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

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

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

My focus in this post will be on the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some definitions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was quite a bit of variance in these numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bumbling rumbling stumbling fumbling…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about 4th down…

Defining some terms (courtesy of Football Outsiders):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mission for The Citadel’s football program: follow up an outstanding season with another solid campaign

Other football-related posts from recent weeks:

Inside the numbers: The Citadel’s 2015 run/pass tendencies, per-play averages, 4th-down decision-making…and more!

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

What teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

Preseason football ratings and rankings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

In his fall practice preview article, Jeff Hartsell wrote about issues “the Bulldogs must address if they are to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since The Citadel had three straight from 1990-92”. Some of those things are obvious, like avoiding injuries and, uh, suspensions.

There is something else The Citadel’s football program must overcome, and that is its own history. I want to briefly highlight what has happened in the past. It hasn’t always been pretty.

Going back to the end of World War II, The Citadel has had fifteen seasons in which it won seven or more games in a season. That includes last year’s nine-win campaign.

In the fourteen prior post-war years in which the Bulldogs won 7+ games, the following season often did not go as well. Only five of those fourteen occasions saw the program celebrate a winning season the next year.

It is not altogether surprising that big-win seasons have not always been followed by an over-.500 campaign. There are a lot of factors at hand, including players lost to graduation, injuries, differences in scheduling, coaching changes, and plain old-fashioned luck, to name but a few.

They all add up to what a sabermetrically-inclined observer might call regression to the mean. Still, five out of fourteen is not a good ratio.

[Keep in mind, I’m not talking about following up every winning season. I’m discussing the years in which the Bulldogs won more than six games. There have been other times when The Citadel has had back-to-back winning seasons (just to give one example, the consecutive 6-5 campaigns in 1975 and 1976), but my focus in this post is on those teams that won 7+ games.]

Since 1946, here are the five seasons of 7+ wins in which the Bulldogs enjoyed a winning season the next year:

1st year Record 2nd year Record
1959 8-2 1960 8-2-1
1960 8-2-1 1961 7-3
1980 7-4 1981 7-3-1
1990 7-5 1991 7-4
1991 7-4 1992 11-2

One noticeable thing about this list is its connectivity. Four of the five season duos occurred during the two best periods of modern-era football at The Citadel (and the other, the 1980-81 sequence, was preceded by a 6-5 season in 1979).

Here are the other ten years (post-WWII) in which the Bulldogs won 7+ games:

1st year Record 2nd year Record
1961 7-3 1962 3-7
1969 7-3 1970 5-6
1971 8-3 1972 5-6
1981 7-3-1 1982 5-6
1984 7-4 1985 5-5-1
1988 8-4 1989 5-5-1
1992 11-2 1993 5-6
2007 7-4 2008 4-8
2012 7-4 2013 5-7
2015 9-4 2016 ?

For completeness, here is a list of each occasion prior to World War II where The Citadel had a campaign in which the team won at least two more games than it lost:

1st year Record 2nd year Record
1906 3-0 1907 1-5-1
1908 4-1-1 1909 4-3-1
1911 5-2-2 1912 3-4
1915 5-3 1916 6-1-1
1916 6-1-1 1917 3-3
1923 5-3-1 1924 6-4
1924 6-4 1925 6-4
1925 6-4 1926 7-3
1926 7-3 1927 3-6-1
1928 6-3-1 1929 5-4-1
1937 7-4 1938 6-5
1942* 5-2 1946* 3-5

*The Citadel did not field a football team between 1943-1945

Sustaining success has not been easy at The Citadel. Of course, nothing is easy at The Citadel, so it’s not exactly a shock that consistently winning football games at the school can be kind of tricky.

What about the upcoming season, with a new head coach?

It’s the first time The Citadel has ever had to replace a head football coach following a 7+ win season. Heck, it’s the first time The Citadel has had to replace a head football coach following a winning season of any kind since 1942 (for the record, then-head coach John “Bo” Rowland left to take the job at Oklahoma City University prior to the resumption of football at The Citadel in 1946).

New head coach Brent Thompson and new defensive coordinator Blake Harrell were on the staff that led the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record, a share of the Southern Conference championship, an FCS playoff victory and an upset of SEC foe South Carolina a season ago. Offensive coordinator Lou Conte rejoins the staff after a year away.

With 15 starters back from the 2015 squad, the beginning of the Brent Thompson era — he’s the 25th coach in school history — does not feel like starting over.

“It’s more of a continuation than a new beginning,” said senior linebacker Tevin Floyd. “And that kind of ties in with what we are tying to do this year — keep the momentum going from last year.”

Historically, keeping that momentum going has been difficult. However, there is one interesting note about those past big-win seasons worth mentioning.

Of the five 7+ win years in the post-WWII era that were followed up by over-.500 seasons, all five subsequent winning campaigns resulted in at least seven wins. Three of them matched the win total of the year before, and the title-winning 1992 team upped the prior year’s victory toteboard from seven to eleven.

The only one of the five not to match or exceed the number of wins of the previous season was the 1961 squad — and that team won the Southern Conference championship.

In other words, based on past history (and to be fair, a rather small sample size), there is roughly a two-thirds chance the Bulldogs do not have a winning season in 2016. There is a one-third chance, however, that The Citadel wins at least nine games and/or the SoCon title this year.

I would greatly prefer that smaller section of the speculative statistical pie.

Football season is getting even closer…

Inside the numbers: The Citadel’s 2015 run/pass tendencies, per-play averages, 4th-down decision-making…and more!

A few other football-related posts from recent weeks:

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

What teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

Preseason football ratings and rankings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

Also, of course, there are the much-discussed TSA “watch lists” for the upcoming league campaign. See if your favorite SoCon football player (or coach) made one of the lists!

TSA watch lists for the SoCon — Offense
TSA watch lists for the SoCon — Defense
TSA watch lists for the SoCon — Special Teams
TSA watch list for the SoCon — Coach of the Year

For the past two years, I have written about tendencies in playcalling by the then-coach of the Bulldogs, Mike Houston (and his offensive coordinator, Brent Thompson, who of course is now The Citadel’s head coach). I compared what Houston had done while at Lenoir-Rhyne to Kevin Higgins’ last two seasons at The Citadel, along with Houston’s initial season at The Citadel in 2014.

Now I’m going to take a look at what Houston and Thompson did last year at The Citadel, and contrast some of those statistics with those from the 2014 season for the Bulldogs, along with the 2013 campaign under Higgins. I decided not to include 2013 Lenoir-Rhyne stats in my comparison this time, though if anyone wants to see those numbers, they are contained in my previous posts on the subject.

My focus is on down-and-distance run/pass tendencies, fourth-down decision-making, situational punting, and assorted other statistical comparisons. This year, I also took a look at the coin toss (?!), after spotting a trend late last season.

Almost all of the statistics that follow are based on conference play, and only conference play. It’s easier and fairer to compare numbers in that way. Ultimately, The Citadel’s on-field success or failure will be judged on how it does in the SoCon, not against the likes of North Greenville or North Carolina (though beating South Carolina in non-conference action is always a plus).

The conference slates looked like this:

  • The Citadel played seven games in 2015 against SoCon teams. The conference schools competing on the gridiron last year: Western Carolina, Wofford, Samford, Furman, Mercer, VMI, and Chattanooga.
  • The Bulldogs played seven games in 2014 versus SoCon opposition. The teams in the league last year were the same as the 2015 opponents: Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Mercer, Furman, Samford, and VMI.
  • The Citadel played eight games in 2013 against SoCon foes. As a reminder, those opponents were: Wofford, Western Carolina, Furman, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Chattanooga, Samford, and Elon.

Oh, before I forget: this year, I put most of the numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s a bit involved (there are seven different sub-sheets), but if anyone wants to peruse the numbers, go for it. Individual game statistics in various categories are included.

I’m fairly confident in the accuracy of the statistics, though I will admit that averaging the time of possession numbers gave me a bad headache. I may be off by a second or two on the quarterly TOP averages. If so, it’s too bad — no refunds are available.

Some definitions:

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

The first number that will follow each down-and-distance category will be the percentage of time The Citadel ran the ball in that situation in 2015. Next to that, in parenthesis, is the run percentage for The Citadel in 2014, and that will be followed by the Bulldogs’ run percentage for that situation in 2013 (which will be in brackets).

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

– 1st-and-10 (or goal to go): 89.1% (88.9%) [77.1%]

Thus, The Citadel ran the ball on first down 89.1% of the time last year, while the Bulldogs ran the ball in that situation 88.9% of the time in 2014 (basically, there was no difference). The Citadel ran the ball 77.1% of the time on first down during its 2013 campaign.

Overall, the Bulldogs ran the ball 86.5% of the time, after rushing on 84.3% of all offensive plays in 2014.

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

– 2nd-and-short: 89.2% (84.0%) [95.8%]
– 2nd-and-medium: 89.8% (90.2%) [87.8%]
– 2nd-and-long: 89.2% (82.2%) [75.0%]
– 3rd-and-short: 93.1% (95.5%) [85.7%]
– 3rd-and-medium: 82.4% (90.3%) [90.9%]
– 3rd-and-long: 66.0% (57.4%) [54.0%]

A caveat to these numbers is that there were a few called pass plays that turned into runs. However, if the result of a play was a sack, that counted as a passing down even if a pass wasn’t thrown. There were four such plays in conference action in 2015 for The Citadel.

When compiling NCAA statistics, lost yardage on sacks counts against rushing totals, which may strike the casual observer as counter-intuitive. The NFL, on the other hand, considers sack yardage as passing yardage lost.

I don’t think there is a lot to be surprised about in those numbers, not for anyone who has watched a Brent Thompson offense over the last few years. It is true that the Bulldogs’ passing percentage on 3rd-and-medium is slightly higher than one might expect, but we’re only talking about three pass attempts on seventeen such down/distance situations; subtract one pass attempt, and the average would have been almost exactly the same as it was the previous two seasons.

There were three games in which the Bulldogs threw the ball a bit more often than normal on third-and-long: Wofford, Furman, and Chattanooga.

The Citadel was 4 for 6 passing versus Wofford on 3rd-and-long for 41 yards, including a 24-yard completion. At Furman, the Bulldogs were 1 for 2 (and also suffered a sack).

However, the one completion on third-and-long against the Paladins was a big one, a 50-yard pass from Dominique Allen to Reggie Williams that set up a TD. It was probably the biggest play of the game.

