs.) starred in one of the more memorable moments of the college football season. The senior placekicker booted a game-winning 54-yard field goal versus Florida State, and then proceeded to do the “Tomahawk Chop” for the benefit of the Tallahassee crowd.

Up to that point, Weiler had never made a kick of 50 yards or longer, but he has added two more such kicks to his total since then. For the season, he is 12 for 16 on field goal attempts.

Weiler is also a prohibitive favorite to be first-team All-Hair.

Tom Sheldon (6’3″, 200 lbs.) is an Australian who handles the punting duties for the Tar Heels. Although just a freshman, the left-footed Sheldon is 28 years old.

As noted above, UNC’s net punting has been very good this year, with only one net yard allowed all season in returns.

Sheldon had never been to the United States before he arrived at UNC on a recruiting visit. His previous team had been an Australian Rules Football outfit called the Kyabram Bombers, which has its own theme song:

We’re the bombers
we’re the greatest team alive
We’ll wear the red and black,
Pride and courage never lack,
All for one and one for all.

Wearing light blue and white may have been an even bigger culture shock for Sheldon than Lexington-style barbecue…

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny, with a high of 70 degrees. There is a 20% chance of rain after 2 pm. The low on Saturday night is projected to be 34 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is an 21.5-point underdog against North Carolina, with an over/under of 58.5. As a comparison, the Bulldogs were 20-point underdogs at South Carolina last season.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Chattanooga is a 49.5-point underdog at Alabama; Western Carolina is a 30.5-point underdog at South Carolina; Wofford is a 22.5-point favorite versus VMI; Samford is a 29.5-point favorite at East Tennessee State; and Furman is a 2.5-point favorite at Mercer (that last one surprised me).

Gardner-Webb (4-6) finishes its season by hosting Monmouth. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are a 11.5-point favorite.

North Greenville (7-4) received a bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs and will play at Florida Tech on Saturday. The Crusaders are 14.5-point underdogs.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 4th in FCS (unchanged from last week). North Carolina is ranked 25th in FBS.

Massey projects The Citadel to have a 5% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of North Carolina 37, The Citadel 14.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Samford (11th), Wofford (12th, a jump of seven spots), Chattanooga (14th, a drop of six positions), Furman (43rd), Mercer (46th), Gardner-Webb (48th), Western Carolina (69th), VMI (72nd), East Tennessee State (87th).

The top ten in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Jacksonville State, The Citadel, Central Arkansas, South Dakota State, Youngstown State, Sam Houston State, James Madison, and Northern Iowa.

– UNC’s game notes roster includes 51 natives of North Carolina. Other states represented on the squad: Georgia (12), Florida (12), Virginia (8), New Jersey (5), Alabama (3), California (3), Maryland (3), Texas (2), Tennessee (2), South Carolina (2), Ohio (2), and one each from Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

As mentioned above, punter Tom Sheldon is from Australia — specifically, Echuca, Victoria.

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

– North Carolina concludes its regular season on the Friday after Thanksgiving, hosting North Carolina State. UNC could still potentially play a game the following week for the ACC championship; for that to happen, the Tar Heels need a victory over the Wolfpack combined with a loss by Virginia Tech to Virginia.

– Non-conference opponents for UNC in future seasons include Western Carolina (in both 2017 and 2018), California, UNCC, Old Dominion, East Carolina, UCF, Notre Dame (in 2017 and 2022), Georgia State, and South Carolina (in 2019 and 2023, with both games played in Charlotte).

– Brent Thompson is the seventh coach that North Carolina will face this season in his first year as the head coach at his current school. The others: Mike Houston (James Madison), Mark Richt (Miami), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Lovie Smith (Illinois), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), and Bronco Mendenhall (Virginia). UNC is 4-2 against that group.

– Saturday’s game is the last of three contests that The Citadel will play in the state of North Carolina this season, against opponents that compete in 3 different leagues — the Big South (Gardner-Webb), the SoCon (Western Carolina), and the ACC (UNC).

