2018 Football, Game 10: The Citadel vs. Alabama

The Citadel vs. Alabama, to be played at Bryant-Denny Stadium, with kickoff at 12:00 pm ET on November 17, 2018.

The game will be televised on SEC Network. Dave Neal will handle play-by-play, while D.J. Shockley supplies the analysis. Dawn Davenport is the sideline reporter. 

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

The benefits of playing Alabama

Saban and Thompson agree: Tua should play!

Central Michigan morphed into the Crimson Tide

– Game notes from The Citadel and Alabama

– SoCon weekly release

SEC weekly release

– Brandon Rainey and Aron Spann III receive SoCon player of the week honors

“The Heat” — Samford edition

– AFCA FCS Coaches’ poll

– AP Top 25 poll (FBS)

– Brent Thompson’s 11/13 press conference

Nick Saban’s 11/12 press conference

My game review of The Citadel’s victory over Samford

My game review of the last time The Citadel played an SEC opponent (bonus: the Twitter response)

While The Citadel is through with its SoCon campaign, the league title race (and the automatic bid to the FCS playoffs) has not yet been decided. The possibility of a tie for the title between two or three teams still exists.

Naturally, because this is the SoCon, there has been some controversy over the tiebreaker that could be necessary to determine the auto-bid.

This tiebreaker is based on points allowed in conference play. It is an odd way to break the tie, inasmuch as you would think points allowed among the affected teams would be a more appropriate way to resolve it (or point differential, for that matter), but this is the SoCon and that is how the league set it up. Of course, it is hard to tell what the conference’s original intent was in terms of points allowed, given how the tiebreaker scenario is described:

That is a muddle, isn’t it?

It reminds me of another SoCon tiebreaking debacle, this one in hoops. At the end of the 1985-86 basketball season, there was a three-way tie for seventh place in the league. At that time, there were nine teams in the conference, but only eight advanced to the SoCon basketball tournament. Therefore, one of the three tied teams (VMI, The Citadel, and Furman) had to be eliminated.

The conference did not have a clear rule as to what to do in a three-way tie, so then-league commissioner Ken Germann ruled that VMI and Furman would play in the tournament, while The Citadel was out. However, Bulldogs AD Walt Nadzak appealed to the conference’s basketball committee, which reversed the commissioner’s ruling and put The Citadel in the conference tourney, at the expense of the Paladins.

That led to a memorable quote by Furman basketball coach Butch Estes, who said “If the commissioner had any backbone, we would play it off on a court like gentlemen.”

I always enjoyed that particular line, with the coach stating the situation should be resolved “like gentlemen” while in the same sentence saying that the league commissioner didn’t have a spine.

Germann retired the following year.

While at Bryant-Denny Stadium, The Citadel’s football team will dress in the visitors’ locker room, which is known as The Fail Room. Yes, you read that correctly.

It is actually named for a longtime Crimson Tide benefactor, James M. Fail. As the story goes:

“This naming opportunity came at Mr. Fail’s request,” said Mal Moore, Director of Athletics. “Mr. Fail has been such a strong supporter of ours and had already made a significant gift to name our media suite in memory of his late father-in-law, former Birmingham Post-Herald sports editor Naylor Stone. But he had always been hesitant to use his unique name for a naming right until the right opportunity came along.”

 

“Anything I’ve done would not have been possible without the University of Alabama,” [Fail] said…”Now, many years later, I am honored to give back to the school that means so much to me. Earlier this year, when I saw the visitors’ locker room as a potential naming right, I figured it was the most appropriate opportunity I would ever have to use my name.”

Fail made his gift in late 2008, a little over a year before his death at age 83.

Bryant-Denny Stadium currently seats 101,821, though I don’t expect it to be filled to capacity for the game on Saturday. That said, there is a good chance the stadium will host the largest crowd to ever see The Citadel play a football game. The current record in that category is 90,374, for the Bulldogs’ game against Florida in 2008.

When Denny Field (named for George H. Denny, the school president who spearheaded its construction) opened in 1929, it had seats for 6,000 fans. It has expanded numerous times since then. The stadium was renamed Bryant-Denny Stadium in 1975, while Paul “Bear” Bryant was still coaching the football team.

Alabama’s proposed athletic facility renovations include an upgrade to the stadium, one which could slightly reduce its seating capacity:

The plan is highlighted by renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium that will cost more than $250 million. The precise cost of renovations may still change in the years to come, and exact dates for renovations haven’t yet been set. All facilities plans are subject to approval by the board of trustees, and fundraising goals must still be met.

The first phase, which is expected to include changes to the Mal Moore building and include some of the renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium, could begin during the fall of 2019 or after the 2019 football season. The first round of renovations to the stadium are estimated to cost $78 million. It is likely to reduce seating to less than 100,000 from its current capacity of 101,821, [AD Greg] Byrne said, but the exact capacity after renovations isn’t known.

It will add a student terrace in the stadium’s south end zone, with a large, new video board positioned over the student section. Byrne said he doesn’t anticipate cutting down on the total number of seats in the student section. The north end zone will also receive two new video boards for those who can’t see the video board in the south end.

Bryant-Denny Stadium has only been the primary home stadium for Alabama over the last 20 years or so. For decades, the Crimson Tide generally split home games between Bryant-Denny and Legion Field in Birmingham, with the larger Legion Field hosting most of the “big” SEC games (Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, etc.). Most non-conference games and select SEC matchups (including Mississippi State and Vanderbilt on a regular basis) were played at Bryant-Denny.

Once Bryant-Denny’s expansion reached a point where it was just as large (if not larger) than Legion Field, Alabama started playing all of its home games in Tuscaloosa.

This partly explains Bear Bryant’s amazing 72-2 career record at Bryant-Denny Stadium, as he only faced the Auburn/LSU/Tennessee triumvirate one time on that field (a 1980 game versus LSU, won by the Tide 28-7).

On the other hand, 72-2 is still a remarkable statistic. The two losses were to Florida in 1963, and to Southern Mississippi in 1982. The latter contest was the final game Bryant coached at the stadium.

His first game (and victory) at Bryant-Denny, in 1958, came against a Southern Conference opponent — Furman. The Paladins lost two games to Bryant at the stadium. Two other Palmetto State schools, South Carolina and Clemson, were both 0-3 against him there.

Lately, the Saban vs. Bryant debate has (on at least a national level) swung heavily in favor of the current Alabama coach. Now, it’s quite possible Nick Saban may make this a moot point if he coaches for another decade and keeps winning games and titles at his current pace, but I think a lot of people are engaged in recency bias when it comes to evaluating Bryant’s career.

One of the common observations is that Saban has won in a “more competitive” era. I’m not sure I buy that, for several reasons, not the least of which is defining Bryant’s career as a singular “era” is rather difficult.

