Football 2019, Game 10: The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State

The Citadel at East Tennessee State, to be played at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium in Johnson City, Tennessee, with kickoff at 3:30 pm ET on November 2, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and televised on five television stations in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Jared Singleton provides 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. 

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Ted Byrne.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

Preview from The Post and Courier

“Jeff’s Take” from The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and East Tennessee State

SoCon weekly release

“Gameday Central” on The Citadel’s website

Game preview on ETSU’s website

– Brent Thompson’s weekly radio show (10/30)

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (10/28)

The Dogs:  Episode 10

About that Homecoming reunion for the Draytons

ETSU head coach Randy Sanders’ weekly press conference

Sanders tells Buccaneers to keep believing

East Tennessee State hopes for happy Homecoming

Basketball preview article in The Post and Courier 

Charlie Taaffe passes away at age 69

Television stations carrying the football game:

  • WCBD (Charleston)
  • WYCW (Greenville/Spartanburg)
  • WMUB (Macon, GA)
  • WWCW (Roanoke, VA)
  • WJHL (Tri-Cities [TN])

It is possible that the game will be carried on a digital sub-channel on one of the above-mentioned stations, rather than the primary channel itself. Check your local listings if you plan on watching the game on TV.

This preview is a little on the short side. Sorry about that, but A) I’ve been really busy, and B) my computer picked a less-than-ideal time to die.

I just hope the Bulldogs are more functional on Saturday than I am right now.

Also, the next preview (for the Chattanooga game) will be late, possibly being posted on the Friday night before the contest. It will not be very long. Just as The Citadel’s football team has an upcoming break, I’m taking some time off as well.

Okay, back to the present…

This week’s “stats of note” for East Tennessee State are for its five SoCon games. I didn’t include the statistics for the Buccaneers’ games against Appalachian State, Shorter, or Austin Peay.

ETSU Opponents
Points Per Game 16.2 24.6
Rush Attempts (sacks taken out) 138 220
Yards per rush (sacks taken out) 5.45 5.30
Attempts-Completions-Interceptions 155-84-3 147-86-3
Yards/pass attempt (sacks included) 5.10 4.69
Total Plays 304 376
Yards per play 5.26 5.05
Total punts 30 25
Punting Net Average 34.4 38.5
Penalties-Yards 26-271 19-186
Penalty yards per game 54.2 37.2
Time of Possession per game 28:17 31:43
Offensive plays per second 27.91 seconds 25.31 seconds
3rd Down Conversions 17/63 (26.98%) 31/73 (42.47%)
4th Down Conversions 2/5 (40.00%) 5/8 (62.50%)
Fumbles-Lost 6-5 6-2
Sacks-Yards Lost 9-49 11-66
Red Zone: Touchdowns 5/12 (41.67%) 14/21 (66.67%)
Turnover Margin -3 +3
Run play % (sacks are pass plays) 45.39% 58.51%

Random observations based on the above statistics (remember, these are conference numbers only):

– In terms of yardage, ETSU is the second-most penalized team in the league; penalties on special teams have particularly bedeviled the Bucs

– The Buccaneers are not having a lot of fumble luck; losing five out of six fumbles is kind of rough

– ETSU is last in the league in scoring offense

– One reason for that is the Buccaneers are last in offensive third down conversion rate, and by a lot

– East Tennessee State is also the only team in the league with an offensive red zone TD rate under 50%; conversely, The Citadel’s offense has a red zone TD rate of 76%

– The Citadel and ETSU are the bottom two teams in the league in offensive yards per play, but one key difference is the Bulldogs average almost 15 more offensive plays per game

East Tennessee State’s non-conference slate went about as expected. The Bucs lost 42-7 to Appalachian State, whipped Shorter 48-10, and picked up a nice home victory over Austin Peay (20-14).

It was the game in between the victories over Shorter and Austin Peay that arguably set the tone for ETSU’s fortunes (or lack thereof) in SoCon play. VMI came to Johnson City, and in a game delayed by lightning, the Keydets eventually prevailed 31-24 in overtime.

