2016 Football, Game 12: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel vs. Wofford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on December 3, 2016. The game will only be available on television via ESPN College Extra

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Greg Mescall will provide play-by-play, while Stan Lewter supplies the analysis. 

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– Game notes for The Citadel and Wofford

SoCon weekly release

– The Citadel versus Wofford: a “scary” matchup

Attendance at FCS playoff games has been poor; The Citadel hopes to change that on Saturday

A discussion revolving around the “fourth option”

Brent Thompson had an interesting major in college

Feature on Isaiah Pinson, Jacobs Blocking Award winner in the Southern Conference

“Inside the game” from The Post and Courier

Bulldogs hope home field makes difference

– It’s another dogfight

– Bulldogs and Terriers face off again

– Terriers get shot at redemption

– Wofford battles injury issues

– Wofford player says “we all know, and they [The Citadel] know, that we should have won that first one”

– Wofford’s safeties are key players on their defense

– Five players to watch for The Citadel and Wofford

– Game story from Wofford’s victory over Charleston Southern

– Preview of the game from Yahoo! Sports

– Preview of the game from Southern Pigskin

Brent Thompson’s 11/29 press conference, including comments from Myles Pierce, Isaiah Pinson, and Tyler Renew (video)

Wofford media luncheon interviews with Mike Ayers, Brandon Goodson, and JoJo Tillery (video)

Wofford review of its win over Charleston Southern (video)

– FCS playoff bracket

A couple of other links:

My preview of The Citadel’s 10/22 game versus Wofford

My review of The Citadel’s 10/22 game versus Wofford

Hey, if you’re going to the football game on Saturday night, why not make it a multi-sport doubleheader?

The Citadel’s basketball team will be in action at McAlister Field House, with a noon tipoff for a game against USC-Upstate.

The game against the Spartans is part of the Holy City Hoops Classic (great name for an event). The Citadel defeated Colgate on Friday, and takes on Campbell at 4:00 pm on Sunday.

So far this season the Bulldogs are 5-3, including a 4-0 record at home.

The football game on Saturday will be called on ESPN3 by Greg Mescall (play-by-play) and Stan Lewter (analysis).

As far as I can tell, this is the first time either one has ever called a football game involving a SoCon team.

Mescall is a graduate of Monmouth. In his broadcasting career, he has primarily been a commentator for water polo matches, both as a play-by-play announcer and an analyst (he appears to have spent a considerable amount of time on the west coast, as you might imagine).

This season, however, Mescall started working FBS/FCS college football games, two on play-by-play (both involving Georgia Southern, incidentally) and two as a sideline reporter for the NEC game of the week on ESPN3.

Lewter’s background is actually in basketball. He was an assistant for three years under Jim Valvano at North Carolina State, and later was the head coach at Livingstone.

After starting a broadcasting career as a basketball announcer, several years ago Lewter began to pick up occasional assignments as an analyst for college football games (shades of Nate Ross, a/k/a the “Renaissance Man”). Lewter has called four FBS/FCS games so far this season.

While the game is being streamed on ESPN3, the contest is now also slated to appear on ESPN College Extra.

For those TV viewers with DirecTV, the viewing guide indicates that Wofford-The Citadel will be broadcast in HD on Channel 788-1. For Time Warner Cable subscribers, the matchup is listed on channel 392. In both instances, a subscription to a “sports pack” may be required.

The buildup to this game has featured some loquacious Wofford players, none more voluble than starting free safety JoJo Tillery:

We’re looking for revenge. We all know, and even they know, that we should have won that first one, but mistakes happen.

Tillery wasn’t the only Terrier willing to do some talking. Outside linebacker Terrance Morris had this to say about playing The Citadel:

This is what we’ve been looking for, actually. We [had the] mindset that we let the first one get off the hook…

…now we get to play them all over again at their place and probably get a victory over there, give them a taste of how it felt when they got one over here [in Spartanburg].

Wofford depth chart differences from the first game against The Citadel (10/22), last week versus Charleston Southern, and this week against the Bulldogs:

On offense, there has been only one change. Lennox McAfee, a backup halfback and return man, broke his leg against the Buccaneers. His replacement at both spots is freshman Blake Morgan, who has good speed (and who, it should also be noted, had a 20-yard reception against The Citadel in the October matchup).

Defensively, most of the personnel changes have occurred at linebacker. Dylan Young and Datavious Wilson have been listed as starters for all three games. John Patterson started at inside linebacker versus The Citadel in October, and sustained a serious (and season-ending) neck injury.

Lincoln Stewart replaced him, only to be injured last week. Stewart had to be carted off the field; everyone was relieved to learn afterwards that he had movement in his extremities.

Mike Ayers stated that Stewart had suffered a pinched nerve, and apparently the senior from Florida is available this week, as he is listed as a starter on the two-deep. Stewart had seven tackles versus The Citadel in the regular-season matchup.

Terrance Morris did not start against The Citadel in October, but at the time Morris was completing a recovery from a knee injury that had cost him the entire 2015 season. He started against Charleston Southern and is slated to start on Saturday.