For one thing, Bryant coached roughly half of his career when substitution was restricted, and the other half when unlimited substitution became the rule. He was one of the great coaches in the time of limited substitutions, and he was the first dominant coach when free substitution became the order of the day.

Another issue with defining his “era” that has to be mentioned:  Bryant coached all-white teams that won championships, and he coached integrated teams that won championships. His on-field success in making that transition could be considered somewhat unusual.

Bryant’s ability to adapt was probably his outstanding trait as a coach. He won with great passing quarterbacks like Joe Namath and Ken Stabler, and he also won after switching to the wishbone in the early 1970s.

He had two spectacular runs at Alabama. It is rare for a coach to basically have a “second act” at the same school (especially when he never left), but Bryant did just that.

In a seven-year period from 1960-66, he lost a total of six games. Then, after a bit of a slump in 1969-70, he went on another extended roll, going 107-13 from 1971 to 1980.

Bryant also won the SEC title at Kentucky in 1950, the only time that school has ever won the conference crown in football (not counting a 1976 shared title, which included an after-the-fact forfeit win). That has to give him a bonus point or two.

The other undeniable thing Bryant had going for him was an incredible charismatic presence, perhaps best demonstrated by this amazing TV commercial for a telephone company. The last line — “I sure wish I could call mine” — was a complete ad-lib by the coach.

Nick Saban himself is quite comfortable on TV, and is not devoid of personality, but surely no coach of any era has had Bryant’s gravitas, or his voice for that matter (which is probably for the best, given how many thousands of Chesterfields must have contributed to that tone).

Of course, if Saban wins another four or five national championships, they won’t bother renaming the stadium after him — they’ll rename the school after him. Saban University, aight?

In that scenario, the stadium would presumably be renamed after Miss Terry…

Bear Bryant had one career victory over The Citadel. Nick Saban also has one win over the Bulldogs.

Bryant’s 1949 Kentucky team defeated The Citadel 44-0. That season, the Wildcats also had shutout victories over LSU, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida en route to a 9-3 campaign.

The next season, Kentucky won the SEC title and finished 11-1, including a defeat of top-ranked Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

In 2002, The Citadel played Saban’s LSU Tigers in a night game in Baton Rouge, with the Bayou Bengals winning 35-10. That season, LSU was only 8-5.

However, the following year LSU won the national title with a 13-1 record, defeating Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Hmm…

Alabama fans might want to start making plans for next year’s CFP title game, which happens to be in New Orleans, and they might also start thinking about how to distinguish between Alabama crimson and Oklahoma crimson.

Much of the discussion for this game from the Alabama perspective centers around starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (6’1″, 218 lbs.), the current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Tagovailoa has had a marvelous season, throwing 28 touchdown passes while only being intercepted twice, with a 67.9% completion percentage.

The sophomore, who hails from Ewa Beach, Hawai’i, is averaging a ludicrous 11.7 yards per pass attempt (not accounting for sacks). When he throws the ball, 47% of the time the result of the play is a first down or touchdown.

However, Tagovailoa has been playing with a balky knee for the past few games, and while he will almost certainly start against The Citadel, how long he stays in the game is open to question. Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts (6’2″, 218 lbs.) is a more than capable signal-caller, to say the least (Hurts is 26-2 as a starter), but the junior from Houston is also injured and unlikely to see action versus the Bulldogs.

There is a decent chance third-string QB Mac Jones (6’2″, 205 lbs.) will see the bulk of the playing time for the Crimson Tide in Saturday’s game. Jones is a redshirt freshman from Jacksonville who was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. In other words, he is a very talented quarterback in his own right.

Among the plethora of outstanding players at the offensive skill positions for the Crimson Tide are sophomore wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (6’1″, 192 lbs.), who seems to be good for at least two long TD catches per game (he is averaging 20.6 yards per reception); freshman wideout Jaylen Waddle (5’10”, 177 lbs.), a big-play threat as a receiver (18.8 yards/catch) and an impact punt returner (14.6 yards/return); and running back Damien Harris (5’11”, 215 lbs.), a senior from Richmond, Kentucky, who is approaching 3,000 yards rushing for his career in Tuscaloosa.

It says something about the depth at Alabama that Damien Harris (a great player) may not even be the most talented running back named Harris on the Crimson Tide roster, because sophomore Najee Harris (6’2″, 230 lbs.) is a gridiron dynamo who is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

Henry Ruggs III (6’0″, 183 lbs.), a big-play threat from Montgomery, has 28 receptions for the Tide this season, with 8 of the sophomore’s catches resulting in touchdowns. Then there is DeVonta Smith (6’1″, 173 lbs.), another sophomore, who is best known for hauling in the winning touchdown pass against Georgia in the CFP title game. Smith has missed time this season due to injury but still has 3 TD catches.

Alabama’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’5″, 313 lbs. Junior left tackle Jonah Williams (6’5″, 301 lbs.), a native of Folsom, California, has made 38 starts for the Crimson Tide during his career.

Starting center Ross Pierschbacher (6’4″, 309 lbs.), whose last name fits comfortably on the back of his jersey, has made 51 career starts for Alabama. Williams and Pierschbacher were both first-team All-SEC picks after last season.

Alabama has plenty of intimidating defensive players, but none are quite as frightening to opposing offenses as noseguard Quinnen Williams (6’4″, 295 lbs.). The redshirt sophomore from Birmingham has dominated all season; just check out this twitter thread of his play versus Mississippi.

Williams, the national defensive player of the week for his performance against LSU, has been so good some pundits have begun to suggest he deserves Heisman consideration. He may be The Citadel’s toughest obstacle in trying to run its triple option offense, though Williams will have plenty of help.

Isaiah Buggs (6’5″, 286 lbs.), an imposing defensing end from Ruston, Louisiana, leads Alabama in sacks with 9 1/2.  He had 3 1/2 of those sacks against Texas A&M, garnering SEC player of the week honors as a result.

Linebacker Dylan Moses (6’3″, 233 lbs.) leads the Crimson Tide in tackles this season, with 54, including 9 for loss (3 1/2 sacks). The sophomore from Baton Rouge is described by UA’s website as a “freak athlete”; before enrolling at Alabama, Moses won the 2016 high school version of the Butkus Award as the top prep linebacker.

Deionte Thompson (6’2″, 196 lbs.), a free safety from Orange, Texas, paces the Tide with 32 solo stops. The redshirt junior also has two interceptions, five pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

Christian Miller (6’4″, 244 lbs.), a redshirt senior, is having a fine season after missing much of last year with an arm injury (though he did see action late in the campaign, including the playoff games against Clemson and Georgia). The linebacker from Columbia, SC, has 7 1/2 sacks so far in 2018, and was the SEC defensive player of the week after recording 2 1/2 sacks versus Mississippi.