That was not how the Buccaneers wanted to begin the league slate, and things didn’t improve from there. ETSU dropped a tough game at Furman (17-10) and then lost at home to Wofford (35-17, with the Terriers pulling away late).

A week off didn’t change the momentum. On a Thursday night, Chattanooga beat the Bucs 16-13 on a last-minute field goal (after the Mocs had struggled mightily in the kicking game throughout the contest). Last week, Samford edged ETSU 24-17, with a 4th-quarter TD by the Crimson Bulldogs proving to be the winning score.

Both of those games were on the road. Saturday’s game is the first at home for East Tennessee State since October 5.

Some comments from ETSU head football coach Randy Sanders on his radio show this week:

– “We have to be ready to score.” Sanders emphasized the lack of possessions in a game against a triple option team, or as he referred to it, a “three back offense”.

– Sanders on the Bulldogs’ offense: “Whenever you get them to punt on 4th down, you’ve done something good.”

– He was complimentary of The Citadel’s defense, saying that it is “much, much more multiple” under first-year defensive coordinator Tony Grantham. According to Sanders, “you can see as the season has gone on…that they have become more comfortable” in the new system.

– Sanders was also impressed with The Citadel’s kickers. He mentioned that he would like to see ETSU punt returner Malik McGue (a transfer from Army) “shake loose” on a return. McGue (5’8″, 188 lbs.) is averaging a healthy 7.1 yards per return despite only having a long of 19 yards on nine runbacks, which suggests he may indeed be someone The Citadel needs to be very wary of on Saturday.

– Star defensive end Nasir Player (a 6’5″, 271 lb. native of Columbia) was called for targeting against Samford last week, and will miss the first half of the game against the Bulldogs. Sanders was not very happy about the call against the redshirt senior, and said “it’s a shame that a call like that…can truly affect two games.”

– The host of the radio show, ETSU play-by-play man Jay Sandos, had good things to say about The Citadel’s quarterback; alas, he kept calling the Bulldogs’ signal-caller “Bobby Rainey”.

A few thoughts on some ETSU players from Brent Thompson on his radio show:

– East Tennessee State’s leading receiver is a tight end, 6’3″, 226 lb. sophomore Nate Adkins. Thompson stated that Adkins is “the best tight end in the league, by far”.

– Thompson noted the Bucs’ excellent defensive ends, Nasir Player and Jason Maduafokwa (6’3″, 270 lbs.), who like Player is a redshirt senior. He was also impressed with ETSU’s linebacking corps, which is a combination of experienced and young (including two redshirt freshman starters).

– He mentioned that in addition to starting quarterback Trey Mitchell (6’4″, 215 lbs.), ETSU will also use the “wildcat” formation at times.

Last year, ETSU won this matchup 26-23 in Charleston. Running back Quay Holmes (6’1″, 216 lbs.) was largely held in check on the ground, but did hurt the Bulldogs with four receptions out of the backfield.

Free safety Tyree Robinson (5’11”, 184 lbs) intercepted two passes in the game, returning one 42 yards for a TD. Robinson and Holmes were both preseason first team all-SoCon selections this year, along with Player and Maduafokwa.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Johnson City, Tennessee, per the National Weather Service: sunny and a high of 56 degrees. The low temperature on Saturday night is projected to be 30 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters (as of Thursday evening), The Citadel is a 3-point favorite over East Tennessee State, with an over/under of 41 1/2.

Through nine games this season, The Citadel is 4-5 ATS. The over has hit only twice.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: VMI is a 14 1/2 point favorite over Western Carolina; Furman is a 9-point favorite at Chattanooga; Samford is a 3-point favorite at Mercer; and Wofford is a 46 1/2 point underdog at Clemson.

– Also of note: Elon is an 11-point favorite over William & Mary; Towson is a 9 1/2 point favorite over Delaware; and Charleston Southern is a 2 1/2 point favorite at Gardner-Webb.

