Game Review, 2019: Western Carolina

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– Associated Press story

– WCSC-TV game report (with video)

– School release

– Game highlights (video)

– Box score

Stats of note:

The Citadel WCU
Field Position 35.11 (+5.98) 29.13 (-5.98)
Success Rate* 51.79% 46.15%
Big plays (20+ yards) 5 4
Finishing drives** 5.83 3.40
Turnovers 0 3
Expected turnovers 0.0 1.38
Possessions* 9 8
Points per possession* 4.38 2.13
Offensive Plays* 56 66
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 6.54 5.10
Yards/pass att (including sacks)* 18.25 5.14
Yards/play* 7.38 5.12
3rd down conversions* 2 of 10 12 of 18
4th down conversions 4 of 4 2 of 4
Red Zone TD%** 4 of 4 (100%) 2 of 4 (50%)
Net punting 33.0 45.0
Time of possession 32:21 27:39
TOP/offensive play 31.82 seconds 25.14 seconds
Penalties 4 for 37 yards 9 for 76 yards
1st down passing 3/4, 73 yards, 3 TD 7/9, 50 yards, int***
3rd and long passing 0/0 5/5, 104 yards, sack
4th down passing 0/0 1/2, 5 yards, int
1st down yards/play 9.57 2.52
3rd down average yards to go 5.45 8.18
Defensive 3-and-outs+ 2 2

*final drive of 1st half for The Citadel not included; last two plays of 2nd half for The Citadel not included
**final drive of 2nd half for The Citadel not included

***also sacked twice

Random thoughts on the above stats and a few other things…

– Western Carolina managed to convert 12 of 18 third downs. The Catamounts were only 2 for 5 on 3rd-and-short (1 or 2 yards), but were 6 for 9 on 3rd-and-long (8+ yards). That included conversions on 3rd and 8 (twice), 3rd and 9, 3rd and 14, 3rd and 17, and 3rd and 19.

I don’t need to tell you that it is less than ideal for a defense to allow a 66.7% conversion rate on 3rd-and-long. The Bulldogs have to get stops in those situations.

What made it all the more puzzling was the Bulldogs’ success defending short-yardage plays. Five times, Western Carolina faced a 3rd or 4th down of one yard or less. Only twice did WCU pick up the first down.

– The Citadel had four sacks yesterday. All four of them came on WCU’s final offensive drive. Two of them set up 3rd-and-long situations that the Catamounts subsequently converted.

– One of those four sacks was by Joseph Randolph II (who wears jersey number 98). However, the PA announcer mistakenly credited it to freshman linebacker Anthony Britton Jr. (jersey number 88).

The senior defensive lineman heard the announcement; shaking his head, he pulled down on his jersey to emphasize the “98” and raised his arms in the air, as if to say “That was me!”

Yes, the players can hear the loudspeaker announcements, and the crowd.

– I don’t know if the coaches and players can hear some of the individual comments from the crowd, though; I hope not.

I often wish I couldn’t hear some of the fans’ opinions. Lately, this includes a couple of guys who get extremely upset if the fullback dive doesn’t gain at least five yards. The fact that the play is a core component of the triple option offense doesn’t seem to matter to them.

And yes, we all know the defense needs to get more pressure on the quarterback. The coaches and players know that too.

Just chill, guys.

– One thing fans have every right to complain about is the SoCon officials and their ball-spotting abilities. There were some hilarious errors on Saturday.

– The Citadel’s first down passing numbers were about as good as anyone could want. The only incompletion came during the second drive of the game, at the Bulldogs’ 38-yard line. Two subsequent running plays set up a 4th-and-3 on the 45 yard line; Brandon Rainey rushed for a seven-yard gain and a first down.

It is possible that Brent Thompson called that pass play knowing that there was a strong likelihood he would go for it on 4th down anyway, so he had three plays with which to work to pick up the first down.

– The Citadel won the turnover battle 3-0. This was only the second time all season the Bulldogs had the edge in that category.

– The Bulldogs are now 15 for 21 (71.4%) converting 4th downs this season. The Citadel is among the FCS leaders in both attempts (tied for 4th nationally) and conversions (3rd). Among teams with 10+ tries on fourth down, the Bulldogs are 4th in conversion percentage.

– Western Carolina should be credited for not giving up when it fell behind 28-3, and keeping things interesting until late in the fourth quarter. Tyrie Adams made several fine plays, though his most impressive maneuver was the way he bounced back up after taking a huge sack from Phil Barrett — the “no hands” jump-to-his-feet acrobatics. Holding on to the ball after taking the hit was also commendable.

– It was a very pleasant afternoon. I wish more people had been there to enjoy it (attendance: 8,023), but I wasn’t surprised by the turnout.

Next game: The Citadel travels to Greenville to play Furman. The Paladins were off this past Saturday.

I’ll preview that contest later in the week.

I took some pictures, as usual. There aren’t as many game action shots this week.

2019 Football, Game 7: The Citadel vs. Western Carolina

The Citadel vs. Western Carolina, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 12, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen supplies the analysis. Emily Crevani is the sideline reporter. 

It is also part of this week’s “ESPN College Extra” package, available on some cable/satellite systems. On DirecTV, the game will be broadcast on Channel 792.

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 Western Carolina

SoCon weekly release

“Gameday Central” on The Citadel’s website

Game preview on Western Carolina’s website

– Brent Thompson’s weekly radio show (10/9)

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (10/7)

The Dogs:  Episode 7

– Noah Dawkins signs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

– The story behind the memorial

Brief thoughts on the game against VMI…

The Bulldogs’ performance was dispiriting; there was very little that was positive about it, result aside. The fact that it happened in front of one of the larger crowds in recent years to see a game at Johnson Hagood Stadium just seemed to make it worse.

The early TD drive may have been fool’s gold, because it suggested that The Citadel could successfully move the ball by throwing it on a regular basis. That proved not to be the case.

The offense completely got away from what it does well, and what it has to do. The Citadel is not going to beat anyone, including VMI, if it does not control the ball, loses the turnover battle, and has more pass plays than rushes (if you take sacks into account).

The defense wasn’t much better. VMI averaged six yards per play, and did not commit a turnover. Reece Udinski completed 71.4% of his passes.

Incidentally, I don’t really want to hear about how tall the Keydets’ receivers are, either. Short or tall, they were open more often than not (that was especially true on VMI’s final pass play).

It was all very frustrating.

Maybe some of the Bulldogs did not understand the nature of the rivalry between the two military colleges. However, I’m going to guess that over the next twelve months, they are going to find out just how important it really is.

Okay, let’s talk about this Saturday’s game. The opponent is Western Carolina. The Catamounts are currently 1-4, 0-2 in the SoCon.

Key statistics for Western Carolina (through five games):

WCU Opponents
Points per game 20.8 38.2
Yards per rush (sacks taken out) 5.18 6.12
Rush attempts (sacks taken out) 194 210
Comp-Att-Int 95-147-4 (64.6%)
62-115-3 (53.9%)
Average per catch 8.8 14.5
Yards per pass attempt (sacks included) 4.66 6.95
Total plays 355 333
Yards per play 4.94 6.43
Fumbles-Lost 6-3 1-1
Penalties-yards 35-259 25-226
Penalty yards per game 51.8 45.2
Punts-yards 32-1260 22-916
Net punting average 33.0 37.5
Time of possession/game 31:24 28:36
Offensive plays per second 26.54 sec 25.77 sec
3rd down conversions 32/82 (39.0%) 25/62 (40.3%)
4th down conversions 7/11 (63.6%) 4/8 (50.0%)
Sacks by-yards 8-44 14-85
Red Zone scoring (13-17) 76.5% (18-19) 94.7%
Red Zone TD rate (11-17) 64.7% (13-19) 68.4%
Turnover margin -3 +3

WCU’s game results:

– The season didn’t start off well for Western Carolina. Mercer ran the opening kickoff back to the WCU 18-yard line and scored three plays later. After a three-and-out by the Catamounts, the Bears returned the ensuing punt back 38 yards and Mercer scored on the next play.

Mercer led that game 42-14 at halftime.

– Against North Carolina State, the Catamounts only managed 106 yards of total offense (including just one yard in the second half). Four WCU players, including star quarterback Tyrie Adams, were suspended for the contest and didn’t play.

– Adams didn’t see the field against North Greenville, either, and Western Carolina was fortunate to escape with a victory. The Crusaders were only 3 for 17 passing, but one of those three completions was a 72-yard TD that gave NGU the lead late in the third quarter. WCU scored the game-winning touchdown with 5:04 to play.

That broke a 10-game losing streak which dated back to last season. Western Carolina is currently on a nine-game losing skid in SoCon play.

– The Catamounts trailed Chattanooga 7-6 after the first quarter of that matchup. At halftime, the score was 37-21 Mocs. The first half featured scoring plays of 28, 24, 69, 73, and 36 yards — four of those by Chattanooga.

Then WCU rallied to get within 44-36 after three quarters, but UTC scored 16 points in the final period.

– Gardner-Webb converted a 33-yard field goal on the game’s final play to beat Western Carolina. G-W actually committed one more turnover than WCU, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs outgained the Catamounts en route to the upset victory.

The one thing you can say for Western Carolina is that it has some very loyal supporters. In three home games, the Catamounts are averaging 9,874 fans. There were 11,865 spectators in attendance for the game against Gardner-Webb.

Team rankings comparison in select statistical categories:

– Time of possession: The Citadel remains first in FCS (36:54 per game). Western Carolina is 29th nationally.

– Turnover margin: The Bulldogs are tied for 88th, while the Catamounts are tied for 91st. Both are at -3 for the season, but Western Carolina has played one fewer game.

– Offensive 3rd down conversion rate: The Citadel is 32nd (at 42.3%), while WCU is 60th (39.0%).

– Defensive 3rd down conversion rate: Western Carolina is 72nd; The Citadel is 76th (40.8%).

– 4th down attempts: The Citadel is tied for 5th nationally, with 17 fourth down attempts (the Bulldogs’ 11 successful conversions is tied for 4th). WCU has 11 fourth down tries, which is tied for 40th-most in FCS. The Catamounts have made seven of those.

– Yards per rush (does not account for sacks): The Citadel is 86th in FCS (3.50), obviously not good enough for the Bulldogs. Western Carolina is tied for 45th (4.42).

– Net punting: The Bulldogs are 8th (41.28), while WCU is 98th (33.03).

Tyrie Adams (6’2″, 185 lbs.) was the preseason SoCon Offensive Player of the Year. The redshirt senior quarterback from St. Petersburg has started two games this season (Mercer and Gardner-Webb) and entered in relief against Chattanooga.

For the season, Adams is completing 66.7% of his passes, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt (not including sacks), with four touchdown tosses against three interceptions.

Last year against The Citadel, Adams was 12 for 21 passing for 148 yards and a pick. He also added 74 yards rushing. In the 2017 matchup at Johnson Hagood Stadium, Adams threw three TD passes.

Starting running back Connell Young (6’0″, 210 lbs.), a senior from Greensboro, had 217 rushing yards against Chattanooga. His backup, redshirt junior Donnavan Spencer (5’10”, 190 lbs.) had 122 rushing yards last season against the Bulldogs, including a 75-yard TD.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Daquan Patten (5’6″, 185 lbs.) leads WCU in receptions, with 22. He is also the Catamounts’ primary punt and kick returner. The native of Columbia (Blythewood High School) is the son of former WCU and NFL wideout David Patten (who earned three Super Bowl rings while with the New England Patriots).

Nate Mullen (5’9″, 185 lbs.) is currently second on the team in catches, with 15. Mullen, a redshirt senior who began his college career at Charlotte, caught 55 passes last season.

Tight end Owen Cosenke (6’3″, 235 lbs.) was an all-SoCon performer in 2018 after catching eight touchdown passes. This season, the junior from Aldie, Virginia has 11 receptions, two for TDs.

