Game Review, 2017: Chattanooga

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

“By the numbers”, The Post and Courier

Game story, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Game story, University Echo

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WRCB-TV

Game story, The Chattanoogan

AP game story

School release (The Citadel)

School release (Chattanooga)

Extended box score

Postgame comments from UTC coach Tom Arth (video)

ESPN3 replay of the game

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

Random observations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2017 Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. Mercer

The Citadel vs. Mercer, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 7, 2017.

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– The Citadel won’t hit the panic button

– Back at home after a month away

– Game notes from The Citadel and Mercer

– SoCon weekly release

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #17)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #17)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/3 press conference, including comments from Tyler Davis and Kailik Williams (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/4 radio show (video)

– The Bulldog Breakdown [10/2] (video)

Mercer running game searching for its rhythm

Bears rout VMI

Mercer is right back in the SoCon title race

Bobby Lamb says the series has been “a bloodbath”

Mercer’s student newspaper: this is the best MU team since football was re-instituted in 2013

Mercer highlights versus VMI (video)

Mercer highlights versus Wofford (video)

It is very disappointing when the Bulldogs throw in a complete clunker of a game, regardless of the sport. That is magnified in football, however, because there are only a limited number of opportunities to generate a positive outcome. It is important to make the most of each and every contest.

That didn’t happen on Saturday. The contest was essentially over after the first quarter. I know that the team “played better” in the second half, but does that really matter? I don’t think so, to be honest.

Garbage time is garbage time, particularly when the team in question is not an extremely young squad, but rather an outfit coming off consecutive league titles and expected to compete for another one. There are no truly positive developments to be taken from the debacle at Seibert Stadium. It was simply a bad loss.

That said, the following is also true: many of the players and coaches on the current team have been part of the pigskin scene at the military college for the last 2+ years.

Over that time period The Citadel is 22-7, 15-2 in the SoCon, with two conference crowns and a win over an SEC team (along with a road playoff triumph). The next victory by the current edition of the Bulldogs will tie the 1959-60-61 teams for most wins by the program over a three-year period (23).

In other words, there are a bunch of winners on the roster. They are used to success, and they’re not likely to take a step back after a bad performance.

Temporary stands have been set up on the East side of Johnson Hagood Stadium in time for the game against Mercer:

Seating has been added to the east side of Johnson Hagood Stadium for the stretch run of the 2017 season. The seating is general admission and will be available on a first-come, first-serve so fans are encouraged to purchase their general admission tickets in advance. The seating is in close proximity to the Bulldog Beer Garden and the Kids’ Zone…

The Bulldog Beer Garden…is located next to the Altman Center on the southeast side of the stadium. Concessions including food and beverages will be located in this area presented by Sticky Fingers.  The adjacent location will also have a kid’s fun zone with inflatables for children of appropriate ages.  The Bulldog Beer Garden will be tented, accommodate up to 500 patrons, and will have TVs playing football games of interest…

…[the Kids’ Zone] includes Jumpcastles, face painting, and other fun activities [that] are available for ages 12 & under.

The temporary seating (not including the beer garden) will have room for approximately 1,000 spectators.

Saturday’s game is part of Parents’ Weekend. Schedule of events: Link

On Friday, seniors will receive their class rings. That is a big deal at The Citadel, of course, even for football players who have already picked up their fair share of hardware. As Kailik Williams said:

It means a lot. A lot of people didn’t think I was going to make it. Sometimes, I didn’t even think I was going to make it.

There are plenty of alums who can relate to that sentiment.

The football program is currently on a very good run when it comes to the “celebration games”, Parents’ Day and Homecoming. The Citadel has won ten straight of those contests, winning on Parents’ Day and Homecoming in each of the last five seasons.

From what I can tell, that is the longest winning streak in those games since the Bulldogs’ first Homecoming game — which, according to former school president/historian Oliver Bond, occurred in 1924. The Citadel defeated Furman 6-0 in that October 25 contest at Hampton Park before more than 4,000 fans, with Anderson native Carl Hogrefe scoring the winning touchdown.

However, five Parents’ Day wins in a row is not a school record. The mark for sustained success on Parents’ Day is eight, a streak that began in 1978 with a 21-14 win over Delaware and lasted through 1985, a 10-3 victory over Western Carolina.

The Citadel has not played Mercer on Parents’ Day or Homecoming before this season.

The Bulldogs led FCS in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate prior to the Samford game (61%). However, The Citadel only converted 3 of 13 third-down attempts last Saturday.

A look at first down/third down plays explains why, especially when compared to the first three games this season.

Average yards picked up on first down by The Citadel:

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

That is not a great trend.

It also leads to more difficult third down situations for the Bulldogs:

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

Those third down conversion attempts against Samford included a 3rd-and-15, a 3rd-and-19, and a 3rd-and-28.

Penalties were a major factor in the offensive struggles. The Bulldogs were flagged eight times on offense (not counting two other infractions that were declined).

On defense, the Bulldogs have to do a better job against the pass.

Yards per pass attempt allowed:

  • vs. Newberry: 7.2 yards
  • vs. Presbyterian: 5.1 yards
  • vs. East Tennessee State: 5.7 yards
  • vs. Samford: 12.4

You aren’t going to win many games allowing 12.4 yards per pass attempt.

It should be noted, though, that The Citadel’s offense averaged 10.9 yards per pass attempt itself, in line with its season average. I wouldn’t mind that number for the Bulldogs in any game they play during the season.

Key stats for The Citadel through four games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 31.0 20.2
Rushing yardage 1334 351
Average per rush 5.0 3.5
Average per game 333.5 87.8
TDs rushing 12 5
Passing yardage 440 822
Comp-Att-Int 20-42-2 66-108-7
Average per pass 10.5 7.6
TDs passing 5 6
Total offense 1774 1173
Total plays 309 207
Yards per play 5.74 5.67
Kick returns-yards 6-128 12-236
Punt returns-yards 6-44 1-1
Fumbles/lost 6/1 2/1
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 5.0/43.0 2.5/23.8
Net punt average 39.7 37.2
Time of possession/game 37:24 22:36
3rd down conversions 33/62 12/38
3rd down conversion rate 53.2% 31.6%
Sacks by-yards 8-44 3-20
Field goals-attempts 2-3 1-2
Red Zone touchdown rate 13-19 (68.4%) 6-9 (66.7%)
  • The Citadel leads the nation in time of possession
  • The Bulldogs are second nationally in rushing offense and 14th in the country in rushing defense
  • Despite the 3rd down struggles last week, The Citadel is still 4th in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate
  • Defensively, the Bulldogs are 22nd nationally in third down conversion rate
  • The Citadel is 12th in turnover margin
  • The Bulldogs are 11th in net punting
  • Even with 10 accepted penalties versus Samford, The Citadel is 17th nationally in fewest penalties per game
  • The Citadel is 35th in scoring offense and 29th in scoring defense
  • The Bulldogs are 12th in offensive pass efficiency, a number that includes The Citadel’s 22 yards per catch rate, tops in FCS

Mercer has been competitive ever since joining the Southern Conference in time for the 2014 football season. The Bears have had a habit of playing close games. What they have not done as often as MU fans would like is win those games.

Since 2014, Mercer has played 14 conference games decided by five points or less. The Bears are 4-10 in those contests. Three of those losses have come against The Citadel, by a total of five points.

Of the four close SoCon victories, two have come on the road (both against VMI). One of the two home wins was a 17-14 decision over Chattanooga in 2015, a result that helped The Citadel claim a share of the Southern Conference title.

This year, Mercer has lost two hard-fought SoCon contests, including a home loss to Wofford that the Bears probably should have won.

Mercer’s schedule after five games:

  • beat Jacksonville 48-7, an easy win over an overmatched Pioneer League foe (JU has recovered to win its next 3 games, though)
  • lost 28-27 to Wofford, a game in which the Bears led by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter
  • played very well (particularly on defense) in a 24-10 loss at Auburn; Mercer forced five turnovers in that contest
  • lost 26-23 in overtime at East Tennessee State; MU led by 10 points entering the fourth quarter
  • defeated VMI 49-14, rolling up 575 yards of offense in the process

Statistics of note for the Bears:

Mercer Opponents
Points per game 31.4 19.8
Rushing yardage 790 721
Average per rush 3.9 3.4
Average per game 158 144.2
TDs rushing 10 9
Passing yardage 1108 1009
Comp-Att-Int 83-135-5 88-125-5
Average per pass 8.2 8.1
TDs passing 10 3
Total offense 1898 1730
Total plays 340 334
Yards per play 5.58 5.18
Kick returns-yards 12-242 22-267
Punt returns-yards 7-75 7-68
Fumbles/lost 4/2 9/6
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 5.4/46.2 6.2/62.8
Net punt average 37.4 35.3
Time of possession/game 29:15 30:45
3rd down conversions 28/67 32/72
3rd down conversion rate 41.8% 44.4%
Sacks by-yards 9-57 6-48
Field goals-attempts 4-6 3-6
Red Zone touchdown rate 15/20 (75.0%) 8/15 (53.3%)
  • Mercer leads the nation in kick return defense
  • The Bears are 30th nationally in net punting
  • MU is 40th in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate and
  • Conversely, the Bears are 100th (out of 123 teams) in defensive third down conversion rate
  • Mercer is 54th in rushing offense and 57th in rushing defense
  • MU is 31st in scoring offense and 27th in scoring defense
  • Mercer is 23rd nationally in turnover margin, helped by six recovered fumbles on defense (1oth-best in FCS)

Mercer’s passing attack accounts for 58.3% of its total offense, though only 41.5% of its offensive plays from scrimmage are passing attempts (including sacks).