– There are no changes to The Citadel’s two-deep this week.

– Game notes factoid of the week: Brent Thompson’s eight SoCon victories are tied for the most by a first-year head coach in Southern Conference history. Thompson shares the record with Bob Pruett, who won eight league contests in his first year as Marshall’s head coach in 1996. That season was Marshall’s last as a I-AA program; the Thundering Herd went 15-0 and won the national title.

This could be a strange game for The Citadel in the sense that, for the first time all season, expectations are limited. There is no real pressure.

The Bulldogs have done everything that could possibly be asked of them this year. Eight conference games, eight victories. Two non-conference road games in which The Citadel was favored, two more wins.

After this matchup, the Bulldogs will begin what amounts to a second season.

That said, this game is not a throwaway for The Citadel by any means. It is another chance to make a positive impression.

The win last year over South Carolina provided the program (and its fan base) with a huge jolt of energy. A victory over UNC on Saturday would be an even bigger statement.

I’m looking forward to this game. That anticipation is not strictly based on a hope for victory, though I do harbor such thoughts. I don’t think it is unrealistic to think the Bulldogs can win, either.

After all, no one should doubt this team.

Game Review, 2016: VMI

The Citadel 30, VMI 20.

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

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

Video from WCSC-TV

– School release from The Citadel

– School release from VMI

– Game story, The Roanoke Times

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah yes, 10-0.

Parts of that 10-0 worth noting:

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

It has been quite a year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Condolences to his family and friends.

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

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

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

cfp-2

2016 Football, Game 7: The Citadel vs. Wofford

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

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

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

SoCon weekly release

– The Citadel faces challenges, dishes them out

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

– This week is a matchup of ground game experts

– Jeff Hartsell writes about Wofford coach Mike Ayers

– About juice, but not the kind from oranges

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

Brent Thompson 10/19 radio show (video)

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

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

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

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

– Leadership Day 2016

FCS Coaches’ Poll

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few Wofford statistics of note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thompson’s answer:

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chattanooga fell five spots after its loss to The Citadel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s okay, though.

Game Review, 2016: Gardner-Webb

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

School release

Game story, The Shelby Star

Photo gallery, The Shelby Star

Video from WCSC-TV

Box score

Post-game notes

DeAndre Schoultz’s punt return for a TD

Dominique Allen’s big fourth-quarter run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gardner-Webb’s final six plays on offense:

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

That’s how you finish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Dogs!

Game review, 2015: Furman

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, The Greenville News

Sidebar story, The Greenville News

“Notes” column, The Greenville News

School release

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Mike Houston, Dominique Allen, Cam Jackson, and Tevin Floyd

Video from WCIV-TV

Video from WSPA-TV

Column from STATS FCS Football, with a mention of The Citadel as “looking more like a team capable of winning the Southern Conference title”

Box score

Random thoughts and observations from a pleasant afternoon in the Upstate of South Carolina:

– The Citadel is 4-0 in the SoCon. I realize that there are a host of long-term implications to consider, including the potential of a league title shot, but I wanted to make one immediate point.

The Bulldogs have now clinched a winning conference record — and for me, that means something. The fact The Citadel has clinched that winning record in the SoCon before Halloween is a really nice bonus.

– An interesting (and enjoyable) statistical trend…

SoCon opponent — Rush yards per play
Western Carolina — 4.9
Wofford — 5.1
Samford — 5.9
Furman — 6.2

– There were some major league hits and collisions in that game. The training staffs for Furman and The Citadel got plenty of exercise on Saturday.

Special mention in this area probably should go to Furman safety Richard Hayes III, who seemed to be in the middle of a lot of the action, taking and giving. Hayes tied for the Paladins’ team lead in tackles, with ten.

The Citadel was led in tackles by Kailik Williams, who is beginning to make a name for himself on the Bulldogs’ D.