The projected starters on the Catamounts’ offensive line average 6’4″, 300 lbs. Junior left guard Grady Thomas (6’5″, 305 lbs.), who went to Spartanburg High School, has started 16 games for WCU.

Jarquavius Wortham (6’1″, 225 lbs.) is a senior who lines up at defensive end, though he played linebacker last season for the Catamounts. The transfer from Georgia Military leads WCU in sacks, with 2 1/2.

Junior linebacker Trevor Childers (6’1″, 215 lbs.) leads Western Carolina in tackles, with 46. His 5 1/2 tackles for loss is also tops for WCU.

Michael Murphy (6’2″, 200 lbs.) is listed as a linebacker on the depth chart, but the redshirt junior (another Spartanburg High School product) played in the Catamounts’ secondary last year. He returned a fumble 48 yards for a TD against The Citadel (one of two defensive touchdowns Murphy scored in 2018). This year, he has 29 tackles (fourth-most on the team), an interception, and a forced fumble.

Redshirt senior JerMichael White (6’1″, 190 lbs.) is second on the roster in stops (with 45). The native of Johnson City, Tennessee was injured most of last season.

John Brannon III (6’2″, 195 lbs.), a senior from Charlotte, has 25 tackles from his cornerback spot. He also has a fumble recovery and two interceptions, including a pick-six against Mercer.

Western Carolina has used two punters and three placekickers this season (and for what it is worth, WCU also has an “or” situation on its two-deep at long snapper).

Redshirt sophomore Caleb Ferguson (5’11”, 185 lbs.) had a 69-yard TD run off a fake punt against Chattanooga (in which he outran the Mocs’ return man). It was definitely one of the highlights of the season for WCU. Not surprisingly, Ferguson is listed as a running back on the roster.

Fort Mill’s Brandon Dickerson (5’11”, 195 lbs.) has actually had the most punts for Western Carolina this season. Dickerson attended Indian Land High School.

One of the three placekickers employed this year by the Catamounts is no longer on the roster. That leaves either Richard McCollum (5’9″, 170 lbs.) or Julian Pletz (5’10”, 190 lbs.) to do the job.

Pletz is listed as the starter this week; he is 5-5 on PATs this season, but has never made a field goal in his short career at WCU (0 for 1).

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 82 degrees. The low temperature on Saturday night is projected to be 68 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters (as of Wednesday evening), The Citadel is a 17-point favorite over WCU, with an over/under of 64 1/2.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Samford is a 7-point favorite at VMI. That’s it, that’s the list. Five SoCon teams are off this week.

– Also of note: Elon is a 3 1/2 point underdog versus Delaware; Charleston Southern is a 24-point underdog at Kennesaw State; and Towson is an 11-point favorite against Albany.

Georgia Tech is a 17 1/2 point underdog at Duke.

In games between FCS schools, the biggest spread is 29, with Princeton the big favorite over Lafayette.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 64th in FCS, falling 25 spots from last week, the largest drop in FCS. The Catamounts are 108th.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 85% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 38, Western Carolina 24.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest: Villanova is 8th, Sacramento State 11th, Towson 14th, Furman 17th, Kennesaw State 20th, North Carolina A&T 27th, Southeast Missouri State 32nd, Elon 40th, Wofford 43rd, Samford 45th, Columbia 51st, Chattanooga 54th, Georgetown 58th, Florida A&M 63rd, South Carolina State 66th, Drake 72nd, East Tennessee State 79th, Campbell 80th, VMI 82nd, Richmond 83rd, Mercer 91st, Charleston Southern 93rd, Davidson 94th, Gardner-Webb 96th, North Alabama 102nd, Howard 106th, Robert Morris 111th, Jacksonville 119th, and Presbyterian 126th (last).

– Western Carolina’s notable alumni include actor Sean Bridgers, comedian Rich Hall, and college basketball pioneer Ronnie Carr.

– WCU will play Alabama later this season. Next year, Western Carolina will play non-conference games against Liberty, Eastern Kentucky, and Gardner-Webb. Other future non-league opponents for the Catamounts include Oklahoma (in 2021), Georgia Tech (2022), Arkansas (2023), North Carolina State (2024), and Wake Forest (2025).

WCU also has home-and-home series in the future against Montana and Charleston Southern. You decide which one is stranger for Western Carolina — a two-game set in which it has to travel to Missoula, Montana, or one in which it plays at Buccaneer Field in North Charleston.

– Western Carolina’s game notes roster includes 54 players from the state of North Carolina. Other states represented:  Georgia (17 players), South Carolina (15), Florida (6), Tennessee (4), Alabama (2), Ohio (2), and one each from Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The 15 Palmetto State products on WCU’s squad represent 13 different high schools (two each from Spartanburg H.S. and Blythewood H.S.). However, in an incredible anomaly, none are from internationally renowned gridiron force Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This bizarre oversight by Western Carolina’s coaches will prove the undoing of its football program for at least a generation (and probably much longer).

– 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 almost exactly the same as the one for last week. The only change is that Raleigh Webb is now listed as one of the kickoff returners.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 5-8 for games played on October 12. (Note: the record book lists 14 games played on that date, but the Bulldogs’ 1946 matchup against Newberry was actually played on Friday, October 11.)

Among the highlights from past contests:

  • 1935: At the original Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel defeated Wofford, 20-7. Arthur “White Top” Ferguson scored the first of three touchdowns for the Bulldogs. The other TDs were scored by Ed Hall and Claude McCredie (the latter on a 60-yard punt return; McCredie also made two extra points). Teal Therrell recovered two fumbles for The Citadel.
  • 1963: The Citadel shut out Presbyterian, 24-0, in the “Georgia Peach Shrine Game”, held at Beacon Memorial Park Stadium in Savannah, Georgia. It was a benefit for the Greenville Shriners Hospital. Jim Parker rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown (on only seven carries), with Bruce Whitney and Vince Petno also finding the end zone (Petno’s score came on a pass from Wade St. John). Pat Green added a 28-yard field goal and all three PATs.
  • 1985: The Citadel clubbed Davidson, 31-0, in a steady drizzle at Johnson Hagood Stadium before 8,741 fans. Kip Allen threw three TD passes, two to Lee Glaze and one to Tom Frooman. Warren McGrier rushed for 81 yards, and four different Bulldogs intercepted passes — Joel Thompson, Brian Graves, J.D. Cauthen, and Pete Long.
  • 1991: At West Point, New York, The Citadel defeated Army, 20-14, spoiling the Black Knights’ Homecoming game. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 20-0 lead behind touchdowns from Jack Douglas and Everette Sands, with Rob Avriett adding two field goals. Army attempted a comeback, but The Citadel’s defense forced five turnovers — an interception by Shannon Walker and four fumbles, recovered by (in order) Jim Wilson, Lance Cook, Geren Williams, and Lester Smith.
  • 2002: The Bulldogs won at home versus East Tennessee State, 26-7. Nehemiah Broughton scored twice and rushed for 99 yards, while Scooter Johnson caught five passes for 85 yards. Jeff Klein added a one-yard rushing TD, and Travis Zobel kicked two field goals (and also had a 43-yard run after a botched would-be punt). The defense sacked ETSU quarterbacks seven times; four of those sacks were authored by Cliff Washburn.

There isn’t really much to say at this point. The Citadel needs to win this game.

Frankly, the Bulldogs should win this game. Western Carolina has had a difficult season, and the loss to Gardner-Webb could prove to be a backbreaker for the Catamounts.

That doesn’t mean this will be an easy game, though. Far from it. Nothing is easy at The Citadel, and that is before considering the way the last two games have gone for the Bulldogs.

The Citadel needs to start fast and not let up.

There is still hope for this season. That starts with a victory on Saturday.

2019 Football, Game 6: The Citadel vs. VMI

The Citadel vs. VMI, The Military Classic of The South, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 5, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and televised on four television stations in South Carolina, Georgia, 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

– What does Raleigh Webb have in common with Cris Carter?

– Game notes from The Citadel and VMI

SoCon weekly release

“Gameday Central” on The Citadel’s website

“Gameday Central” on VMI’s website

– Bobby Ross has multiple perspectives on The Citadel-VMI

Radio interview with VMI head coach Scott Wachenheim

– Brent Thompson’s weekly radio show (10/2)

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (9/30)

The Dogs:  Episode 6

Willie Eubanks is the SoCon Defensive Player of the Month

The Citadel’s soccer team shuts out VMI 2-0

TV stations carrying the football game:

  • WCBD-TV (Charleston)
  • WYCW-TV (Greenville/Spartanburg)
  • WMUB (Macon, GA)
  • WWCW (Roanoke)

It is possible that in one or two cases, the game will be carried on a digital sub-channel of one of the above-mentioned stations, rather than the main channel itself. Be sure to check your local listings if you plan on watching the game on one of those stations.

This is Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel. As always, there will be a lot happening on campus, including the seniors receiving their class rings.

The key Saturday morning activities preceding the football game:

  • 8:30 am – 10:15 am: Open Barracks
  • 8:45 am: Kelly Cup
  • 9:15 am: The Citadel Rifle Legion Performance
  • 9:30 am: Regimental Band Concert
  • 10:15 am: Freshmen Promotion Ceremonies
  • 11:00 am: Parade

Just to add to the crowd, VMI is bringing about 500 Keydets to the game. The stadium will be packed.

It doesn’t hurt that both Clemson and South Carolina are off this week. That has led to a lot of weddings being scheduled for Saturday, but let’s face it — who wants to go to a wedding? Going to a football game is much more fun.

I’m sure the tailgating areas will be stuffed with fans as well. It should be a great scene.

I’ll briefly discuss the Samford game.

That was a tough loss. I’m not sure anything else needs to be said about it, but I’ll type a few more words anyway.

– I was disappointed in the targeting call against Sean-Thomas Faulkner. I think it was erroneously made by the replay official, who must have felt the need to insert himself into the game.

It reminded me, in a vague way, of a call made against The Citadel five years ago, when Carson Smith was ejected early in a home game against Chattanooga for trying to force a fumble. One of the on-field officials decided Smith was trying to punch someone, and tossed him.

Smith would normally have been suspended for the next game, too, but was reinstated after an appeal, as even the SoCon acknowledged the stupidity of the call.

Faulkner won’t get that chance, as there is no appeal process for targeting. He won’t be able to play the first half of this game. That will be a problem for the Bulldogs, one they will have to overcome.

– Brent Thompson made a lot of tough decisions against Samford. Some worked, some didn’t. That’s the nature of the game, especially one that winds up a four-overtime affair.

I actually questioned only two of them, and neither was that simple:

I thought he should have gone for a field goal attempt on The Citadel’s second drive of the game, but (as he noted afterwards) that call worked out, because the defense got a three-and-out and the Bulldogs scored on the ensuing possession.

After The Citadel scored in the first overtime, Thompson elected to kick the PAT rather than go for two and end the game right there. During his coach’s show, he was asked about that scenario, and said he had considered it, but that “the book” said taking the PAT was the proper play, and he essentially agreed with that (as he felt the Bulldogs were still moving the ball fairly well).

There wasn’t a right or wrong answer to the question, to be sure.

Thompson’s adherence to “analytics” has been one of the more fascinating subplots to the season. As someone who is naturally interested in the subject, it has been great to follow. The coach is clearly of an aggressive mindset when it comes to decision-making, and the mathematical approach has seemed to embolden him.

While not every call will work out, maintaining that philosophy will, in the long run, be extremely beneficial.