After four years as the starter, MU quarterback John Russ graduated. Mercer had a replacement ready, however.

Redshirt freshman Kaelan Riley (6’3″, 222 lbs.) is 80 for 132 passing this season (a 60.6% completion rate), averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, with 10 TD passes against five interceptions. The native of Calhoun, Georgia accounted for 75 touchdowns in high school (with a win-loss record of 54-4) while also playing basketball and tennis. Brent Thompson described him as a “spectacular” player.

Running back C.J. Leggett (5’9″, 217 lbs.) began his college career at Georgia Tech. After an injury, he transferred to Mesa Community College.

The redshirt junior from Suwanee, Georgia is averaging 4.6 yards per carry for the Bears. In recent weeks, his workload has increased, despite not being listed as the starter on the two-deep. He rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries versus ETSU, and added 89 yards on 16 rushes against VMI.

Other MU running backs of note include Tee Mitchell (5’10”, 203 lbs.) and Alex Lakes (5’11”, 221 lbs.). Lakes has had an injury-ravaged career, but the redshirt senior is still Mercer’s all-time leading rusher.

Mitchell was a second-team All-SoCon pick in 2015, but was suspended for the entire 2016 season. He is now back and a definite threat in the backfield.

Two years ago, Mitchell (a former Air Force Prep school student) and Lakes combined for 98 yards and a TD against The Citadel at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Junior tight end Sam Walker (6’4″, 229 lbs.) was a preseason first-team All-SoCon selection. He did not play versus VMI, but is expected to suit up against The Citadel.

Wide receiver Marquise Irvin (6’2″, 215 lbs.) is a junior from Huntsville, Alabama. He was a second-team all-conference choice in 2016. Irvin had eight catches for 81 yards in last year’s game against the Bulldogs.

Brent Thompson noted that Mercer does a good job of getting Irvin the pigskin, including bubble screens. He can catch the deep ball too.

Avery Ward (6’2″, 191 lbs.) is a senior wideout from Alpharetta, Georgia, who has been a regular for the Bears since his freshman campaign. In 2014, he had 104 yards receiving (including a 65-yard TD catch) against The Citadel. He also led the team in catches versus the Bulldogs the following season.

Chandler Curtis (5’11”, 200 lbs.) is a senior who, when not injured, is a fine wide receiver and a scintillating return man. The problem for Curtis over his college career has been staying healthy.

He was healthy enough to haul in a 61-yard touchdown pass against VMI last week. Curtis has been the primary punt and kick returner for the Bears this season.

Mercer’s projected starting offensive line averages 6’3″, 298 lbs. Right guard Caleb Yates (6’3″, 294 lbs.) is a three-year starter who was a preseason second-team all-league pick.

Mercer noseguard Dorian Kithcart (6’0″, 285 lbs.) was described by Brent Thompson as a “big load” who “moves extremely well”. He is a redshirt sophomore from Durham.

Defensive end Isaiah Buehler (6’3″, 262 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection. This season he has 2 1/2 tackles for loss, along with 2 quarterback hurries.

Eric Jackson (5’8″, 190 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Powder Springs, Georgia, is a strong safety who currently leads the team in tackles. He has 39 stops through five games.

Inside linebacker Lee Bennett (6’0″, 221 lbs.) is filling up the stat sheet for the Bears this season. He is second on the team in tackles, and also has two tackles for loss (including a sack), a quarterback hurry, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery. Bennett had six tackles versus The Citadel in 2016.

LeMarkus Bailey (5’11”, 201 lbs.), an outside linebacker, leads the team in tackles for loss, with 6 1/2. The native of Marietta, Georgia is a redshirt junior. He had one of the three tackles for loss Mercer recorded against The Citadel in last year’s contest.

Placekicker Cole Fisher (6’1″, 190 lbs.) was the preseason first-team all-conference kicker. Fisher made a 50-yard field goal against Samford last year. This year he hasn’t made one of that distance, though he did attempt a 52-yarder versus Jacksonville.

Fisher is also Mercer’s kickoff specialist. While only four of his 29 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks, opponents are only averaging 12 yards per return against the Bears (which leads the nation, as mentioned earlier).

Mercer’s punter is true freshman Grant Goupil (6’2″, 184 lbs.). Nine of his 22 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday, per the National Weather Service: a 30% chance of showers, with an expected high of 84 degrees. It will be mostly cloudy, with winds of 6-14 mph.

I have a feeling it is going to be one of those wet and windy days. Field conditions could be tricky for both teams and might favor the defenses.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 6-point favorite over Mercer. The over/under is 50.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 4-point favorite at Chattanooga; Samford is a 35-point favorite at VMI; Wofford is a 3.5-point favorite over Western Carolina; and East Tennessee State is an 8.5-point favorite over Robert Morris;

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 21.5-point favorite over Wake Forest; South Carolina is a 2.5-point home underdog versus Arkansas; South Carolina State is a 16.5-point favorite against Morgan State ; Coastal Carolina is a 1-point underdog at home versus Georgia State; Presbyterian is a 20-point home underdog against St. Francis University (which upset Liberty last week); and Charleston Southern is a 31-point underdog at Indiana.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 42nd in FCS, a drop of 12 spots from last week.

Mercer is ranked 56th in FCS, moving up three places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 176th, while Mercer is 202nd.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 26, Mercer 23. The Bulldogs are given a 56% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 17th (up one spot), Samford is 24th (up 14 spots), Western Carolina is 29th (a jump of 18 places, the second week in a row the Catamounts have moved up exactly 18 spots), Furman is 35th (up 8 places), Charleston Southern is 38th, Chattanooga is 54th (down 22 spots), East Tennessee State is 76th (down six places), South Carolina State is 87th, Presbyterian is 101st, and VMI is 109th (down three places).

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

– Since 1911, The Citadel has a 9-5-1 record for games played on October 7. That includes two wins over Richmond and victories over the Charleston Navy and the Parris Island Marines.

The Bulldogs last played at home on October 7 during the 2004 season. That was a Thursday night game against Benedict in Johnson Hagood Stadium during the year of “half a stadium”, which included temporary stands for the cadets on the West side (shades of this week’s game in reverse).

I was at that contest (won by the Bulldogs 29-0), which is on the short list for “worst atmosphere” of any game every played by The Citadel at JHS. Attendance: 5,127, which I believe is the lowest recorded for any game at Johnson Hagood Stadium since at least 1964.

– Changes to The Citadel’s two-deep for the Mercer game: Gage Russell is now listed as the starter at punter; the backup at that position is Branden Glick. At B-back, Brandon Berry has been added to the depth chart.

– Baseball facts about Mercer that I am required to mention every time the Bulldogs meet the Bears:

Mercer was once coached by George Stallings, who helmed both the football and baseball teams. He was a little better at coaching baseball.

Stallings would later become known as “The Miracle Man” for leading the Boston Braves to the 1914 World Championship. That team was in last place in the National League on the 4th of July but stormed to the pennant (by 10 1/2 games!), then dispatched the favored Philadelphia Athletics in a four-game sweep to win the World Series.

Denton True “Cy” Young served as Mercer’s baseball coach from 1903-05. Mercer won the Georgia state championship for college teams in all three of those years.

After each spring in Macon with the Mercer team, Young returned to pitch for Boston (the team now known as the Red Sox); during that three-year stretch, he compiled a major league record of 72-44 with a 1.96 ERA.

– Among Mercer’s notable graduates are TV personality/attack dog Nancy Grace, missionary/spy John Birch, and current Georgia governor Nathan Deal.

– Mercer disbanded its football program following the 1941 campaign, and didn’t field a team again until 2013. This is the fifth year for the program since the re-institution of the sport in Macon.

– The roster for Mercer (per its game notes) includes 62 players from the State of Georgia. Other states represented on the roster: Florida (15 players), Tennessee (9), Alabama (5), South Carolina (2), and one each from North Carolina and Texas.

The two Palmetto State players on Mercer’s squad are redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Destin Guillen (who attended Berea High School), and freshman quarterback Brett Burnett (a product of Airport High School). However, Mercer has no players from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School on its roster, an inexplicable oversight for a university actively searching for high-quality gridiron talent.

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

After the first four to five games of the 2017 season, it appears that the SoCon could be a complete free-for-all. Every team except VMI is capable of winning (and losing) in conference play on any given week.

While that is good from a competitiveness standpoint, I’m afraid it might also mean that a team with a 5-3 conference record will struggle to gain a playoff spot, because it may be hard to for the league squads to separate themselves into easily defined groups (playoff-caliber teams, non-playoff teams, etc.). The league’s non-conference results haven’t been terrible, but they haven’t been that good, either.

For The Citadel, that potential problem is even more acute, because the Bulldogs finish the regular season at Clemson.

That is why each SoCon contest is so important. It is quite possible that to participate in the postseason for a third consecutive season, the Bulldogs can only afford one more league setback.

It is thus even more critical to “hold serve” at home. The one advantage The Citadel has is that it has not played a conference game at Johnson Hagood Stadium thus far.

The Bulldogs have to cash in on their four SoCon home games. Those matchups will be against Mercer, Wofford, Western Carolina, and VMI.

It won’t be easy, and that starts with this week’s matchup. Mercer has been very close to beating the Bulldogs for three straight years.