Miller will become the second member of his immediate family to face The Citadel, as his father Corey played for South Carolina when the Bulldogs and Gamecocks met in 1990. Corey Miller was arguably South Carolina’s best defensive player on that occasion, although it probably provided the elder Miller little solace.

Placekicker Joseph Bulovas (6’0″, 206 lbs.), a redshirt freshman from Mandeville, Louisiana, is 10 for 14 on field goal attempts this year. Last week against Mississippi State, he connected on a 49-yarder, his longest of the season. Bulovas also handles kickoffs for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama has employed two punters this season, including freshman Skyler DeLong (6’4″, 189 lbs.), a Ft. Mill native. DeLong has not punted in a game since October 13, however, as walk-on senior Mike Bernier (6’2″, 219 lbs.) has seen action in the last three games.

Mac Jones serves as the team’s holder on placements. As mentioned earlier, Jaylen Waddle is the primary punt returner (and a very dangerous one).

Alabama lists four different kick returners on its two-deep, including Najee Harris and fellow running back Josh Jacobs (5’10”, 216 lbs.), a versatile player from Tulsa who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Louisville. Jacobs leads Alabama in total touchdowns, with nine rushing, one receiving, and the kick return TD versus the Cardinals.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Tuscaloosa, per the National Weather Service:  partly sunny, with a high of 62 degrees.

– This will be the first gridiron meeting between The Citadel and Alabama, although Alabama’s media guide (in the “Series vs. 2018 opponents” section) credits the Tide with beating the Bulldogs twice, in 1939 and 1940. That is an error. I suspect it is a transposition mistake from last season, when the Crimson Tide played Mercer (which did play Alabama in 1939 and 1940).

– Other SEC teams that have yet to face the Bulldogs: Mississippi State and Missouri.

– Alabama’s winning streak against unranked teams (80 games) is the longest in FBS history and a fairly well-known statistic. What I did not know until perusing the Crimson Tide’s game notes is that Alabama has also dominated games against teams ranked outside of the AP top 15, losing only once to an opponent in that category since 2008. That happened in 2010, against South Carolina (a/k/a “The Stephen Garcia Game”).

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Alabama is a 51-point favorite versus The Citadel (as of Tuesday night). The over/under is 60 1/2.

Against the spread this season, The Citadel is 4-5. The over has hit in five of the nine contests, with one of the others a push.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams (also as of Tuesday night):  Samford is an 8-point favorite at East Tennessee State; Furman is an 8-point favorite at Mercer; Wofford is a 35 1/2 point favorite versus Presbyterian; Chattanooga is a 31-point underdog at South Carolina; and Western Carolina is a 30 1/2 point underdog at North Carolina.

Samford initially opened as a 10-point favorite against ETSU, but the line dropped two points in less than 24 hours.

– Also of note: Towson is a 3-point underdog against James Madison, and Charleston Southern is a 2-point favorite at Campbell.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 50th in FCS, up ten spots from last week, a fairly significant jump. Alabama, as you might imagine, is ranked first among all FBS squads.

Massey projects Alabama will win the game on Saturday, with a predicted final score of 57-0.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey: Colgate (6th), James Madison (8th), Towson (11th), Kennesaw State (12th), Elon (15th), Wofford (22nd), Furman (31st), East Tennessee State (34th), Samford (36th, a fall of 13 spots), North Carolina A&T (42nd), Chattanooga (49th), Mercer (51st), San Diego (58th), Holy Cross (60th), Richmond (64th), Duquesne (69th), South Carolina State (74th, a 13-spot jump), Western Carolina (82nd), North Alabama (87th), Campbell (88th), Charleston Southern (89th), VMI (99th), Gardner-Webb (101st), Lehigh (105th), Davidson (117th), Presbyterian (123rd), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads: North Dakota State, Princeton, Dartmouth, South Dakota State, and Eastern Washington.

As I noted last week, Massey tends to overrate the top Ivy League programs, a quirk that is almost certainly due to the lack of connectivity in scheduling between the Ivy League and the rest of FCS. Dartmouth managed to rise from 5th to 3rd in the rankings after beating a 3-6 Cornell team by 11 points. That doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Biggest movers in FCS this week: William and Mary moved up 18 spots (from 58th to 40th) after winning at Villanova, 24-17. Meanwhile, Austin Peay fell 17 places (from 66th to 83rd) after getting pummeled 52-21 by Eastern Illinois.

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, West Virginia, UCF. Some other notables:  Florida is 12th, Kentucky 15th, Mississippi State 17th, Auburn 19th, South Carolina 22nd, Utah State 26th, Northwestern 29th, Boston College 30th, Tennessee 34th, North Carolina State 35th, Duke 36th, Army 37th, Georgia Tech 42nd, Appalachian State 50th, Wake Forest 52nd, Troy 58th, Maryland 60th, UAB 62nd, Florida State 65th, Memphis 71st, Air Force 83rd, Toledo 85th, Arkansas State 87th, North Texas 88th, Georgia Southern 89th, Louisiana-Lafayette 94th, North Carolina 95th, Louisville 102nd, Navy 103rd, Coastal Carolina 104th, Liberty 107th, Old Dominion 113th, Charlotte 114th, Rutgers 116th, South Alabama 128th, and Rice 130th and last.

Biggest movers in FBS this week:  Minnesota rowed the boat up 16 places (from 82nd to 66th) after a 41-10 beatdown of Purdue. San Diego State and North Texas each fell 17 spots after losing to UNLV and Old Dominion, respectively.

– Among Alabama’s notable alumni: writer Gay Talese, actor/singer Jim Nabors (“Shazam!”), actress Sela Ward (who was a cheerleader at Alabama), and legendary baseball announcer Mel Allen (“How about that!”).

Bernie Madoff went to Alabama, but left after just one year in Tuscaloosa, so we won’t hold him against the school.

– Alabama’s roster includes 39 players from from Alabama. Other states represented on its squad:  Texas (12 players), Florida (12), Louisiana (11), Georgia (7), California (6), Maryland (5), South Carolina (4), Mississippi (4), Tennessee (2), Kentucky (2), and one player each from Ohio, Nevada, Virginia, Utah, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, and Hawai’i. Linebacker Terrell Lewis is from Washington, DC.

Alabama scours the country for footballing prodigies, which is rather apparent when the roster includes players from 23 states plus the District of Columbia. Just eyeballing the list, I am mildly surprised there are only four Mississippians on the team, along with two natives of Tennessee. That seems a touch low for those two border states.

There are four South Carolinians on the Crimson Tide squad — punter Skyler DeLong (Nation Ford High School in Ft. Mill), linebacker Jaylen Moody (Conway High School), defensive lineman Stephon Wynn Jr. (from Anderson; transferred from T.L. Hanna to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year in high school), and linebacker Christian Miller (Spring Valley High School in Columbia).