A very quick look at the national statistical rankings in FCS:

  • The Citadel now has a healthy lead in time of possession, ranking first nationally (at 38:00) and with more than a two-minute edge over second-ranked Yale. VMI ranks 110th out of 124 teams.
  • The Bulldogs are 34th in offensive 3rd down conversion rate; VMI is 55th. Wofford is 16th, while Furman is 20th.
  • As far as defensive 3rd down conversion rate is concerned, The Citadel is 82nd nationally. VMI is a solid 38th and leads the Socon in that category. Somewhat surprisingly, Charleston Southern is 19th.
  • The Citadel has attempted 14 fourth-down conversion attempts this season, tied for 8th-most in FCS. The Bulldogs are tied for 4th in successful conversions (10). VMI is 6 for 12 on 4th down, with the 12 attempts in a tie for 20th-most.
  • The Bulldogs are 66th in pass efficiency defense. The Keydets are 91st.

Tangent: 50 years ago…

October 18, 1969…

The Citadel rolled to a 28-2 victory at VMI. Tony Passander threw three TD passes, all to Mike Davitt, and Bob Duncan rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown. Jim Leber converted four PATs. The Bulldogs picked up 29 first downs and 498 yards of total offense. 

The statistics in the table below are from VMI’s last three games — at East Tennessee State (a 31-24 win in overtime), home against Robert Morris (a 31-21 loss), and home versus Wofford (a 51-36 setback). The Keydets’ first two contests were against Marshall and Mars Hill (and are thus not included because neither was against an FCS team).

Also not in these numbers are the overtime stats for the ETSU game, for reasons of consistency.

Opponents VMI
Rushing Attempts 127 94
Average Per Rush 6.43 5.29
Rushing Touchdowns 8 6
Pass plays 60 163
Average Per Attempt 9.57 5.02
Average Per Completion 17.35 9.62
Passing Touchdowns 5 4
Total offensive plays 187 257
Yards per play 7.43 5.12
Fumbles: Number-Lost 2-2 4-2
Penalties: Number-Yards 19-167 13-112
Net Yards Per Punt (median) 34.7 31.9
Kickoff touchbacks 4 8
Possession Time (average) 31:08 28:52
Seconds per play 29.97 20.22
Third-Down Conversions 15 of 40 (37.5%) 24 of 56 (42.9%)
Fourth-Down Conversions 2 of 4 4 of 10
Red Zone TDs-Opps 7 of 13 8 of 13
Sacks By: Number-Yards 10-57 2-16

Other thoughts on the statistics above, and the three games in general:

– Both East Tennessee State and Wofford averaged 7.1 yards per rush against VMI (taking sacks out of the equation). The Terriers, to no one’s surprise, simply kept running, as 62 of Wofford’s 70 offensive plays from scrimmage were rushes.

The Buccaneers, on the other hand, kept trying to pass for some reason; including overtime, ETSU threw 39 passes, and completed only 18 of them. This determined effort to throw the football against VMI probably cost East Tennessee State the game.

– Robert Morris is not a good team, but VMI managed to lose to the Colonials anyway, which had to be very frustrating for its fan base. Among the problems the Keydets had in that game: a botched PAT and a missed short field goal (apparently neither the fault of the placekicker); an exchange of fumbles on consecutive plays that wound up costing VMI 52 yards in field position; and a pass defense that gave up several big plays (Robert Morris averaged 12.1 yards per pass attempt).

VMI itself only had two offensive plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more against Robert Morris, which strikes me as a surprisingly low total. The Keydets had just three such plays versus East Tennessee State, but had ten last week against Wofford — four on the ground and six through the air.

While the Keydets may operate a bit of a “dink and dunk” offense, VMI has the capability of producing a lot of explosive plays.

– Wofford had two punt returns of 39 and 21 yards. The first of those returns set up a touchdown.

VMI has not been very good on special teams in recent years, and this season does not appear to be much different in that respect. However, the Keydets did block a punt against Robert Morris, the first blocked punt for VMI in five years, when the Keydets blocked one against…The Citadel.

– Against ETSU, VMI executed a neat trick play, a throw back to quarterback Reece Udinski that went for 30 yards. Don’t be surprised to see even more trickery by VMI on Saturday. The Keydets always seem to have a few gadget plays in reserve, ready to spring upon the Bulldogs.

– VMI had a turnover margin of +2 in these three games. For the season, the Keydets have a turnover margin of +7, which ranks 9th-best in FCS. That number was helped considerably by a +4 day against Mars Hill.

The Citadel currently stands at -2, which is tied for 75th nationally.

– The three opponents combined for a Red Zone TD rate of 53.8%. That reminds me of one of the things that has bedeviled The Citadel against the Keydets in the last few seasons.

In the last four games of the series, The Citadel’s offense has entered the red zone 20 times versus VMI. However, the Bulldogs have only scored six touchdowns in those possessions.

That is a rate of just 30%. If The Citadel’s offense doesn’t improve in this area on Saturday, the Bulldogs are probably not going to win.

– Both of VMI’s Southern Conference games have been delayed by lightning. Let us hope that particular streak ends at two.

Tangent: 25 years ago…

November 12, 1994

Travis Jervey ran for a 96-yard TD on The Citadel’s first play from scrimmage as the Bulldogs hammered VMI, 58-14, in Norfolk, Virginia. The Citadel rushed for 506 yards and six touchdowns, including 224 yards and two TDs from Jervey. Terrence Rivers had three touchdown runs, and Bryan Morgan added a 41-yard TD burst. C.J. Haynes threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Chauncey Chappelle. The Bulldogs’ other touchdown came on a 73-yard interception return by Anquan Gist.

VMI head coach Scott Wachenheim on The Citadel’s offense:

“They maintain the ball as well as any team I’ve ever watched. But they also have big-strike [passing] capability.

“That offense…what it forces defenses to do is play man coverage. So they get a lot of one-on-one matchups and they’ve got good receivers that can take advantage of it.”

In a radio interview, Wachenheim also stated that Brent Thompson is “the most patient play-caller I have seen in a long, long time.”

VMI’s “Air Raid” offense is piloted by outstanding junior quarterback Reece Udinski, a 6’4″, 224 lb. native of North Wales, Pennsylvania. For the season, Udinski is completing 59.9% of his passes, averaging 6.11 yards per attempt (sacks not included), with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.

That’s right, no picks. Udinski will set a new SoCon record if neither of his first two passes on Saturday are intercepted, as he is just one shy of matching former Elon quarterback Scott Riddle’s record of 218 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. However, Riddle still has a substantial lead in most fights started.

Udinski had some big games last year, including three 400-yard passing efforts. Bulldog fans may recall one of them in particular, as he threw for 447 yards and 5 TDs against The Citadel last season (with 49 completions, the most in a league game in 2018).

VMI tends to throw short passes, but can go downfield on occasion. Udinski is a patient QB who is not afraid to make a simple throw.

He has had help this year from the running game, which wasn’t really the case last season.

Redshirt junior running back Alex Ramsey (6’0″, 225 lbs.) is a big back who is averaging a healthy 5.9 yards per carry. Ramsey had 153 yards rushing against Robert Morris, and then followed that up with a 207-yard performance versus Wofford (with 3 TDs). He can also catch the ball (24 receptions so far this year; 8 catches last season versus the Bulldogs).

Ramsey is one of five Keydets with more than 20 catches. Wideout Javeon Lara (6’2″, 188 lbs.), the lone Texan on the VMI roster, has four TD receptions, including the game-winner against ETSU. Lara was a preseason first-team All-SoCon selection.

Another wide receiver, Leroy Thomas (5’11”, 180 lbs.), leads the team in catches with 27. The freshman from Roanoke had 10 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown last week versus Wofford.

Jakob Herres (6’4″, 211 lbs.), like Lara and Thomas, is averaging over 11 yards per reception. The sophomore from Easton, Pennsylvania had six receptions for 117 yards and a TD last year against The Citadel.

Rohan Martin (5’10”, 181 lbs.) has 25 catches. The senior from Stafford, Virginia is also the primary punt returner for the Keydets.

VMI’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’5″, 289 lbs. Sophomore left tackle Marshall Gill (6’4″, 270 lbs.) has been a starter for every game of his career at VMI at that position.

VMI has had a consistent lineup on defense, with ten Keydets starting every game.

Strong safety A.J. Smith (6’2″, 204 lbs.), a junior from Virginia Beach, leads the team in tackles, with 32. Smith also has two interceptions and a forced fumble. He had ten tackles against The Citadel last season.

Redshirt junior linebacker Elliott Brewster (6’2″, 220 lbs.) is tied for second on the team in stops. Brewster is not listed as a starter on the two-deep this week, which I find curious. However, he will surely see a lot of action, especially given his performance against the Bulldogs last season (a team-high 15 tackles).

Cornerback Kaleb Tucker (6’1″, 177 lbs.), a native of Hampton, Virginia, has 31 tackles this year. The senior also has two interceptions, a sack, and a fumble recovery.

Ethan Caselberry (6’4″, 201 lbs.) started ten games at free safety last season for the Keydets. This year, the sophomore from Sparkman, Alabama is starting at outside linebacker. Wherever he plays, he tends to make tackles (including nine last year as a true freshman against The Citadel).

Caselberry’s backup on the depth chart is freshman Aljareek Malry (6’0″, 173 lbs.). Despite not being a starter, the Maryland resident has played enough this year to rank 5th in tackles. Malry also blocked a punt against Robert Morris.

Grant Clemons (6’2″, 199 lbs.) is the Keydets’ placekicker. Clemons is 5 for 11 this season on field goal attempts, with a long of 37 yards. The senior is perfect on PATs (16-16). He also handles kickoffs.

Fellow senior Reed King (5’9″, 168 lbs.) is VMI’s punter (and also holds on placements). King is averaging 43.0 yards per boot, with a long of 60 yards. Seven of his 27 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line.

Tangent: 5 years ago…

November 22, 2014

Six different Bulldogs scored touchdowns as The Citadel won at VMI, 45-25. Aaron Miller rushed for a one-yard TD and threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Alex Glover. Other Bulldogs to score: Tyler Renew, Reggie Williams, Isiaha Smith (134 rushing yards), and Jake Stenson (120 rushing yards). Eric Goins converted all six PATs and added a 30-yard field goal. 

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 20% chance of showers, with a high of 79 degrees. The low temperature on Saturday night is projected to be 69 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters (as of Wednesday evening), The Citadel is a 17-point favorite over VMI, with an over/under of 66. That line has not changed since it opened.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 4-point favorite at Samford; Western Carolina is a 6 1/2 point favorite over Gardner-Webb; Wofford is a 2-point favorite at East Tennessee State; and Chattanooga is a 1 1/2 point favorite at Mercer.

– Also of note: Elon is a 7-point underdog at New Hampshire, and Charleston Southern is an 11 1/2 point favorite over Savannah State. Towson is off this week.

Georgia Tech is a 10 1/2 point underdog at home versus North Carolina.

In games between FCS schools, the biggest spread is 26, with Harvard the favorite over Howard in the first meeting in football ever between those two institutions.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 39th in FCS, while VMI is 94th.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 87% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 45, VMI 28.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest: Northern Iowa is 10th, Towson 12th, Delaware 16th, Kennesaw State 21st, Idaho 27th, Furman 31st, North Carolina A&T 33rd, Elon 34th, Samford 38th, San Diego 45th, William & Mary 49th, Wofford 55th, Colgate 62nd, Chattanooga 67th, South Carolina State 74th, Campbell 77th, East Tennessee State 82nd, Mercer 85th, Charleston Southern 91st, Davidson 95th, Lehigh 99th, Gardner-Webb 103rd, Western Carolina 104th, Robert Morris 115th, Butler 122nd, and Presbyterian 126th (last).

– VMI’s notable alumni include actor Fred Willard, civil rights activist (and Anglican martyr) Jonathan Daniels, and rugby star Dan Lyle.

– Next season, VMI will play non-conference games against Robert Morris, Virginia, and Princeton. Other future non-league opponents for the Keydets include Davidson, Cornell, Kent State, Wake Forest (in 2022), Bucknell, North Carolina State (2023), Louisville (2024), and Virginia Tech (2026).