There is no question that the team from Macon desperately wants to end the close-but-no-cigar run it has had against The Citadel. Those losses have undoubtedly been very hard to take, particularly for head coach Bobby Lamb.

There is also no doubt, however, that the Bulldogs want to put their poor afternoon at Samford in the rear view mirror. The surest way to do that is to win in front of a supportive Parents’ Day crowd.

The stakes, as always, are high. The drive for the playoffs begins anew on Saturday.

2017 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State

The size of East Tennessee, The Citadel’s Saturday night opponent at Johnson Hagood Stadium, can be described in one word: awesome.

The Bucs are bigger than anyone the Cadets have met this season, including the massive Vanderbilt Commodores.

“Their size scares me more than Vanderbilt’s,” said the Bulldogs’ offensive coach Bob Gatling. “They are big enough to run right at us and that’s what we’re looking for,” said defensive coach Harold Steelman.

The East Tennessee defensive unit has been tagged with the nickname “Sam’s Gang”; Sam being Sam Riddle, a 6’1″, 195-pound junior middle linebacker who calls the defensive signals. But Sam is one of the smaller members of the “Gang”.

The big guy, who his teammates call “Waterloo Fats”, is senior tackle Terry Manfredi. He stands 6’1″ and tips the scales at 268 pounds.

Charleston Evening Post, September 28, 1966

 

With 1:01 left on the clock, sophomore Jim Gahagan banged home a 38-yard field goal into the teeth of a 16 mile per hour wind last night to give The Citadel a 3-0 victory over the East Tennessee State Buccaneers…

…Cal McCombs¹, the Bulldogs’ 5’9″ cornerback, saved the win with an interception at The Citadel three on the final play of the game.

A Johnson Hagood Stadium crowd of 7,558 braved chilling temperatures to watch the Cadets post their second win in a row after losing the season opener at Vanderbilt. It is the first time since 1964 that the Bulldogs have put together back to back wins [The Citadel had defeated Richmond the week before].

Junior linebacker Barron Windham had breathed life into the Cadets when he recovered a Buccaneers fumble at The Citadel 44 with less than four minutes to play…

…The temperature dropped 15 degrees from a high of 73 to a chilling 58 during the course of the game and a wind out of the northwest was clocked at between 16 and 22 miles per hour.

The News and Courier, October 2, 1966

The Citadel at East Tennessee State, to be played at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium in Johnson City, Tennessee, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on September 16, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3. David Jackson will handle play-by-play, while Mark Hutsell supplies the analysis. Kasey Marler will report from the sidelines.

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

Links of interest:

Teammates band together to help family of Mitchell Jeter

The Citadel, team on the move

Lorenzo Ward gets a chance, takes advantage of it

Bulldogs carry extra motivation into league opener

The Citadel winning with two quarterbacks

Bulldogs endure tough week

– Game notes from The Citadel and East Tennessee State

– SoCon weekly release

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is ranked #13, unchanged from last week)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is ranked #13, up one spot from last week)

Brent Thompson 9/13 radio show (video)

New week, new challenge for ETSU

Buccaneers set for great challenge (video from WJHL)

ETSU hosting The Citadel and its triple option offense

Carl Torbush’s 9/11 press conference

The Bulldog Breakdown [9/15] (video)

The two quoted blurbs at the top of the post reference the first football game played between East Tennessee State and The Citadel, which took place on October 1, 1966. After that contest, the two schools would not meet again on the gridiron until 1981. By then, ETSU was a member of the Southern Conference.

In the 1966 matchup, Bulldogs quarterback Bill Ogburn had a tough afternoon (perhaps because of the windy conditions), only completing three passes. However, his third and final completion was a big one, as he found split end Tom Moore² for a 16-yard gain that set up Jim Gahagan’s game-winning field goal.

Afterwards:

East Tennessee coach John Bell, visibly shaken over the defeat, shook [Red] Parker’s hand after the game and said simply, “Congratulations, Red. It was a good defensive game, wasn’t it?” Then he put his head down and trudged across the damp turf to his dressing room.

East Tennessee State was founded in 1911. It was then known as the East Tennessee State Normal School. When it opened, 29 students registered for classes.

One of the first things administrators did was select the school colors (navy and gold). By 1920, the school was fielding a football team, apparently called the “Normalites”. Later the squad became the “Teachers”.

By 1930, there were over 1,400 students. Twenty-five years later, that number had risen to 4,000. Enrollment was approaching 7,000 when East Tennessee State reached university status in 1963.

Today, East Tennessee State University has over 14,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

Why are East Tennessee State’s teams called the “Buccaneers”? The school website says:

Johnson City, home of ETSU, is located among the mountains of Eastern Tennessee and is a great distance from the ocean. For this reason, one might wonder why ETSU would select a Buccaneer as their mascot. The answer is not that simple.

Apparently, geologists and archaeologists teamed up and discovered an underground river near the university several years ago. Named Pirate Creek, it evidently winds its way through many subterranean tunnels. It is thought that these caverns at one time channeled all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Soon after this discovery, the legend of buccaneer, Jean Paul LeBucque was found in history books. The legend tells that LeBucque was a nuisance and terror.

Evidently, he was looking for a place to hide his great store of gold and treasure, and find safety for himself. He sailed north in search of a new home and began to look inland. Legend states that he discovered the underground river near Johnson City and called Pirate Creek his home. Geologists feel that the upheaval of the earth’s crust, which now blocks the channel, possibly killed LeBucque. This legend is widely accepted and is one way to explain why an inland school would choose a pirate nickname.

Uh, sure…

The real origin of the “Buccaneers” nickname is a bit more modest. Wanting to call the football team something other than “Teachers”, a player on the 1936 squad suggested “Buccaneers”, apparently getting the idea from a Virginia high school that used the name. His teammates went along with it, and ETSU’s varsity teams have been known as the Buccaneers ever since.

Of note: in the 1980s, the school had a mascot known as “Pepper the Parrot“.

ETSU has a new stadium. Fast facts on the facility:

  • It is called the “William B. Greene Jr. Stadium”; Greene is a co-founder of the Bank of Tennessee and a longtime benefactor to ETSU
  • Construction began on the stadium in 2015; this “initial” phase cost $26 million
  • Current seating capacity is 7,694; however, a grass berm can hold more fans, which is evident based on the attendance for the first game played there (9,530)
  • Gameday parking is $10
  • For the opener, which had a 7:00 pm kickoff, the parking lots were opened for tailgating at 8:00 am
  • The game against The Citadel will be the second contest played at the new stadium and the first SoCon matchup

East Tennessee State was 5-6 last season in its second year after re-instituting football, winning all three of its non-conference games. Two of those contests were against non-D1 teams, but the third was an overtime victory at Kennesaw State to open the 2016 campaign.

  • at Kennesaw State (won 20-17 in double overtime)
  • Western Carolina (won 34-31; game played at Bristol Motor Speedway)
  • at Wofford (lost 31-0)
  • Chattanooga (lost 37-7)
  • at VMI (lost 37-7; yes, the same score as the UTC game)
  • Furman (lost 52-7)
  • West Virginia Wesleyan (won 38-7)
  • at The Citadel (lost 45-10)
  • at Mercer (lost 21-13)
  • Cumberland (won 23-16)
  • Samford (won 15-14, with a field goal on the last play of the game)

Statistics of note for East Tennessee State’s 2016 season (11 games):

ETSU Opponents
Points/game 15.8 28.0
Rushing yardage 1474 2175
Yards/rush 3.45 4.67
Rush TDs 11 26
Passing yardage 1787 2013
Comp-Att-Int 171-296-8 171-263-2
Average/pass att 6.0 7.7
Passing TDs 9 15
Total offense 3261 4188
Total plays 723 729
Yards/play 4.5 5.7
Fumbles/lost 8/2 14/11
Penalties-pen yds 62-615 72-688
Pen yards/game 55.9 62.5
Net punt average 31.8 37.9
Time of poss/game 31:10 28:50
3rd-down conv 63/163 52/137
3rd-down conv % 38.65% 37.96%
Sacks by-yards 14-63 30-196
Red Zone TD% (17-31) 54.8% (31-46) 67.4%

– ETSU did a very good job of avoiding turnovers in 2016; in fact, the Buccaneers tied for first in all of FCS in fewest turnovers, with just 10 in 11 games. However, East Tennessee State was only 45th nationally in turnover margin despite rarely giving the ball away itself, because it finished 107th in turnovers gained (including only two intercepted passes all season).

– While the Buccaneers were 5th nationally in red zone offense, that number is misleading. ETSU did put points on the board 28 out of 31 times once it advanced inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, but 11 of those 28 scores were field goals. East Tennessee State also ranked in the bottom 25 in red zone opportunities.

– East Tennessee State finished in the bottom 15 nationally in total offense, scoring offense, tackles for loss allowed, and net punting. However, ETSU did enjoy success on fourth down, converting 7 of 10 tries in that category; that 70% success rate on fourth down ranked 6th-best in FCS.

The Buccaneers’ defensive statistics tended to be in the middle of the pack from a national perspective. ETSU did struggle with its defensive pass efficiency (bottom 15 in FCS), which can be attributed in part to the lack of interceptions — and, perhaps, to a lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback, as the Buccaneers’ totals for tackles for loss and sacks were a bit low.

Worth mentioning: in last season’s game versus Kennesaw State, which runs the triple option offense, East Tennessee State’s defense came up big. The Owls were held to 2.9 yards per rush (166 total rush yards) in that contest.