In the game versus Chattanooga, The Citadel was 2-3 for 20 yards (and a sack) on third-and-long. Trailing throughout the contest undoubtedly had an effect on the play-calling.

Prior to the 2015 season, I wrote:

[In 2014], The Citadel attempted four passes on 2nd-and-short. The first three of them fell incomplete.

In the season finale at VMI, however, the Bulldogs did complete a 2nd-and-short toss, a Miller connection (Aaron to Vinny) that went for 26 yards and set up a field goal to close out the first half of that contest. Upstairs in the Foster Stadium press box, Brent Thompson undoubtedly heaved a sigh of relief after calling his first successful 2nd/3rd-and-short pass play in league action in almost two years.

On a serious note, The Citadel has to convert at a higher rate when it passes the ball in 2nd- and 3rd-and-short situations. The offense must take advantage of having the element of surprise in its favor.

Well, The Citadel attempted four passes on 2nd-and-short in 2015, too. The results? An interception, a 36-yard gainer that led to a touchdown, a 24-yard TD strike, and a 22-yard completion.

Not bad. The pick came in the red zone, though. I guess you can’t have everything.

– The Citadel’s offense in 2013 in SoCon action: 69.6 plays per game, 12.0 possessions per game
– The Citadel’s offense in 2014 in SoCon action: 75.4 plays per game, 11.0 possessions per game*
– The Citadel’s offense in 2015 in SoCon action: 70.7 plays per game, 11.9 possessions per game**

*This does not include the Bulldogs’ overtime possession against Furman

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

The Citadel had a time of possession edge in SoCon play of almost four and a half minutes (32:13 – 27:47). That was actually slightly less of a TOP edge than the Bulldogs had in 2014 (32:40 – 27:20).

The offense generally took control of the ball, however, as games progressed. Average time of possession for The Citadel, by period: 6:59 (1st quarter), 7:47 (2nd), 8:31 (3rd), 8:56 (4th).

– The Citadel’s offense in 2013 in SoCon action: 5.41 yards per play, including 5.13 yards per rush and 6.4 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s offense in 2014 in SoCon games: 5.56 yards per play, including 5.35 yards per rush and 6.8 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s offense in 2015 in SoCon games: 6.09 yards per play, including 5.57 yards per rush and 9.7 (!) yards per pass attempt

The Bulldogs’ offense improved in all three per-play categories listed above for a second consecutive season. Last year, I suggested a benchmark:

I think the goal going forward might be for yards per rush to exceed 5.75, and for yards per pass attempt to exceed 8.0 (or at least 7.5).

Mission accomplished, especially those yards per pass attempt. The Citadel threw 63 passes in seven SoCon games, and gained 609 total yards passing. Three of those tosses were intercepted, which is not a terrible ratio.

How did the yards per play numbers for the defense shake out? Quite nicely, thank you very much:

– The Citadel’s defense in 2013 in SoCon action: 5.47 yards per play, including 4.39 yards per rush and 7.2 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s defense in 2014 in SoCon action: 7.02 yards per play, including 5.69 yards per rush and 9.1 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s defense in 2015 in SoCon action: 5.07 yards per play, including 3.69 yards per rush and 6.7 yards per pass attempt

That will work. After a less-than-stellar 2014 campaign, the defense improved markedly last year. Check out that yards per rush allowed stat — exactly two yards less per play from one year to the next. The defense against the pass was excellent, too.

In 2014, The Citadel allowed more than seven yards per rush in four of seven league contests. In 2015, the Bulldogs allowed fewer than three yards per rush in four of seven conference games. It helped that The Citadel averaged 4.3 tackles for loss (not including sacks) per game in SoCon action.

– The Citadel’s defense in 2013 in SoCon action: 12 sacks, 26 passes defensed in 204 attempts (12.7% PD)
– The Citadel’s defense in 2014 in SoCon action: 8 sacks, 14 passes defensed in 176 pass attempts (8.0% PD)
– The Citadel’s defense in 2015 in SoCon action: 20 sacks, 33 passes defensed in 212 pass attempts (15.6% PD)

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

After a trying season in 2014, everything worked well for the defense in 2015. I don’t think it is too surprising that the PD numbers improved with an increase in sacks, and the Bulldogs were harassing opposing quarterbacks even when they weren’t sacking them (increasing their “hurries” totals in league play from eleven to seventeen).

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

In seven conference games in 2014, The Citadel’s defense allowed 47 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more — 21 rushes and 26 pass plays. In 2015, that number dropped to 23, nine rushes and fourteen pass plays.

That’s a huge improvement, obviously. It isn’t exactly a shock that big plays lead to points, either directly or later in the drive. Preventing those long gainers is a key to keeping teams off the scoreboard.

For example, of those 23 big plays allowed by the Bulldogs, 14 led to touchdowns (either on the play itself, or later on the same drive). That’s 60.1% of the time.

That percentage is actually lower than what SoCon opponents allowed against The Citadel’s offense on big plays, however. In league action, the Bulldogs had 30 plays of 20 yards or more on offense last year (19 on the ground, 11 in the air). Twenty of those thirty plays led directly or indirectly to touchdowns (66.7%).

– The Citadel’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2014: 46.3%
– The Citadel’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2015: 50.0%

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

In all games last season, the Bulldogs had an offensive 3rd-down conversion rate of 49.4% (second-best to Chattanooga among SoCon squads), and a defensive 3rd-down conversion rate of 36.5% (which was the best mark among league teams).

The Citadel was 3 for 8 on 4th down in conference play (37.5%). In this case, the percentage may not be as significant a story as are the total attempts. In 2014, the Bulldogs had twenty 4th-down tries in SoCon games, converting twelve (60%).

League opponents were 8 for 13 (61.5%) on 4th down against the Bulldogs last year. It’s definitely a small sample size, but it wouldn’t hurt the defense to knock that percentage down a bit in 2016.

First known football usage of “red zone” in print, per Merriam-Webster: 1983.

First known claim that the red zone does not in fact exist: 2013.

– The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2013: 60.0%
– The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2014: 66.7%
– The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2015: 56.3%

– The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2013: 66.7%
– The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2014: 60.0%
– The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2015: 52.2%

The Bulldogs’ offensive Red Zone TD rate would have been better if you didn’t include the VMI game, in which The Citadel somehow managed to go 0 for 5 in scoring touchdowns once inside the 20-yard line. That was a disappointing performance, though on the bright side Eric Goins got to pad his stats.

I always like to take a brief look at fumbles. There really isn’t much to say about them as far as last year was concerned, other than the defense recovering seven of eight opponent fumbles was against the odds. Usually, recovering fumbles is a 50-50 proposition.

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

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

When it comes to the SoCon, there are two things on which you can rely with absolute certitude: 1) The Citadel’s gridiron opponents won’t get called for many penalties, and 2) no one associated with The Citadel will ever make the league’s Hall of Fame.

– Penalties enforced against The Citadel in SoCon action, 2014: 37
– Penalties enforced against The Citadel in SoCon action, 2015: 42

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

– Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2013, SoCon action: 6 (in eight games)
– Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2014, SoCon action: 6 (in seven games)
– Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2015, SoCon action: 6 (in seven games)

In the spreadsheet I linked earlier (and located on sub-sheet 6), I described the scenarios for each of the punts by the Bulldogs in opposing territory during the 2015 season. Of the six, the most questionable was almost certainly the first of two such punts in the Mercer game.

Trailing 10-0, and facing 4th-and-1 on Mercer’s 40-yard line early in the second quarter, Mike Houston elected to punt. I’m still not sure it was the right decision, but it worked out. Mercer punted the ball back on the next drive, and The Citadel would eventually regroup and take a halftime lead it barely deserved (well, Isiaha Smith deserved it, at least).

There were also three punts by the Bulldogs on 4th down from midfield in conference play. Two of them were inconsequential, but the third (and last) was a different story. After going for a 4th-and-short on The Citadel’s 40-yard line (and making it), Houston was faced with another decision three plays later.

On 4th and 2 from midfield, trailing 24-14 early in the 4th quarter, he elected to punt. Chattanooga scored on the ensuing possession, essentially wrapping up the victory for the Mocs.

I think the coach probably should have gone for it in that situation, but I’m just a guy with a computer. I do wish the Bulldogs hadn’t burned a timeout before punting, though.

Let’s talk about 4th down…

Defining some terms (courtesy of Football Outsiders):

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

On sub-sheet 7 of the aforementioned spreadsheet, I’ve categorized each fourth down situation for The Citadel in conference play.

The Bulldogs punted on 4th down every time they were in the Deep Zone or Back Zone. In the Mid Zone, The Citadel punted ten times on 4th down, and went for it three times.

Two of the three were late in the UTC game, so they were “desperation” attempts. I tend not to focus on those types of fourth down attempts (or “garbage time” tries, either). The other 4th-down attempt in the Mid Zone, however, was early in the second quarter against Samford:

  • With 14:12 remaining in the half and the game tied 7-7, The Citadel faced fourth-and-1 on the Samford 40. Mike Houston elected to go for it, and Dominique Allen kept the ball for a 13-yard gain. The Bulldogs eventually scored on the drive, taking a lead they would not relinquish.

In the Front Zone, there were two punts on 4th down (both somewhat justifiable decisions), and four field goal attempts (two were made, two were missed). Three times, Houston kept the offense on the field on 4th down in this zone. One was a “desperation” attempt. The other two occasions were as follows:

  • On The Citadel’s first drive of the game against Western Carolina, the Bulldogs faced 4th-and-2 on the WCU 22-yard line. It didn’t work out for The Citadel, as Vinny Miller was tackled for a loss of four yards.
  • Midway through the fourth quarter versus Mercer, The Citadel went for it on 4th-and-2 from the Mercer 30-yard line, clinging to a 14-13 lead. Cam Jackson gained seven yards to pick up a first down. Three plays later, the Bulldogs scored a TD.