However, there are no players from internationally renowned pigskin powerhouse Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This is profoundly mystifying, given the Tide’s hunger for gridiron superstars. When the dynasty ends (and all dynasties do at some point), there is no question that the biggest reason for Alabama’s downfall will be its failure to recruit talent from the famed maroon and orange.

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

– This week’s two-deep changes:  There aren’t many changes from last week’s depth chart. Lorenzo Ward and Keyonte Sessions are again listed as starters. Raleigh Webb is now listed as one of the two primary kick returners.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of just 2-10 for games played on November 17. The Citadel is 2-5 on the road on that date. While those totals are very poor, there is a silver lining — the Bulldogs have won their two most recent games played on November 17 after losing their first ten contests.

A brief review of those two victories, as we travel back in time on the TSA Wayback Machine:

  • 2007: At Lexington, Virginia, The Citadel clobbered VMI 70-28 to retain the coveted Silver Shako. Tory Cooper scored three touchdowns and Tim Higgins scored twice. Other Bulldogs to find the end zone that day included Andre Roberts, Bart Blanchard, Ta’Mar Jernigan, Taylor Cornett, and Cam Turner. Cooper had 176 yards rushing, while Roberts had 128 receiving yards. Mike Adams converted all ten of his PATs. The Citadel finished the afternoon with 509 total yards of offense.
  • 2012: The Citadel defeated Furman at Paladin Stadium, 42-20. I was there and wrote about the game. VanDyke Jones rushed for three touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Dalton Trevino, Domonic Jones, and Ben Dupree also scored TDs. A key play in the contest was a fake punt successfully executed by Cass Couey. The defense was led by James Riley, who had 12 tackles.

– Alabama claims seventeen national championships in football, under five different head coaches — Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Gene Stallings, and Nick Saban. Bryant is credited with having coached six national title teams, while Saban has coached five Crimson Tide squads to a #1 finish (he also has a sixth title from his tenure at LSU).

The Citadel has only two claimed national titles in football (1871 and 1906), though like Alabama, the Bulldogs have won championships in two different centuries. While The Citadel’s 1871 crown is essentially undisputed, the 1906 title is a more recent claim and is shared with two other schools (Yale and Princeton).

Brent Thompson, at his press conference on Tuesday:

Obviously, this is a very important football game for us, for a lot of reasons. We want to just go out there and make a great showing, compete our butts off, as best as we possibly can, on such a big and grand stage. It’s going to be a exciting atmosphere for us. They are a very, very good football team, the best we’ve probably ever seen. There are not a whole lot of deficiencies [for Alabama] on either side of the ball, they’re extremely fast, they’re extremely physical, they play very strong. It will be all that we can do to be able to move the ball and to stop them from scoring, but we certainly will give them everything that we’ve got.

I feel confident that the Bulldogs will play very hard, and will compete to their utmost. The issue is how effective that effort will be against a team as comprehensively talented as Alabama.

Call me a Pollyanna, but I think The Citadel will acquit itself well on Saturday. I’m not predicting the biggest upset in modern college football history, but I think the Bulldogs will surprise some people.

I certainly hope so.

Go Dogs!

Game Review, 2018: Samford

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– Video from WCSC-TV

– AP game story

– School release (The Citadel)

– School release (Samford)

Box score

– Game highlights, including postgame comments from Brent Thompson (video)

– ESPN+ replay of the game

Why do people keep coming back to watch games year after year? Well, for a lot of reasons, of course.

However, one of the biggest reasons is that there is always a chance you will get to witness something special, something extraordinary, something that will cause you to pridefully say years from now, “I was there that day.”

I think Saturday’s game was like that if you are a fan of The Citadel. It was certainly one of the most memorable games in the history of Johnson Hagood Stadium.

It wasn’t a game that resulted in a championship for the Bulldogs. It didn’t set up another key contest, or even clinch a winning season. The fact there were no obvious stakes for the Bulldogs arguably made the game — including the on-field play and the general atmosphere  — all the more remarkable.

Ultimately, it was a tremendous advertisement for football at the military college, and for The Citadel as a whole.

With 10:37 to play in the second quarter, Samford took possession of the ball at its own 33-yard line. To that point in the contest, SU had run 23 plays for 221 yards, scoring three touchdowns. The Citadel had only run 15 plays from scrimmage for a total of 49 yards, and had no points.

The game’s momentum started to change slightly over the next four possessions, two by each team. The Citadel scored on the second of its two drives in that sequence, but then Samford drove 65 yards late in the half, settling for a field goal and a 24-7 lead at the break.

The third quarter didn’t start off very well for The Citadel either, as Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Rainey promptly fumbled the ball away. It would prove to be one of Rainey’s few missteps in a brilliant second-half performance, but Samford was in position to take an even more commanding lead.

That SU failed to do so is a credit to The Citadel’s defense. There was a key play that may have flown under the radar, but that I think is worth highlighting.

On third and six from the Bulldogs’ 25-yard line, SU quarterback Devlin Hodges threw a swing pass to Robert Adams. It looked like Adams was going to pick up the first down, but Aron Spann III defeated his blocker and then stopped Adams four yards short of the line to gain, forcing a fumble that rolled out of bounds.

Without that stop by Spann, the drive would have continued. Instead, Samford saw a 40-yard field goal attempt sail wide of the right upright (and that particular upright has not been kind to the Birmingham Bulldogs in their last two trips to Johnson Hagood Stadium).

Eight plays later, Lorenzo Ward was in the end zone for The Citadel, and the tide had begun to turn.

It didn’t completely turn, though. Samford drove down the field for another field goal try, and this one was good. Then The Citadel had to punt after a seven-play possession.

That set up the next huge play by the Bulldogs’ defense, as Shawn McCord sacked Hodges on first down, basically taking the ball away from the quarterback in the process. It took the offense three plays to go 10 yards for its third TD (and the second by Ward) and close to within six points.

The next three possessions for each team…

  • Samford: 13 plays, 73 yards, one first down (on a 41-yard run by Hodges), no points
  • The Citadel: 19 plays, 202 yards, eight first downs, 21 points (including a scintillating 60-yard TD run by Rainey to take the lead, and two more TDs for Ward, including a 43-yard scamper)

The game was essentially decided. Samford drove 67 yards on its final drive against a prevent defense, but couldn’t punch it in for a TD, and at the final whistle the scoreboard, almost unbelievably, read 42-27 in favor of the home team.

It was really incredible to see the change in fortunes of the two teams as the game progressed. The Citadel’s players and coaches have to be credited for that.

Essentially, a runaway train was plunging straight downhill. The Bulldogs managed to somehow stop the train, gradually turn it around, then push it in the other direction, where it careened downhill even more uncontrollably than it did before, even though that means it would have been going downhill both ways.

It makes no sense, even as a metaphor. Isaac Newton would have to rewrite at least two of his three laws of motion.

The comeback still happened, though.