Against The Citadel, however, ETSU’s D was not nearly as effective, allowing 7.0 yards per rush (and 427 total rush yards). Still, it seems to me that the Buccaneers’ veteran coaching staff has a handle on defending the triple option; it is mainly a question of personnel.

In one aspect of the game, East Tennessee State fared better than any other conference team against The Citadel last year, a statistic that caught my eye while I was compiling “advanced stats” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign.

On third down, The Citadel’s offense averaged 5.68 yards needed to gain a first down in league play. That is an excellent number; for comparison, Air Force led FBS teams in that category, at 5.5 yards average distance to go on third downs.

The Bulldogs’ conference opponents, on the other hand, required on average 8.17 yards to move the chains on third down. The differential goes a long way to explaining The Citadel’s 8-0 league record.

However, when ETSU played The Citadel last year, the Buccaneers actually outperformed the Bulldogs in that stat, 5.0 to 5.2. They were the only SoCon team to do so. The required distance to gain on third down of 5.0 yards was easily the least needed on average for any of The Citadel’s conference opponents.

That suggests savvy play calling, in the sense that a young Bucs offense was put in a position to succeed on third down. Indeed, the average distance to gain on third down correlates strongly with third down conversion rate (obviously not a surprise).

It doesn’t make conversions automatic, though, as East Tennessee State found out last year. Against the Bulldogs, even with manageable distance-to-go situations, the Buccaneers were only 2 for 15 on third down conversions.

Four times, ETSU had a third-and-one on offense. Only once in those four attempts did it pick up a first down.

East Tennessee State is 1-1 so far this season, with a 31-10 home win over Limestone, followed by a 52-10 loss to James Madison last Saturday.

Against Limestone, ETSU jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead and cruised to victory. The Buccaneers’ defense held the Saints to 75 yards of total offense in the first half.

ETSU quarterback Austin Herink completed his first 15 passes against the Saints. He finished the game 16 for 20 through the air with three touchdowns and no interceptions, averaging almost 12 yards per attempt. Eight different Buccaneers had receptions.

Conversely, Limestone struggled throwing the ball versus ETSU. The Saints threw the football 20 times, completing only seven, for a total of just 29 passing yards.

East Tennessee State’s matchup with James Madison went about as expected (which could probably also be said for the Limestone game). The Dukes scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions, while ETSU’s lone touchdown during the contest came on a pick-six.

As noted by head coach Carl Torbush in his Monday press conference, ETSU also struggled on special teams. In particular, punting (a bugaboo for the Buccaneers last season) was a problem, as East Tennessee State finished the game with a net punting average of 26.0 (on eight punts, so it wasn’t a sample size issue). JMU took one punt back 41 yards for a TD.

Torbush on the JMU game:

“We’re not going to grade alignment, assignment and technique a great deal. We are going to grade effort and make sure that we fought, which I think we did. We need to make sure we have the right guys on the field.”

There was a bright spot, however, and it is something that should interest Bulldog fans:

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Bucs. Their run defense looked stout. Against a team that had rushed for more than 400 yards a week earlier, they held the Dukes to three yards per carry.

East Tennessee State ran the ball on 59% of its plays in 2016. Through two games this season, ETSU has run the ball on…59% of its plays.

The starting quarterback for the Buccaneers is redshirt junior Austin Herink (6’3″, 209 lbs.). The native of Cleveland, Tennessee has started all 24 games for the team over the past two seasons.

Last year, Herink completed 59.6% of his throws, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt, with seven TDs and eight interceptions. Against The Citadel in Johnson Hagood Stadium, he was 12 for 25 passing for 157 yards, with one touchdown and one pick.

So far this season, Herink has completed 59.6% of his passes (yes, the exact same percentage as in 2016), averaging 7.6 yards per attempt, with three touchdowns against one interception.

Jujuan Stinson (5’9″, 186 lbs.) is the Buccaneers’ primary running back. He is a redshirt junior from Knoxville who averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season. Stinson has five career 100-yard rushing games.

Senior wide receiver Vincent Lowe (5’9″, 181 lbs.) began his college career at Old Dominion. He leads ETSU in receptions through two games this season, with eight (including one touchdown grab). Last year, Lowe had 21 receptions, averaging 9.8 yards per catch.

Drake Powell (6’2″, 200 lbs.) led the Buccaneers in receptions last season, with 29. He averaged 14.9 yards per catch. Against The Citadel last year, Powell caught three passes for 70 yards, including a 52-yarder.

East Tennessee State’s projected starting offensive line averages 6’4″, 297 lbs.

Left guard Ben Blackmon (6’3″, 294 lbs.) is a redshirt sophomore who went to Newberry (SC) High School. In high school, he was also on the baseball and swim teams.

Blackmon started all eleven games last season for the Buccaneers, as did center Matt Pyke (6’2″, 302 lbs.). Pyke is a redshirt junior from Clinton, Tennessee (he and Powell are two of three residents of that town on the East Tennessee State roster).

Senior right tackle Alex Rios (6’5″, 295 lbs.) was a preseason second-team all-SoCon selection. The resident of Tucson played two seasons at Pima Community College before transferring to ETSU. Rios did not play against The Citadel in last season’s game, the only contest he did not start in 2016.

Linebacker Dylan Weigel (6’0″, 220 lbs.) was a second-team All-SoCon selection in 2016. A native of Pickering, Ohio, Weigel led the team in tackles last season, with 106 (including eleven versus The Citadel). Now a redshirt junior, Weigel has 14 tackles through two games this season, tied for second on the team.

Fellow linebacker River Boruff (6’2″, 228 lbs.) currently lead the Bucs in tackles, with 17. Boruff has 19 career starts for ETSU; like Weigel (and several other ETSU players on the two-deep), he is a redshirt junior.

East Tennessee State’s starting defensive ends are both from South Carolina. Chris Bouyer (6’2″, 278 lbs.) is a junior from Rock Hill who went to Northwestern High School. The engineering technology major has twice made the SoCon All-Academic Honor Roll.

Redshirt sophomore Nasir Player (6’6″, 247 lbs.) is from Columbia, and graduated from Ridge View High School. Last season, Player was listed as 6’5″, 257 lbs., so he has apparently grown an inch while shedding ten pounds over the course of the year.

Player made the All-SoCon freshman team last season after starting seven games and compiling 5.5 tackles for loss. Another ETSU representative on the conference’s all-frosh squad, Jason Maduafokwa (6’3″, 256 lbs.) is listed as a backup at defensive end, but actually led the team in sacks last year, with four. At least one online site suggested that Maduafokwa could be a “breakout” player this season for the Buccaneers.

Free safety Paul Hunter (5’11”, 183 lbs.) had eleven tackles and two fumble recoveries against The Citadel last season. He was named the SoCon Defensive Player of the Week as a result.

The senior from Denton, Texas has one of the Bucs’ two interceptions this year.

J.J. Jerman (5’10”, 174 lbs.) is a junior from Seymour, Tennessee. A preseason second-team all-league pick at placekicker, Jerman booted through a game-winning field goal in double overtime against Kennesaw State in ETSU’s season opener last year, and then made a 28-yarder on the final play of the game versus Samford to win the Buccaneers’ last game of the 2016 campaign.

In 2016, Jerman was 12-16 on field goal tries and 18-19 on PATs. In ETSU’s game versus Limestone two weeks ago, Jerman connected on a career-long 48-yard field goal.

Kickoff specialist Landon Kunek (6’2″, 184 lbs.) is a redshirt sophomore who went to Spartanburg (SC) High School. He also serves as the backup punter.

Marion Watson (6’2″, 160 lbs.) is in his third season as ETSU’s punter. The junior’s career long punt is 59 yards, which came in 2015 against Warner.

Charlotte native Domenique Williams (5’10”, 160 lbs.) is ETSU’s primary kickoff and punt returner. He had a 42-yard kick return against The Citadel last season.

Williams, a junior, is also a defensive back, and he returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown last week against James Madison.

Odds and ends:

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

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 25-point favorite over East Tennessee State. The over/under is 44.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: VMI is a 1.5-point favorite at Robert Morris; Western Carolina is a 3-point favorite at Gardner-Webb; Chattanooga is a 6.5-point favorite over UT Martin; Furman is a 34.5-point underdog at North Carolina State; Samford is a 33.5-point underdog at Georgia; and Mercer is a 43.5-point underdog at Auburn.

Wofford is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 3-point favorite at Louisville; South Carolina is a 6-point favorite over Kentucky; Coastal Carolina is a 2-point favorite at UAB; South Carolina State is a 33-point favorite over Johnson C. Smith (and the over/under for that game is only 39); and Charleston Southern is a 10-point favorite at Elon.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 25th in FCS, a drop of seven spots from last week. Apparently beating PC by 41 points didn’t impress the computer.

East Tennessee State is ranked 93rd in FCS. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 147th, while ETSU is 296th.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 31, East Tennessee State 10. The Bulldogs are given a 91% chance of victory.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 16th (a six-spot drop), Charleston Southern is 18th, Chattanooga is 21st (down seven places), Samford is 27th (falling six spots), Mercer is 47th (down 12 places), Furman is 57th (was 31st last week), Western Carolina is 73rd (a seven-spot fall), South Carolina State is 75th, VMI is 100th (down 30 places), and Presbyterian is 101st.

It was a tough week for the SoCon as a whole, and the system’s algorithm punished the league as a result. Bad home losses for Furman and VMI, in particular, dragged down the ratings for the conference.