In the Red Zone, The Citadel faced 4th down eight times. Here is a quick review of all eight situations:

  • Ahead 36-12 midway through the 4th quarter against Wofford, the Bulldogs reached the Terriers’ 6-yard line. On 4th and goal, Eric Goins made a 23-yard field goal. (This is close to a “garbage time” decision, admittedly.)
  • On 4th-and-6 at the Mercer 19-yard line, leading 14-10, The Citadel lined up for a field goal. The snap was botched, and the result of the play was an incomplete pass.
  • Early in the second quarter, with a 4th-and-goal at the VMI 16 (the Bulldogs were pushed back by a holding penalty), Eric Goins converted a 33-yard field goal.
  • With a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter, The Citadel faced fourth-and-goal at the VMI 2-yard line. The Bulldogs went for it, but only gained one yard, turning the ball over on downs.
  • Midway through the third quarter, now leading 20-14, the Bulldogs again had the ball deep in VMI territory. They were unable to punch it in for a TD, though, and on 4th-and-goal from the Keydets’ 3 yard-line, Eric Goins trotted back on to the field to kick another field goal (of 20 yards).
  • On the Bulldogs’ next possession, ahead 23-14, they drove the ball inside the VMI 10-yard line for the umpteenth time, yet still could not get in the end zone. This time, on 4th-and-1 from the VMI 6, Goins made a 23-yarder.
  • Early in the second quarter, trailing 14-0, The Citadel faced 4th-and-2 from the Chattanooga 5-yard line. The Bulldogs went for it, but only picked up one yard.
  • Late in the game versus UTC, with a 4th-and-goal on the Mocs’ 10-yard line, Mike Houston elected to try a field goal. Eric Goins converted the try, bringing the Bulldogs to within two touchdowns (at 31-17).

I was a little surprised when I realized that the Bulldogs did not convert a Red Zone 4th down situation into a touchdown in league play all of last season. Of course, part of that has to do with the lack of opportunities. If you’re scoring touchdowns on 1st or 2nd or 3rd down, then what you do or don’t do on 4th down doesn’t matter as much.

Incidentally, in 2014 The Citadel had five Red Zone 4th down situations in conference action. On only one of those occasions did the Bulldogs convert a 4th down into a first down. That was a big one, though (and a big call to make), as it came in overtime against Furman and led to the eventual game-winning TD.

I am inclined to believe that Mike Houston was slightly more conservative (just slightly) in his 4th-down decision-making in 2015 than he had been the previous season, primarily because he could afford to be. His team was often in the lead, or within a score of being in the lead.

Houston also knew that he had a good, clutch placekicker, and a solid “directional” punter capable of consolidating field position.

Will Vanvick must have shaken his head when great punts in the Samford game went unrewarded (after having the ball downed at the 1- and 2-yard lines, Samford scored touchdowns on the ensuing drives anyway). He’ll always have the punt against South Carolina to remember, though.

Earlier in this post, I wrote that I had spotted a trend involving the coin toss. To be honest, I don’t know if I really spotted it, or if I just read or heard about it somewhere. I have a vague idea that the subject of the coin toss came up during the weekly coach’s radio show hosted by Mike Legg. It could have been a note in a Jeff Hartsell story, too. Alas, I don’t remember.

At any rate, I wanted to elaborate on the decision-making surrounding the coin toss. I’m not talking about whether or not to call “heads” or “tails”, but rather the idea of deferring the option to the second half after winning a coin toss.

Last year, The Citadel won the coin toss five times (four in SoCon play). Each time, the Bulldogs elected to defer, and wound up kicking off to open the game.

The military college also kicked off three times after losing the coin toss, as three of The Citadel’s opponents (Mercer, South Carolina, and Coastal Carolina) elected to receive the opening kickoff.

The Bulldogs did not automatically defer the option in 2014 when they won the toss, actually electing to receive the opening kickoff three out of the five times they won the flip that season. Therefore, it appears the deferral concept was instituted between the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

I don’t know if Bill Belichick was the inspiration for deferring the option whenever possible, but there are worse guys to emulate when it comes to on-field strategy. As a story in The New York Times pointed out:

Two recent New England games illustrate the advantages of deferring. On Nov. 2, on a cold and windy afternoon, the Patriots won the toss against the Broncos. The Patriots deferred and got the ball to start the second half. When the Broncos elected to receive to begin the game, the Patriots then chose the end that would guarantee the wind would be at their back in the first and fourth quarters. The Patriots won, 43-21.

Sunday against the Lions, the Patriots again deferred. New England scored 10 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter. The Patriots then got the kickoff to open the third quarter and drove deep into Detroit territory before Brady threw an interception.

In the same article, Herm Edwards noted that if “the possessions go about as you think they’re going to go, then maybe you end up with the ball at the end of the game. At the very least, you have the ball to start the second half. And that’s a critical time of the game.”

That piece was written in late November of 2014, just after the Bulldogs’ season had ended that year. I suppose it’s possible that Mike Houston read the story and altered his approach. The timing could also have been coincidental, of course.

Absent other factors, I think deferring the option is usually the right decision. It gives a team the chance to score to end the first half, and then put more points on the board in the second half before the other team gets the ball. It also prevents the opponent from having that same opportunity.

By the way, The Citadel lost six of seven coin tosses last season on the road. As a general rule, one of the visiting team’s captains calls the toss. The Bulldogs obviously need to work on their “heads” or “tails” coin-toss calling technique.

 —

Whether or not Brent Thompson will stay the course when it comes to deferring the option is an unknown at this point. He will be in a position to put his personal stamp on that, along with such matters as fourth-down decision-making. Those are just two of the many items of interest for the new gridiron boss.

I suspect that things like run/pass tendencies will not radically change, mainly because Thompson himself called the plays the past two years. If there is an adjustment in that area (for example, if The Citadel passes more often), it won’t be due to a change in philosophy, but will instead simply be a function of his personnel, both in terms of talent and experience.

Summer is crawling along, but the season is getting closer…

A few final thoughts on The Citadel’s 2015 football season

It was a great year for The Citadel’s football program. It was also a long year.

That was my main takeaway from the Bulldogs’ loss last Saturday, which looked a lot like a physically and/or mentally tired team hitting the proverbial wall. It wasn’t just the turnovers, but the procedure penalties, that seemed to indicate the team (at least on the offensive side of the ball) may have run out of gas.

It is easy to understand, especially when you think back to the previous eight weeks. The first of those eight games was a home game versus Wofford, a matchup the Bulldogs had probably targeted since the officiating debacle in Spartanburg last season. Of the next seven games, five were on the road. Three of those road matchups were conference games (almost by definition tough contests), and the other two were against an SEC team (South Carolina) and a first-round FCS playoff game (Coastal Carolina).

The two home games during that stretch weren’t gimmes, either. The contest against Mercer came down to a two-point conversion attempt.

Meanwhile, while the score may not reflect it, the battle for the coveted Silver Shako was a hard-hitting affair. You may recall Dominique Allen didn’t finish that game, and he wasn’t the only Bulldog to suffer a few bruises that day.

It was a very taxing two-month run of football. I got worn out just watching the team play; I can’t imagine what the players (and coaches) had to go through.

While it was a disappointing way for the season to end, that will soon be forgotten (if it hasn’t been forgotten already). Instead, the 2015 football season will have plenty of pleasant memories.

This season, The Citadel:

  • beat its two traditional rivals (Furman and VMI), both by 21 points
  • defeated Wofford to break an annoying streak against the Terriers (though only a couple of SoCon officials thought the Bulldogs didn’t beat Wofford the year before)
  • won a share of the Southern Conference title (the first league crown in football, shared or otherwise, since 1992, and only the third in school history)
  • won a road playoff game
  • won at South Carolina, a victory that will always be remembered (and savored) by multiple generations of Bulldog fans
  • won 9 games, second-most in school annals

Not bad, not bad at all…

Where does the 2015 team rank when compared to other Bulldog teams of the past? This is a topic of interest in some quarters.

One thing I don’t want to do is compare “modern” teams to those squads that played before The Citadel joined the Southern Conference. While it’s fun to look back on the exploits of the 1916 and 1926 teams (or that undefeated 1906 squad), I’m not really sure how to evaluate them.

However, I do want to note that Harry O’Brien’s 1916 team was 6-1-1, including back-to-back wins over Clemson and South Carolina to close out the season. You can bet The Citadel’s alumni were happy after that campaign.

The Evening Post, after the win over South Carolina that year:

Supporters of the military college eleven have a right to glory in the 1916 team’s record…the Bulldogs have earned the right to the state football crown, and to a place among the best teams in the South Atlantic states. Surely The Citadel could ask for no more glorious season than one which included in its list of vanquished elevens Clemson and Carolina.

That 1916 team did go about things a little differently than Mike Houston’s charges:

The Citadel has justly won renown in state football for its forward passing

I’ll give that squad the nod as the best Bulldog team of the pre-SoCon era.

As for the 2015 team, I think it’s fair to say that only one Bulldog team of the past has a clearly superior résumé; that would be the 1992 squad.

That leaves the following teams (all of which won 7+ games) in the mix for 2nd place:

  • 1937
  • 1959
  • 1960
  • 1961
  • 1969
  • 1971
  • 1980
  • 1981
  • 1984
  • 1988
  • 1990
  • 1991
  • 2007
  • 2012

I narrowed it down to 1960, 1961, and 2015, though there is something to be said for 1959 (8-2), not to mention the very entertaining 1971 (8-3) and 1988 (8-4) teams.

1960: won the Tangerine Bowl; 2nd in the SoCon; 8-2-1 overall, including the often-referenced 0-0 game versus Florida State

1961: won the SoCon; 7-3 overall, including wins over both Furman and VMI (the latter a road victory to clinch the league title)

2015: shared the SoCon title; 9-4 overall, including wins over both Furman and VMI; also beat South Carolina; one postseason victory

Hmm…

A few days ago, when I was asked where I would rank the 2015 team, I answered “4th, with an argument for 3rd”. The more I think about it, though, I tend to believe the correct answer is “possibly 2nd”.

Reasonable minds can disagree. It’s a fun thing to talk about, particularly during the winter months.

I’ve mentioned it before, but this year’s senior class was 8-0 in “celebration” games (Parents’ Day/Homecoming). As far as I know, in the modern history of Parents’ Day/Homecoming events, it is the first time a group of seniors can make that claim.

Best of luck to those seniors in their future endeavors, and thanks to them and the other players (and the coaches) for a great year.

Can’t wait ’til the 2016 season.

2015 Football, Game 13: The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern

The Citadel at Charleston Southern, to be played in North Charleston, South Carolina, at Buccaneer Field, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on Saturday, December. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Bob Picozzi providing play-by-play and Tom O’Brien supplying the analysis.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. In a change, WWIK-98.9 FM [audio link] will serve as the flagship station this week (due to The Citadel’s basketball game against College of Charleston starting at 11 am), and will also have a two-hour pregame show. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.