In the defensive secondary, the same four players have been listed as starters on all three of the two-deeps in question. Three of their backups are different on this week’s depth chart from the one that was published for the October game against the Bulldogs.

David Marvin has been listed as the starter at both placekicker and punter for the last two weeks, after Brian Sanders was the projected starter at punter against The Citadel in the regular-season meeting. Sanders is now listed as the backup placekicker, after Luke Carter had held that role through last week. (Sanders is also the holder for the Terriers.)

Statistics of note for Wofford:

Wofford Opp
Points per game 27.9 17.2
Total yards rushing 3395 950
Yards/rush 5.0 2.7
Rushing TDs 32 7
Total yards passing 854 2303
Comp-Att-Int 63-113-2 234-367-15
Average/pass att 7.6 6.3
Passing TDs 4 20
Total offense 4249 3253
Total plays 794 723
Average per play 5.4 4.5
Fumbles/lost 18-9 8-6
Penalties-pen yards 66-614 59-541
Pen yards/game 51.2 45.1
Net punt average 44.8 38.1
Time of poss/game 33:54 26:06
3rd-down conv 71/167 65/159
3rd-down conv % 42.5% 40.9%
Sacks by-yards 28-184 20-2
Red Zone TD% (30-47) 63.8% (24-35) 68.6%
  • Wofford leads the nation in net punting
  • The Terriers have only been intercepted twice all season, the fewest interceptions allowed in the country
  • That is a big reason why Wofford is 7th in fewest turnovers lost, with eleven; four of those came against The Citadel in the 10/22 matchup
  • The Terriers are 25th nationally in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate
  • Wofford is 4th nationally in time of possession and 5th in rushing offense (282.9 yards per game)
  • The Terriers are 4th in FCS in both rushing defense and total defense, and 7th in scoring defense
  • Despite those impressive numbers, Wofford is only 87th in defensive 3rd-down conversion rate

Wofford’s top-5 ranking in rushing defense is even more impressive when you realize that the Terriers are also 5th in yards allowed per rushing attempt. Wofford allowed 4.6 yards per rush against Charleston Southern, but that was actually a solid effort given the opponent, as the Buccaneers lead the nation in yards per rush (at 6.0).

The Citadel is 9th nationally in yards per rushing attempt (5.5), but was held to 3.7 yards per rush against the Terriers in October.

A few stats for The Citadel:

The Citadel Opp
Points per game 28.5 20.8
Total yards rushing 3943 1374
Yards/rush 5.5 4.0
Rushing TDs 32 13
Total yards passing 700 2001
Comp-Att-Int 42-104-3 167-288-8
Average/pass att 6.7 6.9
Passing TDs 5 13
Total offense 4643 3375
Total plays 825 630
Average per play 5.6 5.4
Fumbles/lost 21-10 15-8
Penalties-pen yards 55-572 48-461
Pen yards/game 52.0 41.9
Net punt average 36.9 36.9
Time of poss/game 34:42 25:17
3rd-down conv 88/179 40/131
3rd-down conv % 49.2% 30.6%
Sacks by-yards 28-185 2-11
Red Zone TD% (25-45) 55.6% (14-24) 58.3%

  • The Citadel leads the nation in rushing offense (358.3 yards per game)
  • The Bulldogs are 2nd nationally in time of possession (behind only San Diego; the Toreros pulled off the biggest upset of the first round last Saturday by winning at Cal Poly)
  • The Citadel is 7th in FCS in offensive third-down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs have only thrown three interceptions; as mentioned above, Wofford is tops nationally with only two picks tossed this season
  • The Citadel is 10th in total defense, 14th in scoring defense, 19th in pass defense, and 25th in rushing defense
  • This season, The Citadel has lost 13 turnovers, tied for 15th-fewest nationally (James Madison, helmed by former Bulldogs coach Mike Houston, has the fewest turnovers lost, with just nine in eleven games)
  • The Bulldogs are 11th in FCS in defensive third-down conversion rate

Wofford quarterback Brandon Goodson (6’0″, 205 lbs.) is completing 48.2% of his passes, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt, with three touchdown tosses against two interceptions.

Goodson was only averaging 1.7 yards per carry entering the October matchup between the Terriers and Bulldogs, but the junior from Dacula, Georgia has picked things up on the ground since then, and is now averaging a healthy 5.0 yards per rush.

In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Goodson was 4 for 7 passing for 44 yards and an interception (which was really a fumble, in my opinion, but the official scorer ruled that Kailik Williams’ “Pitch Six” was a pick). He added 48 rushing yards on eight attempts versus the Bulldogs.

Lorenzo Long (5’9″, 205 lbs.) is a tough, shifty running back from Pensacola who rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries against the Bulldogs in Spartanburg. Long was named first-team all-SoCon by both the coaches and media.

The senior has rushed for 1,290 yards this season (5.0 yards/carry), with 16 TDs, including two last Saturday. The second of those was an outstanding individual effort that demonstrated both his speed and power.

Will Gay (5’9″, 185 lbs.), a fifth-year senior, is averaging 6.6 yards per carry this season. He is also Wofford’s primary punt returner. He appeared to suffer a shoulder injury of some sort against Charleston Southern, but later re-entered the game.