Assorted observations:

– I thought the corps of cadets richly deserved the overnights granted by Gen. Walters. As the game wound down, the chant “We want ‘Bama!” could be heard from that section of the stadium, one of several things I’ll always remember about this game.

– Then there was the money that started falling out of the sky after one of the Bulldogs’ second-half touchdowns. It was apparently thrown by someone in one of the suites. After another touchdown for The Citadel, more money appeared from the clouds on high.

I admit I would have been more impressed if the bills were 20s…

– The spontaneous “jump around” by the team on the sideline at the 6:11 mark of the fourth quarter led to a renewed burst of energy in the stands, and then that filtered back down to the team again, just repeating the cycle. It was kind of crazy.

– At the game, someone asked me about time of possession. I don’t know what the modern-day record for TOP is for The Citadel; it presumably is something in the 40-45 minute range. Saturday’s game wasn’t quite so lopsided in terms of time of possession, although The Citadel did have the edge in that area by over ten minutes (35:01 to 24:59).

That said, it was actually the smallest edge in time of possession The Citadel has had against Samford in the teams’ last six meetings:

  • 2018 — The Citadel 35:01, Samford 24:59
  • 2017 — The Citadel 36:52, Samford 23:08
  • 2016 — The Citadel 38:17, Samford 21:43
  • 2015 — The Citadel 35:15, Samford 24:45
  • 2014 — The Citadel 37:42, Samford 22:18
  • 2013 — The Citadel 35:42, Samford 24:18

Obviously, time of possession isn’t always indicative of dominance one way or the other (after all, SU won two of the games listed above). However, it seems to me that being on the short end of TOP on a regular basis puts a lot of strain on a team’s defense. Eventually, that can be a problem.

– Okay, a negative observation. The P.A. was too loud, sometimes painfully so. I also would have liked for the band to play more, but at least that unit got to play at halftime (a Homecoming tradition).

– The drill team outfits worn by some members of the Class of 1968, which were on display both at the parade and at the stadium march-on, were unique. I guess when you’ve been out of school for 50 years, you have had plenty of time to think of some fun things to do at your reunion.

I was amazed at how many ’68 alums were there. It was truly an impressive turnout for that class.

– It got rather cool during the second half, at least to me, but then my blood is unnaturally thin. Anecdotally, the cold weather appeared to improve beer sales, so I guess that was a positive.

All in all, I thought the crowd was great. Sure, some people went back to the reunion party tents for the second half, which always happens at Homecoming (not a criticism), but those who remained were into the game in a major way.

Nerd stuff, comeback category:

  • The 21-point comeback by The Citadel was the largest by the Bulldogs in the history of Johnson Hagood Stadium. The previous mark was 20, which has happened twice — in 1973 against Chattanooga (when the Bulldogs trailed 20-0 but won the game 28-20) and 2007 versus Furman (a 27-7 deficit turned into a 54-51 victory in OT).
  • The biggest comeback in school history remains the 2011 game at Chattanooga, when the Bulldogs trailed 27-0 before rallying to win that contest 28-27.
  • Also worth mentioning in terms of comebacks is The Citadel’s 1989 game versus Western Carolina. The Bulldogs trailed WCU 22-0 but came back to tie the contest, 22-22. The game ended with that scoreline, the last time The Citadel played a football game that ended in a tie. That matchup was played at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia as a consequence of Hurricane Hugo.

Nerd stuff, passing statistics category:

  • The 69 pass attempts by Samford’s Devlin Hodges on Saturday were the most ever thrown in a game by an opponent of The Citadel. The record for most completions in a game by an opponent remains 49, set earlier this year by VMI’s Reece Udinski in Lexington.
  • Hodges did set the Johnson Hagood Stadium record for pass completions (43) and attempts (69) in a game, by any individual.
  • The previous record-holder for pass completions and attempts in a game at Johnson Hagood Stadium was Jim Schumann, who threw 56 passes (completing 36) for Boston University against The Citadel in 1988. The Bulldogs won that game 24-13.
  • In case you were wondering, Kip Allen holds the JHS record for pass completions and attempts in a game by a Bulldog, as he was 34 for 53 versus Wofford in 1985, a 42-28 victory for The Citadel. His 428 passing yards in that contest remains a school record as well (regardless of venue).
  • Allen’s 34 completions against the Terriers is the all-time game record for The Citadel; the attempts record for the Bulldogs, also held by Allen, is 57, set at Clemson in 1986.

Editor’s note: I will be travelling most of this week, and as a result my upcoming preview of the game between The Citadel and Alabama game will be A) much earlier than usual, and B) much shorter than usual. Apologies for that, but real life intrudes once in a while.

I took pictures on Saturday, mostly bad ones. Many of them are of the review parade. As for the game pics, I started having battery issues late in the first half, and I also just struggled taking photos in general (not for the first time). Thus, there are no second-half action shots. I did take some pictures of the post-game on-field activity, however.

 

2018 Football, Game 9: The Citadel vs. Samford

The Citadel vs. Samford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on November 10, 2018.

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Samford

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– AFCA FCS Coaches’ poll

– Brent Thompson’s 11/6 press conference

– Brent Thompson’s 11/7 radio show (video)

The Bulldog Breakdown 11/7

Noah Dawkins is a finalist for the Blanchard-Rogers Trophy

– “The Heat” – Western Carolina game

Samford meets with the media

This week is Homecoming at The Citadel. As always, there will be plenty of events on campus, and a lot of visitors on hand.

On Saturday, the barracks open at 8:30 am (and then close ninety minutes later). The Summerall Guards will perform at 8:50 am.

The review parade is at 11:00 am.

I have to establish very important and utterly sacred ground rules when writing about The Citadel and Samford, as both teams are nicknamed “Bulldogs”. Obviously, the SoCon should have forced Samford to come up with a new nickname when the suburban Birmingham school joined the league, but that canine has now left the kennel.

In this post, “Bulldogs” refers to The Citadel. After all, I graduated from The Citadel, and this is my blog. So there.

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

For those unfamiliar with the Baptist Tigers, a short history lesson that I’ve referenced before:

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.

As a rule, bears are a lot bigger than bulldogs, and also generally give the impression of being hungry a lot. I’m not sure why the students voted the way they did, but 1916 was a long time ago.

However, 1916 wasn’t so long ago for The Citadel’s oldest living former regimental commander, Marion “Joe” Smoak. After all, that was the year he was born.

The pageantry and celebrations during The Citadel Homecoming 2018 will include a meeting between the oldest living Regimental Commander of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets, who is 102, and the youngest, who is 21. Ambassador Marion “Joe” Smoak, will make his way from Washington D.C. to visit campus during what would be his 80th reunion since graduating. Just before the Homecoming Review Parade, Smoak and Cadet Col. Sarah Zorn will meet to shake hands before the Corps.