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

Links of interest:

– Preview article in The Post and Courier

That week off for the Bulldogs back in October came in handy

– Game notes from The Citadel and Charleston Southern

SoCon weekly release

Big South weekly release

Mike Houston’s 12/1 press conference (with comments from Dominique Allen and Tevin Floyd)

– Phil Kornblut of SportsTalk interviews Mike Houston

– Jamey Chadwell’s 11/23 press conference

Lots of political correctness in an article about Charleston Southern’s football facility

– Charleston Southern feature on WCSC-TV

The Moultrie News on the matchup

– STATS preview of The Citadel-Charleston Southern

Earlier this season, I wrote this:

There are two entities that appear to desperately want The Citadel and Charleston Southern to be an annual “rivalry” game. One is Charleston Southern. The other is the Lowcountry media.

If you don’t believe that about the Lowcountry media, you need to watch the press conferences Mike Houston and Jamey Chadwell had this week. I’ve linked both of them in the “Links of Interest” section.

At The Citadel, Mike Houston did a good job of deflecting questions, notably about the “broom” incident from the game between the two teams earlier in the season. That subject also came up during Jamey Chadwell’s press conference (which was held the day before, on Monday).

Here is the second question that Chadwell was asked, by WCSC-TV’s Andy Pruitt:

The broom is for your players. Obviously, The Citadel fans took exception to it. It still rears its head that there’s a perceived superiority that their fans believe their program has over you guys. But do you…wish you didn’t do that because you [wouldn’t want to] rile up the players and coaches, or [do] you still like what you did as far as firing up your players and you feel like your players still have the drive to play The Citadel?

I was a little disappointed in certain aspects of this question, to be honest. The comment about Bulldog fans is a blanket statement without real foundation. Just because Jamey Chadwell constantly moans about a perceived lack of respect doesn’t mean it’s true.

Chadwell’s response, which went unchallenged, included this line:

…it was for our motivation, had nothing to do with their program.

Maybe he could have made that stick if he had played broom overlord in the locker room after the game, but that’s not what he did. Instead, Chadwell had someone bring the broom out of the locker room, then paraded it at midfield while his team did a little dance during The Citadel’s alma mater.

As I said at the time, they probably didn’t realize the alma mater was being played. I’ll give them a pass for that. However, the notion that scene was just for the benefit of the CSU players is absurd.

Of course it was aimed at The Citadel — at its players, its coaches, and its fans. There was no other reason to do it at midfield.

Well, actually there was another reason. It was a way to get more media attention. In that respect, it was an unqualified success, especially for a coach looking to make a name for himself and get in the mix for higher-profile jobs.

Did any members of the press call out Chadwell for those antics? Not really. He’s a good coach, but more importantly for the fourth estate, he’s a self-assured carnival barker, and most of the press corps is appreciative.

That part of Chadwell’s personality got weirder this week, as he went into third-person mode three separate times during a 13-minute press conference. It was a little bizarre, but still went over well with the local media, as this tweet from WCIV-TV’s Scott Eisberg suggests:

Best thing is that Coach Chadwell now speaks in 3rd person-explanation for the “Broom” vs. Citadel pretty good too

See? Go into third person, offer a half-baked explanation, get credit!

I generally don’t like to rip the press. They get unfairly criticized at times, and most of them work hard and do a good job (and that includes Pruitt and Eisberg, who are both solid). However, I’m really tired of the constant drumbeat on this CSU “we don’t get respect” non-issue, with The Citadel invariably portrayed as some sort of villainous entity.

Also, I want to know something. When is there going to be any discussion about the obvious lack of respect Charleston Southern has towards The Citadel?

All the pseudo-babble has been the other way around, but remember this: the coach who insulted the other team’s players (and coaches) after the game in September was Jamey Chadwell, the head coach at Charleston Southern. The social media account that approvingly tweeted out additional comments along those same lines? That was Charleston Southern’s official twitter account (not the sports account, but the one for the entire institution).

You didn’t hear Mike Houston say anything negative about Charleston Southern. You didn’t hear any negativity about CSU from The Citadel and its administration then or now, even concerning this week’s game site (more on that later).

Sure, there are Bulldog fans who don’t think much of CSU. There are also CSU fans who don’t like The Citadel. So what?

I couldn’t care less there are Buc fans who can’t stand my alma mater. Why on earth should they care what some alums of The Citadel think about them?

It’s the whole “rivalry” thing, of course. The media wants it, because it makes for easy storylines. CSU wants it, for validation (I guess).

It won’t happen, though, because it can’t. I’ve said this before (more than once, actually), but rivalries are organic and often develop over a long period of time.

The Citadel’s rivals in football are Furman and VMI. That has been the case for generations. Alumni of The Citadel don’t think of CSU as any kind of rival; there is no reason to do so, and it has nothing to do with anything that happens on the field of play.

The Citadel has very little in common with Charleston Southern.

One is public, the other private. One is a military school, one is affiliated with the Baptists.

One began operations in 1842, the other in 1964. One is located in downtown Charleston, the other in North Charleston.

One is significantly larger than the other in terms of student enrollment (and no, the “bigger school” isn’t the one on the peninsula).

Jamey Chadwell:

Everything that we’re trying to do is to make it a rivalry. I’ve tried my best to stoke the fire. And now, maybe it is a rivalry. I hope it is. But when I got here, there was no rivalry at all.

There still isn’t — and there won’t be if Charleston Southern wins on Saturday, or if The Citadel pulls off the upset. That’s just the way it is. That is the way it is going to be.

It is quite possible that Chadwell is a decent man. I have no idea.

However, his comments haven’t done anything to make this matchup a rivalry. All they’ve done is give many Bulldog fans a negative impression of Jamey Chadwell. That’s too bad.

He probably doesn’t care. That is his prerogative.

This game is being played at Buccaneer Field. I want to make three points about that.

– I can go along with the idea that Charleston Southern’s team earned the right to host a playoff game. However, I would specify that only the team be included in the “earned” category.

Charleston Southern’s administration certainly did nothing to earn that right with its longstanding failure to significantly improve the Bucs’ football stadium situation. The facilities issues at CSU (including the basketball gymnasium) are of the school’s own doing.

Fans of other schools (not just The Citadel) have every right to point out the problems associated with those facilities, and to complain when they are affected by them. The notion that “if it were the other way around” doesn’t apply.

When The Citadel hosts a football or basketball game, or when College of Charleston hosts a basketball game, Charleston Southern’s fans have every opportunity to attend those games and watch the action. The reverse is not true when CSU hosts the matchups.

– NCAA FCS playoff committee chairman Mark Wilson, the AD at Tennessee Tech, had this to say:

We do look at the quality of the stadium and the capacity. But if a seeded team has a venue capable of hosting regular-season games without issues and they meet the minimum guarantee, then they are the host.

We think it’s going to be a great atmosphere for an FCS playoff game.

I’m not sure it’s a great idea to assume a facility that is “capable of hosting regular-season games without issues” is also going to be able to handle a crowd like that expected on Saturday. The Citadel is going to bring a few more fans than Monmouth did.

Wilson’s remark struck me as a bit disingenuous. At any rate, it is of no concern to the NCAA. That organization is all about the Benjamins, baby, which leads directly to my third point…

– This was an eyebrow-raising article:

…the largest crowd to witness a CSU home football game came last September when The Citadel made its first-ever trek down I-26 to 4,000-seat Buccaneer Field. The listed attendance for that game was 7,934 [note: actual attendance was closer to 5,500]. That included about 3,000 fans who were left to stand or sit in lawn chairs around the end zone or along the fences in the corners.

Early projections are that Saturday’s game, which has much bigger implications and interest, will exceed that record crowd. CSU athletic director Hank Small realizes the logistics involved but feels comfortable in saying his stadium can handle the crowd…

…“Sure, it’s going to be a lot of people. We understand the numbers involved. We will have the full complement of security and safety personnel available and we are doing everything we can to make this hosting of a national playoff game go as smoothly as possible. There will be a lot of people standing. But we are doing all we can to accommodate anyone who wants to see this historic game. No one will be turned away.

…“They requested as many tickets as they could get and we gave them all that we had for those three sections on their side of the field,” Small said. “We then started selling standing room only (SRO) tickets to any other fans who wanted to have a ticket to get in to see the game. My advice would be to arrive early, whether you have your ticket already or if you ordered online and have to pick them up at will call.”

A CSU spokesman said Monday there are about 2,000 seats on the visitors’ side, and that an “unlimited” number of SRO tickets will be sold. Citadel fans who went on-line at 10 a.m. Monday when tickets went on sale found only SRO tickets available.

I have to wonder if the conversation between the CSU administration and the NCAA went something like this:

NCAA: So, uh, you guys only have 4,000 seats. You could probably sell 12,000+ for this game. We want as big a profit as possible. Why do you think we regionalize the playoffs in the first place? Why not move it somewhere that can accommodate all those fans?

CSU: Hey, we’ll just sell SRO tickets to anyone who wants one. That way, we’ll sell plenty of tickets, make you folks lots of money, and save on the seats we didn’t have to add.

NCAA: Awesome!

When I read the comment that an “unlimited” number of SRO tickets would be sold, the first thing I thought about was a tragedy that took place in England in 1989 — the Hillsborough disaster.

I’m going to be blunt. I think selling an unlimited number of tickets to an event such as this one is irresponsible. It is also potentially dangerous.

Even if it meant fewer Bulldog fans were to gain entry, tickets should be capped at a certain point. Incidentally, is there a fire marshal anywhere near North Charleston?

On Thursday night, a representative at Charleston Southern told Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier that the school had sold “almost 7,000” tickets to the game. There was no immediate indication of how many SRO tickets had been sold.

That took on new meaning when, later on Thursday night, information was leaked that Charleston Southern had not yet sold all of the tickets for the seats on the home side.

In other words, CSU officials have been selling SRO tickets since 10 am Monday (remember, those were the only tickets offered to Bulldog fans by Charleston Southern). Meanwhile, tickets for at least one seated section on the home side have gone unsold for almost two weeks.

For the statistical review, I included all of The Citadel’s games and ten of the eleven games Charleston Southern has played. I threw out the Bucs’ game at Alabama.

Charleston Southern has wins over North Greenville (41-14), East Tennessee State (47-7), The Citadel (33-20), Monmouth (37-7), Presbyterian (10-7), Gardner-Webb (34-0), Coastal Carolina (33-25), Kennesaw State (28-14), and Liberty (31-24). The Buccaneers also lost to Troy (34-16), in addition to the ‘Bama defeat.