Georgia Tech is a 7 1/2 point home underdog to Pittsburgh.

In games between FCS schools, the biggest spread is 27, with Florida A&M favored over Delaware State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 41st in FCS. The Buccaneers are 80th.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 72% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 24, ETSU 17.

The top five teams in Massey’s FCS rankings this week: North Dakota State, South Dakota State, James Madison, Sacramento State, and Dartmouth.

Other rankings this week of varied interest: Northern Iowa is 9th, Villanova 11th, Kennesaw State 13th, Southern Illinois 15th, Elon 19th, Furman 22nd, Towson 27th, Idaho 30th, North Carolina A&T 34th, McNeese State 38th, Wofford 42nd, Florida A&M 43rd, Monmouth 48th, Jacksonville State 50th, Holy Cross 55th, Chattanooga 57th, Samford 58th, South Carolina State 60th, Duquesne 63rd, William & Mary 66th, VMI 70th, Campbell 73rd, Georgetown 78th, Tennessee Tech 81st, Prairie View A&M 85th, Mercer 86th, Robert Morris 90th, Charleston Southern 93rd, Gardner-Webb 98th, Davidson 99th, Brown 102nd, Marist 107th, Western Carolina 112th, Howard 117th, Valparaiso 120th, Jacksonville 124th, and Presbyterian 126th (last).

– East Tennessee State’s notable alumni include former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith (soon to be coaching in the Hula Bowl!), country music singer/bandwagon fan Kenny Chesney, and Union Station bass player Barry Bales.

As I say every year, Bales has one of the best jobs in the world, as he gets to listen to Alison Krauss sing on a regular basis.

– Future FBS opponents for the Bucs include Georgia (during the 2020 season), Vanderbilt (2021), North Carolina (2022), and Appalachian State (2024).

– East Tennessee State’s roster includes 43 players from the state of Tennessee. Other states represented: Georgia (24 players), Alabama (7), North Carolina (7), Ohio (7), South Carolina (6), Florida (6), Virginia (2), and one each from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The Palmetto State products (and their respective high schools) on the Buccaneers’ squad are Ben Blackmon (Newberry), Nasir Player (Ridge View), Landon Kunak (Spartanburg), Treyvion Houston (Greer), Donovan Swinger (T.L. Hanna), and D.J. Twitty (Chapman).

While there are a few South Carolina natives on ETSU’s team, none are from that internationally known purveyor of pigskin perfection, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. What in the name of Donnie Abraham is going on? There is little doubt that failing to recruit the gridiron warriors who wear the famed maroon and orange will haunt the East Tennessee State program for many decades to come.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (53 players), Georgia (29), Florida (8), Texas (5), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Virginia, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In addition, there are two Bulldogs with listed hometowns in other countries — junior tight end Elijah Lowe (Abaco, Bahamas), and freshman linebacker Hayden Williamson (Okinawa, Japan).

– This week’s two-deep for The Citadel is largely unchanged from last week’s edition. Gunner Covey is listed as a starter at defensive end.

– When it comes to the coin toss, The Citadel has been very successful, winning the flip at least seven times in nine games; the only one the Bulldogs definitely did not win was versus Charleston Southern. (I have not been able to determine which team won the toss in the Samford game.)

Update: There appears to be some controversy (?!) about this subject. According to this week’s game notes (thanks to commenter MG for pointing this out), The Citadel is 9-0 when it comes to winning the coin toss.

On his radio show, Brent Thompson also referenced having won all the tosses. The problem with this: per the play-by-play for the Charleston Southern game box score, CSU won the coin toss (and elected to defer).

It is true that play-by-play logs are not necessarily gospel. Perhaps asking the game captains might help.