I noted earlier that freshman Blake Morgan (5’9″, 185 lbs.) is now on the two-deep. Morgan has only 15 rushing attempts so far this year, but he has made the most of them — averaging 11.5 yards per carry.

Tight end Chandler Gouger (6’2″, 230 lbs.) leads Wofford in receptions, with thirteen. The junior from Chattanooga has caught 3 of Wofford’s 4 passing TDs this season, and is averaging 15.8 yards per catch.

Wofford’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’3″, 296 lbs.

I wrote about this in my preview of the October game, but it’s worth mentioning again: left guard Dequan Miller didn’t start Wofford’s contest against East Tennessee State because he was busy taking the LSAT. Miller was a second-team all-league pick by the media.

The line is anchored by right tackle Anton Wahrby (6’5″, 300 lbs.). Wahrby was a first-team all-conference choice by both the coaches and media.

Starting center Roo Daniels (6’2″, 285 lbs.) was a second-team all-league selection by both the coaches and media.

The strength of Wofford’s defense is its line.

Miles Brown (6’1″, 310 lbs.) is more than capable of playing nosetackle (as he did last season), but the sophomore is just as good (if not better) at defensive end. The coaches named him to their all-league first team. He had 10 tackles against The Citadel in the October meeting.

True freshman Mikel Horton (6’0″, 315 lbs.), one of several Kentucky natives on Wofford’s two-deep, has proved to be a quick (and yet immovable) study at nosetackle. He made the all-freshman team; it is possible he should have made one of the all-league teams as well.

Junior Tyler Vaughn (6’1″, 270 lbs.) did make all-conference (first team media and coaches). He has 16.5 tackles for loss, including 8 sacks. Vaughn had 7 stops versus the Bulldogs in the regular-season matchup.

Datavious Wilson (6’1″, 230 lbs.), a freshman from Hartsville, is far and away Wofford’s team leader in tackles, with 78. Wilson was hugely impressive against The Citadel, ranging all over the field to make 15 tackles.

Wilson left the Charleston Southern game in the second half with what may have been a muscle injury. He did not return, but is still listed as a starter.

Because of its line, Wofford’s defense would be formidable with almost any combination of linebackers; however, tackling monsters like Wilson don’t grow on trees. If he were not able to play on Saturday, the Terriers would definitely miss his presence.

Fellow linebacker Dylan Young (6’1″, 235 lbs.) had an interesting afternoon against The Citadel in the first meeting, with one tackle, one interception, and one extended taunting display (that somehow went unnoticed by the SoCon officiating crew). Young is a senior from Collierville, Tennessee.

Both of Wofford’s safeties are solid. Strong safety Jaleel Green (6’2″, 215 lbs.) had a very good game against the Bulldogs. The senior from Jacksonville was a first-team all-SoCon pick by the media. He is second on the team in stops, with 56.

Free safety JoJo Tillery (6’2″, 205 lbs.), a talkative sophomore, is third on the squad in tackles, with 55.

Junior placekicker David Marvin (6’2″, 210 lbs.) was named the all-league placekicker and punter, to the surprise of nobody. He is a major reason why the Terriers lead all of FCS in net punting, and the junior from Charlotte is an even better placekicker.

Marvin is 15 for 19 on field goal attempts this season, including five from 50+ yards. He made a 54-yarder and a 57-yarder against Furman. Marvin’s four misses include a 62-yard attempt and a 49-yard effort (against The Citadel) that was blocked.

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

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny, with a high of 62 degrees. Saturday night is projected to be mostly cloudy, with a low of 47 degrees.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 8th in FCS (down one from last week). Wofford is ranked 10th (up three spots).

Massey projects The Citadel to have a 55% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 20, Wofford 17.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (11th), Samford (22nd), Mercer (40th), Furman (48th), Gardner-Webb (51st), Western Carolina (67th), East Tennessee State (70th), VMI (71st).

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

– Massey’s predicted final scores for the other seven FCS playoff games:

  • Jacksonville State 21, Youngstown State 17
  • James Madison 42, New Hampshire 34
  • North Dakota 28, Richmond 24
  • North Dakota State 31, San Diego 10
  • Sam Houston State 41, Chattanooga 36
  • South Dakota State 28, Villanova 17
  • Eastern Washington 35, Central Arkansas 28

The game between Wofford and The Citadel is projected to be the closest and the lowest-scoring of the eight contests. All eight home teams are projected to win; home teams were 7-1 last week, with the aforementioned San Diego-Cal Poly game the only matchup in which the road team pulled off a victory.

– Non-conference opponent update: North Greenville is now 9-4 on the season and 2-0 in the D-2 playoffs after defeating Tuskegee on Saturday. Jeff Farrington and the Crusaders are now in the quarterfinals, but face a tall order if they want to advance any further, as NGU must play North Alabama, a traditional D-2 power that already defeated North Greenville 52-21 earlier this season.

– Speaking of North Alabama, it is widely believed that the school’s varsity athletics programs will be moving to Division I by the fall of 2018. An announcement is expected next week. The Lions would join the Atlantic Sun; as part of a partnership agreement with the Big South, UNA would play football in the latter conference (the A-Sun doesn’t sponsor football) as the newest member of FCS.