The Citadel has victories over Davidson (69-0), Western Carolina (28-10), Wofford (39-12), Mercer (21-19), VMI (35-14), Samford (44-25), Furman (38-17), South Carolina (23-22), and Coastal Carolina (41-38). The Bulldogs’ three losses came at Georgia Southern (48-13), versus Charleston Southern (33-20), and at Chattanooga (31-23).

As mentioned above, these statistics don’t include CSU’s game versus Alabama.

Charleston Southern’s offense has thrown the ball 222 times, with 13 other would-be pass play attempts resulting in sacks. Not counting those sacks, the Bucs have rushed 447 times; thus, CSU has passed the ball (or attempted to pass) on 34.5% of its offensive plays from scrimmage.

Passing yardage accounts for 39.7% of Charleston Southern’s total offense (with sack yardage removed from the total). CSU averages 6.68 yards per pass attempt (again, with sacks/yardage taken into account). That yards per attempt number is comparable to Furman among SoCon teams.

Charleston Southern averages 31.0 points and 395.9 yards per game, with an average of 5.8 yards per play. CSU would have finished 3rd in the SoCon in scoring offense, sixth in total offense, and fifth in yards per play.

Defensively, The Citadel has allowed 22.4 points and 369.3 yards per game, allowing 5.7 yards per play.

CSU is averaging 5.0 yards per rush, gaining 232.2 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs have allowed 156.9 yards per contest (4.5 yards per play).

The Buccaneers have completed passes at a 56.3% clip, with 14 TDs against only 5 interceptions. CSU’s pass efficiency rating would be near the top 30 of FCS if the Alabama game were not counted.

The Citadel was 24th nationally in defensive pass efficiency before last week, having allowed 7 pass TDs while intercepting 17 errant tosses prior to last Saturday. However, after the CCU game, The Citadel has dropped to 42nd nationally.

The Bulldogs allowed 3 TD passes against the Chanticleers, though they also intercepted two tosses (including a pick-6). The Citadel’s opponents have a completion percentage for the season of 59.6%.

Charleston Southern has converted 42.9% of its third-down attempts, which would rank 34th nationally save the Crimson Tide game (CSU was only 1 for 10 on third down in that contest). The Citadel has allowed opponents to pick up 37.2% of third down tries (48th in FCS).

CSU has gone for it on fourth down seventeen times, picking up a first down on ten of those attempts. On defense, The Citadel has given up fourteen conversions in twenty-two opponent tries (Coastal Carolina had no 4th-down conversion attempts last week).

Charleston Southern’s defense is allowing 16.2 points per game (which would easily lead the SoCon). CSU has given up 252.9 yards per game, with an average of 4.3 yards allowed per play. Both of those statistics would also lead the SoCon by a wide margin. Despite the Alabama game, the Buccaneers are still 2nd in FCS in total defense.

The Citadel is averaging 32.8 points and 434.3 yards per game, gaining 6.2 yards per play.

CSU is allowing 3.0 yards per rush (101.2 yards per game). Both of those statistics would rank in the top 10 of FCS.

The Buccaneers have allowed only 5 TDs through the air while intercepting 7 passes. CSU’s defensive pass efficiency rating would probably rank in the top 20 of FCS (possibly top 15) without the game against the Crimson Tide.

The Citadel’s rushing offense averages 359.7 yards per game (second-best nationally), gaining 5.9 yards per carry. The Bulldogs don’t throw the football that often, of course; they now rank 41st in FCS in offensive pass efficiency (5 TD passes, 4 picks).

The Bulldogs have an offensive third-down conversion rate of 50.9%, which is fourth-best in FCS (behind James Madison, Lehigh, and Chattanooga). Charleston Southern has allowed third down conversions at a 28.1% rate and ranks in the top 10 nationally in that category.

I think 3rd-down conversion rate will be a big key to the game on Saturday. CSU’s offense is good on third down, as is the Bulldogs’ D. Charleston Southern’s defense is outstanding on third down; The Citadel’s offense is stellar at moving the chains.

The Citadel is 6 for 17 on fourth-down tries, which is decidedly below average (and a bit surprising), while CSU opponents are just 7 for 22 converting fourth-down attempts (top 25 nationally).

Charleston Southern’s offense has a 65.1% Red Zone TD rate. The Bulldogs have a defensive Red Zone TD rate of 52.6%. Of the Buccaneers’ 28 Red Zone TDs, 20 have been via the rush.

CCU opponents have a Red Zone TD rate of 57.1%. The Citadel’s offense has a Red Zone TD rate of 61.5%. Of the 32 touchdowns the Bulldogs have scored on Red Zone possessions, 30 have been rushing TDs.

The Citadel is +9 in turnover margin (gained 29, lost 20). Charleston Southern’s turnover margin is +3 (gained 13, lost 10). CSU ranks in the FCS top 10 in fewest turnovers given up.

Charleston Southern is 7 for 13 on field goal attempts (33-38 on PATs). The Citadel is 14 for 18 on FG tries (44-45 PATs).

The Citadel has a net punting average of 36.1; CSU’s is 32.9.

The Bulldogs have 31 touchbacks on 74 kickoffs, while the Buccaneers have 8 touchbacks on 56 kickoffs. The Citadel has an edge of 5.2 net yards in kickoff coverage.

Charleston Southern has averaged 19.3 yards per kick return. The Citadel’s average per KO return is 23.0.

CSU has averaged 15.5 yards per punt return, which is ninth-best in FCS and tops in the Big South. The Citadel (5.0 yards per return) ranks last in the SoCon in that statistic.

Charleston Southern has averaged 34:17 in time of possession per game. The Bulldogs have also controlled the clock, but not to that same extent (31:56).

The Buccaneers are averaging 68.2 offensive plays from scrimmage per game, with a very slow 1.99 plays-per-minute rate. The Citadel is averaging 69.5 plays per game, with a plays-per-minute rate of 2.18.

Charleston Southern is averaging 6.5 penalties per game (53.0 penalty yards per contest). Opponents of the Bucs are called for slightly fewer penalties (5.2 per contest, 46.3 penalty yards/game).

The Citadel has been called for 5.8 penalties per game (50.2 penalty yards per contest). Opponents of the Bulldogs have been flagged just 4.7 times per contest (36.8 penalty yards per game).

Note: individual statistics are for all games.

Austin Brown (6’1″, 207 lbs.) has seen the lion’s share of snaps for the Bucs at quarterback. He is completing 56.5% of his passes, with 11 TD tosses against 5 interceptions.

Charleston Southern had two running backs rush for 100+ yards against The Citadel in the last matchup. Darius Hammond (5’10”, 192 lbs.) leads the team in rushing, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He is also a threat at returning punts (having taken one back for a TD versus the Bulldogs last season).

Mike Holloway (5’8″, 195 lbs.) rushed for 172 yards and 3 TDs against The Citadel in September. A third running back, Ben Robinson (5’7″, 183 lbs.), is averaging 6.7 yards per carry.

Charleston Southern’s projected starters on the offensive line averages 6’2″, 283 lbs.

Left tackle Erik Austell (6’3″, 285 lbs.) was a first team All-Big South pick. Fellow tackle Benny Timmons (6’2″, 300 lbs.) and center Jackson Williamson (6’0″, 285 lbs.) were second-team all-league selections.

However, Austell is not listed on the current two-deep after suffering an injury late in the season against Kennesaw State. Timmons has moved from right to left tackle.

Tight end Nathan Prater is 6’8″, and is from Ninety Six, South Carolina.

It is a requirement for me to lament that he does not wear #96 (for his hometown) or #68 (for his height). Instead, he wears #81. So, so disappointing.

Prater and starting wide receivers Kevin Glears (6’0″, 185 lbs.) and Nathan Perera (6’3″, 210 lbs.) are all sixth-year players. Perera was an all-Big South pick in 2011 before suffering knee and shoulder injuries. He has been targeted a lot late in the season, and is averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

Another starting wideout, Colton Korn, is the player to watch on 3rd down. He moves the chains (and had eight receptions earlier this season against The Citadel). His brother, Willy Korn, is the wide receivers coach at CSU (and whose star-crossed career at Clemson has been well-chronicled).

Another receiver to watch is Kenny Dinkins (5’10”, 185 lbs.), a speedster who had 114 receiving yards against Liberty.

Charleston Southern generally plays a 3-4 defense, but will throw out multiple looks against the Bulldogs’ triple option attack.

Weakside linebacker Aaron Brown, a first-team all-conference pick, leads the Buccaneers in tackles. Brown scored a touchdown against North Greenville in the opener, a 53-yard play that was technically a fumble return after NGU bungled a punt.

Middle linebacker Zane Cruz (6’2″, 215 lbs.) is second on the team in tackles. Fifth-year senior Zack Johnson (6’0″, 200 lbs.) is the “spur” linebacker. He is third on the team in tackles for loss.

The “bandit” linebacker, Solomon Brown (6’1″, 220 lbs.) was the Big South Freshman of the Year. He is second on the team in sacks (5) and tackles for loss (10).

Defensive end Anthony Ellis (6’1″, 245 lbs.) led the team in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (14). He was also a first-team all-league selection.

The four starters in the secondary have combined to make 89 career starts. Thirty of those are by cornerback and All-Big South pick Malcolm Jackson (5’11”, 180 lbs.).

Truett Burns (6’0″, 172 lbs.) is in his third year as Charleston Southern’s starting punter. The junior usually employs a “rugby” style of punting.

This year, he is averaging 35.8 yards per punt, with 15 of his 44 punts landing inside the 20 (against one touchback).

Tyler Tekac (6’0″, 180 lbs.) is now CSU’s placekicker. The freshman is 7-11 on field goal attempts, with a long of 40 yards. He is 21-24 on PATs.

Joseph Smith (6’3″, 200 lbs.) is the all-Big South long snapper. Not every league has an all-conference place for a long snapper; good for him.

As mentioned earlier, Darius Hammond is Charleston Southern’s punt returner, and he is an all-league performer in that role. Hammond is also CSU’s primary kick returner.

Odds and ends:

– Charleston Southern has 36 players on its roster from South Carolina, 19 from Georgia, 16 from Florida, two from North Carolina, and one each from Virginia, Texas, and California.

Note: those numbers are what I compiled back in September. The current numerical roster only lists 61 players (presumably the “playoff roster”, as per NCAA rules).

– This will be the third consecutive meeting between the two schools in which Charleston Southern has had extra days to prepare. The previous two matchups came after CSU played Thursday night contests the week before.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Charleston Southern is a 3-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 52.5. For those who follow such things, the line actually opened on Monday afternoon as a pick’em, so the money is coming in on the Bucs’ side. Admittedly, I don’t think it would take a great deal of cash to swing an FCS line.