Also, I guess we can now assume (dangerous, making assumptions) that The Citadel did win in fact the coin toss against Samford.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 4-6 for games played on November 2. Among the highlights from past contests:

  • 1968: An injury-riddled group of Bulldogs surprised Davidson, 28-21, in a game played at Charlotte Memorial Stadium. Joe Bedenbaugh rushed for 111 yards, and Steve Brackett added 102 yards and two TDs. This is the earliest game on record in which two players for The Citadel broke the 100-yard rushing mark. Tony Passander ran for a touchdown and threw for another (a 58-yarder to Tom Sanchez). On defense, head coach Red Parker singled out Ken Diaz and Charlie Baker for praise.
  • 1985: At Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel defeated Western Carolina 10-3. Adrian Williams rushed for the game’s only touchdown. Greg Davis added a field goal and a PAT for the Bulldogs. The Citadel’s defense held the Catamounts to 268 total yards and forced three turnovers, all interceptions — one by Brian Graves and two by J.D. Cauthen.
  • 1991: Before a crowd of 20,071 at Johnson Hagood Stadium, the Bulldogs beat Appalachian State 17-10. Jack Douglas rushed for 115 yards and threw a 52-yard TD pass to Cornell Caldwell. Erick Little scored The Citadel’s other touchdown on a seven-yard run. Rob Avriett booted a 46-yard field goal and converted both extra points. The Bulldogs thwarted two fourth-quarter drives by the Mountaineers; David Brodsky intercepted a pass that had been tipped by Bill Melby, and later Derek Moore broke up a key fourth-down pass to preserve the win.
  • 2013: After once trailing 17-0, The Citadel came back to win a Homecoming game against Samford, 28-26. Darien Robinson rushed for 83 yards and three touchdowns, while Vinny Miller had 95 yards on the ground and a TD of his own. The defense chipped in with two turnovers — an interception by Nick Willis, and a fumble recovery by Tevin Floyd (created by a Mark Thomas sack). The game also featured a key conversion off a fake punt by Eric Goins, a 27-yard run that set up Robinson’s second touchdown.

Charlie Taaffe was the coach who demonstrated that The Citadel could compete and win in the modern era of college football.

The Bulldogs had not won a Southern Conference title since 1961 when he was hired, but Taaffe used the wishbone offense to lead The Citadel to a league championship and the No. 1 ranking in Division I-AA in 1992. He won the Eddie Robinson award as the I-AA national coach of the year in ’92.

“I think Coach Taaffe is the standard around here,” said current Bulldogs coach Brent Thompson. “He had quite the career record here and he found a way to sustain a lot of success. He was able to win a championship in a very challenging Southern Conference.

“As far as I am concerned, he is probably the guy that is most responsible for us and our staff being back here.”

I was still a cadet when Taaffe was named head football coach at The Citadel. The change in offense was stark, but there also seemed to be a shift in attitude. The new coach had certain standards, and they were going to be met. There didn’t seem to be much doubt about that, somehow.

In just his second year, Taaffe orchestrated an 8-win season that included an undefeated home slate, with memorable wins over Navy and Marshall. There was a palpable enthusiasm that began to envelop Johnson Hagood Stadium on gamedays.

Charlie Taaffe re-established a level of high expectations for the football program; despite some lean years at times, that point of view has persisted into the present day. That is one of his legacies at The Citadel, and it is an outstanding one.

I expect Saturday’s game to be close, and possibly not high-scoring. While East Tennessee State is winless in the SoCon to this point in the season, the Buccaneers are a better team than their record indicates. Randy Sanders stated during his radio show that he expected his team to “play hard”, and there is no reason to doubt that — especially since this is ETSU’s Homecoming game.

If the Bulldogs can do the things they have been doing well of late on offense — ball control and finishing drives — they should be in good shape. That will be particularly true if the defense continues its gradual but noticeable improvement (and maintains its recent run of largely solid play on third down).

It won’t be easy, but The Citadel has an opportunity to continue to play impactful games well into the twilight of the season. The Bulldogs must seize that opportunity.

2018 Football, Game 5: 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 13, 2018.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3, and is also available via ESPN College Extra. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen supplies the analysis. Danielle Hensley is the sideline reporter. 