– Wofford’s game notes depth chart includes 12 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on the Terriers’ two-deep: Kentucky (7), Georgia (5), Florida (5), Ohio (4), Tennessee (4), North Carolina (2), and one each from Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Maryland.

Offensive tackle Anton Wahrby is a native of Sweden who was an exchange student at Lexington (SC) High School.

– The Citadel’s game notes depth chart includes 17 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on the Bulldogs’ two-deep: Georgia (14), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), and one each from Oklahoma and Texas.

– Cam Jackson’s absence from The Citadel’s two-deep is the only change from the Bulldogs’ official depth chart for the game against North Carolina. Rod Johnson is listed as a starter at A-back, with Jonathan Dorogy as his backup.

It would be a setback of some significance for the Bulldogs if Jackson is unable to play on Saturday. He is arguably The Citadel’s most dynamic player. Jackson is third nationally in yards per rush, at 7.29 yards per carry.

– Georgia Tech’s media relations department announced on Thursday afternoon that the Yellow Jackets will open their 2019 football season against The Citadel. The game will be played on August 31, 2019.

That means the Bulldogs are officially set to play power-5 conference opponents in each of the next three seasons — Clemson in 2017, Alabama in 2018, and Georgia Tech in 2019.

If The Citadel were fortunate enough to win on Saturday, the Bulldogs would face the winner of the Youngstown State-Jacksonville State game. YSU defeated Samford last week, 38-24, while JSU had a bye (the Gamecocks are the #3 seed).

With a victory over Youngstown State, Jacksonville State would host a quarterfinal matchup regardless of which team prevails in the matchup between the Palmetto State schools. If Youngstown State were to pull the upset, and The Citadel were to win, the Bulldogs would host the Penguins (either a night game on Friday, December 9, or on Saturday, December 10).

The Citadel has never faced Jacksonville State on the gridiron. The Bulldogs, of course, have faced YSU once — the last playoff game played at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

All of that is looking ahead, to be sure.

A few brief thoughts on attendance:

A search of attendance figures for last weekend’s first-round games showed that crowds at eight host schools were down an average of 59.8 percent from the season average. Wofford, for example, drew 2,605 fans for its 15-14 win over Palmetto State rival Charleston Southern, a 65.8 percent decrease from its season average of 7,625 fans.

New Hampshire had the biggest drop-off, with 2,240 fans on hand for a 64-21 win over Lehigh, a 76.7 percent slide from its season average of 9,630. Chattanooga saw the smallest decrease; yet the Mocs’ crowd of 5,238 fans still was down 41.1 percent from their season average of 8,886 fans.

 

The Citadel averaged 13,648 fans for four home games this season, a figure that ranks 17th among 124 FCS schools in 2016, and first among Southern Conference members. (A fifth “home” game was played at North Greenville due to Hurricane Matthew).

Citadel fans, including some 500 knobs, packed the visitors’ side at Wofford for the Bulldogs’ 24-21 overtime win at Gibbs Stadium on Oct. 22, part of a season-high crowd of 11,102 for the Terriers.

The Corps of Cadets will be at Saturday’s game, a school official said Monday.

“We had a great crowd for the game at Wofford,” Thompson said. “I think this should be a well-attended game. Our ticket sales are going well, and the Corps of Cadets should help out.”

For The Citadel’s two home playoff games in 1992, the Bulldogs drew 12,300 fans for a 44-0 win over North Carolina A&T, and 13,021 for a 42-17 loss to Youngstown State.

In other news, Wofford is hoping to bring 110 students in buses to the game.

I know that there has been considerable discussion in various corners of the internet about how many people are expected to attend the game on Saturday. While I would like to think the stands at Johnson Hagood Stadium will be packed with an overflow crowd of Bulldog supporters, I’m not counting on it.

The good news is that The Citadel doesn’t have to sell tickets for a game played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The bad news is the school has to compete with Christmas shopping, early-bird holiday parties, the ACC title game (which features Clemson), an absence of discounted tickets, and the fact people understandably don’t plan ahead for a potential home playoff game.

When 13,021 paid to see The Citadel play Youngstown State in 1992, that number was only 71% of the average attendance for the previous seven games. If you take out the other playoff game, the victory over North Carolina A&T (played the Saturday after Thanksgiving), the number drops to 67% of the average attendance for the six regular-season contests.

If you extrapolate those percentages and use them to determine a potential estimate for Saturday, based on this season’s numbers, the expected attendance would be between 9,144 and 9,690 fans.

Now, I’ve written before that I always thought those attendance figures in 1992 were a little bit off. I was at both games; it sure seemed like more than 12,300 people were at that matchup with North Carolina A&T, that’s for sure.

However, even if attendance for those two games was under-reported, it was still significantly less than the average for the regular-season games. That is undeniable.

I don’t know what the department of athletics has in terms of a goal for Saturday’s attendance. I’m glad the corps of cadets will be on hand; that will help, not only in the numbers made up by the corps, but because a fair number of people are likely to attend just because the corps will be at the game.