Other lines for FCS playoff games: William & Mary-Richmond is a pick’em; JMU is favored by 20.5 over Colgate; Jacksonville State is a 7-point favorite over Chattanooga; Illinois State is a 15.5-point favorite over Western Illinois; North Dakota State is a 9-point favorite over Montana; McNeese State is a 4.5-point favorite over Sam Houston State; and Northern Iowa is a 4-point road favorite at Portland State.

Portland State is 9-2, has beaten two FBS teams (including Washington State), is playing at home after getting a bye…and it’s a 4-point underdog to a four-loss team that is travelling halfway across the country.

[Lee Corso voice] Somebody knows somethin’ [/Lee Corso voice]

– Among FCS teams, The Citadel is 6th in this week’s Massey Ratings. Other FCS ratings of note: Chattanooga, 8th; Charleston Southern, 11th.

The top 5 in the Massey Ratings are (in order) Illinois State, North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Northern Iowa, and Dartmouth. Harvard is 7th, so The Citadel is sandwiched between two Ivy League schools.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in North Charleston, according to the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high around 63 degrees.

– Do you think North Charleston mayor Keith Summey gets upset that the folks at Charleston Southern are always trying to suggest the school is located in Charleston? There are constant attempts to tie in a rivalry with The Citadel and/or College of Charleston by making references like “intra-city”, “inner city”, “cross town”, etc.

I’ve wondered about this at times. After all, he’s a Baptist College (now CSU) graduate.

– I just wanted to note that Tevin Floyd and Dominique Allen were both on point at the presser this week, particularly Allen. Excellent job, guys.

For personal reasons not related to the gridiron (or the locale), I’m not sure I’ll be at the game on Saturday. It would be the first time I haven’t seen a playoff game involving The Citadel in person.

If I’m not there, I’ll be watching it on ESPN3. I’ll almost certainly have a better view of the action if I’m not at the game, which is ridiculous, but also true.

One thing I remember from the contest The Citadel played in North Charleston last season was how poor the sightlines were on the visitors side, even for the seated areas. That’s because the bleachers are on flat ground, and fans are separated from the action by a fence, a track, and the players and coaches lining the sideline.

Of course, most of the visiting fans won’t even be lucky enough to have seats.

I have had several people I know, Bulldog fans who have each attended dozens (if not hundreds) of home and away games over the years, tell me they aren’t going to the game specifically because they want to actually watch the game.

The setting for the matchup was described earlier this week by a Bulldog supporter as a potential “mosh pit”. That particular individual was actually being positive in his assessment, but I’m too old and decrepit to enjoy what may wind up being a scene vaguely resembling the infield at the Kentucky Derby (albeit with more discreet alcohol consumption). So if I can’t make it, I’m not going to be all that upset.

I just hope nothing really bad happens.

As for the game itself, I don’t have any idea what to expect.

I was really surprised (and pleased) at how dominant The Citadel was on the ground against Coastal Carolina. I thought the Bulldogs would move the ball, but I certainly wasn’t expecting 500+ rushing yards.

Coastal Carolina isn’t that bad a defensive team. CSU has a better defense than the Chanticleers, but it is hard to imagine The Citadel struggling in this game like it did offensively back in September. I think the Bulldogs’ O has come of age since then.

I mentioned the 3rd-down conversion statistic earlier. Maintaining long drives is going to be a big factor for both teams. So are turnovers and penalties (the Bulldogs were hurt by untimely flags in the first meeting).

The Bulldogs better be extra-careful on kickoff and punt coverage on Saturday, especially punts. (Potential solution: don’t punt; embrace the Kevin Kelley school of coaching.)

Will the Bulldogs be tired after a long season and another road game? Will the Buccaneers be off their rhythm after a week off?

I don’t know, and nobody else does either.

That’s why we watch the games.

2015 Football, Game 12: The Citadel vs. Coastal Carolina

The Citadel at Coastal Carolina, to be played in Conway, South Carolina, at Brooks Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 28. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Drew Fellios providing play-by-play and Tom O’Brien supplying the analysis.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.

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

Links of interest:

– “Back to playoff business” for The Citadel

– Game notes from The Citadel and Coastal Carolina

SoCon weekly release

Big South weekly release

Joe Moglia on the Big South teleconference

Mike Houston’s 11/24 press conference (with comments from Mitchell Jeter, Tyler Renew, and Joe Crochet)

Notes on The Citadel-Coastal Carolina from the Myrtle Beach Sun-News

“Bulldogs’ offense is rolling in Mike Houston’s second year at helm”, from the Myrtle Beach Sun-News

Tyler Renew is the SoCon offensive player of the week

– Things haven’t always been easy for Renew

SoCon media awards

SoCon coaches’ awards

FCS Coaches’ Poll

– STATS preview of The Citadel-Coastal Carolina

– Ticket website

This is a preview I really didn’t expect to be writing when the season began, to be honest. However, I’m happy to stop eating turkey and dressing for a few minutes in order to scribble a few paragraphs about a previously unscheduled football game.

One big key to this game for The Citadel is for its players and coaches to be emotionally and mentally prepared to play. It probably won’t be easy to come down from the high that was winning at South Carolina, but the Bulldogs will have no chance against Coastal Carolina if their collective mentality is still focused on last Saturday.

One thing is for sure: Coastal Carolina won’t be too impressed by what happened in Columbia last week. If you had any doubts about that, let Chanticleers junior linebacker Alex Scearce put them to rest:

I know they definitely have some confidence after beating big, bad South Carolina, but you watch the game and South Carolina had a few good drives, but it didn’t seem like some of them wanted to be there. It looked like The Citadel wanted it more than they did, so that’s definitely the reason they came out on top. I think they’re going to be real confident when they come in here thinking they can whup up on us physically, but I think this year we’ve been able to handle it OK between the tackles, especially towards the end of the season. So I think it’s going to be a challenging game for them as well.

He doesn’t think the Gamecocks tried very hard, and figures that’s the only reason The Citadel won. Okay then.

In my preview for last year’s regular season game between the two schools, I wrote the following:

Coastal Carolina may not have hired Joe Moglia because it has the FBS in its sights. However, that is the perception in certain circles.

[In this article] Moglia was reported to have said that CCU had only achieved 75% of his vision. Not everyone is sure what the remaining 25% of his vision would be.

Less than 12 months later, Coastal Carolina accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt and move to the FBS.

Because of that, this will be the last time CCU participates in the FCS playoffs. The two seasons to follow (2016 and 2017) will be “transitional” campaigns, with the Chanticleers ineligible for postseason play. Coastal Carolina will begin playing Sun Belt teams on a regular basis in 2017.

This is the second meeting between Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. It will likely also be the two schools’ last matchup on the gridiron for the foreseeable future. That is due to a situation very similar to the one The Citadel now has with Georgia Southern, which I described earlier this season in my preview of the GSU game:

…if Georgia Southern wants to schedule The Citadel again, the military college is going to demand a lot more cash. $175,000 isn’t going to be nearly enough; The Citadel is going to want more than twice that amount of money. Maybe more than three times that amount of money.

In a way, it illustrates a problem Georgia Southern now has as an FBS member when it comes to scheduling home games. Schools that pay FCS schools big bucks for a “guarantee game” can afford to make those payments, because they have large stadiums and huge budgets. That isn’t the case for the folks in Statesboro.

Georgia Southern may have expanded Paulson Stadium, but 25,000 seats is a far cry from the likes of the facilities at Florida State, or South Carolina, or even North Carolina (opponents of The Citadel last year, this year, and next year).

Mike Houston explained his position on the issue in the press conference that preceded the game against Georgia Southern:

You are playing an FBS program that has more resources and scholarships than we have. And if you are playing those kinds of games, there needs to be financial restitution that matches that.

Jim Senter appears to be on the same page as his head football coach. The Citadel isn’t going to play anyone for less than a significant guarantee, something schools with smaller fan bases and/or stadia will not be able to provide.

Coastal Carolina has plans to expand Brooks Stadium to 20,000 seats, smaller than Paulson Stadium.

As for Joe Moglia, it will be interesting to see what he does after the season is over. Moglia is 66 years old; he will be 67 by the time the 2016 season starts.

If he intends to pursue a more high-profile coaching job, it may be now or never. Moglia has been mentioned in various quarters as a potential candidate at Syracuse, though most of those reports originated from a speculative column by Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel (followed up by a Thayer Evans tweet).

Another school that might give Moglia a look is Rutgers, a possibility first broached by college football reporter Bruce Feldman. To me, that one makes sense, though there are a couple of problems with Moglia getting the Rutgers job: A) it isn’t technically open yet; B) there is no more dysfunctional department of athletics in all of major-college sports.

The sections that follow include statistics for the full season for both Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. Each school has played 11 games.

Coastal Carolina is 9-2, with home wins over Western Illinois (34-27), Bryant (31-17), Alabama A&M (55-0), Presbyterian (24-17), Gardner-Webb (46-0), and Kennesaw State (45-13); the Chanticleers have road victories over Furman (38-35), South Carolina State (41-14), and Monmouth (23-20). CCU has lost at Charleston Southern (35-27) and at Liberty (24-21).

The Citadel is 8-3, with home wins over Davidson (69-0), Western Carolina (28-10), Wofford (39-12), Mercer (21-19), and VMI (35-14); the Bulldogs have won on the road at Samford (44-25), Furman (38-17), and South Carolina (23-22). The Citadel’s three losses came at Georgia Southern (48-13), versus Charleston Southern (33-20), and at Chattanooga (31-23).

Coastal Carolina’s offense has thrown the ball 337 times, with 14 other would-be pass play attempts resulting in sacks. Not counting those sacks, the Chanticleers have rushed 401 times; thus, CCU has passed the ball (or attempted to pass) on 46.7% of its offensive plays from scrimmage.

Passing yardage accounts for 55.3% of Coastal Carolina’s total offense (with sack yardage removed from the total). CCU averages 7.69 yards per pass attempt (again, with sacks/yardage taken into account). That yards per attempt number is comparable to Chattanooga among SoCon teams.

Coastal Carolina averages 34.8 points and 443.8 yards per game, with an average of 6.5 yards per play. CCU would have led the SoCon in two of those three categories (Samford averaged 479.7 yards of total offense per game).

Defensively, The Citadel has allowed 21.0 points and 350.5 yards per game, allowing 5.4 yards per play.