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, Youngstown State, South Dakota State, and Jacksonville State. Eastern Washington remained in the sixth spot, despite losing at home 40-13 (albeit to North Dakota State).

– In last season’s game between East Tennessee State and The Citadel, ten different Bulldogs had rushing attempts, including Cam Jackson (7 carries for 124 yards and two TDs). Kailik Williams led The Citadel in tackles, with six.

– I mentioned this last year, but ETSU head coach Carl Torbush is a former minor league baseball player. While an assistant coach at Southeastern Louisiana (1976-79), he also served as that school’s baseball coach, leading them to a share of the Gulf South conference title in 1978.

Torbush is a graduate of Carson-Newman. Besides East Tennessee State, he has been the head coach of North Carolina (most people remember that) and Louisiana Tech (no one remembers that). Torbush has been a defensive coordinator at six different FBS schools.

– Former ETSU defensive line coach Scott Brumett was fired in June after being arrested in Chattanooga. Apparently intoxicated, Brumett got upset when his hotel room key card did not work, and allegedly threatened to beat and hang a hotel clerk “from a noose”. Charges were dropped two weeks ago, but the school confirmed that Brumett would not be returning.

– Among East Tennessee State’s notable graduates are former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, country music singer and noted bandwagon fan Kenny Chesney, actor Timothy Busfield³, and Union Station bass player Barry Bales (who has one of the best jobs in the world, as he gets to listen to Alison Krauss sing on a regular basis).

There are also several pro golfers and baseball players among ETSU’s alumni ranks, including J.C. Snead and Atlee Hammaker.

– The roster for East Tennessee State includes 54 players from the State of Tennessee. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (15 players), Ohio (10), North Carolina (8), Virginia (8), Alabama (7), South Carolina (6), Florida (6), Texas (2), and one each from West Virginia, New York, and Arizona.

– The six ETSU players from South Carolina are from six different high schools: T.L. Hanna, Ridge View, Newberry, Spartanburg, Northwestern, and Christ School.

Freshman quarterback Drew Johnson, a resident of Spartanburg, is the Buccaneer who went to high school at Christ School, which is located in Arden, North Carolina. He was coached there by former Tennessee QB (and ex-congressman) Heath Shuler.

– While East Tennessee State can boast several Palmetto State players on its roster, the coaching staff has not signed anyone from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, a sign that the program has not yet hit the big time — this, despite the fact that ETSU offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain once donned the famed maroon and orange.

Donnie Abraham cannot be happy about the current lack of Bruins in Johnson City, either.

– O’Cain was the running backs coach at The Citadel under Art Baker from 1978 through 1980. Of course, he was also the head coach at North Carolina State for seven seasons in the 1990s, and has served as the OC and/or quarterbacks coach at several other schools, including Clemson (his alma mater), North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and James Madison.

– 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.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough game for The Citadel. East Tennessee State is a young but improving team that is well-coached on both sides of the ball.

The Buccaneers have some deficiencies that need to be addressed (including special teams play), but I fully expect the Bulldogs to get ETSU’s best shot on Saturday, before an enthusiastic, partisan crowd ready to see their team pull off an upset of the two-time defending league champions.

In addition, this has not been an easy week for The Citadel in terms of preparation. The squad did not return to Charleston until Tuesday after playing in Clinton on Saturday. Of course, there was also the terrible news about the death of Mitchell Jeter, a teammate of most of the current Bulldogs.

It would be understandable if the players and coaches struggled to maintain their collective focus. However, I have faith that the team will persevere and play hard and well in Johnson City.

Playing hard and well has been a hallmark of the program over the past few years. I expect nothing less on Saturday.

 


*Footnotes*
1: McCombs (later the head coach at VMI) was named the South Carolina State Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the contest.
2: Moore was the head coach of The Citadel from 1983-86.
3: Busfield played Kevin Costner’s brother-in-law in Field of Dreams, among other roles.

 

2017 Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. Newberry

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

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

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

The Charleston Evening Post, Friday, November 6, 1914

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Sunday News, November 8, 1914

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

The game will be televised by 7 Communications, and streamed on ESPN3.com. Kendall Lewis will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. Erin Summers will report from the sidelines.

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

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. The sideline reporter on the radio broadcasts is Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– Season preview from The Post and Courier

SoCon preview from The Post and Courier

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

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

SoConSports.com preview of The Citadel

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

The Citadel: Quick Facts

– Game notes from The Citadel and Newberry

– SoCon weekly release

South Atlantic Conference weekly release

Kailik Williams counts his blessings

Tyler Davis is an aging veteran

Dominique Allen is profiled in the Savannah Morning News

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

Freshmen have to be ready to play on Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newberry season preview from The Post and Courier

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

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

Newberry picked to repeat as South Atlantic Conference champions

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

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

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

It’s time for football!

FOOTBALL!

FOOTBALL!!

FOOTBALL!!!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Newberry College website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newberry’s schedule and results, 2016:

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

Newberry video from 2016:

Highlights package

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

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

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

Highlights of Newberry’s 27-22 win over Wingate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heck, I’m ready now…

Game Review, 2016: Wofford

The Citadel 24, Wofford 21 (OT).

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Notes, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Photo gallery, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

– Game story, The Greenville News

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

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

Video from WSPA-TV

Game wrapup, Southern Pigskin

– School release

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

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

Game highlights (ground level video)

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

I saw the football on the ground.

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

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

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

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

#DogsOnTop, indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7-0.

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

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

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

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

I like it when The Citadel plays big games.

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

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

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!

2016 Football, Week 2: The Citadel vs. Furman

The Citadel…was expected to nose out a victory from the visiting Furman contingent, while the Baptists, being exceedingly jealous of their position in the football world, were counted on to put their last ounce of strength into the fray with a view to nothing less than copping the contest. Hence Hampton Park bade fair to be the scene this afternoon of a hotly contested battle between two well nigh evenly matched teams.

Preview article, The Evening Post, November 1, 1913

 

The Citadel football machine ran up the biggest score of its season yesterday, when it swamped Furman, 75-0. Although the Baptists were fully as husky as the local boys and played a hard game throughout, they were simply up against a far superior team…

…End runs, off-tackle plays, line plunges, and forward passes were all successful ground-gainers, and it is the consensus of local opinion that The Citadel has improved 100 per cent since she smothered the College of Charleston 72-0 in her previous appearance here…

…There was plenty of drive and pep in the Blue dashes, the quartet of Folger, Weeks, Holliday, and James, showing much sang-froid and elan, as they say at Furman.

…taking all this into consideration, The Citadel put up the best exhibition of offensive play in years, and it is doubtful if the famous 1909 gang had anything on Folger, Weeks, and Company in their exhibition of yesterday.

Game story, The Sunday News, November 2, 1913

The Citadel vs. Furman, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 10. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Kevin Fitzgerald providing play-by-play and Sadath Jean-Pierre supplying the analysis. 

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

Links of interest:

Game story for The Citadel-Mercer, The Post and Courier

– Box score from The Citadel-Mercer

– The Citadel faces a choice at quarterback

–  Johnson Hagood Stadium’s East Stands won’t be used this week

– Tyler Renew is the SoCon offensive player of the week

– Game notes from The Citadel and Furman

SoCon weekly release

Brent Thompson’s 9/6 press conference (video)

Brent Thompson 9/7 radio show (video)

– Furman set for first SoCon challenge at The Citadel

– Box score from Furman-Michigan State

– BTN highlights of Furman-Michigan State (video)

Entire Furman-Michigan State game in less than 23 minutes (video)

Promotional spot for Furman-The Citadel (video)

FCS Coaches’ Poll

A quick review of last Thursday’s opener…

For the third straight year, The Citadel eked out a win over Mercer. This time the Bulldogs built a big lead early, let it slip completely away, then retook the lead and held on.

I thought Jordan Black did a nice job in his first start. The coaching staff also should be commended for not overburdening him, but instead letting him use his strengths, including mid-range passes. The absence of turnovers was pleasing.

The offense was mostly shut down after the first quarter, but Mercer’s defense has to get some credit for that. Also, with the game on the line, the Bulldogs marched 65 yards down the field, in just over seven minutes, setting up the game-winning field goal.

The biggest play of the night, in my opinion: after a bad pitch on the aforementioned drive resulted in a 2nd-and-17 on The Citadel’s 20-yard-line, Black completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Renew (who hurdled over a defender for the last four yards). That set up a manageable 3rd-and-2, which Black converted with a 5-yard run.

Two plays later, Black hooked up with Reggie Williams on a 25-yard completion. Then, on 3rd-and-7 from the Mercer 32-yard-line, Cam Jackson brushed aside an early challenge from a defender and used his blockers well to pick up a key first down. Shortly thereafter, Cody Clark kicked the 35-yard field goal that proved decisive.

The Citadel’s defense struggled at times during the the first half, which is indicated in Mercer’s yards-per-play statistics. The Bears averaged 6.4 yards per play. However, Mercer only had 96 yards of total offense in the second half.

The Bulldogs did a good job in the Red Zone, allowing just one touchdown in Mercer’s three trips inside the 20. The Citadel also had three sacks and forced two bookend turnovers (a strip-sack by Kevin Graham on Mercer’s first offensive play from scrimmage, and an interception by Kailik Williams to end the Bears’ last possession).

Mercer’s surfeit of offensive penalties could arguably be attributed to pressure from the Bulldogs’ D.

