Game Review, 2017: East Tennessee State

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

Game story, Johnson City Press

– “Notes” section, Johnson City Press

– AP game story

Game story, Tri-Cities Sports

Game story, Bristol Herald Courier

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WJHL-TV

– School release

– Photo gallery from the school

– Game highlights (video)

– Boxscore

– Replay of the ESPN3 streaming of the game

I don’t think it was surprising that East Tennessee State was much more competitive against The Citadel on Saturday than the Bucs were in the 2016 matchup. In its third year since restarting its football program, ETSU is improving, has better (and more) players, and also now has the benefit of playing in a new stadium.

That said, the Bulldogs should not have been trailing 14-7 at halftime, not after running 18 more plays from scrimmage and outgaining the Buccaneers 221-81, with a 13-5 advantage in first downs. However, The Citadel did a lot of things to hand East Tennessee State a lead, including a botched punt, a blocked field goal attempt, two bad penalties, and an interception.

The Bulldogs also appeared to be victimized by the clock operator at the end of the half, who let two precious seconds elapse after a completion, preventing a potential field goal.

The second half numbers were somewhat similar to those in the first half, with The Citadel outgaining ETSU 214-127, picking up 13 more first downs (the Bucs had eight in the second half), and continuing to possess the ball for a significantly longer period of time. In the second stanza, however, those superior numbers resulted in points, with the Bulldogs scoring on four consecutive possessions.

Let’s take a look at some more statistics:

The Citadel ETSU
Starting field position TC 32 ET 32
Efficiency 45.00% (36/80) 36.20% (21/58)
Explosiveness 1.116 1.121
Finishing drives 4.4/poss 4.8/poss
Turnover margin -1 1
Yards per play on 1st down 6.00 4.38
Avg. yards to gain on 3rd down 6.3 8.1
Passing down success rate 50.0% (10/20) 35.0% (7/20)
Time of possession 37:00 23:00
Off. plays from scrimmage 83 54
Yards per play 5.6 3.9
Yards per play (rush) 4.99 3.11
Yards per play (pass attempt) 9.5 4.2
Off. 3rd down conversion rate 52.9% (9-17) 16.7% (2-12)
Off. plays of 20+ yards 5 4
Penalties 5 for 60 yards 2 for 10 yards

It is perhaps a bit easier to see how this game wound up being close when these stats are taken into consideration, as opposed to the raw yardage numbers.

First, let me make a few technical explanations:

  • I didn’t count The Citadel’s last possession in the “finishing drives” category, because the Bulldogs were attempting to run out the clock, rather than score
  • The last play of the game, a 23-yard loss where Dominique Allen was just trying to stay on his feet for seven seconds, is not counted in the yards per play or yards per rush categories on the chart
  • I also adjusted ETSU’s rushing and passing stats to reflect that 30 “rushing yards” lost by the Bucs came on four Bulldog sacks; that is why if you look at the box score, you’ll notice a difference between those numbers and the ones on the chart
  • The offensive plays from scrimmage and the plays counted in the “efficiency” category are a bit skewed due to several penalties, particularly a couple of third-down infractions; also, as mentioned earlier I discounted the final Bulldog drive
  • The botched punt in the first quarter is considered a turnover (fumble lost) rather than a turnover on downs

– ETSU had a tiny advantage in “explosiveness”, but remember that is an average. The Citadel had many more successful plays from scrimmage (36-21). If you added up the total amount of explosive “points” in that category, the Bulldogs came close to doubling up the Buccaneers.

– Those penalties in the first half really hurt the Bulldogs, while ETSU was solid on that front. Both of the Buccaneers’ infractions came in punting situations.

– As I noted in my game preview, East Tennessee State did a good job in last season’s matchup of putting its offense in a position to succeed on third down.

That didn’t happen on Saturday, though, as ETSU’s offense faced third-and-long throughout the game. Eight of the Bucs’ twelve third down conversion attempts were 3rd-and-9 or longer.

– In “passing downs”, The Citadel ran a successful play 10 out of 20 times, an excellent percentage. Nine of those plays were running plays (naturally). The exception was the 28-yard TD pass from Dominique Allen to Raleigh Webb.

Carl Torbush (taken from multiple game accounts) on The Citadel’s offense:

They do a good job of mixing things up. They ran a belly dive which they hadn’t shown yet and they ran some traps up the gut which is a little bit different than what they normally do.
 
They’re one of those teams just like Georgia Tech is. I mean, they’ll get you here and if you take care of that then they’ll try something else till they find something that works. And they found a few things that worked. Their unbalanced line got us into a little bit of trouble, got us out of position several times on the pitch and we got us out of wack feathering the quarterback a couple of times.
Bucs QB Austin Herink (who I thought played well):
I have to get rid of the ball quicker, a lot of that’s on me and I’ll address that. The Citadel has a terrific defense with a great secondary and tough pass rush.
 
…With their offense, you aren’t on the field much because they control the time of possession. To get on the field and get into rhythm is difficult. When we do that we are a really dynamic offense. I think we did that in the third and fourth quarter.
Brent Thompson on the late-game pass from Allen to Josh LeBlanc (a 3rd-and-3 play):
My guys in the booth convinced me that play-action was the right call. And it was, because they are expecting run there. Dom made a great throw, and it was really a turning point in the game.