CCU is averaging 5.1 yards per rush, gaining 192.2 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs have allowed 156.5 yards per contest (4.4 yards per play).

The Chanticleers have completed passes at a 65.9% clip, with 19 TDs against just 5 interceptions. CCU’s pass efficiency rating ranks 13th in all of FCS.

The Citadel is 24th nationally in defensive pass efficiency, having allowed 7 pass TDs while intercepting 17 errant tosses. The Bulldogs’ opponents have a completion percentage for the season of 58.8%.

Coastal Carolina has converted 42.8% of its third-down attempts, which ranks 33rd nationally. The Citadel has allowed opponents to pick up 36.2% of third down tries (42nd in FCS).

The FCS leader in defensive pass efficiency and defensive third-down conversion rate, by the way, is still South Carolina State, as has been the case for the past month.

CCU has gone for it on fourth down fifteen times, picking up a first down on nine of those attempts. On defense, The Citadel has given up fourteen conversions in twenty-two opponent tries.

Coastal Carolina’s defense is allowing 18.2 points per game (which would lead the SoCon). CCU has given up 403.6 yards per game, with an average of 5.7 yards allowed per play. Both of those statistics would be in the middle of the pack in the SoCon.

The Citadel is averaging 32.1 points and 423.3 yards per game, gaining 6.2 yards per play.

CCU is allowing 4.2 yards per rush (168.4 yards per game). The Chanticleers have allowed 12 TDs through the air while intercepting 6 passes, and rank in the bottom half of FCS in terms of defensive pass efficiency.

The Citadel’s offense averages 344.7 yards per game (2nd nationally), gaining 5.8 yards per carry. The Bulldogs obviously don’t throw the football that often, though they have generally been effective when they have (33rd nationally in offensive pass efficiency, with 5 TD passes against 4 interceptions).

The Citadel remains second nationally in rushing offense, behind Cal Poly.

The Bulldogs have an offensive third-down conversion rate of 49.3%, which is 6th-best in FCS. Coastal Carolina has allowed third down conversions at a 38.7% rate.

The Citadel is 6 for 16 in fourth-down tries, one of the poorer rates in the country, while CCU opponents are only 9-24 converting fourth-down attempts (24th nationally). Sharp-eyed readers may notice that The Citadel converts fourth downs at the exact same rate as CCU opponents (37.5%).

Coastal Carolina’s offense has a 60.8% Red Zone TD rate. The Bulldogs have a defensive Red Zone TD rate of 51.4%. Of the Chanticleers’ 31 Red Zone TDs, 21 have been via the rush.

CCU opponents have a Red Zone TD rate of 70.0%. The Citadel’s offense has a Red Zone TD rate of 60.9%. Of the 28 touchdowns the Bulldogs have scored on Red Zone possessions, 26 have been rushing TDs.

The Citadel is +6 in turnover margin (gained 25, lost 19). Coastal Carolina’s turnover margin is +2 (gained 13, lost 11).

Coastal Carolina is 16 for 21 on field goal attempts (33-33 on PATs). The Citadel is 12 for 14 on FG tries (39-40 PATs).

The Citadel has a net punting average of 36.1; CCU’s is 36.3.

The Bulldogs have 28 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs, while the Chanticleers have 7 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs (though the net average favors CCU).

Coastal Carolina has 2 kickoff return TDs this season and led the Big South in return yardage. The Citadel has averaged slightly more yards per return than the Chanticleers, but has not returned any kicks for a score.

CCU has averaged an excellent 11.7 yards per punt return. The Citadel ranked last in the SoCon in that statistic.

Coastal Carolina has averaged only 27:42 in time of possession per game. The Bulldogs have controlled the clock more, with a per-game TOP average of 31:25.

The Chanticleers are averaging 68.4 offensive plays from scrimmage per game, with a 2.47 plays-per-minute rate, which is not in Samford territory but is still a fairly fast pace. The Citadel is averaging 68.2 plays per game, but with a plays-per-minute rate of 2.17.

Coastal Carolina is averaging 5.8 penalties per game (54.1 penalty yards per contest). Opponents of the Chanticleers are called for slightly more penalties (6.1 per contest, 56.5 penalty yards/game).

The Citadel has been called for 6 penalties per game (50.7 penalty yards per contest). As fans of the Bulldogs know, opponents of The Citadel have largely been penalty-free, particularly in SoCon play. For the season, Bulldog opponents have been flagged 4.7 times per contest (just 36.4 penalty yards per game).

During his press conference on Tuesday, Mike Houston was asked to compare Coastal Carolina’s offense to those of other teams the Bulldogs have faced. He referenced Western Carolina, a team with a balanced (but potentially explosive) offense under the direction of a talented, experienced dual-threat QB.

Alex Ross (6’1″, 205 lbs.) is a native of Alpharetta, Georgia, who has started 40 games for the Chanticleers at quarterback. This season, Ross is completing 66.7% of his passes (8.2 yards per attempt), with 18 TD throws against just 5 interceptions.

Ross has been the all-conference QB in the Big South for three consecutive seasons. In the game last year at Johnson Hagood Stadium, he was 24-32 for 263 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 58 yards in that contest, an example of his mobility.

De’Angelo Henderson (5’8″, 205 lbs.) was named the Big South offensive player of the year earlier this week. The resident of Summerville has rushed for 1,245 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Henderson rushed for 88 yards and a TD versus The Citadel last season. He can also catch the ball, as he is the Chanticleers’ second-leading receiver.

Coastal Carolina’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’3″, 300 lbs. Right guard Sam Ekwonike (6’2″, 350 lbs.) is the biggest member of the group; he is a first-team all-league performer, as is left tackle Voghens Larrieux (6’5″, 290 lbs.).

Right tackle Chase Tidwell (6’5″, 275 lbs.) is a second-team All-Big South pick. Tidwell started his collegiate career as a baseball player at Charleston Southern; he had never been on the field during a high school or college football game until the Chanticleers’ season opener this year at Furman.

Bruce Mapp (6’0″, 210 lbs.) is a first-team all-conference selection who leads CCU in receptions (47) and TD catches (6). He had a big game last year against the Bulldogs, catching 10 passes for 108 yards and a TD.

Wideout Chris Jones (5’11”, 170 lbs.) and slot receiver Tyrell Blanks (5’11”, 165 lbs.) have combined for seven touchdown receptions.

Coastal Carolina generally operates a 4-2-5 defense, but as always, formations can change when teams defend the triple option.

Defensive tackle Jabari Bothwell (5’11”, 290 lbs.) played last year for Coastal Carolina after transferring from Western Michigan. This season, Bothwell made first-team All-Big South.

He has 8.5 tackles for loss among his 64 stops in 2015. Against Kennesaw State (which runs the triple option), Bothwell had 1.5 sacks, 8 tackles (including 2.5 for loss), and blocked a field goal.

Both of CCU’s starting defensive ends were second-team all-league picks. Roderick Holder (6’1″, 235 lbs.) has 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, while Calvin Hollenhorst (6’3″, 235 lbs.) made the conference’s second-team unit for the third consecutive season despite missing three games with an injury.

The aforementioned Alex Scearce (6’3″, 220 lbs.) also made second-team All-Big South. Scearce leads the Chanticleers in tackles with 70.

Coastal Carolina has injury issues in the secondary. Ray Lewis III (5’9″, 195 lbs.) is listed as a projected starter at cornerback on the two-deep; it would be the first career start for the son of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

CCU should have no concerns at the other corner spot, however, as Kamron Summers (5’11”, 185 lbs.) has started 30 consecutive games for the Chanticleers. Summers leads the team in pass breakups, with six.

Placekicker Ryan Granger (5’11”, 175 lbs.) was named All-Big South after making 15 of 19 field goals this season, with a long of 47. Granger, who has not missed a PAT this year (33-33), scored a TD on a fake field goal against Presbyterian.

Masamitsu Ishibashi (5’10”, 170 lbs.) is CCU’s kickoff specialist. He has 7 touchbacks on 69 kickoffs.

Evan Rabon (6’0″, 150 lbs.) is averaging 36.5 yards per punt. Thirteen of his thirty-one boots have landed inside the 20. None of his punts have resulted in a touchback.

The holder for Coastal Carolina is Tyler Keane (5’9″, 185 lbs.). Keane has occasionally run two-point plays from his position. The long snapper is freshman Connor Kubala (6’1″, 225 lbs.).

Kickoff returner Devin Brown (5’8″, 170 lbs.) is a dangerous weapon for the Chanticleers. Brown, who was named the Big South’s special teams player of the year, has returned two kickoffs for TDs this season. The junior has five such returns in his career.

Chris Jones is an excellent punt returner, averaging 11.5 yards per return (with a long of 64).

Odds and ends:

– There are 39 players from South Carolina on the Chanticleers’ roster. Other states represented: Florida (15), Georgia (14), North Carolina (8), Maryland (7), New Jersey (6), Pennsylvania (5), Virginia (4), Connecticut (3), California (3), Massachusetts (2), and one each from Texas, New York, Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There is also one player from Washington, DC, and another from Rome, Italy (reserve tight end Lorenzo D’Angelo).

– Of the eighteen players on the Chanticleers’ roster who began their careers at junior colleges or other four-year schools, seven are listed as starters on this week’s two-deep.

– Coastal Carolina installed artificial turf at Brooks Stadium prior to the beginning of this season. The color of the surface is teal.

– CCU last played at Liberty on a Thursday night, so the Chanticleers have had two extra days to prepare for this week’s game. Of course, that is mitigated to an extent by Coastal Carolina not knowing its opponent until Sunday.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Coastal Carolina is a 1-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 57 (which, coincidentally, was also the over/under for the Bulldogs’ game against South Carolina).

Other lines for FCS playoff games: Chattanooga is a 9.5-point favorite over Fordham; Western Illinois is a 17.5-point favorite at Dayton; South Dakota State is a 3-point favorite at Montana; Southern Utah is a 1-point favorite at Sam Houston State; William & Mary is a 22-point favorite over Duquesne; New Hampshire is an 11-point favorite over Colgate; and Northern Iowa is a 19.5-point favorite over Eastern Illinois.

– Among FCS teams, The Citadel is 8th in this week’s Massey Ratings. Other FCS ratings of note: Charleston Southern, 9th; Chattanooga, 15th; Coastal Carolina, 20th; Fordham, 21st.