If the announced attendance is more than 12,000, I think Jim Senter and his crew should be roundly congratulated for a job well done. I suspect the “acceptable” attendance number may be closer to 10,500.

The counter to my somewhat negative arguments above: last year, Bulldog supporters came out in droves to see playoff games in Conway and North Charleston. There is a sizable base of loyal fans that will be ready for action once the weekend rolls around (many are ready now), especially for a home contest.

I hope that kind of excitement is infectious.

Saturday’s game is going to be tough. I suspect that it may resemble the contest played in Spartanburg earlier this season. I don’t think The Citadel can count on winning the turnover battle 4-0 this time, but the Bulldogs don’t necessarily have to do that in order to win, either.

They have to play better on offense, though. While the passing game has drawn a lot of attention, the truth is the number that really jumps out from the 10/22 box score is the 190 net rushing yards. That obviously isn’t good enough, not by a long shot.

Does The Citadel need to do a better job throwing the ball? Yes. However, the running game is what pays the bills for the Bulldogs.

I am a little worried about the early part of the game, and how The Citadel responds to a two-week layoff. The Bulldogs can’t afford a sluggish start. The coaching staff’s experience in postseason competition should help alleviate that potential problem, though.

At any rate, I’m ready for Saturday. Aren’t we all…

2016 Football, Game 8: The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State

The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 29. The game will not be televised

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Kevin Fitzgerald will provide play-by-play, while Sadath Jean-Pierre supplies the analysis. 

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– Game notes for The Citadel and East Tennessee State

SoCon weekly release

– Kailik Williams makes lots of plays

– Myles Pierce is the SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week

– Cody Clark is undefeated as a Bulldog

– SoCon will not have instant replay until at least 2018

Brent Thompson’s 10/25 press conference, including comments from Rudder Brown and Myles Pierce (video)

Brent Thompson’s 10/26 radio show (video)

Hey, it’s that guy Myles Pierce again; this time, a feature

– ETSU is preparing for a “test” against the Bulldogs

– Bucs “gearing up” for The Citadel

– Carl Torbush’s post-game interview after ETSU’s win over West Virginia Wesleyan

– Carl Torbush’s 10/24 press conference

– FCS Coaches’ Poll

At his Tuesday press conference, Brent Thompson was asked about crowd support, and whether or not he thought there was a greater level of excitement among the fans than in years past. His answer:

The one thing I know about The Citadel alums is they are fanatical, and once they start that ball rolling, I think it starts to run out of control a little bit, and that’s awesome for us.

And that’s what we’re trying to create. The fan support is always there and has always been there, but now what I think they are starting to do is they’re starting to drag other people in with them, and starting to get maybe people who are Citadel fans [but] not necessarily alums involved, and that’s what we want.

And that’s how we’re going to fill up Johnson Hagood Stadium — not just by bringing in our own fans and our own alums in there and our own corps of cadets, but it’s more about bringing…the guy down the road that, hey, he’s a good football fan. He wants to see good FCS football and he’s excited about what’s going on in Charleston.

We’ve got plenty of people here in Charleston [who] enjoy football, and they don’t have to travel up the road, and so that’s what we want to do. We want to create a little bit of excitement here in town.

I couldn’t agree more with the coach on this subject. On the one hand, the fact that The Citadel has historically enjoyed an attendance-to-undergrad ratio of 5-to-1 or 6-to-1 (and occasionally 7-to-1) is extremely impressive. There are very few schools around that can make such a claim.

However, over the years I believe the military college has seen a decline in attendance among local football fans without a specific affiliation to The Citadel. I think the primary culprit has been television.

I’ve written about this before, but in the 1960s and 1970s (and even into the 1980s) there was very little televised college football. A big football fan who lived in Charleston might go to Johnson Hagood Stadium to watch the local team play, perhaps bringing along a transistor radio so he could listen to Bob Fulton or Jim Phillips during timeouts. (During live action, of course, he would listen to George Norwig.)

The proliferation of college football on television over the last few decades changed everything, and that affected The Citadel’s attendance. Not winning a great deal for the better part of 20 years didn’t help, either.

Now, however, The Citadel has a quality product to present to the community. While it’s primarily the job of the department of athletics to make that case, alums have to do their part as well — even grumps like me.

We have to tell people what makes going to a football game at The Citadel unique and fun.  That starts with the corps of cadets, of course. The corps is a show of its own that other schools can’t match.

Combine the corps, the tailgating, the usually great weather, and a host of other attractions (flyovers, parachute jumpers, zany contests, the regimental band and pipes, Spike and the cheerleaders, General and Boo) with a really good football team, and suddenly you realize The Citadel has a lot to offer.

The Bulldogs are Charleston’s college football team, and proud of it.

For anyone hoping the SoCon would adopt instant replay for its league football games, the news is not encouraging:

…last week, the SoCon’s athletic directors decided to put off adding instant replay to league football games until at least 2018.

“We just had our fall meetings with the athletic directors, and the subject came up for us to put instant replay in place,” said commissioner John Iamarino. “We were talking about 2017, but the decision by the athletic directors was not to have it in 2017.”

Iamarino said the athletic directors cited three main reasons for putting off instant replay:

– the logistics of establishing a replay booth with the proper equipment in every SoCon stadium.