Thompson on breaking in a new B-back:

We’ve been sitting on Brandon [Berry] for a couple of weeks, and just decided to burn his redshirt if it was going to help us a win a game. He’s a big, bruising back and we’ll continue to work to get him going.

The Citadel is now 3-0 after three games for a second consecutive season. The last time the program started 3-0 in consecutive years?

It has never happened before.

The Bulldogs were undefeated after three games in two previous two-year stretches: 1908-1909 and 1956-1957. However, all four of those seasons featured a tie in the first three games of the season — in other words, The Citadel started each of those years 2-0-1.

This is only the tenth time The Citadel has started 3-0. The other years it has happened:

  • 1906 (when the Bulldogs were undefeated and shared the national title, according to the TSA Matrix Ratings System)
  • 1921
  • 1928 (started the year 4-0; the fifth game ended in a tie)
  • 1942 (started the year 4-0)
  • 1969
  • 1989 (started the year 4-0; the fifth game ended in a tie)
  • 1992 (started the year 6-0)
  • 2012
  • 2016 (started the year 10-0)

(I really need to write about that 1906 squad some time. Of course, The Citadel also won the 1871 national title, which I’ve written about before.)

Odds and ends:

– Brandon Berry was one of 46 players to see action against East Tennessee State. I believe he was the only Bulldog to make his debut in Johnson City.

– Dominique Allen’s TD pass to Raleigh Webb was a beautiful throw, possibly Allen’s best as a Bulldogs quarterback. His next pass, though, the 44-yarder to Josh LeBlanc, may have been even better.

– Myles Pierce, despite fighting what looked like cramps, was all over the field on defense. He was credited with five tackles (two for loss), a sack, a pass breakup, and three QB hurries. He should get some consideration for Defensive Player of the Week in the SoCon.

– Ja’Lon Williams made the big stop on fourth down to extinguish ETSU’s final drive, continuing his strong play so far this season.

– The ESPN3 stream was at least two minutes behind the radio feed, which was aggravating (at least to me).

– ETSU’s new playing surface appeared to cause some problems for Bulldog runners, who slipped making cuts on multiple occasions.

The pellets in the field also managed to turn The Citadel’s white uniforms to a dull gray shade over the course of the afternoon.

– Attendance for the game: 7,544. It took three hours and two minutes to play, thirty-six minutes longer than the matchup last week against Presbyterian.

– Speaking of PC, the Blue Hose defeated Campbell 28-16 on Saturday. Newberry also won its first game of the season, beating Virginia University of Lynchburg 55-7.

– It was a tough day for the SoCon. Three of the schools faced FBS opponents, so it was not surprising to see Samford and Furman struggle. Mercer, however, held its own against Auburn, thanks in part to five AU turnovers.

However, Chattanooga and VMI are both now 0-3 after losing on Saturday (to UT Martin and Robert Morris, respectively). The Mocs will get starting quarterback Alejandro Bennifield back after this week’s game, which just happens to be at VMI.

As for the Keydets, getting shut out by Robert Morris may have been almost as bad as losing at home to Catawba the previous week.

Western Carolina, on the other hand, appears to more closely resemble the 2015 Catamounts (which went 7-4) than last year’s 2-9 disaster. WCU matched its 2016 win total with a nice win at Gardner-Webb.

– Next Saturday, Wofford (which had a bye this week) hosts Gardner-Webb. As noted, Chattanooga travels to Lexington, Virginia, to play VMI. East Tennessee State stays in Johnson City and faces Mercer, while Western Carolina hosts Samford.

Furman is at Colgate. The Paladins may be the hardest team to read in the league to this point in the season, narrowly losing at Wofford, then losing at home to Elon, then predictably losing at North Carolina State.

Elon possibly made that loss a touch more palatable for the FU faithful by beating Charleston Southern 19-17 on Saturday.

As for The Citadel, the Bulldogs how have a bye before playing at Samford on September 30. I think it’s a good break from The Citadel’s perspective after a couple of trying weeks.

I’ll be taking a bit of a break too. Because of that, my preview of that Samford game probably won’t be posted until Friday afternoon — and it may be shorter than usual. That is probably a good thing, though.

However, an even better thing is being 3-0.

2017 Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. Newberry

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

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

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

The Charleston Evening Post, Friday, November 6, 1914

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Sunday News, November 8, 1914

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

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links of interest:

– Season preview from The Post and Courier

SoCon preview from The Post and Courier

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

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

SoConSports.com preview of The Citadel

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

The Citadel: Quick Facts

– Game notes from The Citadel and Newberry

– SoCon weekly release

South Atlantic Conference weekly release

Kailik Williams counts his blessings

Tyler Davis is an aging veteran

Dominique Allen is profiled in the Savannah Morning News

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

Freshmen have to be ready to play on Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newberry season preview from The Post and Courier

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

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

Newberry picked to repeat as South Atlantic Conference champions

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

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

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

It’s time for football!

FOOTBALL!

FOOTBALL!!

FOOTBALL!!!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Newberry College website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newberry’s schedule and results, 2016:

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

Newberry video from 2016:

Highlights package

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

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

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

Highlights of Newberry’s 27-22 win over Wingate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heck, I’m ready now…

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.