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. 

Luke Mauro (the new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Cal McCombs. The sideline reporter will be Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and East Tennessee State

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– AFCA Coaches’ poll

– Brent Thompson’s 10/9 press conference

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

– ETSU press conference (from 10/8)

The Citadel offers potent rushing attack

My review of last year’s game between The Citadel and East Tennessee State

Saturday’s game broadcast has been picked up as part of the ESPN College Extra set of games. What that means: if you have DirecTV, Verizon FIOS, AT&T U-Verse, or Spectrum, you may be able to watch the game on a “regular” channel, depending on the extent of the package you have with your respective provider.

On DirecTV, for example, the game will be on channel 793. If you have AT&T U-Verse, check channels 614 through 621; the matchup should be on one of those channels. For Verizon FIOS, the ESPN College Extra channels are 821 through 828. Spectrum’s ECE channels are 505 through 512.

Parents’ Day (actually, a full weekend) activities: Link

My one observation to anyone going to the game, or to any of the other events listed in the link above: it is almost always warmer (and more humid) than you think it is going to be. Keep that in mind.

That said, this is probably the happiest of The Citadel’s three primary “celebration” weekends, at least for the cadets.

The Citadel will go 35 days in between home games. That is the longest the Bulldogs have gone between home games in a season since…last year, when The Citadel also went 35 days between home games.

The Bulldogs also had a 35-day break between home games in 2016, which means that for three years in a row (all early in the season), The Citadel has had an unscheduled long stretch away from home. In all three cases, a bye week combined with a weather issue created the long break in games played at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Note: Brent Thompson likes to refer to the breaks created due to weather systems as “hurrication”.

The Citadel is 1-3. Records of those teams through last week:

  • Wofford:  4-1, one loss was at Wyoming
  • Chattanooga:  4-2, losses to Wofford and at ETSU
  • Mercer:  3-2, losses at Memphis and to The Citadel
  • Towson:  4-1, one loss was at Wake Forest

Against non-FBS competition, the combined record is 15-3, and one of those three losses was to the Bulldogs. Next up is East Tennessee State, which is 5-1 — and the one loss was to Tennessee.

It’s been a very tough slate thus far.

As to the issue of Towson learning how to defend the triple option from Navy’s coaching staff, I have two general observations:

  • I can somewhat understand why Brent Thompson was irritated.
  • It doesn’t matter one bit.

The fact is that the Bulldogs gave up 608 yards of total offense, at a 9.5 yards per play clip, and that was why they lost. Towson scored early and often.

Sure, it would have been nice not to get down big early, and maybe Towson’s special defensive preparation had a role in that. It’s also true, though, that the Bulldogs have fallen behind in every game they’ve played this season, and usually by big margins (21-0, 14-0, 17-7, 21-3). I don’t think Wofford, Chattanooga, and Mercer went to Annapolis to study the option before playing The Citadel.

The one thing I do wonder about is whether or not Navy would have helped Towson out if Thompson had been part of the Paul Johnson “coaching tree”. Ultimately, though, it is of no real relevance.

During his presser, ETSU head coach Randy Sanders discussed the option, and (breath of fresh air alert) actually said there was nothing “dirty” about the offense:

It’s difficult obviously, because you normally don’t have a quarterback that’s doing this. The other thing that’s really difficult to replicate in practice is sometimes the amount of cutting, where the linebackers get cut and the defensive linemen get cut, and just the nature of that offense. It’s certainly legal, it’s not illegal, it’s not “dirty football” or anything like that. That’s just the way they play football with that offense. It’s the part that’s hard to replicate because obviously you have to practice it and your guys have to get used to playing those type of blocks. You don’t want to do it so much that somebody goes into the game limping.