 

After graduating from The Citadel with an English degree, and then from the University of South Carolina School of Law, Smoak served in the U.S. Army as an officer, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1961. During those years, he was a Judge Advocate Officer in both the Pacific and European theaters during World War II. That was followed by tours with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions during which Smoak accumulated 58 jumps earning master parachutist status…From 1969-1974, he was Chief of Protocol for President Richard Nixon, retiring from the Department of State in 1974 with the grade of Ambassador.

You may recall the recent profile of Helen McCoy, the 101-year-old fan of Bulldog football whose preferred beverage of choice at games is rum and Coke. Well, according to his family, Smoak enjoys a daily martini.

Hey, maybe they know something…

The Citadel has had some success in blocking punts this year, including two last week versus Western Carolina. The second of the two blocked punts against the Catamounts was returned for a TD by redshirt freshman Dante Smith, the first time the Bulldogs had scored on a punt block since 2012. Credit for the block on that play went to Bradley Carter, a scout team ace from Blythewood.

Sean-Thomas Faulkner has blocked two punts this season (including the first against WCU last Saturday), and the redshirt freshman has been close to getting a hand on several others. He appears to be a natural at the art of blocking kicks, a point reinforced during Brent Thompson’s radio show when the coach remarked that Faulkner “blocked about a dozen” punts while on the scout team last season.

A kick-blocking savant is a great weapon for a team to have, and The Citadel really hasn’t had such an individual since Domonic Jones terrorized SoCon punters and placekickers several years ago. Before Jones, there was the indefatigable Milford Scott, the bane of many an up-back’s existence.

Actually, the Bulldogs have a little bit of a tradition when it comes to blocking kicks. That dates at least as far back as 1950, when Sam Rubino famously blocked two punts in a game against South Carolina, both of which were returned for touchdowns in The Citadel’s staggering 19-7 upset of the Gamecocks.

Samford was the consensus preseason favorite to win the SoCon, and can still do so, but the Birmingham Bulldogs have not exactly had the season their fans envisioned.

After an essentially useless 66-9 season-opening victory over Shorter, Samford lost its next four contests, a stunning September swoon:

  • Florida State scored two late touchdowns to escape with a 36-26 win over SU. It was a game Samford probably should have won, but the Crimson Bulldogs lost the turnover battle 5 to 1, giving the Seminoles the chance to avoid one of the worst losses in FSU history.
  • The following week, Samford began SoCon play by losing at home to Mercer, 30-24. The Bears led 17-7 at halftime and dominated time of possession in the first three quarters of the game. Samford gave up a 73-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter that proved to be too much to overcome.
  • The following week at Chattanooga, SU fell behind 17-0 and eventually lost, 27-20. Devlin Hodges threw 62 passes in the game, completing 44 of them — but also got picked off three times. Samford managed to drive the ball to the UTC 15-yard line late in the game, but was unable to score a tying touchdown.
  • Samford then lost at Kennesaw State, 24-10. In this game, SU actually had the same number of rushing attempts as it did passes (including sacks). Against a triple option opponent, Samford didn’t fare too badly against the run (KSU averaged 4.0 yards per rush) and only lost the TOP battle by five minutes, but trailed the Owls 21-3 after KSU’s first possession of the second half and never got back into the contest.

Since the loss to Kennesaw State, though, Samford has rebounded to win its next four games. The first two triumphs were massive offensive explosions (66-28 over Western Carolina and 70-22 over VMI). Samford had a total of 1,509 yards of combined total offense in those two games.

SU maintained the positive momentum derived from those two blowouts, and that resulted in solid victories over Furman (38-25) and Wofford (35-20). In both contests, SU lost the time of possession battle by a wide margin, but it didn’t matter.

The game against the Paladins was played in Greenville, and was followed by a bye. Last week’s win over the Terriers came at home — and on SU’s Homecoming. Thus, the Homewood Homebodies will play in Homecoming games on back-to-back Saturdays.

The math is fairly simple for Samford at this point. Win its last two games against The Citadel and East Tennessee State, and SU will claim the SoCon’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Lose either one of them, and the Baptist Tigers will be home for the holidays.

Samford’s rank in conference play (SoCon games only) in select categories:

  • 1st in scoring offense (42.7 points per game)
  • 1st in total offense, and 1st in yards per play
  • 1st in passing efficiency offense
  • 1st in passing offense, but somewhat surprisingly only 4th in yards per pass attempt (The Citadel is 3rd)
  • 6th in rushing offense, 5th in yards per play
  • 4th in scoring defense (25.3 points per game)
  • 6th in total defense, 4th in yards allowed per play
  • 5th in rushing defense, but a solid 2nd in rush yards allowed per play

[Running is] not what [Chris Hatcher] wants to do. Just like me — I don’t want to throw the football, right? He doesn’t want to run the football. Let’s face it, let’s do what we do, and let’s make it better…

Brent Thompson, during a discussion of offensive philosophy on his radio show (which also included thoughts on Mike Leach’s concept of what really constitutes “balance” in an offense)

Devlin Hodges (6’1″, 210 lbs.) has completed 71.3% of his passes this season, with 30 TD tosses against 15 interceptions, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt (not taking sacks into account). The senior from Kimberly, Alabama has made news this season with both his passing statistics and his success as a duck caller.

Hodges is obviously really good. The best (and perhaps only) way for The Citadel to stop him is to keep him on the sidelines. One other note about Hodges: he has punted the ball 10 times this season.

Samford alternates two running backs, DeMarcus Ware (5’9″, 186 lbs.) and Roland Adams (5’10”, 203 lbs.). Ware, a freshman from Mississippi, has six rushing touchdowns and leads the squad in rushing yards, while Adams (a senior from Florence, Alabama) is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and has scored three times. As you might expect, both are capable receivers out of the backfield.

Wide receiver Kelvin McKnight (5’8″, 186 lbs.) caught nine passes for 118 yards in his previous visit to Johnson Hagood Stadium. The senior from Bradenton, Florida has 76 receptions so far this season, with eight touchdowns, and is well on his way to repeating as a first-team All-SoCon performer. He is averaging an almost absurd 15.2 yards per catch.

McKnight also serves as SU’s punt returner.

It is hard to highlight every Samford pass-catching target, since 20 different Crimson Bulldogs have caught passes this year, but Chris Shelling (5’8″, 165 lbs.) is definitely worth mentioning. Shelling has nine TD catches, and is second on the team in receptions, with 48. He has found the end zone against every SoCon opponent this season except for (somewhat surprisingly) Western Carolina.

Samford’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’6″, 299 lbs. Left tackle Nick Nixon (6’6″, 275 lbs.), a junior from Hendersonville, Tennessee, was a preseason first-team all-league pick.

Incidentally, four of SU’s o-line starters are 6’6″, and the other is 6’7″. The tallest of the group is actually the center, Brendan Loftus (6’7″, 322 lbs.), who began his collegiate career at the University of Miami.