– VMI’s roster includes 65 players from Virginia. Other states represented:  North Carolina (6 players), Alabama (5), Pennsylvania (4), Maryland (4), Tennessee (2), South Carolina (2), and one each from California, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

That means 68.4% of VMI’s squad hails from the state of Virginia. While the Old Dominion is certainly not bereft of football talent, the lack of geographic diversity on the team has probably not helped VMI in its recent struggles on the gridiron.

VMI’s class breakdown (per its game notes):

  • Freshmen: 52 (39 “true” freshmen, 13 redshirt freshmen)
  • Sophomores: 14 (five are redshirts)
  • Juniors: 22 (13 are redshirts)
  • Seniors: 8 (two are redshirts)

The two Keydets from the Palmetto State are redshirt freshman defensive back Tim Smith (who attended Nation Ford High School in Rock Hill), and freshman wide receiver Kyser Samuel (from Gray Collegiate Academy in Columbia).

That means there are no VMI players from legendary pigskin power Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. While it is well-known to anyone with a basic awareness of the sport, it bears repeating that VMI cannot hope to return to the summit of the SoCon (or even view its apex in the distance) as long as the football program continues to ignore the amazing abilities of those who have worn the famed maroon and orange.

– 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 quite similar to last week’s edition. Emeka Nwanze and Logan Billings are both listed as potential starters at B-back (along with the incumbent, Clay Harris).

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 6-4-1 for games played on October 5, with the tie being the only time the Bulldogs have played VMI on that date (14-14 in 1985). Among the highlights from past contests:

  • 1929: The Citadel shut out Oglethorpe, 18-0. The Stormy Petrels had defeated Georgia the week before, but were no match for the Bulldogs. Before 3,000 spectators at the original Johnson Hagood Stadium, Edwin McIntosh, Lindsey Hobbs, and Howard “Red” Whittington all scored touchdowns, with Whittington’s one-yard run set up by a spectacular 50-yard scamper by Julius “Runt” Gray.
  • 1935: Before a home crowd of 2,000 fans, The Citadel dominated Erskine, 18-0 (yes, same score as in 1929). Claude McCredie scored twice for the Bulldogs, with Ed Hall adding a third TD. John Miller and Croswell Croft led the defensive effort; the The News and Courier sub-headline read, “The Seceders lose more than they gain and are worn to frazzle by winners”.
  • 1957: On the road at Davidson, The Citadel ran out as 21-7 victors. Barry Thomas scored two touchdowns for the Cadets. The first TD of the day came on a halfback pass from Billy Hughes to Joe Chefalo. All three PATs were successfully converted by Connie Tuza. There was a near riot at the end of the game, as some Davidson freshmen attempted to steal The Citadel’s “touchdown cannon”. They did not succeed.
  • 1968: The Citadel won at Furman, 31-12. Tony Passander threw three touchdown passes, all to Gene Hightower, and Jay Goolsby rushed for a fourth TD. Jim Gahagan kicked four extra points and added a 41-yard field goal to the tally. The Bulldogs lost four fumbles in the contest, but prevailed anyway.
  • 1991: With 13,811 fans in attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel ran past Western Carolina, 38-13. Jack Douglas rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns, while Erick Little and Cedric Sims each added TDs for the Bulldogs. Rob Avriett kicked a 37-yard field goal and converted all five of his PAT attempts. On defense, Rob Briggs and Detric Cummings both intercepted passes.
  • 2013: In overtime, Thomas Warren’s 35-yard field goal propelled the Bulldogs to a 31-28 victory over Appalachian State. Ben Dupree (136 yards rushing) and Darien Robinson (109 yards) each scored two touchdowns for The Citadel. The winning points in OT came after an interception by Mitchell Jeter stopped the Mountaineers on their drive in the extra session. Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium: 13,601.

I am worried about this game. Of course, I am always worried, but for Saturday I have a specific concern — namely, how the team will recover from the physical and mental toil of last week.

That will not be easy, and then the squad has to get ready for a very frisky VMI team that is ready to win this matchup. The Bulldogs have to do that while navigating all the distractions associated with Parents’ Weekend (and there are many).

The Keydets may be more confident about this game than they have been in several years. They ought to be. For one thing, VMI easily could have (and maybe should have) won last year’s contest. More to the point, this year’s team looks improved, with a more diverse offense, and a legitimate star at quarterback.

They aren’t bringing 500 members of their corps down to Charleston just to be sociable. They have expectations.

That said, The Citadel has expectations too. The Bulldogs are still a good team. They can still have an outstanding season. All of their primary goals are still on the table.

Plus, this game matters. This game is important.

The coveted Silver Shako is at stake. It is, without debate, the greatest trophy in all of sports.

The Bulldogs must do everything in their power to retain it, and keep it in Charleston, where it rightfully belongs.

2019 Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. Samford

The Citadel vs. Samford, to be played at Seibert Stadium in Homewood, Alabama, with kickoff at 3:00 pm ET on September 28, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Curt Bloom will handle play-by-play, while Chad Pilcher supplies the analysis. Brad Gardner 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. 

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

Internet legend Joshua Roides talks physics, finance, flood tides, and football

Will starting quarterback Brandon Rainey be back this week? Signs point to yes

– Game notes from The Citadel and Samford

– SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Chris Hatcher’s weekly press conference (9/26)

Samford strong safety Nick Barton answers questions at SU’s weekly press conference

– The Chris Hatcher Show (9/25)

Game highlights — Alabama A&M vs. Samford

– Game highlights — Samford vs. Wofford

– Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (9/23)

The Brent Thompson Show (9/25)

The Dogs:  Episode 5 (Charleston Southern)

Game program for Saturday’s contest

This is the now-traditional section where I establish ground rules for writing about The Citadel and Samford, as both teams are nicknamed “Bulldogs”. As to why the powers that be in the Southern Conference did not insist on Samford changing its nickname as a requirement for entry into the league, your guess is as good as mine.

At any rate, in this post, “Bulldogs” refers to The Citadel. The reason for that is simple: I graduated from The Citadel, and this is my blog.

I’ll call Samford “SU”, the “Birmingham Bulldogs”, the “Crimson Bulldogs”, the “Baptist Tigers”, or the “Baptist Bears”.

For those of you reading this who are somehow unfamiliar with the Baptist Tigers/Bears, a quick look at the history of Samford football is in order:

The Howard College [later to be renamed Samford] team was known originally as the “Baptist Tigers”. However, rival Auburn also had “Tigers” as a nickname. Howard’s teams went by “Baptist Bears” until Dec. 14, 1916, when the student body voted two-to-one for the “Crimson Bulldog” over the “Baptist Bears”. Students decided that a bulldog could eat more Birmingham-Southern Panther meat than a bear could.

I’ve said this before, but I really don’t understand why the students thought bears wouldn’t eat as much meat as bulldogs. Were Alabama’s bears back then strict vegetarians? I guess we’ll never know.

Ah, the mysteries of early-20th century university life…

Birmingham-Southern, by the way, is a Division III school (which was very briefly in NCAA Division I about 15 years ago) and a former rival of Samford. The two schools played in the first football game ever contested at Legion Field, on November 19, 1927. Samford (then Howard) won, 9-0.

While Legion Field was obviously close to home, in those days the Samford football program liked to travel. During the 1920s, SU played Duquesne in Pittsburgh (at Forbes Field) and North Dakota (in Grand Forks). There were even out-of-country junkets to Cuba (playing the Havana National University). Later, Samford played games in Mexico City against the National University of Mexico (in 1954 and 1963).

Random fact of no relevance whatsoever: Samford’s law school, Cumberland, was actually purchased from Cumberland University of Tennessee in 1961. That doesn’t happen very often; in fact, in terms of moving a law school across state lines, I’m not sure it has ever happened anywhere else.

I am aware of only two other law schools that shifted to different universities (both in-state) — the University of Puget Sound School of Law, which is now part of Seattle University; and the law school at the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, which is now affiliated with Quinnipiac University.

As opposed to last week, for this post I won’t go through a lengthy list of FCS statistical categories, or update the status in them for other teams of interest. I’ll update those numbers every two or three weeks, though.

I will mention a few things that could have a significant bearing on this game, however.

– The first is time of possession. Not counting the Ivy League schools (each of which has only played one game so far), The Citadel still leads FCS in time of possession, at 36:58.

Samford is last in the sub-division, at 21:12. I believe the Cadet must maintain that type of advantage on Saturday to have a realistic chance of winning the game.

That said, SU is comfortable not having the ball for long stretches. Against Wofford, Samford only had the pigskin for 19:25, but still came away with a road victory.

– Among non-Ivy FCS squads, Samford is 4th in average yards per punt return. SU has returned 10 punts this season for a total of 201 yards. That 20.1 average is easily the best for any team with double digit returns.

– The Citadel is 9th overall in net punting. Samford, one of the many intercollegiate teams with an Australian punter (5’11”, 165 lb. Melbourne native Bradley Porcellato), is 26th nationally.

– Samford averages the third-fewest penalties per game in FCS. The Citadel is tied for 40th in that category.

– SU is 83rd nationally in rush yards allowed per play. The Citadel is 105th.

– As far as passing yards per attempt allowed is concerned, The Citadel is 92nd. The Baptist Tigers are 54th.

Turnover margin: The Citadel is tied for 99th, while Samford is tied for 117th. Each team has only forced two defensive turnovers so far this season (both of SU’s came last week).

A few select statistics from the last four years of Samford-The Citadel (the period in which Chris Hatcher has been the SU head coach):

Year Score Time of possession 3rd down conversions – The Citadel Big Plays – TC (20+ yards) Big Plays – SU (20+ yards) Yards/Rush – The Citadel
2015 44-25 35:15 6 of 14 5 4 5.9
2016 37-34 OT 38:17 11 for 21 6 3 6.0
2017 14-35 36:52 3 for 13 3 4 3.5
2018 42-27 35:01 9 for 16 6 2 5.9

I might argue the key stat in the table is yards per rush for The Citadel, which is inter-related with third down conversions. That also has an impact on time of possession and big plays. More possession means more plays, and more plays means an increased chance of breaking a long gainer.

In fact, The Citadel has not beaten Samford without averaging at least 5.5 yards per rush since 2010, when it won 13-12. The Cadets only averaged 2.7 yards per rush that afternoon, but prevailed in a defensive struggle. The Citadel scored its first touchdown on a blocked punt (by a noted master of the art, Milford Scott); its other TD was set up by a trick play (a pass by Luke Caldwell to Rickey Anderson that came off of a reverse).

Of note, Bill D’Ottavio has been Samford’s defensive coordinator for the last 13 years (under two different head coaches).

The statistics that follow for Samford are from its last three games. I decided not to include stats from SU’s opener against Youngstown State, because the Crimson Bulldogs started a different quarterback in that contest.

SU lost that game to the Penguins, 45-22. Four turnovers bedeviled Chris Hatcher’s squad, which was also just 2 for 9 on third down conversion attempts.

However, Samford has definitely been a different team (at least offensively) since the insertion of junior Chris Oladokun as the starting QB.

Oladokun, a 6’2″, 195 lb. transfer from South Florida (he started three games for the Bulls last season), began his SU career in the fourth quarter against Youngstown State. The Tampa native completed his first seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown (a 64-yarder on his second throw).