In 2014, when I was at Florida State and we played Citadel in Tallahassee and beat them 37-7. I think a lot of the fans were disappointed, but we scored on I think seven of the nine possessions – the first seven possessions that we had the ball – we scored. We only had it nine times. The two times we didn’t score was late in the game when we were playing a lot of the backups. So, as good as that football team was at Florida State, they (The Citadel) were able to limit us to only nine possessions against our defense. It makes you execute when you get your opportunities and it makes you stay locked in from a mental standpoint. When you get the opportunities to make plays, you have to make them.

We’ll forgive Sanders for not remembering the exact score of The Citadel’s game with Florida State (37-12).

ETSU opened its season with a less-than-scintillating 28-7 victory over D-2 Mars Hill. The Buccaneers then got thumped, not unexpectedly, by Tennessee (59-3).

The SoCon campaign began for ETSU with a 27-24 win at VMI, a game won by the Bucs despite allowing a pick-6 and being called for 142 yards’ worth of penalties. I watched this game on ESPN+; it never crossed my mind that it would serve as the beginning of what is now a four-game winning streak.

The game that may define ETSU’s season was its matchup against Furman. Trailing 27-6 midway through the third quarter, the Buccaneers rallied to tie the game, with the winning points then coming on a safety (yes, really).

The key to that comeback was a change at quarterback. Austin Herink, a three-year starter relegated to a backup role as Temple transfer Logan Marchi had assumed the starting job, entered the contest against the Paladins. The passing stats from the two QBs from that game were as follows:

  • Austin Herink:  9/14, 202 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
  • Logan Marchi:  8/17, 71 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception

East Tennessee State followed that game up with a 17-14 win in Johnson City against Chattanooga. Herink played almost the entire way in that one (and started last week versus Gardner-Webb). ETSU held the Mocs to 3.9 yards per play, and that was basically an even distribution on the ground and in the air (taking out sack numbers, UTC averaged 3.8 yards per rush).

Chattanooga threw 56 passes in that game (not including five sacks) out of 83 offensive plays. Of course, UTC trailed 17-0 entering the fourth quarter, perhaps partly explaining all the passing attempts.

ETSU shut out Gardner-Webb 45-0 last week, basically taking care of business with authority against a bad team. (Incidentally, Gardner-Webb is a 46 1/2 point underdog at home this week to Kennesaw State.)

Of all those games, the Chattanooga contest stands out. ETSU controlled that game by grabbing the early lead and never letting go. To win this week, The Citadel needs to avoid falling behind (yet again).

As mentioned above, Austin Herink (6’3″, 210 lbs.) is again East Tennessee State’s starting quarterback, a role he filled for each of the last three seasons. Herink, a native of Cleveland, Tennessee, began his collegiate career at Middle Tennessee State.

Running back Quay Holmes (6’1″, 216 lbs.) is a redshirt freshman from Powder Springs, Georgia. Holmes has eight rushing touchdowns this season, and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He also has 15 receptions so far this year, second-most on the roster.

Wide receiver Keith Coffee (6’4″, 190 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from Miami, leads ETSU in catches with 20.

Quan Harrison (5’10”, 182 lbs.) was a second-team all-SoCon pick last year as a return specialist. Oddly, he is not listed as a returner on ETSU’s most recent two-deep. However, Harrison is one of five Bucs with 10 or more receptions.

Brent Thompson made a point of praising the East Tennessee State offensive line, both in his press conference and on his radio show. As a collective, they are big. The average size of the projected starters: 6’4″, 306 lbs.

Matt Pyke (6’2″, 302 lbs.), the starting center, was a preseason second-team all-SoCon selection. The senior from Clinton, Tennessee has started every game in his career with the Buccaneers.

East Tennessee State normally lines up in a 3-4. There will be adjustments, to be sure, with the Bucs facing The Citadel’s triple option attack.

Defensive end Nasir Player (6’5″, 271 lbs.) is a redshirt junior from Columbia, South Carolina (he went to Ridge View High School). Player was a first-team all-conference choice after last season. He is yet another outstanding defensive lineman in a league full of them.