The Citadel’s special teams units were solid, the missed field goal aside.

I won’t miss seeing John Russ under center for the Bears against the Bulldogs. He’s a good college quarterback, a smart playmaker. I expect Russ to lead Mercer to several conference wins this season.

The Citadel won a road game in league play against a quality opponent. It’s a victory that looks good now, and could look really good in November.

Furman was supposed to be a pushover for Michigan State, but the Paladins gave the defending Big 10 champions all they wanted on Friday night. It was a one-possession game midway through the fourth quarter.

Darius Morehead, a “true” freshman running back, rushed for 83 yards on 20 carries against a normally stout Spartans defense. Furman only committed one turnover, and could have had a real chance to win if it had done a better job in the Red Zone. The Paladins had two separate drives in which they had first-and-goal from the five-yard-line or closer, only to settle for field goals.

On defense, FU forced two turnovers and held the potent Michigan State ground game to 4.3 yards per rush.

While it was a loss, it was still a very encouraging performance by a team that has struggled in each of the last two seasons. The Paladins’ coaches and players will be very confident when they arrive at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday.

The next few sections include statistics for 2015 SoCon contests only, unless otherwise indicated.

Before making some statistical comparisons, a quick review of each team’s 2015 SoCon season (and yes, I’m repeating myself with regards to The Citadel’s season and stats):

Furman was 4-7 overall last season, 2-5 in conference play. After losing two of its first three games, FU opened league play in 2015 with a 24-21 victory over VMI. The Paladins trailed 14-0 midway through the second quarter before rallying past the Keydets. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown was a key play in the game. Also of note: Furman had almost a 16-minute advantage in time of possession.

FU won a non-league game against South Carolina State before resuming its SoCon campaign, but the Paladins threw up a dud at Chattanooga, losing 31-3. Furman only managed 59 rushing yards during the contest, and was also victimized by a pick-six.

After a bye week, Furman hosted The Citadel. The Bulldogs won the matchup 38-17, overcoming an early 7-0 deficit by scoring 24 straight points. The Citadel rushed for 388 yards. My review of that game can be found here: Link

Furman rebounded from that loss to The Citadel with a stirring comeback at Samford, winning on a last-second field goal 20-17. The Paladins had trailed 17-0 at halftime. FU’s rushing output of 252 yards was easily its highest of the season.

The momentum from that victory was short-lived, however, as the following week the Paladins were crushed in Cullowhee by Western Carolina, 48-10. The Catamounts led 31-3 at halftime after turning two early turnovers into touchdowns; Furman was never in the game after that.

Furman then lost at Mercer, 27-20 in overtime. FU trailed 20-0 before making another comeback, tying the game late on a touchdown run by running back Kealand Dirks. However, Dirks received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after spiking the football following his TD, which meant the Paladins had to attempt a 35-yard PAT. It missed, setting up the OT session won by Mercer.

In its final game of the 2015 season, Furman lost 38-28 at Wofford. The Terriers outrushed the Paladins 417-109, with 73 of Wofford’s rushing yards coming on a game-clinching fourth-quarter drive after Furman had rallied to within a field goal.

The Citadel opened its SoCon campaign in 2015 with a fine home win over Western Carolina, 28-10. The Bulldogs’ next conference game was also at Johnson Hagood Stadium, against Wofford, and The Citadel ran past the Terriers 39-12.

Following that victory, The Citadel won consecutive road games in impressive fashion, versus Samford (44-25) and Furman (by the 38-17 score mentioned earlier). The Bulldogs then edged Mercer 21-19, and retained the coveted Silver Shako with a tough 35-14 win over VMI.

Both of those games were at home. The Citadel lost its final league game of the season, 31-23 at Chattanooga; despite that setback, the Bulldogs still won a share of the Southern Conference title.

In conference play, Furman’s offense averaged 17.4 points per game. The Paladins averaged 4.8 yards per play, including 3.2 yards per rush and 6.7 yards per pass attempt.

Furman threw the football 213 times, averaging 30.4 tosses per league game. FU passed or was sacked attempting to pass on almost half (49.4%) of its offensive plays from scrimmage. Paladin quarterbacks were sacked nineteen times in seven SoCon matchups.

In terms of yardage, 63.5% of FU’s total offense came via the air. Furman scored fourteen touchdowns in conference play, six rushing and eight passing. The Paladins were intercepted eight times (twice versus the Bulldogs) and fumbled thirteen times in league contests, losing six of those fumbles.

Defensively, The Citadel allowed 18.3 ppg in SoCon action. The Bulldogs allowed 5.1 yards per play, including 3.7 yards per rush and 6.7 yards per pass attempt. As I mentioned last week, my statistical review of The Citadel’s 2015 league campaign included the tidbit that the Bulldogs’ yards per rush stat was an improvement over the corresponding 2014 average by almost exactly two yards.

The Bulldogs sacked opposing quarterbacks twenty times in league play, and intercepted thirteen passes (breaking up twenty other throws). SoCon opponents averaged 30.3 pass attempts per game versus The Citadel, with those tosses accounting for 46.1% of all offensive plays run from scrimmage against the Bulldogs. Furman attempted 26 passes against the Bulldogs in last year’s matchup, picking up 159 yards on those throws (6.1 yards per attempt).

The Citadel’s defense recovered seven fumbles in conference action.

Furman had 106 third-down attempts in SoCon play, converting 46 of them into first downs (43.4%). The Paladins went for it on fourth down eleven times in conference action, successfully picking up the first down six times (54.5%).

FU was in the Red Zone eighteen times in seven league contests, scoring nine touchdowns in that situation (for a RZ TD rate of 50%; hey, that was easy math).

Furman’s time of possession per game in conference play was 30:56. While this is close to break-even in terms of TOP, the Paladins occasionally controlled the football for major portions of individual quarters. That included the third quarter of last season’s game versus the Bulldogs, when FU had the ball for exactly 11 minutes.

Other quarters in which Furman had the football for an extended period of time: the first quarter against VMI (10:44), the fourth quarter versus Samford (11:56), and in the fourth quarter of two of the Paladins’ non-conference matchups (10:59 against UCF and 11:30 versus South Carolina State).

In games (including non-conference matchups) last season in which Furman had what I’ll call dominant possession quarters, defined as controlling the football for 10:30 or longer, the Paladins were 4-1, with the loss against The Citadel.

On Friday night, Furman had yet another dominant possession quarter, holding the ball for 11:47 of the third quarter against Michigan State. The Spartans turned that around in the fourth quarter, as MSU possessed the football for 10:41 of the final period.

FU averaged only 4.1 penalties per SoCon game. Curiously, the average yardage assessed for Paladin infractions in league play was more than 10 yards per flag, so when Furman committed a penalty, it was often a major foul.

The Citadel’s defense held conference opponents to a third-down conversion rate of 33.7%. Furman was 5 for 13 converting third downs against the Bulldogs in last season’s contest.

Against the Bulldogs, SoCon opposition was 8 for 13 on fourth-down tries (61.5%). Last year, the Paladins converted their only fourth-down attempt against the Cadets.

In Red Zone situations versus league teams, the Bulldogs allowed a TD rate of 52.2% in 2015. Furman’s offense was in the Red Zone three times in last year’s matchup. The Paladins scored two touchdowns and kicked a field goal.

As we all know, SoCon officials rarely call penalties against The Citadel’s opponents (with last week’s game against Mercer a notable exception to that rule). In 2015, the Bulldogs were called for 42 penalties in seven conference games (6.0 per contest), while the opposition was only flagged 29 times (4.1 per game).

In last year’s game, Furman and The Citadel combined for nine penalties. Naturally, six of them were against the Bulldogs.

FU allowed 31.4 points per game against conference opposition. League teams averaged 5.7 yards per play against the Paladins, including 5.5 yards per rush and 6.2 yards per pass attempt.

Furman’s defense faced 177 pass attempts in SoCon action. The Paladins’ D had only six sacks in conference action (and just eight sacks all season).  Only 37.0% of their opponents’ plays were pass attempts (or sacks while attempting to pass).

FU allowed 2,838 yards of total offense in seven SoCon games, with 38.9% of that total being passing yardage. The Paladins allowed 26 touchdowns in SoCon play, 19 via the rush (five of those rushing TDs were by the Bulldogs).

Furman intercepted five passes in league play (one was against The Citadel), and recovered three fumbles.

Offensively, The Citadel put up 32.6 points per game in conference action. The Bulldogs averaged 6.1 yards per play, including 5.6 yards per rush and 9.7 yards per pass attempt (on 63 total throws in seven SoCon contests).

League opponents intercepted two Bulldog passes (as mentioned, the Paladins got one of those), and broke up four others.

The Citadel lost eight fumbles in seven SoCon games. As I noted in last week’s preview, the Bulldogs lost twelve fumbles in their other six matchups, losing at least one fumble in every non-league contest except the matchup against South Carolina.

Holding onto the football will be a point of emphasis for The Citadel all season. The 2016 Bulldogs passed their first test on that front, with no turnovers and only one mishandled pitch (which was recovered by The Citadel).

Furman’s defense allowed a third-down conversion rate of 47.6% against league teams. On fourth down, Paladin opponents were eight for twelve (66.7%).

SoCon opposition entered the Red Zone against FU 27 times in conference play. The Paladins allowed 19 touchdowns in that situation (70.4%).