– Mike Houston, in one of his post-game interviews:

We saw probably four or five different defensive schemes today from Furman; they were throwing everything at us…and what that ended up doing, it gave us the opportunity for a lot of big plays…a lot of those big plays were [when] we caught them in things. That goes back to Coach [Brent] Thompson and Dominique [Allen] being on the same page.

I’m certainly not an expert on formations and/or tactics, but it seemed to me the Bulldogs ran the toss play a lot more than in prior games.

I think that happened because Furman was being very aggressive in trying to stop the inside running game, and the Paladins’ strategy included blitzing a safety (or linebacker) on a regular basis. By tossing the ball outside, the Bulldogs got a numbers advantage whenever the blitzing defender was caught in the middle of the field.

– I loved everything about Brandon Eakins’ 35-yard touchdown run on an end-around. The timing of the call was fantastic (immediately after a false start penalty set the Bulldogs back from 3rd-and-short to 3rd-and-5ish). The play was well-designed and perfectly executed.

I even got a decent picture of the play just as Dominique Allen was pitching the football to Eakins.

– The critical play of the game, though, was arguably Allen’s pass to Reggie Williams on 3rd-and-7 from the Bulldogs’ 49-yard line. Furman had scored 10 points on its first two possessions of the second half, and had also controlled the ball during almost the entire third quarter (after The Citadel had rung up an 8-minute, 42-second advantage in time of possession in the first half).

It was somewhat surprising Williams could be so open on a passing down, but that can be credited to the play call itself, the execution of the play, and the fact that in the triple option offense, even 3rd-and-7 is not necessarily an automatic passing situation. Indeed, on another 3rd-and-7 situation earlier in the game, The Citadel had picked up a first down on a handoff to Isiaha Smith.

– Driving home after the game, I listened to part of Furman’s post-game radio show. At one point, Sam Wyche was interviewed. He had been the analyst for the ESPN3.com production of the contest.

Wyche commented that The Citadel’s “two guys in the middle” had dominated along the defensive line and caused Furman’s offense a lot of problems. He was presumably referring to Mitchell Jeter and Jonathan King, and his observation is a reminder that stats don’t always tell the whole story, especially those of the defensive variety.

Jeter and King combined for “just” four tackles on Saturday (including a shared sack for Jeter), but their influence on the game was undeniable.

– Speaking of Wyche: before the game, Furman prefaced a video PSA by Wyche on good sportsmanship by showing a clip of his famous/infamous “You don’t live in Cleveland” speech. I’m not sure it gets much better than that.

– This is meaningless, but Saturday’s game marked the third straight time Furman had donned white jerseys against The Citadel. Two of those games were played at Johnson Hagood Stadium, of course.

When the Bulldogs had last traveled to Greenville, in 2012, Furman wore purple jerseys.

– Definitely not meaningless: the freshmen members of the Corps of Cadets who made the trip up (in eight buses) to cheer on the Bulldogs. Their presence was felt, to say the least.

I said this in my game preview, but I wouldn’t mind at all if corps trips to select road contests became a near-annual occurrence. There is an opportunity every year for at least one “instate” away game, with The Citadel now alternating road matchups every season between Furman and Wofford.

I realize timing is a factor, as it is unlikely such trips could (or would) be undertaken prior to mid-October.

– Next up for the Bulldogs is Mercer. It will be a big game, because when you start winning, every game becomes a big game.

I hope a large crowd is on hand this Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium, because this team deserves as much support as it can get.

Here are a few photos from Saturday. While most of the time I take terrible pictures, I was semi-pleased with a couple of these. One was the above-referenced shot taken during Brandon Eakins’ TD run. I also got a reasonably good picture of Isiaha Smith’s 32-yard run in the first quarter.

Curiously, both the Eakins touchdown and Smith’s burst came immediately following false start penalties.

Anyway, the pics:

 

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