– the cost of equipment, software and extra officials.

– adding to the length of time it takes to play games.

Iamarino said the only other FCS leagues without replay that he is aware of are the Ivy League and the Pioneer League.

In my opinion, the last of those reasons cited by the ADs is without merit. Given the amount of “media timeouts” now prevalent in league games that are televised or streamed, there is no reason to eschew instant replay because of additional time added to league contests.

Instead of using three media timeouts in less than an eight-minute span of game time (which occurred in the first quarter of The Citadel’s game against Wofford last week), those media timeouts can be taken during replay reviews.

The SoCon probably needs to have instant replay sooner rather than later, if only to have the same standard officiating procedures as the rest of FCS, but no one should be under the impression that replay will be a panacea. At times, replay has simply added another layer of error to the proceedings.

Sure, you would like to think that with replay, Kailik Williams’ strip/recovery in the first quarter versus Wofford would have resulted in The Citadel gaining possession of the football, but we’ve all seen that kind of play occasionally upheld anyway because of a “down by contact” ruling (or because the whistle blew). Rudder Brown’s catch in the overtime period might have been tagged as “inconclusive”, and Jorian Jordan’s touchdown-that-wasn’t may have suffered the same fate, depending on the mood of the official in the booth.

Replay aside, what really needs to happen is that the league needs to significantly improve its on-field officiating. That is what the conference’s players, coaches, and fans deserve, rather than ludicrous decisions like (just to mention one example) this ridiculous call against Mercer earlier in the season in a game versus Tennessee Tech.

East Tennessee State disbanded its football program after the 2003 season for financial reasons. The decision to eliminate football also led to ETSU’s departure from the Southern Conference.

Now, ETSU football is back, and in a related development, the school is back in the SoCon. While the rest of its sports resumed league competition for the 2015-16 school year, the Buccaneers’s football program spent the 2015 season as an independent before jumping back into gridiron league play this year.

That 2015 campaign was the first in football for East Tennessee State in twelve years, and that showed in the on-field results. The Buccaneers finished 2-9, with wins over Warner and Kentucky Wesleyan.

Some of the losses were painful. Fellow start-up program Kennesaw State beat ETSU 56-16, and the Bucs got hammered by several established D1 schools (losing 63-7 to Montana State, 47-7 to Charleston Southern, 52-0 to Mercer, and 58-9 to St. Francis of Pennsylvania).

Two of the losses were to Division III schools (Maryville and Emory & Henry).

East Tennessee State opened its 2016 campaign with the same opponent it had played to begin the 2015 season, Kennesaw State. The result wasn’t the same, however. ETSU shocked the Owls in Kennesaw, winning 20-17 in double overtime. Kennesaw State had entered the game as a 26-point favorite; the Bucs’ victory was one of biggest upsets so far this season in all of Division I.

The key to the victory for ETSU: the Bucs held Kennesaw State’s triple option offense to 2.9 yards per rush (166 total rush yards).

After a week off, East Tennessee State moved to 2-0 with another surprising victory, 34-31 over Western Carolina. The game was played at Bristol Motor Speedway.

ETSU trailed the Catamounts 21-3, but scored a touchdown shortly before halftime. That jump-started a 24-0 run which gave the Buccaneers a lead they would not relinquish. East Tennessee State ran 87 offensive plays from scrimmage in the contest, averaging 5.4 yards per play.

After those two victories, the Bucs found the going much tougher. East Tennessee State lost four straight games, all in SoCon action, by a combined score of 157-21. The first of those was a shutout loss at Wofford (31-0) in which ETSU only had 76 yards of total offense.

East Tennessee State then lost to Chattanooga and VMI by identical 37-7 scores. The Bucs lost the time of possession battle in both games by a significant margin.

The next game saw Furman pummel ETSU in Johnson City, 52-7. The Paladins led 35-0 at halftime, and wound up scoring 52 points on just 56 offensive snaps, averaging 9.1 yards per play.

On Thursday night of last week, East Tennessee State picked up its third victory of the 2016 season, beating West Virginia Wesleyan 38-7. The Bucs rolled up 323 rushing yards on their D-2 opponents.

East Tennessee State’s reborn program is helmed by longtime college coach Carl Torbush.

Torbush is a Carson-Newman graduate who spent many years as a well-respected defensive coach for a number of different schools, mostly in the south. He has been the defensive coordinator at Mississippi, Alabama, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Kansas, and (most notably) North Carolina, where he was a member of Mack Brown’s staff for a decade. When Brown left for Texas after the 1997 regular season, Torbush succeeded him as the head coach.

What not everyone remembers is that the UNC job wasn’t Torbush’s first stint as a head coach. He actually had the top job at Louisiana Tech for one season, 1987, before resigning to become Brown’s defensive coordinator in Chapel Hill.

In 3+ years at UNC, Torbush had a record of 17-18. He was 3-8 in his one year in charge at Louisiana Tech. Torbush is 5-13 so far at ETSU.

Earlier in his football coaching career, Torbush spent four years (1976-1979) as a defensive assistant at Southeastern Louisiana. During that time, he also served as the school’s baseball coach. Torbush (a former minor leaguer) led the baseball team to a share of the Gulf South conference title in 1978.