The three games included in the table below:

Samford totals Samford avg. Opponent totals Opponent avg.
Rushing yards 548 182.67 828 276
Rush attempts 103 34.33 157 52.33
Avg. Per Rush 5.32 5.27
Rushing TDs 6 2 8 2.67
Passing yards 876 292.0 571 190.3
Avg./Att. 9.62 6.34
Avg./Comp. 16.8 11.3
TDs 10 3.33 4 1.33
Total yards 1424 474.67 1399 466.33
Total plays 194 64.67 247 82.33
Avg./Play 7.34 5.66
Fumbles – Lost 2-0 3-0
Penalties – Yards 7 for 67 20 for 146
Time of possession
22:07 37:53
3rd Down Conversions 15 of 33 24 of 56
4th Down Conversions 3 of 5 9 of 13
Sacks: Total – Yards 4 for 39 yards 5 for 31 yards

*sack yardage counted in passing statistics

Yes, that 16.8 yards per completion number for Samford is accurate. Oladokun has thrown four passes of 64 yards or more, and has eight other completions of at least 30 yards.

When sack yardage is taken out of his totals, Oladokun is averaging 7.46 yards per rush. Two of his runs have gone for 30 or more yards. He leads the team in rushing yards and TDs (and in passing as well, obviously).

Incidentally, Oladokun (pronounced OLAH-doe-kin, according to Samford’s game notes) was the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week after each of those three games.

For the season, Oladokun is completing 65.6% of his passes, averaging an extremely impressive 10.16 yards per attempt (and that number does include sack yardage against). He has thrown 11 TD passes and been intercepted 4 times.

Not included in that table but worth mentioning: in the three referenced contests, Samford averaged running a play from scrimmage every 21.2 seconds. The Baptist Bears have been progressively faster on offense in each of the last three games — 24.6 seconds per play versus Tennessee Tech, 21.6 seconds per snap against Wofford, and just 18.8 seconds per play versus Alabama A&M.

Also not in the table, but certainly of importance: Samford has scored touchdowns on 10 of 14 times it has been in the Red Zone (this includes all four games).

Offensive players for Samford (besides Oladokun) worth watching:

  • Montrell Washington (5’10”, 170 lbs.): A junior from Canton, Georgia, the wide receiver is averaging 23.6 yards per catch, including an 82-yard TD last week against Alabama A&M. He is also Samford’s primary punt returner, and had a 49-yard runback versus Alabama A&M.
  • Chris Shelling (5’8″, 173 lbs.): Last year against The Citadel, the Lawrenceville, Georgia native had 8 receptions for 82 yards. This season, the senior leads SU in receptions with 15. He had 185 receiving yards, including a 64-yard touchdown, against Tennessee Tech.
  • Robert Adams (6’2″, 190 lbs.): Adams ranks second on the team in receptions this season, with 14. The senior from Montgomery has made one reception of 30+ yards in three of Samford’s four games this year.
  • Nick Nixon (6’6″, 282 lbs.): Samford’s starting left tackle, Nixon was a preseason All-SoCon selection. He is a senior from Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Samford’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’6″, 309 lbs. They are large.

Under Bill D’Ottavio, Samford has traditionally employed a “bear” front against the triple option attack. Given the linemen at his disposal, I suspect the matchup this Saturday will not be any different in that respect.

Defensive stalwarts for SU include:

  • Justin Foster (6’4″, 286 lbs.): A preseason All-SoCon choice, the defensive tackle is a senior from Anniston, Alabama. He could be a key player in the battle between The Citadel’s o-line and Samford’s defensive front.
  • Nelson Jordan (6’2″, 253 lbs.): Another lineman who was a preseason all-league pick, Jordan is a sophomore from Starkville, Mississippi. Although not listed as a starter on Samford’s two-deep, I would expect Jordan to get plenty of reps on Saturday. He had nine tackles (including a sack) versus The Citadel last season.
  • John Staton (6’1″, 215 lbs.): The middle linebacker currently leads Samford in tackles, with 46. Staton is a junior from Atlanta.
  • Nathan East (6’2″, 221 lbs.): A sophomore from McCalla, Alabama, East ranks second on the team in tackles, with 35. He plays alongside Staton as one of SU’s three starting linebackers.
  • Nick Barton (5’10”, 196 lbs.): Barton intercepted a pass last week. The senior strong safety from Brentwood, Tennessee has been credited with 17 tackles this season (tied for sixth on the squad). Barton said at Samford’s weekly presser that Saturday will be “one of the most predictable games we’ll have all year…we know what they’re going to do, and they know what we’re going to do.”
  • Ty Herring (6’2″, 203 lbs.): Herring, a junior from Fernandina, Florida, starts at free safety for the Crimson Bulldogs. He is fourth on the team in tackles. Last week against Alabama A&M, Herring returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown.

Samford’s placekicker is preseason all-conference pick Mitchell Fineran (5’10”, 183 lbs.). The sophomore from Fort Valley, Georgia has yet to miss a kick so far this season, converting all five of his field goal attempts and going 19 for 19 on PATs.

Last season, Fineran was 13 for 17 on field goal tries, with a long of 46 yards. He did not miss an extra point. Fineran is also Samford’s kickoff specialist.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday at Samford, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny, with a high of 95 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Samford (as of Wednesday evening) is a 2 1/2 point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 63.

When the line opened on Monday night, Samford was a 4-point favorite.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 17-point favorite over East Tennessee State; Wofford is an 11 1/2 point favorite at VMI; Chattanooga is a 6 1/2 point favorite versus Western Carolina; and Mercer is a 6 1/2 point favorite over Mercer.

– Also of note: James Madison is a 13-point favorite at Elon, and Towson is a 35 1/2 point underdog at Florida.

After a week off to recover from its loss to The Citadel, Georgia Tech travels to Temple, with the Yellow Jackets a 5 1/2 point underdog.

Charleston Southern is another team that is getting time to mend after a defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs. The Buccaneers are back in action next week, against Savannah State.

The biggest betting favorite in the FCS ranks is Kennesaw State, a 30 1/2 point favorite over Reinhardt, an NAIA school. Among matches between FCS teams, the biggest spread is 27 1/2, with North Carolina A&T favored over Delaware State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 33rd in FCS (down four spots from last week), while Samford is 43rd.

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 46% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Samford 34, The Citadel 31.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest: Towson is 12th, Youngstown State 13th, Kennesaw State 22nd, Jacksonville State 25th, Elon 28th, Furman 29th, North Carolina A&T 34th, William & Mary 42nd, San Diego 48th, Wofford 56th, Chattanooga 63rd, Tennessee Tech 64th, South Carolina State 71st, Mercer 75th, East Tennessee State 78th, Campbell 90th, Charleston Southern 92nd, VMI 93rd, Alabama A&M 96th, Western Carolina 97th, Davidson 107th, Gardner-Webb 108th, Robert Morris 117th, Butler 125th, and Presbyterian 126th (last).

– Samford’s notable alumni include actor Tony Hale (of Veep and Arrested Development fame, though to be honest I know him best from an episode of Psych); actress and groundbreaking television producer Gail Patrick (who helmed the Perry Mason TV series); and Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper editor/publisher Harold E. Martin.

Martin also had an association with another SoCon school, VMI. He endowed a scholarship there in memory of his son, a student at the military school who was killed in an automobile accident his senior year.

– SU’s roster includes more players from Georgia (43) than Alabama (37). Other states represented: Florida (17 players), Tennessee (9), Mississippi (6), Louisiana (2), and one each from North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri.

As mentioned earlier, punter Bradley Porcellato is from Melbourne, Australia.

No member of Samford’s team is from South Carolina, and thus none can claim to be an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. The lack of players from the fabled football factory will unquestionably come back to haunt Chris Hatcher and his cabal of coaches. Why the SU staff would continually ignore the undeniable talent that has worn the famed maroon and orange is simply beyond comprehension.

– 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 includes a few changes from the previous depth chart. Sam Llewellyn is on the two-deep at A-back, while on defense Sean-Thomas Faulkner has been moved to the “Sam” linebacker spot. Destin Mack takes over as the starting strong safety.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 5-5 for games played on September 28. Highlights include:

  • 1912: The Citadel defeated Fort Moultrie (official score: 1-0) after the soldiers forfeited the game in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 13 and a PAT for The Citadel pending. There was a suggestion that the Cadets had scored the tying TD thanks in part to fan interference. I wrote about this contest back in June, including this quote from the game story in the Charleston Evening Post:

[On] Saturday afternoon, at Hampton Park, despite the protests of the police and other officials, it proved a hard matter for bashful spectators to tell whether the enthusiastic rooters or the elevens from The Citadel and Fort Moultrie were playing the game. This deplorable state of affairs was the cause of the boys from the island forfeiting the game with a technical score of 1-0 in favor of the Cadets, in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Practically every spectator present appointed himself a field judge, and proceeded to interfere with the players throughout the game, in the meantime taxing his lungs in an endeavor to announce decisions to the State at large.

  • 1929: The Bulldogs whipped Newberry 59-0, the largest margin of victory for The Citadel in 16 years. There were 2,000 fans in attendance at (original) Johnson Hagood Stadium. A total of 36 players saw action for the victors, which is actually one more player than saw the field for The Citadel two weeks ago against Georgia Tech. Among those scoring touchdowns for the Bulldogs: Tom “Pop” Wilson, Ed McIntosh, Tom Appleby, Dalton Brasington, Cary Metz, and Julius “Runt” Gray (a 140 lb. quarterback; even social media superstar Joshua Roides weighs more than that). The Citadel had 407 total yards of offense, while Newberry finished with just 47 yards from scrimmage.
  • 1946: The first intercollegiate football game in Charleston in almost four years resulted in a 7-6 victory for The Citadel over Presbyterian. The Bulldogs trailed until midway through the fourth quarter, when Charlie Watson scored from one yard out. Bill Henderson’s PAT was true, and a crowd of 6,500 went home happy. The winning touchdown drive was set up by a punt return by Luke Dunfee; in the rematch one year later, Dunfee would return the opening kickoff 98 yards for a TD against the Blue Hose to set up another Bulldogs triumph.
  • 1963: In poor conditions on a very rainy day in North Carolina, The Citadel muddied up Davidson, 28-6. Joe Cannarella completed his first pass as a Bulldog, and it went for a touchdown to Wes Matthews. Other scorers for the Cadets: Converse Chellis, Nick DiLoreto, Dennis Vincent (all with TDs), and Pat Green (four PATs). The defense held Davidson to just five first downs.
  • 1968: The Citadel beat Lehigh, 28-12, behind 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns by Jim McMillan. The Bulldogs also scored on a TD pass from Tony Passander to tight end John Griest. All four PATs were converted by Jim Gahagan. The Bulldogs’ defense forced three turnovers, two fumbles and an interception by Jackie Zorn.

This has been a somewhat odd series in recent years. I don’t know how else to describe it. The Citadel has had a bit of the upper hand in recent meetings, though it has not always been immediately apparent as to why that was the case.

Samford has blown sizable leads in both of the last two games played at Johnson Hagood Stadium. However, any weird karma from having to play in Charleston won’t apply on Saturday, since the game is in Alabama. In the last matchup at Seibert Stadium, SU dominated the first half and coasted from there.

Four years ago, The Citadel whipped Samford so thoroughly that new SU head coach Chris Hatcher felt compelled to turn to a freshman backup quarterback named Devlin Hodges. It proved to be a good move, although a bit too late for that particular encounter.

As for this Saturday’s contest, both teams should be energized after winning their last two games. Both have good wins to look to for inspiration. In Chris Oladokun, Samford has found a potential talisman at quarterback; Brent Thompson has compared him to Tom Flacco. That is not good news for The Citadel.

However, the Cadets have improved on defense every week. The potential return of Brandon Rainey at quarterback should be a shot in the arm for the offense, too, and Rainey helped lead the comeback victory over Samford last year (with 217 rushing yards and a fine passing day as well).

It should be an intriguing game. I hope it is a productive and successful one for The Citadel.