The top 5 in the Massey Ratings are (in order) Illinois State, North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Dartmouth, and South Dakota State. Western Carolina is 24th; the Catamounts are ranked higher than one of the at-large teams (Eastern Illinois, which is 25th).

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Conway, according to the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high around 72 degrees.

– Last season, Coastal Carolina hosted a playoff game against Richmond. Attendance for that matchup was 5,601. The game was played on the second Saturday after Thanksgiving.

In 2013, CCU hosted Bethune-Cookman at Brooks Stadium on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and drew 3,007.

I’m guessing there will be more people in the stands this Saturday. The Citadel sold out its ticket allotment of 1,500 by noon on Tuesday.

As of this writing (Thursday night), there were still tickets available from Coastal Carolina: Link

– It appears that many Bulldog fans will be parking in lot “YY”: parking map

That lot is about a half-mile from the stadium, but shuttles will be available.

I’m a bit worried by the current Bulldogs’ lack of postseason experience (particularly when compared to Coastal Carolina), but that concern is largely alleviated by the wealth of successful playoff experience shared by The Citadel’s coaching staff. Still, it’s going to be a little different for the players. Once kickoff rolls around, though, I suspect it won’t matter all that much.

I believe the Bulldogs will be able to move the ball on CCU’s defense. It will be important to finish off long drives with touchdowns, though. That means avoiding fumbles and costly penalties, and making it happen in the red zone.

Dual-threat QBs have given the Bulldogs problems in the past (including last season against the Chanticleers). This year, the defense has done a better job limiting explosive plays, and a really good job forcing turnovers.

However, The Citadel’s D has only come up with one turnover in the past two games. To win this game, Bulldog defenders need to return to their ball-hawking ways.

I’m a little nervous about special teams this week. Devin Brown is a dynamic kickoff returner, and punt return specialist Chris Jones is no slouch either.

The Citadel managed to survive the South Carolina game without giving up a big return, but it was touch-and-go at times. That has to improve against CCU.

I think a large contingent of Bulldog supporters will be in Conway this Saturday. They’re probably going to witness a good, tight ballgame.

I hope the fans clad in light blue go home happy.

Game review, 2015: South Carolina

So that happened…

Links of interest (a comprehensive, but by no means complete, list):

Game story, The Post and Courier

Game photos, from The State

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Mike Houston, Eric Goins, Dominique Allen, Tyler Renew, Mitchell Jeter, and Mark Thomas

Video from WCIV-TV

Video from WCBD-TV

Video from WLTX-TV

The guys on the 1990 team also enjoyed this victory over South Carolina

Did you know Tyler Renew once sold peanuts at Williams-Brice Stadium?

No, seriously, Renew sold peanuts; trust me (video)

Renew’s 4th-quarter TD run, with no peanuts involved (video)

This post-game celebration by the team is apparently called a “turn-up” (video)

Mike Houston’s post-game locker room speech, and more celebrating (video)

Another celebration video (longform); same scene, featuring very happy offensive coordinator Brent Thompson (video)

AP story on The Citadel’s win over the Gamecocks

ESPN highlights package of the game (video)

Clip from Mike Houston’s halftime speech (video)

Paul Finebaum’s post-game interview with Mike Houston (video)

Mike Houston, post-game [great and well-deserved “what did you just say?” look from his son just after the 2:00 mark] (video)

South Carolina interim head coach Shawn Elliott, post-game (video)

Game highlights package from the school (video)

Radio calls by Mike Legg of key late-game plays

“Sacrificial Dog”: “Consider The Citadel game as a cupcake semi-final…”

“We lost. I know we lost…Yes. It’s The Citadel. How we lose to The Citadel?”

Post-game notes package

Box score

Links of interest, playoff edition:

Bulldogs are “built for a post-season run”

FCS playoff bracket

The Citadel to play at Coastal Carolina in the first round

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Mike Houston, Sam Frye, and James Riley

Video from WCIV-TV

Tickets being sold through The Citadel’s ticket office; also available through CCU

And he is short! Short of the first down! And The Citadel Bulldogs are going to win the football game!

Wildly random thoughts on the victory over South Carolina:

– For you triple option groupies (and you know who you are), the game-winning touchdown run by Tyler Renew came after an audible by Dominique Allen. According to Allen, the original play call was for an inside veer, but when the Gamecocks “bumped down to a bear front”, he switched to an outside veer.

Good decision.

– Don’t let some upset Gamecock fan try to tell you they got “cheated by the refs” on the non-play at the end of the game. Well, a few fans may whine anyway, but they should get no sympathy.

On replay, the whistle can clearly be heard before Pharoh Cooper even catches the pass from Perry Orth, and multiple individuals on both teams had stopped playing by that point. The call was also correct, as the South Carolina slot receiver on the right side of the formation was obviously not set before the snap.

You could also make an argument that at least two other Gamecocks didn’t get set before the center snapped the ball to Orth.

The delay in announcing the call, which I admit just about drove me crazy, was simply a case of the officials trying to determine how much time should be put on the game clock after the mandatory 10-second runoff. (Incidentally, they got it exactly right.)

– Apparently the SEC Network has realllllllllly long commercial breaks. The game took 3:19, despite the fact The Citadel only threw three passes.

– Did you know there is a large building at the State Fairgrounds named after a former Bulldog football great? Link

– Per South Carolina’s post-game notes, the Gamecocks had won 22 straight non-conference home games before losing to The Citadel on Saturday.

Of course, those notes also mistakenly state that South Carolina has “wins in seven-straight contests” against the Bulldogs. In actuality, The Citadel has won two of the last three matchups.

– The Citadel rushed for more yards against South Carolina (350) than it had averaged per game prior to facing the Gamecocks (343.7).

– In 1990, The Citadel had 396 total yards in a victory over the Gamecocks. In 2015, The Citadel had 387 total yards in a victory over the Gamecocks.

And in 1950, The Citadel had…118 total yards in a victory over the Gamecocks. Of course, the Bulldogs blocked two punts for TDs in that one. Special teams, baby.

The Citadel only committed one turnover in those three games — combined.

That came in the third quarter of the 1990 game, when the Bulldogs lost a fumble. South Carolina fumbled it right back to The Citadel two plays later.

– The Citadel now has four victories in its history over SEC opponents. The previous three came in 1962 (against Vanderbilt), 1979 (Vanderbilt again), and 1992 (Arkansas).

– “Tyler Renew used to sell peanuts at Williams-Brice Stadium” is this year’s “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit”, as far as storylines involving The Citadel are concerned.

– Your guess is as good as mine as to what South Carolina hoped to accomplish on that two-point conversion lateral to offensive lineman Brandon Shell. Shy Phillips did a good job making the tackle, which was akin to chopping down a giant redwood.

– The Citadel’s defense held the Gamecocks to 2.9 yards per carry, a major factor in the Bulldogs’ victory. Tevin Floyd and James Riley tied for the team lead in tackles on the day, with seven each.

All seven of Riley’s tackles were recorded as solo stops. The last of those came on a 4th-and-10, with Riley tackling Brandon Wilds two yards short of the first down the Gamecocks had to have.

– Will Vanvick had a fine day punting, saving his best effort for last, a 36-yarder downed on the Gamecocks 3-yard line late in the game. Aron Spann also should be credited with making a nice play to down the ball.

– Eric Goins also had a memorable afternoon, with a career-long field goal of 48 yards and a tackle on one of his kickoffs. That may have been a touchdown-saving stop, too.

I held my breath on The Citadel’s kickoffs, as several times it appeared South Carolina was very close to breaking a long gainer. The Bulldogs need to work on that this week as they get ready for the playoffs.

Ah yes, the playoffs.

I watched the selection show. It wasn’t one of ESPN’s smoothest efforts; it included a reference to “College of Charleston Southern” and another announcer confusing Western Illinois with Western Carolina.

However, the actual bracket was even rougher. I think the selection committee did a poor job.

I’m glad The Citadel is in the tournament, obviously, but I am disappointed in the regionalization of what is supposed to be a national tournament. I don’t necessarily expect teams to be sent across the country on a regular basis, but the committee overdosed on rematches this season.

It is a disservice to The Citadel, Coastal Carolina, and Charleston Southern to play a three-team mini-tourney right off the bat, with those teams already playing each other during the regular season. The committee set up multiple potential second-round rematches besides that one, including possible meetings between Richmond and William & Mary, Chattanooga and Jacksonville State, Western Illinois and Illinois State, and Montana and North Dakota State.

Would it have been so terrible to flip The Citadel and Duquesne, with the Bulldogs playing the Tribe and the Chanticleers hosting the Dukes? Or to switch CCU and Chattanooga in the bracket?

Why does Colgate and New Hampshire have to play each other in the first round, after playing earlier in the season? That isn’t supposed to happen, and it really shouldn’t happen.

I was also puzzled by the inclusion of 6-5 Western Illinois in the field (one of those five losses came to Coastal Carolina, by the way). Not only is WIU in the playoffs, it will play non-scholarship Dayton in the first round — a draw that would have been desired by almost every other team playing in the tournament’s first round.

A cynic might suggest Western Illinois is in the tournament instead of North Dakota or Towson because it is close enough to Dayton that the team can be bused to the game, rather than having to fly (and costing the NCAA more money).

It also appears the committee wanted to avoid having a final featuring teams from one conference (as was the case last year). That can be the only reason all five MVFC teams are on the same side of the bracket.

At any rate, The Citadel has a game on Saturday in Conway. Making sure the team is mentally and emotionally prepared for that contest after beating the Gamecocks is going to be a challenge for the coaching staff.

It’s a problem, albeit a nice problem to have.

It better not be a problem for the fan base. I know people have made plans in advance for Thanksgiving weekend, but playoff bids don’t come along for The Citadel every year, and this team certainly deserves all the support it can get. There needs to be plenty of light blue in Brooks Stadium when the Bulldogs take the field.

I think there will be.

Get your tickets early, though. Brooks Stadium currently has a seating capacity of under 10,000.

I’ll have a preview post for the Coastal Carolina game later in the week. I am not going to have a lot of time to do it, but I’ll figure something out.

This week’s review is almost completely picture-free. After almost a decade of taking mostly bad pictures, my camera more or less died in the first quarter on Saturday. That may be a blessing. I’ll gladly trade the demise of an old, mediocre camera for a victory over the Gamecocks.

I will include one shot I took with my cellphone, though. I was quick to snap it, and I had to be, as South Carolina rather amusingly “wiped” its scoreboard only a few seconds after the game was over.

The game happened, though. Yes, it certainly did.

scoreboard TC-SC