Torbush has a staff with a lot of familiarity with East Tennessee State, as four of his assistant coaches played at the school, including defensive coordinator Billy Taylor.

ETSU’s offensive coordinator is Mike O’Cain, who played quarterback at both Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School (where he sported the famed maroon and orange) and Clemson. O’Cain was the head football coach at North Carolina State for seven years in the 1990s, and has been an offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks coach at several other schools, including Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and James Madison.

For three seasons (1978 through 1980), O’Cain served as the running backs coach at The Citadel, under Art Baker.

Next year, East Tennessee State will play in a new football stadium. It is expected to eventually have 10,000 seats, although the first phase of construction will result in a 7,000-seat facility.

If you want to read more about the stadium, or see what it’s supposed to look like, a website has been set up for that purpose: Link

The fundraising committee for the stadium is co-chaired by former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith and country music singer Kenny Chesney.

Both are alums of the school; it turns out that notorious bandwagon fan Chesney is actually a 1991 graduate of East Tennessee State. Who knew?

ETSU saw a dip in season ticket sales this season, with a drop of about 20% from the 2015 season. However, it is quite possible that will change for the better next season, when the team plays in its new on-campus stadium.

Home attendance this season for the Bucs is actually up by 36%, but those numbers include the game at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Some statistics of note for East Tennessee State:

ETSU Opp
Points/game 16.1 30.3
Rushing yardage 953 1294
Rushing attempts 278 298
Yards/rush 3.4 4.3
Rushing TDs 9 17
Passing yardage 953 1416
Comp-Att-Int 104-184-2 111-161-2
Average/pass att 5.2 8.8
TDs Passing 5 11
Total offense 1906 2710
Total plays 462 459
Yards/play 4.1 5.9
Fumbles/lost 4/2 9/6
Penalties-pen yards 42-438 46-442
Pen yards/game 62.6 63.1
Net punt average 33 38.9
Time of poss/game 30:28:00 29:32:00
3rd-down conv 44/104 31/82
3rd-down conv % 42.3% 37.8%
Sacks by-yards 11-57 19-132
Red Zone TD% (14-18) 78% (20-28) 71%
  • The Buccaneers lead the nation in fewest turnovers, with just four in seven games — two lost fumbles, and two interceptions
  • ETSU’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate of 42.3% is 26th nationally
  • Not shown in the table: East Tennessee State is third from last in the country in pass efficiency defense, ahead of only winless Austin Peay and 1-5 Yale
  • Last week, The Citadel faced the #1 team in the nation in net punting (Wofford); conversely, ETSU is 99th in net punting

Okay, now let’s look at some of The Citadel’s relevant statistics:

The Citadel Opp
Points/game 27.9 17.7
Rushing yardage 2476 949
Rushing attempts 465 225
Yards/rush 5.3 4.2
Rushing TDs 20 10
Passing yardage 384 1199
Comp-Att-Int 22-56-2 92-172-7
Average/pass att 6.9 7.0
Passing TDs 3 5
Total offense 2860 2148
Total plays 521 397
Yards/play 5.5 5.4
Fumbles/lost 10/4 10/7
Penalties/pen yards 36-364 29-287
Pen yards/game 52.0 41.0
Net punt average 37.3 39.3
Time of poss/game 34:31:00 25:28:00
3rd-down conv 57/117 27/81
3rd-down conv % 48.7% 33.3%
Sacks by-yards 19-138 0-0
Red Zone TD% (15-28) 54% (8-14) 57%
  • The Citadel continues to lead the nation in rushing yards per game (353.7) and is 12th in rushing yards per play
  • The Bulldogs are 3rd nationally in time of possession and 9th in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate
  • The Citadel is 9th in scoring defense, 16th in total defense, and tied for 22nd in defensive 3rd-down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs are tied for 9th in turnover margin
  • The Citadel remains the only FCS team not to have had a sack recorded against it this season

East Tennessee runs a spread offense, with roughly a 60/40 run-to-pass ratio. After seven games, the Buccaneers have the exact same number of rushing yards as passing yards (953).

The starting quarterback for the Buccaneers is Austin Herink (6’3″, 206 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Cleveland, Tennessee. He has started all 17 games for the team over the past two seasons.

Herink has completed 58.6% of his passes, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt, with three touchdown tosses against two interceptions. He is not much of a running threat, though he does have three rushing TDs.

Jujuan Stinson (5’9″, 183 lbs.) is ETSU’s top running back, with more carries and rushing yards this season than the next two leading Bucs rushers combined. The redshirt sophomore from Knoxville had three 100-yard rushing games in 2015. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield.

Backup running back Matt Thompson (5’11”, 218 lbs.) is a sophomore who began his college career at…The Citadel. Thompson (not to be confused with the Matt Thompson who played quarterback and wide receiver for the Bulldogs a few seasons ago) is averaging 5.6 yards per rush.

Junior wideout Vincent Lowe (5’9″, 181 lbs.) is a transfer from Old Dominion who leads the Bucs in catches, with 17. Closely behind Lowe in the receptions department is Dalton Ponchillia (5’11”, 186 lbs.), a redshirt senior from Nashville who leads ETSU in reception yardage.