 

2019 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern

The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on September 21, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen supplies the analysis. Emily Crevani 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 “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

– Game notes from The Citadel and Charleston Southern

SoCon weekly release

Big South weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Preview on Charleston Southern’s website

Jacob Godek is the reigning SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week

– Brent Thompson’s weekly radio show (9/18)

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference (9/16)

The Dogs:  Episode 4 — Georgia Tech

Godek launched “the perfect ball” to clinch victory in Atlanta

My review of The Citadel’s win over Georgia Tech

Highlights of another brand of football: The Citadel soccer team’s 3-2 win over Presbyterian

With Charleston Southern making the trip to Charleston this Saturday, I might as well plug this post I wrote last week about football scheduling at The Citadel. CSU is just one of many programs mentioned.

In the game preview article in The Post and Courier (linked above), the now-traditional push by Charleston Southern to get another home game against The Citadel gets a mention:

Saturday’s game is the second of a four-game deal through 2021 that has all of the games being played at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium. The schools are working on a new contract that would extend the series into the foreseeable future.

CSU athletic director Jeff Barber said he wants to continue the series but is seeking a deal that includes games at Charleston Southern.

“There is a clear desire on both sides to keep the series going,” Barber said. “It needs to be an equitable situation and that’s where we are right now.”

The only “equitable situation” for The Citadel, however, is that it continues to host any and all games between the two schools at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Playing CSU at Buccaneer Field would not be in the best interests of the military college, for a wide variety of reasons (some of which I mention in my post).

The Citadel is ranked 25th in the STATS FCS poll, which is a media poll. In the AFCA FCS poll (coaches), the Bulldogs are not ranked, receiving the 29th-most votes in that poll this week.

This is Hall of Fame weekend at The Citadel. Congratulations to all the new Hall of Famers, including the three former football players honored: Andre Roberts, James Lee, and Wade St. John.

Here is a quick look at The Citadel in the FCS national rankings, from a statistical perspective. This is a selection of stats that I think are interesting and/or relevant.

There are currently 116 teams in the rankings, as the Ivy League schools are just beginning play this week and two other teams (North Alabama and Merrimack) are not listed in the main statistical report because they are still in “transition” phase to D-1.

Also note that in these statistics, sacks are (unfortunately) part of rushing totals, rather than subtracted from passing yards. As I’ve said many times before, when it comes to rushing/sack stats, the NCAA is wrong and the NFL is right.

Time of possession: The Citadel is 1st (37:15 per game). Wofford is 2nd, followed by Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, and Davidson. Furman is 24th, while Charleston Southern is 53rd.

Samford is last in FCS (19:45 per game).

Yards per play, offense: The Bulldogs are 45th in FCS (4.45). North Dakota State (shocker) leads the nation in yards per play, at 8.06.

Mercer is 6th, and VMI is 12th. Charleston Southern is 87th.

Yards per play, defense: The Citadel is 105th nationally (7.31). Davidson leads FCS in this category, but keep in mind two of the Wildcats’ three opponents so far this season are non-D1 squads.

Kennesaw State is 2nd. Charleston Southern is 113th (8.58), but to be fair that is partly skewed by the Buccaneers’ 72-10 loss to South Carolina. The Gamecocks averaged 11.2 yards per play in that contest.

Rushing yards per play, offense: The Cadets are currently 50th (4.19 per rush). The Citadel is 6th in rushing yards per game, but it is to be expected that the Bulldogs would be among the national leaders in that category, since the offense is so heavily geared to running the football.

Central Connecticut State currently leads FCS in yards per rush, at 7.40. The rest of the top five: Incarnate Word, North Dakota State, Villanova, and Youngstown State.

Kennesaw State is 6th in yards per rush, and also leads the nation in rushing yards per game, so the Owls are both prolific and productive. (The same can be said for Central Connecticut State, North Dakota State, and Youngstown State, all in the top five in rushing yards per game.)

Furman is 9th in yards per rush, and ETSU is 12th. Charleston Southern is 77th in yards per rush (3.47).

It should be noted that two of the Paladins’ three opponents to date have been FBS squads, so that makes Furman’s numbers all the more impressive.

Central Arkansas is last in yards per rush, at 1.16, which is a bit of an eye-opener, since the Bears are 3-0 with a win over an FBS team (Western Kentucky). Some of that can be accounted for with sack yardage, but even if you took out sacks, UCA would only average 2.12 yards per rush.

Rushing yards per play, defense: The Bulldogs are 97th overall (5.83). Davidson leads this category as well. Elon is 19th. The highest-ranked SoCon team is Mercer (27th).

Charleston Southern is next-to-last (9.54), just ahead of Texas Southern. South Carolina averaged 13.0 yards per rush against the Buccaneers.

Passing yards per attempt, offense: The Citadel is 40th (7.69). In terms of total yardage, the Bulldogs are last in passing yards per game, just behind Wofford.

The difference: the Terriers are only averaging 4.41 yards per pass attempt, which is 109th in FCS.

Two option teams, Cal Poly and Kennesaw State, rank 1-2 in yards per pass attempt, but Samford is 3rd (SU’s offense is reasonably efficient when it is actually on the field).

Furman is 34th in yards per pass attempt. ETSU is 41st. Two teams that like to throw the ball, VMI and Charleston Southern, are 92nd and 96th respectively.

Passing yards per attempt, defense: The Citadel is 102nd (9.33). That has to get better if the Bulldogs want to compete for the SoCon title.

Of course, ETSU is second nationally in this category (trailing only North Dakota), yet the Buccaneers managed to lose at home to pass-happy VMI last Saturday. Charleston Southern is 49th overall.

3rd down conversion rate, offense: The Bulldogs are 12th (51.1%). The top five: San Diego, Davidson, North Dakota State, Towson, and Kennesaw State.

Samford is 17th, while Furman is 18th. Charleston Southern is 89th.

3rd down conversion rate, defense: The Citadel is 92nd (46.9%). Illinois State tops the list in this category, followed by Sam Houston State, Hampton, James Madison, and Idaho.

VMI is 6th (!). Charleston Southern is 39th.

Net punting: The Bulldogs are 2nd nationally (43.45). Bucknell is first overall, which is a good thing for the Bison given how often that squad punts (22 in three games).

Furman is 5th, while Samford is 13th. Charleston Southern is 28th (and is tied for 7th nationally in total punts, with 23).

Penalties per game: The Citadel has been whistled for an average of 5 accepted penalties per contest, which is tied for 24th-fewest in FCS with several teams, including Charleston Southern. Holy Cross leads the nation is fewest penalties per game, at 2.5; the teams tied for second include Samford and Presbyterian.

Prairie View A&M is averaging an absurd 14 penalties per contest through three games, worst in the country. The Panthers had 18 penalties in their game versus Texas Southern.

Turnover margin: The Bulldogs are 101st (-1.33 per game). The Citadel has no interceptions and only one recovered fumble on defense through three games. The Bulldogs have to be more opportunistic.

Youngstown State’s turnover margin per game is 3.0, which not surprisingly leads the nation. This is another category VMI is faring well in so far (tied for 3rd with Towson and William & Mary).

Charleston Southern is tied for 92nd.

Samford has no defensive turnovers through three games, which has led to a -2.0 turnover margin average. The only team with a worse average than that in FCS is Marist.

Fourth down conversions and attempts: The Citadel is 6 for 7 on fourth down attempts so far in 2019. The six successful conversions is more than all but five teams in FCS. The seven attempts is tied for 18th-most in the sub-division.

The team with the most fourth down attempts (UC Davis, with 13), is also tied for the most conversions (8). The other two teams with eight conversions, Jacksonville and Tennessee Tech, have attempted 11 and 10 fourth down tries, respectively.

Among teams that have attempted more than two fourth down attempts, The Citadel has the highest success rate (85.7%). Wofford (5 for 6) is right behind the Bulldogs.

Autry Denson was an outstanding running back at Notre Dame. He is still the all-time leading rusher in Fighting Irish history, and his name pops up in the career top 10 for several other offensive categories (including points scored and all-purpose yardage).

At the time he took the CSU job, he was the running backs coach at his alma mater. When Denson was interviewed for the position with the Buccaneers, Charleston Southern AD Jeff Barber asked the obvious question.

“As a faith-based school we have unique opportunities, and a unique niche,” said [Barber]. When he first spoke with Denson, “I said, ‘I’m just going to get the elephant out of the room: Why would you leave Notre Dame to come to an FCS program?’ He said, ‘Jeff, I serve God, and I feel like God is telling me and my family to be there.’ I’m a guy who believes the same type things.”

Denson has made similar moves before, giving up a comfortable career as a financial advisor before getting into coaching at the high school level, then breaking into the college game with an unpaid position at Bethune-Cookman, all because he believed that was the direction he was supposed to take. Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher, Denson to outsiders has always been defined by football, even though it’s clear the game doesn’t define him.

“I told our players, don’t be confused: This isn’t a football program, this is an outreach ministry that has an important football component,” Denson said prior to his first spring practice last month. “It is important, because the world speaks in wins and losses. We need that hook to get the message out. But at the end of the day, we’ll win because they know we love them. They’ll play hard for us. The good guys have to win, too.”

Just remember, coach — sometimes the players on the other team are good guys, too…

Other than one year at a Florida high school, Denson has never been a head coach. Barber ultimately decided that didn’t matter.

For Barber, any concerns about hiring a career college position coach were assuaged by a 30-minute conversation with former Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips.

“He did the same thing, he hired a wide receivers coach,” Barber said, referring to Phillips’ elevation of Dabo Swinney to the top job after Tommy Bowden was fired in the middle of the 2008 season. “I asked him for the traits that he saw in Dabo that made him think he could get the job done, and he listed seven or eight different things. I told Terry Don, ‘I think I’ve got that very same guy.’ … So (Denson) checked all the boxes.”

[Lou Holtz, who coached Denson at Notre Dame,] isn’t concerned by Denson’s lack of college coordinator or head coaching experience, either. “I was the same way,” said Holtz, who was defensive backs coach at Ohio State before landing his first head coaching position at William & Mary, the initial step in 249 career victories.

Denson is going to run the Air Raid offense at Charleston Southern. He hired former LaGrange College OC Felton Huggins to install it.

There will be a significant transition from CSU’s traditional option-based attack to the Air Raid, the second week in a row the Bulldogs will play a team making such a move.

Early on, though, the offense has been a little bit more balanced between rushing and passing than might be expected. Denson is presumably adjusting for the personnel he currently has at his disposal, which strikes me as a sensible decision.

Stats of interest for Charleston Southern’s two games this season versus FCS competition (sacks are counted as pass plays, with the yardage charged to passing and not rushing totals):

CSU offense

Plays Yds./play Rush att Rush Yds/play Pass plays Pass Yds/Att Fumbles Lost Int 3d conv 3d  att RZ TD conv RZ TD att
@Furman 65 5.80 34 5.94 31 5.65 1 0 5 14 1 2
N.C. A&T 66 4.26 23 2.65 43 5.12 0 2 3 14 2 3
Totals 131 57 74 1 2 8 28 3 5
Average 65.5 5.02 28.5 4.61 37 5.34 0.5 1 28.6%

CSU defense

Plays Yds./play Rush att Rush Yds/play Pass plays Pass Yds/Att Fumbles Lost Int 3d conv 3d  att RZ TD conv RZ TD att
@Furman 63 8.08 39 9.61 24 5.58 0 0 6 12 4 4
N.C. A&T 72 6.49 39 7.82 33 4.91 1 0 2 13 0 2
Totals 135 78 57 1 0 8 25 4 6
Average 67.5 7.23 39 8.72 28.5 5.19 0.5 0 32.0%

Charleston Southern did throw it a lot more last week against North Carolina A&T, but the Buccaneers actually had more runs than pass plays versus Furman. Looking at the numbers, it appears Denson may have been more conservative in his approach to the matchup with the Paladins.