The Citadel’s third-down conversion rate on offense was exactly 50% in SoCon games. On fourth down, the Cadets were 3 for 8 (37.5%). In last year’s game between the two teams, the Bulldogs were 7 for 12 on third down and had no fourth down conversion attempts.

In 2015, The Citadel’s time of possession in SoCon play was 32:13. The Bulldogs had a Red Zone TD rate of just 56.3% in 2015 against conference opposition. The Bulldogs scored three touchdowns in five Red Zone situations against the Paladins.

For individual statistics, all games (SoCon and non-conference) are included.

A quick review of the four non-conference games Furman played last season:

Furman opened the 2015 campaign with a tough home loss to Coastal Carolina, 38-35. The Paladins had 525 yards of total offense, including 365 passing yards from Reese Hannon — a school record. The game was statistically very even, two Furman turnovers being the difference.

The next week, the Paladins were thumped 42-3 by Virginia Tech. The Hokies had 583 yards of total offense, and Furman didn’t help itself by committing three more turnovers.

Furman then upset UCF, 16-15. The winning margin came courtesy of a 55-yard fourth-quarter field goal by Jon Croft Hollingsworth, the longest in Paladins history. After not forcing a turnover in its first two games, Furman intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble against the Knights.

FU’s game versus South Carolina State was played in difficult conditions, with both rain and wind affecting the contest. The Paladins won the turnover battle, 3-0, and were never seriously threatened after halftime. The final score was 17-3.

Furman returns 15 starters (including offense/defense/specialists), including six on offense and seven on defense.

Offensively, it appears the Paladins will generally operate out of the pistol formation.

FU did not announce who its starter at quarterback would against Michigan State until shortly before kickoff in East Lansing. It turned out to be junior P.J. Blazejowski.

Blazejowski (6’0″, 193 lbs.) started three of the final five games last season for Furman, and also played last season against The Citadel after Reese Hannon was injured.

You may recall Blazejowski from his performance against the Bulldogs in the 2014 matchup, when he compiled 382 yards of total offense in a wild game The Citadel managed to win in OT. He will make his 12th career start on Saturday (if he remains the starter, which seems likely).

Entering this season, he had a career pass completion rate of 58.3%, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt, with 13 TDs and 13 interceptions. Against Michigan State, Blazejowski was 15-30 passing, for 123 yards. He threw one interception (which came after the Paladins had picked off a Michigan State pass attempt on the preceding play).

I mentioned in my brief summary of the Michigan State game that freshman running back Darius Morehead (5’9″, 171 lbs.) had a promising collegiate debut for the Paladins. Morehead was a track star in high school, winning the Tennessee D2-AA state title in the 100-meter dash.

His primary backup is Richard Hayes III (5’11”, 201 lbs.), a senior who played safety last year for Furman. Hayes actually tied for the team lead in tackles against the Bulldogs in last season’s meeting, with ten. Based on that game, I think it is safe to say that he’s not afraid of contact.

Six different receivers caught passes last week for Furman. As always with the Paladins, the tight end is a key player. Duncan Fletcher (6’4″, 234 lbs.) had four receptions last week, and also completed a 16-yard pass on a trick play; that tied for FU’s longest completion against MSU.

Last year against the Bulldogs, Fletcher was on the receiving end of a wide receiver pass, one that went for a TD. He began his collegiate career as a quarterback, and played that position versus The Citadel in 2013.

Andrej Suttles (5’11”, 187 lbs.) was a second-team All-SoCon selection last season. The redshirt senior wide receiver has 138 career receptions. He also sees action at punt returner, and had one return last week against Michigan State for five yards.

Furman’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’3″, 293 lbs. Junior center Matthew Schmidt (6’3″, 290 lbs.) played tackle for the Paladins last year, before having his season cut short by an injury suffered in the game against the Bulldogs.

Against Michigan State, Furman started a true freshman at left tackle, Tim Coleman (6’3″, 285 lbs.). The other side of the line, however, features two experienced performers — senior right guard Jackson Buonomia (6’3″, 299 lbs.) and redshirt senior right tackle Harrison Monk (6’4″, 278 lbs.).

Starting defensive end T.J. Warren (6’2″, 233 lbs.) is a redshirt senior who has also seen time at linebacker during his career for the Paladins. According to Furman’s game notes, Warren (a native of Chattanooga) will attend Marine Corps Officers Candidate School at Quantico following graduation.

Furman’s starter at DE opposite Warren is also a redshirt senior. Brian Ross (6’4″, 246 lbs.) has made 13 straight starts. He can be a factor on special teams, too, having blocked a punt last year against VMI that he picked up and ran in for a TD.

Seven of the eleven projected starters for the Paladins are seniors, either fourth- or fifth-year players. One who isn’t is redshirt sophomore DT Jaylan Reid (5’11”, 265 lbs.), a member of last year’s SoCon all-freshman team.

Middle linebacker Carl Rider (6’2″, 232 lbs.) has seemingly been at Furman since the Truman administration. Now finally a redshirt senior (allegedly), Rider was a first-team All-SoCon selection in 2013.

Furman’s active leader in tackles with 260, Rider intercepted a pass last year versus the Bulldogs.

Safety Trey Robinson (6’2″, 220 lbs.) was a second team all-conference pick in 2015, and the senior is a preseason first-team choice this year.

Jon Croft Hollingsworth (5’11, 169 lbs.) handles all of Furman’s kicking duties — placekicking, punting, and kickoffs. The junior did the same last year.

He made two field goals last week versus Michigan State. Hollingsworth also missed a field goal against the Spartans, a 50-yarder, but he is more than capable of making a long kick (as UCF found out last season).

Hollingsworth averaged 38.9 yards per punt last season. On kickoffs, he had 18 touchbacks.

Luke Cuneo is in his second year as the Paladins’ holder. As I noted last year, Cuneo is one of the smaller football players in Division I; the Massachusetts native is 5’6″, 165 lbs.

Furman has a new long snapper this year, true freshman Evan Vaughn (6’1″, 230 lbs.) Vaughn was a Shrine Bowler at Belton-Honea Path High School.

Starting cornerback Aaquil Annoor (5’10”, 165 lbs.) returned one kickoff last week against Michigan State. The sophomore had eight returns last season, all in the final three games.

This is not the greatest ticket sales stadium graphic in the history of The Citadel: Link

Furman fans will be sitting on one end of the West Stands on Saturday, because no one will be sitting in the East Stands. To recap:

The Citadel is considering tearing down the visitors’ side at Johnson Hagood Stadium and expects to make a decision by the end of the week, athletic director Jim Senter said Monday.

Flaking lead paint, a health hazard, was discovered on the east side of the 21,000-seat stadium over the summer, and fans were not allowed to sit on that side during the Sertoma Football Classic earlier this month.

The Citadel had planned to repaint the east side stands over the summer. But a lead-testing report received on July 28 confirmed a level of lead-based paint applicable to disposal standards of the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Conditions on the east side of the stadium deteriorated quickly over the summer, said Col. Tom Philipkosky, senior vice president for operations and administration.

“We have been monitoring conditions there, and it got worse very quickly this past year,” he told [The Citadel Board of Visitors’ operations and risk management committee]. “And unfortunately, we caught up to it late.”

Lead paint also is on the underside of the structure on the east side, Senter said.

“So we have to mitigate the entire east side stands,” he said. “At this point, the most important thing is, can fans be seated on the top side with safety? And then, how do we go about utilizing the underneath side, where the restrooms and concession stands are located?”

Johnson Hagood Stadium was originally built in 1948. The old home side was knocked down in 2005, with the new west side stands opened in 2006 and the West Side Tower, housing luxury suites and the press box, opened in 2008.

The fact this problem wasn’t discovered (at least, in its totality) until shortly before the beginning of the season is more than a little irksome, but that can’t be helped now. The question is, what will The Citadel do going forward?

I don’t know, but the long-term answer has to involve replacing the East Stands, and sooner rather than later. Even before the current issue arose, that section of the stadium was problematic.

The visitors’ side of the football stadium needed to be a high priority for the school, in terms of maintenance and upgrading/replacing the structure. I’m not sure that has been the case.

It is now, though, and that’s a good thing. I’m hopeful that in the long run the visitors’ side of the stadium will become a source of pride for the school and something that is appreciated by travelling supporters. That should be the goal.

Regardless, the lack of seating will be a problem this season (I’ll be curious to see what happens for the Parents’ Day and Homecoming games). I get the distinct impression, however, that Jim Senter is going to get things moving.

Part of my confidence in Senter’s ability to navigate the stadium issue is the deft way he handled the Charleston Southern situation, the other off-the-football-field event that has been in the news of late.

The Citadel will play Charleston Southern again (starting in 2018), but the scheduled four-game series will not be a home-and-home. Johnson Hagood Stadium will be the site for all four games. That should never have been in question, really. As Senter pointed out:

“The bottom line is if we draw 9,000 or 10,000 people for each of those games,” he said. “And their capacity is (4,000). Frankly, we’re leaving money on the table that both of us need. So the arrangement is that we will provide 3,000 tickets for (CSU) to monetize, so it would be pretty much like they had the game there, monetarily.”

To his credit, Charleston Southern director of athletics Hank Small saw the writing on the wall:

“At some point, you have to make a decision,” he said. “We’d love to play College of Charleston and The Citadel in basketball home-and-home, as well. But that’s not happening. So what do you do about it? Do you say, we’re just not going to play people? Or do you make the decision that we want to play?