Besides playing football at Ridge View, Player spent one year on the school’s lacrosse team. I’m far from an expert on that sport, but he had to have been one of the larger high school lacrosse players around.

ETSU has another impact player on the other side of its d-line in Jason Maduafokwa (6’3″, 270 lbs.). He was very active in last year’s contest versus The Citadel.

Linebacker Dylan Weigel (6’0″, 221 lbs.) has led the Buccaneers in tackles in each of the last three seasons, and leads them this year. He was named the SoCon defensive player of the week last year after the Bucs’ game against The Citadel, in which he made 19 tackles.

Jeremy Lewis (5’10”, 180 lbs.) is a junior cornerback who currently ranks third on the roster in tackles. He also has one of ETSU’s seven interceptions.

J.J. Jerman (5’10”, 170 lbs.) was a second-team all-league pick after the 2017 season. The senior from Seymour, Tennessee is 7 for 10 on field goal tries this season. Last year, he made two 51-yard field goals, so he has a strong leg, and a fairly accurate one as well.

Marion Watson (6’2″, 160 lbs.) is in his fourth season as ETSU’s regular punter. His career long punt is 59 yards, which came in 2015.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high in the upper 70s. Winds will be out of the northeast at around 5 mph.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 5-point favorite over East Tennessee State, with an over/under of 49.

The over has hit in all four of The Citadel’s games this season.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Wofford is a 7-point favorite at Furman; Samford is a 19 1/2 point favorite over VMI; Chattanooga is an 8-point favorite at Western Carolina; and Yale is a 4 1/2 point favorite over Mercer.

Those lines are all as of Thursday afternoon. I emphasize this because there has been some surprising fluctuation in some of the FCS spreads this season, including games involving SoCon teams.

– Also of note:  Alabama is a 27 1/2 point favorite over Missouri. There is no line on Charleston Southern’s game against Virginia-Lynchburg (a non-D1 school; the Dragons play in the NCCAA).

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 54th in FCS. East Tennessee State is ranked 55th, exactly one spot behind the Bulldogs.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have an 71% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 28, ETSU 21.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey:  Elon (7th), Towson (9th), Colgate (15th), Wofford (20th), Kennesaw State (22nd), Yale (32nd), North Ca rolina A&T (35th), Chattanooga (39th), Mercer (42nd), Furman (43rd), Samford (48th), Western Carolina (69th), Charleston Southern (76th), South Carolina State (97th), Presbyterian (99th), VMI (105th), Gardner-Webb (112th), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads: North Dakota State, James Madison, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, and Illinois State.

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Penn State, Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan, and Washington. UCF is 12th, Texas 13th, Florida 15th, Kentucky 16th, North Carolina State 18th, South Carolina 20th, Texas A&M 25th, Duke 26th, Missouri 30th, Appalachian State 37th, Virginia Tech 43rd, Army 46th, Georgia Tech 49th, Wake Forest 52nd, Florida State 57th, Virginia 63rd, Tennessee 75th, Toledo 76th, North Texas 80th, Georgia Southern 82nd, Air Force 84th, North Carolina 95th, Navy 96th, Coastal Carolina 101st, Liberty 119th, Old Dominion 120th, Charlotte 127th, and UTEP 130th and last.

– Among East Tennessee State’s notable alumni:  Kenny Chesney (yes, ETSU is the school he actually attended), soldier/author R. Alan King, and Union Station bass player Barry Bales.

As I have written before (and will probably write again), Bales has one of the best jobs in the world, as he gets to listen to Alison Krauss sing on a regular basis.