I don’t remember seeing many 6’7″ centers, at least on the gridiron. Hoops, sure…

Under defensive coordinator Bill D’Ottavio, SU has mostly employed a “Bear” front against The Citadel’s triple option offense. From 2010 to 2012, the Bulldogs had a difficult time moving the football against Samford, with really bad third-down conversion rates (15% for the combined three-year period).

However, in recent years The Citadel got better in that category against SU:

  • 2013: 8 for 17, 47.1%
  • 2014: 7 for 19, 36.8%
  • 2015: 6 for 14, 42.9%
  • 2016: 11 for 21, 52.3%

Last year was a setback. The Citadel was only 3 for 13 converting third downs (23.1%). That conversion rate has to dramatically increase on Saturday if the Bulldogs want to win.

Defensive end Ahmad Gooden (6’2″, 245 lbs.), the preseason defensive player of the year in the SoCon, has 15 tackles for loss thus far in 2018 (including 5 1/2 sacks). Against Furman, he returned a fumble 58 yards for a touchdown, a huge play in that game.

In his last two games versus The Citadel, Gooden has 27 total tackles. He is a senior from Talledega.

Although not listed as a starter, freshman defensive end Nelson Jordan (6’1″, 252 lbs.) is second on the team in sacks, with three. He also has three additional tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries.

Middle linebacker Aaron Harris (6’0″, 218 lbs.) is far and away Samford’s leader in tackles this season, with 71. The senior transferred from Southern Mississippi after his freshman year.

William Bryant (6’1″, 194 lbs.) is a junior strong safety who ranks third on the team in tackles. He also leads the team in passes defensed.

Samford placekicker Mitchell Fineran (5’10”, 175 lbs.) is 10 for 13 on field goal attempts this season, with a long of 46. The freshman has made all 42 of his PATs, and also handles kickoffs (with a touchback rate of 17.5%).

Bradley Porcellato (6’0″, 170 lbs.) is the SU punter. Like a lot of D-1 punters these days, Porcellato is a native of Australia — specifically, Melbourne. He is a product of Prokick Australia, a school for kickers down under that has sent many punters to U.S. colleges and universities.

While listed on the two-deep and on the game notes roster, Porcellato is not on the team’s online roster, which seems odd.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service:  partly sunny, with a high of 66 degrees. That sounds like great Homecoming weather to me.

– The Citadel is 6-5 all-time against Samford, including a 4-2 record at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The last meeting between the teams in Charleston was certainly a memorable one.

– Useless trivia alert:  the two sets of Bulldogs both have long consecutive program scoring streaks. Samford has scored in its last 199 games, the longest streak in the SoCon. The second-longest streak belongs to The Citadel, at 93 games.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Samford is a 13-point favorite versus The Citadel (as of Thursday night). The over/under is 60.

When the line was first posted on Tuesday evening, Samford was an 11 1/2 point favorite.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Chattanooga is a 6-point favorite over Mercer; Furman is an 11 1/2 point favorite at VMI; Wofford is a 14 1/2 point favorite at Western Carolina.

ETSU is off this week.

– Also of note: Towson is an 1 1/2 point favorite at Elon, while Charleston Southern is a 9 1/2 point favorite over Gardner-Webb. Alabama, next week’s opponent for The Citadel, is a 24-point favorite against another set of Bulldogs, those representing Mississippi State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 60th in FCS, up five spots from last week. Samford is 23rd (also moving up five places).

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 23% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Samford 33, The Citadel 24.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey: Colgate (7th), James Madison (11th), Kennesaw State (12th), Elon (14th), Towson (18th), Wofford (24th), Furman (32nd), East Tennessee State (35th), Chattanooga (40th), North Carolina A&T (46th), Youngstown State (50th), San Diego (53rd), Mercer (55th), Northern Arizona (59th), Richmond (61st), Holy Cross (64th), Sacred Heart (69th), Western Carolina (78th), North Alabama (85th), South Carolina State (87th), Gardner-Webb (90th), Charleston Southern (91st), Campbell (92nd), VMI (93rd), Dayton (100th), Lehigh (107th), Presbyterian (120th), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads: North Dakota State, Princeton, UC Davis, South Dakota State, and Dartmouth.

I think that top 5 exposes a flaw in the Massey Ratings, to be honest. Because Ivy League schools as a group play a non-conference schedule with limited connectivity to the rest of Division I, the top teams in the conference tend to be placed higher in the ratings/rankings than they should be.

Princeton is a good team, but it is hard to imagine the Tigers are really on the same level with the elite FCS squads. There is certainly no evidence suggesting that to be the case.

Biggest movers in FCS this week: Lamar moved up 17 spots to 45th after winning at Central Arkansas, 38-24. Conversely, UCA is now 44th, a fall of 17 places, after losing to the Cardinals.

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Michigan, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Kentucky, UCF, and Florida. Some other notables:  Missouri is 11th (?!), Ohio State 13th, Mississippi State 14th, South Carolina 17th, Penn State 18th, Auburn 20th, Fresno State 22nd, North Carolina State 24th, Boston College 29th, Texas 30th, Army 34th, Duke 36th, Pittsburgh 38th, Arizona State 42nd, Tennessee 45th, Virginia 46th, Georgia Tech 50th, Appalachian State 52nd, Maryland 56th, Florida State 61st, Wake Forest 64th, North Texas 71st, Toledo 72nd, South Florida 73rd, Minnesota 82nd, Georgia Southern 84th, Air Force 89th, North Carolina 97th, Louisville 100th, Coastal Carolina 101st, Navy 105th, Liberty 109th, Charlotte 111th, Old Dominion 118th, Connecticut 126th, UTEP 129th, and Rice 130th and last (after the Owls lost to the Miners last week).

Biggest movers in FBS this week:  Missouri moved up 15 spots after beating Florida 38-17 in Gainesville. Meanwhile, Minnesota fired its defensive coordinator after a 55-31 home loss to Illinois. The Golden Gophers dropped 20 places in the rankings after that debacle.

– Among Samford’s notable alumni: actress Mary Anderson (Maybelle in Gone With The Wind), opera singer Elizabeth Futral, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Harold E. Martin.

– Samford’s roster includes 47 players from Georgia and 41 from Alabama. Other states represented on its squad:  Florida (16 players), Tennessee (8), Mississippi (4), North Carolina (2), and one each from Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, and Indiana.

As noted earlier, starting punter Bradley Porcellato is from Australia.

There are no South Carolinians on the squad, which means no players from celebrated gridiron super-machine Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School are on SU’s roster. The absence of any alumni from the famed maroon and orange is stupefying; one can only ascertain that there is a possibility Samford may be dropping the sport in the near future, and thus is not interested in superior footballing talent going forward.