There have always been two major issues related to The Citadel playing Charleston Southern in football. One has to do with schedule flexibility, the other CSU’s stadium. Those concerns have not received a lot of attention from the local media, though one gets the idea that perhaps the press may finally begin to cast a more critical eye on CSU’s facilities issues (after all, it’s not just about The Citadel — College of Charleston isn’t going to play any basketball games at the “Buc Dome”, either).

One thing left unsaid by both ADs is that no matter where the games are played, the overwhelming majority of fans will be supporting The Citadel. Hence, there is no philosophical or practical reason to play the games anywhere other than Johnson Hagood Stadium.

That is something that nobody seems to really want to discuss, but it is reality. Charleston Southern simply doesn’t have that many fans. This isn’t an indictment of its program; it’s just the truth.

On the heels of the program’s most successful season, and after a huge amount of publicity from its televised game at North Dakota State (a contest that was covered onsite by a columnist from The Post and Courier and at least one Charleston-area TV station), Charleston Southern’s announced attendance for its home opener last Saturday was 1,780.

1,780.

That was the lowest attendance of any of the 41 games hosted by FCS schools during the first week of the season. Even Georgetown, which plays its home games at a “stadium” that only has temporary bleachers, drew more fans for a game against Davidson.

It was the second-lowest total for a CSU home game during Jamey Chadwell’s tenure as the Buccaneers’ head coach. It was also the smallest crowd for a Bucs home opener since 2005.

For the record, The Citadel has not appeared in a game with attendance that low, home or away, since at least 1966.

I was a little surprised, but I probably shouldn’t have been. After a strong attendance boost in Chadwell’s first season in North Charleston, the crowds haven’t consistently been coming, other than for home games against Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. In fact, if you take the games against those two schools (and their respective fan bases) out of the equation, average attendance at CSU home games has declined in each of the last two seasons.

There is no doubt that Jim Senter and his staff are well aware of those facts.

The beginning of this post includes blurbs from a preview article and game story for the first matchup between The Citadel and Furman, a 1913 contest played at Hampton Park that was won by the military college 75-0.

The Citadel scored eleven touchdowns in the game, with six different players accounting for them. There were six rushing touchdowns, three passing TDs, a touchdown scored on a blocked punt, and a TD after The Citadel fumbled the ball into the end zone, where a blue-clad lineman fell on it.

Furman was held to two first downs, one in each half. One reason for that is the Baptists elected to kick off to The Citadel after most of those touchdowns, rather than receive the football (teams were allowed to do that back then, which I guess says something about the perceived value of field position in those days).

Incidentally, I called Furman’s team the “Baptists” in the preceding paragraph because that’s how it was described in the newspaper. About a decade later, the football team at Furman would be nicknamed the “Purple Hurricane”. The gridiron squad wouldn’t officially become the “Paladins” until 1963, when students voted to call all of their varsity athletic teams by that moniker (previously, it had been limited to the school’s basketball team).

Furman wasn’t done playing football in the Low Country after its game against The Citadel. Two days later, the twenty-player squad rebounded nicely from that loss by defeating College of Charleston, 30-0.

(Yes, the game against CofC was played just two days after the matchup with The Citadel. It was a different time.)

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service:  mostly sunny with a high near 88, then turning partly cloudy that night with a low around 76.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 15.5-point favorite over Furman. The over/under is 46.5.

Last year, The Citadel entered this matchup as an eight-point favorite.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Chattanooga is a 23-point favorite over Presbyterian; Samford is a 5.5-point favorite at Central Arkansas; Western Carolina is a 15-point favorite over Gardner-Webb; VMI is an 8.5-point favorite at Morehead State; Mercer is a 32.5-point underdog at Georgia Tech; and Wofford is a 40.5-point underdog at Mississippi.

East Tennessee State is off this week. ETSU will be back in action next week in the “Second Battle of Bristol” against WCU.

Last week in non-conference action, SoCon teams were 6-1 against the spread, with only Western Carolina failing to cover.

North Carolina, which The Citadel will play in its regular-season finale, is a 10-point favorite at Illinois.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is 12th among FCS teams, unchanged from the previous ranking. Furman is ranked 45th, a six-spot jump after its performance at Michigan State.

Massey projects The Citadel to have an 82% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of 28-14.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (9th), Samford (21st), Western Carolina (28th), Wofford (31st), Mercer (49th), Gardner-Webb (56th), VMI (64th), East Tennessee State (109th).

Mercer’s ranking was the same this week as it was last week. Gardner-Webb leaped 25 spots after its 31-6 road rout of Elon.

ETSU moved up 11 positions following a surprising 20-17 2OT win at Kennesaw State. The Buccaneers were a 26-point underdog, having lost 56-16 to KSU in Johnson City last year.

– As noted by Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier, this season marks the first time The Citadel has begun its gridiron campaign with two Southern Conference games since 1963. That year, the Bulldogs lost to William & Mary in their opener before defeating Davidson in the season’s second contest.

In fact, 1963 is the only other year The Citadel has opened the season with two SoCon games. The last time the Bulldogs played two conference games to start the season, the year was 1935 and the conference was the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA). That team, under the tutelage of Tatum Gressette, began the year 2-0 by defeating Erskine and Wofford in league play.

Both of those games were played in October, as the 1935 season did not begin until October 5.

– Before 2010, The Citadel and Furman had only met one time on the gridiron in the month of September (that happened in 1976). However, since 2010 the two schools have played in the ninth month no fewer than four times, counting this Saturday’s game.

The 2011 matchup was also contested on September 10, which is the earliest any game in the series has been played.

I’ve mentioned this before (actually, several times), but The Citadel-Furman can’t be an end-of-season matchup because of the military college’s academic calendar. That’s not a big deal, because historically the game has been played at midseason more than at any other time.

Having said that, it really shouldn’t be played in September, either. I wish the SoCon office would set aside the second or third Saturday in October on the league schedule every year for these two teams to play. I know it’s not that easy to set up a conference schedule, but I suspect there may be more room to maneuver in October than in September or November (due to more “guarantee games” being played in those months).

– According to the roster included in its game notes, Furman has 30 players from Georgia on its roster, the most from any state. Other states represented: South Carolina (17), North Carolina (14), Florida (12), Tennessee (12), Alabama (6), Ohio (2), and one each from Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The Paladin who will be closest to home on Saturday is Hilton Head resident Brad Meccariello, a redshirt sophomore. The 5’11”, 185 lb. safety went to Hilton Head Academy.

– Furman has three changes this season from its 2015 schedule. Michigan State, Kennesaw State, and East Tennessee State replace Virginia Tech, UCF, and South Carolina State as opponents, evidence the Paladins’ slate is more stately this year.

FU will play the same seven league teams it faced last year, of course, with ETSU now included as an additional conference foe. Coastal Carolina repeats as a non-conference matchup for the Paladins.

– Furman got a guarantee of $655,000 for playing Michigan State.

– After playing The Citadel, Furman will host Chattanooga next week in Greenville.

– Next season, Furman’s three non-conference games will be at North Carolina State, at Colgate, and home against Elon. In 2018, the Paladins will play Colgate, Elon, and Clemson (the latter two on the road).

In 2019 (a year in which FCS schools can schedule 12 regular-season games), three of FU’s non-league opponents are set: Georgia State, Virginia Tech, and Kennesaw State, all away from home. Presumably, Furman will add a home game against a non-conference opponent to complete its slate for that season.

Furman is also scheduled to play at North Carolina State in 2021, and will host Colgate that same season. The following year, the Paladins will travel to Hamilton, New York, to conclude the four-game series with the Raiders.

– 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.

– It’s only one week, but I took a look at the FCS national statistical rankings anyway. The Citadel leads the nation in fewest penalties (1); considering the contest in question was a Southern Conference game, that has to be a borderline miracle.

Among individuals, Tyler Renew is 8th nationally in rush yards per game (after his 146-yard effort versus Mercer), while Malik Diggs is 6th nationally in solo tackles per conference (he had nine such stops against the Bears, finishing with 11 tackles overall). Quinlan Washington averaged 32 yards per kickoff return in two opportunities, which ranks 6th nationally after one week.

– The game notes factoid of the week: Reggie Williams averaged 14 yards per play last week, carrying the ball four times for 45 yards, including a 29-yard TD (that was a very nice play call, perfectly executed), and making that big 25-yard catch on the drive that set up the winning field goal.

– Triple option oddity: more players caught passes last week for The Citadel (five) than had rushing attempts (four).

– Saturday’s game will be Military Appreciation Day.

While The Citadel is opening with two league contests, after Saturday’s matchup it won’t play another SoCon game until October 1, when the Bulldogs travel to Cullowhee to face Western Carolina. The next home conference game isn’t until October 15, against Chattanooga.

That puts a little extra emphasis on this week’s game for the Bulldogs, not that more juice is really needed when Furman comes to town.

Of course, this is a big game for the Paladins as well. If it wins this matchup, Furman gets a shot at home against Chattanooga next week with the chance to go 2-0 over the 2015 conference co-champions.

There is also the fact The Citadel has won three of the last four meetings between the schools, including the last two. Furman desperately wants to get on the right side of the ledger again as far as the series is concerned. Otherwise, the Paladins are looking at a potential 0-4 start (a trip to Conway to play Coastal Carolina is Furman’s fourth game on its schedule).

Furman has only won seven games in the past two seasons. A bad start this year would not bode well for head coach Bruce Fowler.

This is a critical game for Furman, and the Paladins will treat it as such. The Bulldogs better be ready.

I think they will. It should be a fun game on Saturday.