Lowe and Ponchillia also handle punt return duties for the Buccaneers.

East Tennessee State’s projected starting offensive line averages 6’4″, 286 lbs. On his radio show, Brent Thompson described the Bucs’ o-line as “physical, and pretty athletic for big guys”.

Alex Rios (6’5″, 295 lbs.) started the first six games of the season at right tackle, but moved to left tackle for the game against West Virginia Wesleyan. The junior from Tucson is a transfer from Pima Community College.

Left guard Ben Blackmon (6’3″, 289 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman who went to Newberry (SC) High School.

Linebacker Dylan Weigel (6’0″, 220 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection. A redshirt sophomore from Pickering, Ohio, Weigel is far and away the leading tackler for the Buccaneers this season, with 64 stops.

East Tennessee State’s defense suffered a blow when linebacker Kahlil Mitchell was kicked off the team after the Bucs’ loss against VMI. In five games, Mitchell registered 31 tackles (still tied for fourth on the team) and two sacks.

ETSU starts two defensive ends who are both natives of South Carolina. Chris Bouyer (6’2″, 276 lbs.) is a sophomore from Rock Hill, and a product of Northwestern High School. Redshirt freshman Nasir Player (6’5″, 257 lbs.) is from Columbia. He went to Ridge View High School.

Tavian Lott (5’11”, 182 lbs.) is a senior cornerback who began his college career at Snow College before transferring to ETSU. Lott is originally from D’Lo, Mississippi.

Fellow cornerback Jeremy Lewis (5’11”, 171 lbs.) is a true freshman who has started the last two games for the Bucs after the incumbent starter, Daren Ardis, suffered an injury.

J.J. Jerman (5’10”, 173 lbs.) is a sophomore who does the placekicking for the Buccaneers. Jerman kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime against Kennesaw State.

For the season, he is 5 for 7 on field goal attempts, with a long of 43 yards. He has yet to miss an extra point in his ETSU career.

Kickoff specialist Landon Kunek (6’2″, 182 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman who went to Spartanburg High School. Five of Kunek’s 24 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks.

East Tennessee State’s punter is Marion Watson (6’2″, 160 lbs.). Nine of his 41 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line.

Domenique Williams (5’10”, 160 lbs.) is ETSU’s primary kick returner. His longest return so far this season is 41 yards.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Spartanburg, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 80 degrees. Yes, it’s almost November and it will be 80 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 33.5-point favorite over Wofford, with an over/under of 45.5.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 5.5-point favorite at VMI; Wofford is a 12.5-point favorite versus Mercer; Chattanooga is a 16.5-point favorite at Western Carolina; and Samford is a 20-point underdog at Mississippi State.

Gardner-Webb (now 3-5 on the season) is a 14.5-point underdog at Liberty. North Carolina (6-2) is off this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 6th in FCS (moving up one spot from last week). East Tennessee State is ranked 92nd (a jump of three spots).

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 37, ETSU 3.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (10th), Samford (11th), Wofford (25th), Mercer (38th), Furman (57th), VMI (61st), Gardner-Webb (66th),Western Carolina (73rd).

The top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, Jacksonville State, and Youngstown State.

– East Tennessee State’s game notes roster includes 37 players from Tennessee. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (7), Virginia (6), Florida (5), South Carolina (4), North Carolina (4), Ohio (3), Alabama (3), and one each from Arizona, New York, Texas, and West Virginia.

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

– Future FBS opponents for East Tennessee State include Tennessee (with the game taking place in 2018), Vanderbilt (2019 and 2021), Appalachian State (2019 and 2024), and Georgia (2020).

– There were no new names on The Citadel’s two-deep this week, the fourth consecutive week that has been the case. There was one slight alteration on the depth chart; the center position for the ETSU game is listed as “Tyler Davis OR Ryan Bednar”.

The Citadel is favored to win on Saturday. It would be a hugely unpleasant surprise for the Bulldogs (and their supporters) if they failed to do so.

However, The Citadel should be wary. East Tennessee State may just be in the second year of Bucs Football 2.0, but there are some talented players on its roster.

ETSU has already pulled off a huge upset already this season, with its stunning victory at Kennesaw State. That’s the same KSU team which is now 5-2 this season, by the way, including a win over Furman in which the Owls scored 52 points.

In other words, the Buccaneers are a capable outfit, and also believe they can win this Saturday — and why not, having already beaten the odds earlier this year.

The Citadel’s players and coaches know a little bit about shocking upsets. After all, the team was a 20-point underdog at South Carolina last season.

The Bulldogs must continue to play as close to mistake-free football as possible on both sides of the ball. I would also like to see the offense pull off a few more explosive plays this week.

That won’t be easy, not with a veteran campaigner like Carl Torbush on the other side. You can bet he’ll have a plan for defending The Citadel’s triple option, and that it will be a good one. ETSU has already muzzled one TO team this season (KSU).

I’m not counting any chickens (or pirates). I’m just hoping for another victory, and another fun afternoon for the home fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Let’s get to 8-0.