In a way, the game plan versus Furman had some positive results. CSU averaged 4.24 yards on first down, which isn’t great, but the third down yards-to-go average of 5.79 was quite respectable. It didn’t really lead to more third down conversions, though. In the end, Furman won easily, 46-13.

Against North Carolina A&T, the Buccaneers only averaged 3.64 yards on first down, and on third down Charleston Southern had a yards-to-go average of 7.64, which generally isn’t going to get it done.

That said, CSU led the Aggies (a very good FCS program) in the fourth quarter. North Carolina A&T scored 21 points in the final period to pull out a 27-21 victory.

On defense, the Buccaneers have struggled against the run. CSU has given up several long gainers, including three rushes of 40+ yards by Furman and two long TD runs by North Carolina A&T running back Jah-Maine Martin. The second of Martin’s TD runs was a spectacular 76-yard effort with a little over five minutes remaining that gave the Aggies a two-score lead.

CSU also gave up six runs of 35 yards or more against South Carolina.

A few Charleston Southern offensive players to watch:

  • Jack Chambers (5’10”, 170 lbs.): The redshirt sophomore from Lilburn, Georgia has started all three games at quarterback for the Buccaneers. For the season, Chambers is completing 58.5% of his passes, averaging 5.84 yards per attempt (not including sacks), with one touchdown pass against four interceptions. He also has two rushing TDs.
  • Ross Malmgren (6’3″, 210 lbs.): A freshman, Malmgren is from the same town (Acworth, Georgia) as Brandon Rainey and Brandon Webb, but went to a different high school. He has appeared at QB in each of the Buccaneers’ last two games, completing 19 of 24 passes for 122 yards and two TDs.
  • Kameron Brown (6’3″, 220 lbs.): Brown was a preseason All-Big South pick in 2018, but was injured and missed all but three games last year. The redshirt senior went to Midland Valley High School. Against North Carolina A&T, Brown hauled in 9 catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He is a fine player, and could be a difficult matchup for the Bulldogs.
  • Terrence Wilson (5’8″, 200 lbs.): Though not listed as the starter on the CSU two-deep, the junior running back from Leesville is a big-play threat. He had a 52-yard TD run versus Furman in the season opener. Wilson led the Buccaneers in rushing touchdowns last year and averaged 6.2 yards per carry.
  • Zack Evans (6’2″, 285 lbs.): The starting left guard was a preseason All-Big South selection this year. Evans, a redshirt senior from Florence and a team captain, started all eleven games for CSU last year, mostly at right guard.

Average size of the projected starters on Charleston Southern’s offensive line: 6’3″, 276 lbs.

Some CSU defensive players of note:

  • Nick Salley (5’10”, 225 lbs.): The senior from Walterboro is a defensive end by trade (he lines up in the “Buc” position for CSU). He had nine tackles against The Citadel last season. Salley began his career as a walkon and is now a team captain.
  • Anton Williams (6’3″, 215 lbs.): The junior from Marianna, Florida did not play in 2018, and also did not participate in the Buccaneers’ first two games this year. However, the defensive end made his season debut last week against North Carolina A&T, finishing with 8 tackles (including 2 1/2 for loss). He was also credited with a pass breakup. Williams is not listed on this week’s two-deep, but make no mistake — he will be a presence on Saturday.
  • J.D. Sosebee (6’0″, 215 lbs.): A redshirt senior linebacker from Gainesville, Georgia, Sosebee was an all-Big South choice in 2018 and is a preseason all-league selection this year. Last week against North Carolina A&T, Sosebee had seven tackles, including a sack.
  • Cody Cline (6’1″, 185 lbs.): A native of Concord, North Carolina, Cline leads the Buccaneers in tackles after three games. The free safety is a true freshman.

Charleston Southern special teams performers include:

  • Kyle Reighard (6’2″, 197 lbs.): Last year, Reighard was a second-team all-conference pick at punter. He is a redshirt senior from Salem, Virginia who also holds on placements.
  • CSU has had three different placekickers this season: Alex Usry (5’10”, 185 lbs), who converted three PATs against North Carolina A&T; Miller Braddock (6’1″, 160 lbs.), who made a field goal and an extra point at South Carolina; and kickoff specialist Nathaniel Toole (5’10”, 170 lbs.), who also kicked PATs at Furman.
  • Ethan Ray (6’0″, 185 lbs.): A redshirt junior from Boiling Springs, Ray was the second-team All-Big South long snapper last season, and the preseason first-team choice this year. (No, the SoCon does not have an all-conference designation for long snappers.)

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny with a high of 84 degrees. The low temperature on Saturday night is projected to be 70 degrees.

Per one source that deals in such matters (as of Wednesday evening), The Citadel is an 18 1/2 point favorite over Charleston Southern, with an over/under of 53.

When that line opened this week, The Citadel was a 17 1/2 point favorite, and the over/under was 55 1/2.

Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Wofford is an 18-point favorite over Gardner-Webb; Furman is a 10-point favorite over Mercer; Samford is a 22-point favorite versus Alabama A&M; VMI is a 14-point favorite over Robert Morris; Chattanooga is a 21 1/2 point underdog versus James Madison; and East Tennessee State is a 4 1/2 point underdog against Austin Peay. Western Carolina is off this week.

– Also of note: Elon is a 27 1/2 point underdog at Wake Forest, while Towson is a 3 1/2 point favorite over Villanova. Georgia Tech is off this week.

In games between FCS schools, the biggest spread is 38 1/2, with Princeton favored over Butler.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 29th in FCS, while Charleston Southern is 96th. The win over Georgia Tech vaulted the Bulldogs up 37 spots in the rankings.

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 87% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 35, Charleston Southern 17.

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

Other rankings this week of varied interest:  Towson is 8th, Villanova 14th, Delaware 19th, Elon 24th, Jacksonville State 25th, Kennesaw State 28th, North Carolina A&T 31st, William & Mary 33rd, Furman 34th, Samford 51st, Mercer 54th, Holy Cross 56th, Chattanooga 59th, Wofford 60th, Grambling State 69th, South Carolina State 72nd, VMI 77th, East Tennessee State 82nd, Western Carolina 92nd, Campbell 98th, Gardner-Webb 104th, Davidson 107th, Bucknell 118th, Presbyterian 125th, and Robert Morris 126th and last.

– Charleston Southern’s notable alumni include U.S. senator Tim Scott, TV sports reporter Kelsey Riggs, and former major league pitcher R.J. Swindle.

– Charleston Southern’s roster includes 36 players from South Carolina. Other states represented: Florida (19 players), Georgia (16), North Carolina (14), and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Maryland, and Ohio.

The best-educated player on CSU’s squad, without question, is offensive lineman D’Andra Thompson. The 6’3″, 250 lb. junior is an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.

Thompson is listed as a backup on the Buccaneers’ two-deep; given the traditional athletic excellence of those who have worn the famed maroon and orange (regardless of sport), it can only be assumed that Autry Denson is waiting for a special moment to unleash Thompson’s talents on an unsuspecting opponent. That may not happen this week, but you never know.

– 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 includes a new B-back listed on the depth chart, freshman Logan Billings. At kick returner, redshirt freshman Jaylan Adams is listed for the first time.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 1-7-1 for games played on September 21, so the Bulldogs need to establish a new winning tradition for that date.

The one victory came in 1996, with The Citadel defeating Western Carolina 28-14 before 10,362 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Bulldogs rushed for 354 yards, with 80 of those coming on a Stanley Myers run just two plays into the contest.

Aaron Green also scored for the Bulldogs, and Lorenzo Jackson intercepted a fourth-quarter pass that essentially sealed the victory, which broke an eight-game conference losing streak. Jackson’s pick (which he returned 58 yards) was one of only two for The Citadel during the entire 1996 season.

This year’s Bulldogs need to intercept a few more passes than that. Right now, though, as mentioned earlier, they don’t have any. Perhaps that will change on Saturday.

I hope that fans of the Bulldogs come out in force for this contest. The team certainly deserves all the support it can muster after a great performance against Georgia Tech.

There was a lot of celebrating and congratulating after that game (on his radio show, Brent Thompson mentioned that he had received 125 text messages, including some from people he didn’t know). However, the team now has to be prepared and ready for this week’s opponent.

I think it will be. I expect the Bulldogs will be focused and alert. They need to be. Charleston Southern will not be an easy opponent.

Last year’s game was decidedly chippy — something noted by Thompson at his Monday presser, and a memory the coach clearly did not enjoy. I hope (and suspect) this year’s contest will be more cleanly played from that perspective.

Offensively, The Citadel needs to keep doing what it did against the Yellow Jackets, and keep the chains moving. I would like to see more big plays, however.

Big plays are what the Bulldogs’ defense needs to avoid. Charleston Southern will try to get its skill position players into space. The Citadel’s defenders must tackle well, and get off the field on third down.

Tackling is also something that the kick return coverage units must improve upon this week. Another thing to watch: in last year’s game, both teams blocked a punt for a TD.

The Bulldogs need to win this game, thus consolidating their victory from last week, and setting up what should be an exciting and challenging conference campaign.

We’re all ready for some fun at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday night.

Game Review, 2019: Georgia Tech

The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT).

That happened. Yes, it did.

Links of interest (a lot of options this week):

Game story, The Post and Courier

School release from The Citadel

School release from Georgia Tech

AP game story

NCAA.com game story

Game story, Atlanta Journal-Constitution [headline over article: “Jackets Haunted and Stunned”]

Game analysis, CBS Sports

“The Citadel Adds To Illustrious History”

– Gwinnett players play role in shocker

Video highlights package from The Citadel

Postgame on-field interview of Brent Thompson (via Fox Sports South twitter)

Game highlights from the ACC Digital Network

– Postgame quotes (including those for Brent Thompson, which are at the bottom of the page)

Postgame press conference for Geoff Collins

– Postgame press conference for Georgia Tech players

“Condensed” video of The Citadel-Georgia Tech (about 23 minutes)

Box score

Key statistics:

The Citadel Georgia Tech
Field Position* 21.56 (-17.69) 39.22 (+17.69)
Success Rate* 39.72% 47.62%
Big plays (20+ yards) 3 6
Finishing drives (average points)* 4.0 4.6
Turnovers 1 0
Expected turnovers 1.72 0.66
Possessions* 9 9
Points per possession* 2.67 2.67
Offensive Plays* 72 42
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 4.76 7.59
Yards/pass attempts* (incl. sacks) 5.20 6.73
Yards/play* 4.79 7.29
3rd down conversions* 8 of 15 (53.3%) 3 of 8 (37.5%)
4th down conversions 1 of 1 0 of 1
Red Zone TD%** 0 for 2 (0%) 1 for 1 (100%)
Net punting 38.0 35.0
Time of possession 41:50 18:10
TOP/offensive play 34.86 seconds 25.95 seconds
Penalties 5 for 55 yards 8 for 80 yards
1st down passing* 0/1 5/7, 97 yards, sack
3rd and long passing* 0/1, interception, sack 0/3, sack
4th down passing 0/0 0/0
1st down yards/play* 5.45 9.45
3rd down average yards to go* 7.40 7.25
Defensive 3-and-outs+* 2 3

*overtime stats not included; Georgia Tech’s kneel-down at the end of the first half also not included
** Georgia Tech’s end-of-regulation drive not included in Red Zone TD rate

After I had finished compiling the above stats, I just shook my head. The Citadel finished second-best in all of the “Five Factors”, and did not fare well in many of the other categories.

Yet in actuality, the Bulldogs maintained control of the game throughout the contest. It could also be argued that if Brandon Rainey had not been injured, The Citadel probably would have won in regulation.

That time of possession advantage the Bulldogs had was incredible and ultimately decisive; essentially, the entire game turned on the basic fact that Georgia Tech couldn’t score if it didn’t have the ball — and the Yellow Jackets rarely possessed the pigskin.