– East Tennessee State’s roster includes 43 players from Tennessee. Other states represented on its squad:  Georgia (21 players), Ohio (8), Alabama (7), North Carolina (6), Virginia (6), South Carolina (5), Florida (3), and one each from Connecticut, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

While ETSU has five players who hail from South Carolina, none of the Buccaneers are graduates of fabled football factory Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This is an undeniable error in recruiting philosophy that will have an extremely negative long-term effect on East Tennessee State’s football program. Donnie Abraham is understandably shocked and upset, and may even feel betrayed.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47), Georgia (28), Florida (9), North Carolina (5), Texas (5), Tennessee (4), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

– This week’s two-deep is similar to the one released for the Towson game. There are a few changes, however. Lane Botkin is now listed as the starting punt retuner. Dijon Profit is listed as a potential starter at wide receiver. On defense, Joshua Bowers appears on the depth chart this week, while Jay Howard is listed as a potential starter at cornerback.

One caveat to the listed depth chart: Brent Thompson said during his presser that Khafari Buffalo was “doubtful” for the ETSU game. It would be the second consecutive contest missed by the junior from Sumter, who was injured while making an outstanding interception against Mercer.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 7-5 for games played on October 13. The Bulldogs are 5-2 at home on that date. A brief review of five of the twelve contests, as we go into the Bulldogs’ Wayback Machine:

  • 1962:  The Citadel won at Vanderbilt, 21-6, its first victory over an SEC opponent. Sid Mitchell scored a rushing TD and threw two big passes to Charlie Brendle, while Nick DeLoreto and Mike Lane added scores of their own to the final tally (with Lane rushing for a 15-yard TD one play after intercepting a Vanderbilt pass). The game turned on a huge goal-line stand by the Bulldogs, led by Gene Dice. The Citadel intercepted four passes on the day, including two by Joe Cannarella.
  • 1973:  In the first of two huge comeback victories that took place on October 13, The Citadel roared back from being down 20-0 to stun Chattanooga at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 28-20. Andrew Johnson scored three times; Gene Dotson rushed for 100 yards and scored the go-ahead two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. He also threw a 14-yard TD pass to Bob Willis. A fumble recovery by Ronnie Gibson after a muffed punt set up the Bulldogs’ first score. At the time, it was the largest deficit overcome by The Citadel for a victory in school history.
  • 1984:  Robert Hill threw two TD passes to Victor Frazier as the Bulldogs upset Western Carolina in Cullowhee, 34-33. Frazier finished with 5 catches for 133 yards, while Hill added a touchdown toss to Eric Reddish; his three TD passes made Hill the Bulldogs’ career record-holder in that category. Hill got injured during the game, though, which led to Kip Allen stepping in and throwing an 18-yard TD pass to Lee Glaze. On defense, Billy Morgan recovered two fumbles, but The Citadel’s victory wasn’t safe until Joel Thompson intercepted a would-be two-point conversion attempt with 24 seconds to play.
  • 2007:  The Citadel trailed Furman by 20 points in the second quarter, 17 points in the third quarter, and 10 points in the fourth quarter — but wound up winning in overtime, 54-51. Duran Lawson’s 486 yards of total offense set the school record. Lawson was ably assisted on the day by Tory Cooper (140 yards rushing, 83 yards receiving, 3 TDs), Andre Roberts (122 yards receiving, including a 62-yard TD), and Ta’Mar Jernigan (95 yards receiving, including a 29-yard touchdown).
  • 2012:  The most recent game played by The Citadel on October 13, a 45-31 Parents’ Day victory over Western Carolina, is probably best remembered for a special teams tackle made by Vinny Miller. I wrote about the game (and that hit).

– The Citadel first played East Tennessee State in 1966, winning 3-0. Cal McCombs was named the South Carolina State Defensive Player of the Week for his work during that contest. Now, of course, McCombs is in his first season as the radio analyst for the Bulldogs.

– Last year’s loss to Mercer broke a string of five consecutive Parents’ Day victories for The Citadel. Overall on Parents’ Day (since 1953), the military college has a 35-30 record.

The Citadel can win on Saturday. The Bulldogs must start well (for a change), avoid offensive turnovers and limit the big plays on defense.

There should be a very good crowd backing the home side. I hope the team can feed off that energy. A win could propel The Citadel to a very solid season. A loss…well, it could be a long year.

We’ll see what happens. I am vaguely hopeful.