A few quick notes:

– Without the 3rd-and-31 situation in the second quarter, The Citadel’s average yards-to-go on 3rd down would be 5.7, a much more palatable number.

– Besides time of possession, the other key stat was third down conversion rate (and of course those two categories are inter-related). When you include the Bulldogs converting their sole fourth down attempt, The Citadel eventually moved the chains 9 out of 15 times it faced third down in regulation play.

I don’t know what The Citadel’s record is for time of possession in a game, but I’m going to guess that 41:50 is the new standard for the Bulldogs’ contests against FBS teams.

– Georgia Tech’s first-half penalties were critical (and mostly inexcusable) mistakes, and also out of character. The Yellow Jackets had only committed four penalties *total* in their first two games.

Random thoughts:

– The Citadel became the first FCS squad this season to beat a team from a “Power Five” conference.

– I am fairly sure The Citadel is the largest underdog (26 points) to win outright so far this year in a game involving at least one FBS team.

– Georgia Tech’s decision to punt on 4th-and-5 at the Bulldogs’ 36-yard line on the Yellow Jackets’ first drive of the game set the tone for the contest, and not in a good way for the home team. That is absolutely a “go for it” situation, particularly in a game in which possessions are going to be limited.

Naturally, the punt was a touchback, and (almost as naturally) The Citadel immediately embarked on a nine-play drive that resulted in the game’s first touchdown.

That drive included two tough third-down runs from Rainey and Clay Harris.

– Conversely, Brent Thompson should receive credit for his decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from The Citadel’s own 34-yard line, with less than six minutes remaining in a tie game and a backup quarterback at the controls.

A punt there would have handed the ball back to a Georgia Tech offense that had the momentum. It was worth the risk, and Thompson wound up with the reward after a two-yard run by Harris.

– The end-around to Raleigh Webb on the next play was also an excellent call that built off of the fourth-down conversion.

– The TD pass from Rainey to Webb was on a 2nd-and-6 down-and-distance situation, and just two plays removed from Nkem Njoku’s 25-yard run into Yellow Jackets territory. It was an excellent time to call a pass play.

– Chris Beverly managed to knock Tobias Oliver out of bounds on his long kick return, and it was a good thing, because I believe otherwise Oliver may have gone all the way.

– Geoff Collins seemed miffed at the officials for how the end of the fourth quarter played out, prior to the pseudo-TD and subsequent tying field goal.

I re-watched it. This is what happened:

  • The clock stopped with 34 seconds remaining after an injury to Bulldogs defensive tackle Dewey Greene IV (who had a huge sack two plays earlier).
  • Georgia Tech running back Jordan Mason then rushed 18 yards to The Citadel’s 12-yard line for a first down. The clock was halted with 27 seconds left to move the chains.
  • The clock re-started, and then with 23 seconds left Georgia Tech was called for a snap infraction, penalizing the Yellow Jackets five yards.
  • That necessitated a 10-second runoff, to 13 seconds. The referee announced that information, and then stated the clock would re-start on the “ready to play” signal — which it did.
  • Collins then called a timeout just before the ball was snapped, at the 6-second mark.

I think Collins was upset because he did not think the clock would re-start at the 13-second mark. That isn’t what the referee said, however.

As a result, the Yellow Jackets went from having the football at the 12-yard line with 23 seconds left and one timeout, to having it at the 17-yard line with 6 seconds left and no timeouts — and they didn’t even run a play.

Georgia Tech had used a timeout very early in the 3rd quarter when there was confusion over an offensive formation on the second play of the half. The Yellow Jackets could have used that timeout at the end of the game.

– I was always relieved when Tobias Oliver wasn’t playing quarterback for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets seemed more dynamic whenever he was in the game, including as a kick returner. The stats reflect that as well.

I don’t think the flip-flopping of the QBs helped Georgia Tech much, including in the overtime session, when Lucas Jackson came in at quarterback on 3rd down and promptly got sacked by Joseph Randolph II.

– On the positive side of the ledger for Collins, his hat was nice — very clean look. I also liked the cap he wore for a game earlier this season that just had the “T” logo.

– With 1:13 remaining in the game and Georgia Tech driving, a chant of “DEFENSE!” from the crowd could clearly be heard on the TV audio feed. Major props to the fans (and cadets) in attendance.

– It was a rough-and-tumble football game, with more than a few injuries for both teams. I hope that the Bulldogs came out of it without any serious issues. Obviously, the injury to Brandon Rainey will be something to watch.

Just a few tweets to consider (I could have linked several thousand)…

 

Now the players and coaches have to forget about this victory, great as it was, and get ready for Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers led a good North Carolina A&T team in the fourth quarter on Saturday before losing 27-21. That one won’t be easy.

I’ll write about that game later this week.

Putting together the ideal football schedule at The Citadel

I wanted to write about this topic after some recent discourse about it, primarily in two places:

– AD Mike Capaccio’s discussion of the schedule on Lowcountry media personality Quintin Washington’s YouTube channel

– Jeff Hartsell’s column in The Post and Courier

Here are some of the relevant passages from each media piece.

Capaccio (direct quotes):

“We need to work with our schedule to be more realistic….we don’t need to be playing two ranked teams, or three ranked teams, and then an ACC team, and then go into our conference, because our conference is a monster…so, not that we [want] an easy schedule, but we need a little break…

…We want to play close to home…three to five hours [away] at the maximum…We don’t need to be taking a trip to Towson…Our philosophy is changing, and we want to play close [to home].”

Hartsell:

By the end of the 2020 season, The Citadel will have played 44 straight games against D-I teams…

…”Do you need a Division II team in there? Every couple of years, I think you do,” said [The Citadel’s head football coach, Brent] Thompson, whose 10-2 SoCon championship team in 2016 won a 38-14 game over D-II North Greenville. “But I don’t think you need one every year. I know just about everybody in our league will have one this season.

“But my emphasis is on more in-region games. Elon is a fine game, Gardner-Webb, Charleston Southern, S.C. State. Those games are a lot easier on your travel and your budget, and they mean more to the kids. I would much rather play a non-conference game in-state, or at least in-region.”

For Thompson, a guarantee game last season might have made the difference between a 5-6 season and a 6-5 season. And as any coach will tell you, that’s a big difference.

Coaches from Dabo Swinney to Nick Saban know that an occasional cupcake tastes good. The Citadel ought to try one.

Let me start off by saying that I am not overly fond of the epithet “cupcake” being thrown around when mentioning a squad from a lower classification or division. Playoff-caliber D-2 teams like Newberry and North Greenville certainly weren’t “cupcakes” when they played the Bulldogs. The term also doesn’t apply to The Citadel when it faces an FBS opponent.

Calling a team a “cupcake” is basically a way of saying it doesn’t belong on the same field with the favored opponent. I find this tiresome, as it is primarily a media creation designed to diminish programs that aren’t on national TV every week.

Now, as to The Citadel’s football schedule…

Right now, the Bulldogs play 11 regular-season games every season except in years where the calendar allows for a 12th contest. After this year, the next time FCS teams will have a chance to play a 12th game will be 2024.

I don’t believe there will be a rule change altering the current status quo in that regard, so let’s assume that The Citadel will annually play 11 regular-season games for the foreseeable future.

The Bulldogs will play eight Southern Conference games every year, four at home and four on the road. That leaves three non-conference contests to schedule.

One of those non-conference matchups has to be a “money” game against an FBS opponent. Here are the already scheduled FBS teams through 2025:

  • 2020: Clemson
  • 2021: Coastal Carolina
  • 2022: Appalachian State
  • 2023: Georgia Southern
  • 2024: Clemson
  • 2025: Mississippi

Of the two remaining out-of-league games, at least one of them almost has to be a home game; otherwise, the Bulldogs would only play four contests in a given season at Johnson Hagood Stadium. That isn’t going to work.

So far, these non-FBS games have been scheduled through the next few seasons:

  • 2020: Elon, Charleston Southern [schedule complete; six home games]
  • 2021: Charleston Southern
  • 2022: at Campbell
  • 2023: Campbell

Mike Capaccio also mentioned during the interview referenced above that Presbyterian is on a future schedule. Perhaps the Blue Hose are on more than one.

What, exactly, should be the goals of The Citadel’s non-conference football schedule? Some of them (in no particular order) might be:

  • Help the team prepare for the SoCon slate
  • Raise money for the program (and the department of athletics in general)
  • Promote the school to a wider audience
  • Give the team a better chance of making the FCS playoffs
  • Improve the win-loss record
  • Ensure there are enough home games to satisfy the season-ticket holders
  • Energize the fans by playing quality, high-profile opponents
  • Save money on travel
  • Excite the players on the team by playing quality, high-profile opponents
  • Provide an added impetus for recruiting

Random musings:

– I am okay with giving the team a better chance to make the FCS playoffs via scheduling, but only to a point.

That is because the FCS postseason, as currently constructed, is hopelessly flawed. It is structurally biased against southeastern schools (honestly, that is undeniable). Thus, it is not a true “national” tournament.

I see no reason to devalue the regular season just to participate in the playoffs. Until the tournament is fully seeded and not beholden to asinine geographical bracketing, my thoughts on that will not change.

– I’ve already mentioned that The Citadel needs to play at least five home games per season. I don’t think anyone would seriously disagree.

– While I’ve said it before, let me reiterate that limiting the distance the team travels for non-conference games is not always a good idea, at least from a larger perspective. I enjoyed the trip to Princeton in 2009, and I firmly believe the Bulldogs should occasionally make trips like that to promote the school, provide a new experience for the players, and reward our loyal fans from other parts of the country.

– I don’t want to play opponents for the sole purpose of padding the win total. That isn’t what The Citadel is all about. If it were, the school wouldn’t have joined the Southern Conference in the first place, much less stay in the league all these years.

The Citadel is about embracing challenges. That includes varsity sports.

Finally, my suggestions for non-conference games.

I am inclined to eschew D-2 and NAIA schools, because I think it is probably beneficial to the conference as a whole for its member schools to play as many D-1 teams as possible, and The Citadel should take the initiative in that respect.

I could see arguments in the other direction — and I’m not automatically opposed to teams like Newberry, North Greenville, or Benedict. I don’t believe Webber International needs to be on the schedule again, however.

– Presbyterian strikes me as almost an ideal non-conference opponent. The Citadel would not have play in Clinton (barring a hurricane, of course). The two schools have a long history on the gridiron, too.

– Charleston Southern is a reasonable choice, though I don’t think it is necessary (or particularly desirable) to play the Buccaneers on an annual basis.

Obviously, any games between CSU and The Citadel would be contested at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Playing at Buccaneer Field is a non-starter for a host of reasons, including A) the state of the facility, B) the fact that 80% (or more) of the fans at the game would be rooting for The Citadel, so forcing them to travel to another stadium would be pointless, and C) the loss of a home game would seriously affect The Citadel’s ability to schedule the rest of its non-conference slate in a given season.

That last point is one that several members of the local media have never seemed able to grasp — or are simply unwilling to accept, even knowing it is true.

A rotation of Charleston Southern and Presbyterian might not be a bad idea.

– Other teams that I think would be good opponents in the “home games only” slot: Jacksonville, Stetson, Davidson, and perhaps Gardner-Webb.

– Schools that would be appropriate “home and home” regional opponents would include South Carolina State, Elon, William & Mary, Richmond, Campbell, and possibly North Carolina A&T.

– I would advocate for an occasional home-and-home versus an out-of-region team, like an Ivy or Patriot League squad, or even one of the MVFC teams.

Yes, I know, it costs too much. I’m sure we could raise some money for a two-game series through a special campaign, though. I noticed that there are currently 38 people listed in The Citadel Development Foundation’s staff directory; perhaps one or two of them could help out.

All of the above is just my opinion. I could be wrong about just about everything!

Or maybe I could be right about a few things. Your mileage may vary.