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

– This week’s two-deep changes:  as was announced by Brent Thompson earlier this week, Brandon Rainey is now the starting quarterback. Clay Harris is the new starter at B-back. Nkem Njoku has been named a starter at one of the A-back spots.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 7-7-2 for games played on November 10, although the Bulldogs have won the last five contests played on that date. The Citadel is 6-2 at home on November 10 (either at Johnson Hagood Stadium or Hampton Park), 4-1 in SoCon play. A brief review of a few of the contests, as we travel back in time:

  • 1906:  At Hampton Park, The Citadel shut out Mercer, 10-0. The game started at 11:00 a.m., so as not to interfere with other activities surrounding “Gala Week”, a festival that celebrated Charleston’s recovery from the devastating 1886 earthquake. Apparently there was a lot of partying associated with the festival, as only 200 hardy souls were awake enough at that hour to attend the football game. Starting quarterback and team captain James Hammond was the outstanding performer for the Bulldogs. The Citadel scored two touchdowns (which were worth five points back then), with Ted Russell and Albert Able finding the end zone for the blue and white.
  • 1973:  Before a crowd of 12,600 on a chilly Homecoming afternoon at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel defeated Furman 26-21. Andrew Johnson and Gene Dotson both scored two touchdowns for the Bulldogs, with Johnson rushing for 172 yards while Dotson chipped in with 131. The Citadel (which only had one completed pass) trailed 21-20 in the fourth quarter before Johnson’s second TD of the day gave the Bulldogs the lead for good. A sack by Greg Erickson snuffed out the Paladins’ last scoring opportunity. Other defensive stalwarts for The Citadel that day included Jim Roberts, Tom Leitner, Kemble Farr, Brian Ruff, and Tony Cicoria.
  • 1990:  After a Wofford halfback stated to a reporter that the Terriers had a better offensive attack than The Citadel — indeed, that Wofford had “the best wishbone offense in the country” — The Citadel’s defense held the Terriers to 30 yards rushing in a 48-14 Bulldogs victory before a crowd of 14,121 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. In a game played in blustery conditions, The Citadel rushed for 394 yards, with fourteen different Bulldogs carrying the ball at least once. Ray Wimbush and Jack Douglas both ran for 2 TDs; other Bulldogs to score included Willie Jones, Erick Little, and Howard Barnard (two field goals). Dwayne Smalls recovered one fumble and forced another, while Geren Williams dominated the line of scrimmage from his noseguard position.
  • 2007:  Andre Roberts caught eight passes for 180 yards and a touchdown, while Bart Blanchard threw for 370 yards and three TDs, as The Citadel rallied to beat Elon 42-31 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Tory Cooper scored three rushing touchdowns, while Taylor Cornett and Tim Higgins each had a TD reception. Andrew Rowell had an interception for the Bulldogs and also blocked a field goal. Attendance: 10,261.

– Samford has an all-time record of 7-4-1 in games played on November 10.

– As many fans of the Bulldogs know, the 1906 squad mentioned above won the national championship, as it finished that campaign undefeated and untied (and also unscored upon). Two other programs, Yale and Princeton, also claim a share of the title for that season, with various selectors opting for one of the three schools. Princeton, for example, was the retroactive pick of the Helms Foundation, while The Citadel was the choice of the TSA Matrix Ratings System.

For some reason, the 1906 title hasn’t been as widely publicized as The Citadel’s 1871 national title (though to be fair, that championship has flown under the radar at times as well). One possible reason for the difference in recognition between the two seasons is that the 1871 title is undisputed.

I’m hoping there will be a sizable crowd at the game on Saturday — not just in the tailgating areas (that is a given), but in the stands. It should be a nice day to watch a good gridiron contest.

I am a little irked that some members of the national press are already assuming Samford will win on Saturday:

Yes, I know which team is favored. I also know which team is playing at home, which team is playing before a lot of passionate alumni, and which team played its best half of football this season just last week.

All of that counts for something. As for how much it counts…I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.

2018 Football, Game 8: The Citadel vs. Western Carolina

The Citadel at Western Carolina, to be played to be played in Cullowhee, North Carolina, on the grounds of Bob Waters Field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium, with kickoff at 3:30 pm ET on Saturday, November 3.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Daniel Hooker will handle play-by-play, while Dan Gibson supplies the analysis. Summer McMahan is the sideline reporter.

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

AFCA Coaches’ poll

Brent Thompson’s 10/30 press conference

Brent Thompson’s 10/31 radio show (video)

Catamount Football Weekly

Countdown to tip-off: The Citadel basketball (video)

My review of last year’s game between the two teams

The Citadel announced on Wednesday that the football team will face Georgia Southern on September 2, 2023.

To date, The Citadel’s future FBS foes are as follows (with the guarantees in parenthesis):

  • 2019: Georgia Tech ($400,000)
  • 2020: Clemson ($300,000)
  • 2021: Coastal Carolina ($315,000)
  • 2023: Georgia Southern ($320,000)
  • 2024: Clemson ($300,000)
  • 2025: Mississippi ($500,000)

My main issue with this game (and the matchup with Coastal Carolina in 2021) is that there is less of a guarantee when The Citadel plays G5 schools instead of P5 opponents. That concern is alleviated to an extent by the news that the department of athletics will receive more than $300,000 from both Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern (and the travel should be fairly easy).

I think the Clemson guarantee will also include tickets, but I’m not sure.

Also of note: in 2019 and 2024, FCS schools will have the option of scheduling 12 regular-season games, instead of the standard 11 contests.

Just a couple of quick observations about the Furman game:

– I’ve pointed out the lack of big gains in the running game all season. This was a factor again last Saturday, as the longest rush from scrimmage by a Bulldog was only 14 yards.

The Citadel has to have more “chunk” running plays. Obviously the passing attack took up some of the big play slack versus the Paladins, but an option team has to break off long gainers on the ground from time to time.

The Citadel led the league in yards per rush in both 2015 (5.6 yds/rush) and 2016 (5.2), thanks in part to long gainers. The Bulldogs were second (5.0) in that category last season.

In league play, the Bulldogs are averaging 4.4 yards per rush. That is 5th-best in the conference.

– Defensively, The Citadel did a lot of good things last week. What the Bulldogs didn’t do, though, was force a turnover. Against a Furman squad missing its starting quarterback, that has to be considered to be something of a disappointment.

In six SoCon matchups this season, The Citadel has forced eight turnovers.

  • 2015: 18 forced turnovers in seven league games
  • 2016: 15 forced turnovers in eight league games
  • 2017: 12 forced turnovers in eight league games

Western Carolina plays Wofford next week. There has been some discussion about whether or not it is an advantage for The Citadel that the Catamounts have yet to play a true option team. I don’t know if that really matters (it probably does), but I did notice one other interesting scheduling wrinkle.

This will be the third conference game in 2018 in which The Citadel’s opponent has played a road game before facing The Citadel. In all three cases (Mercer, VMI, and Western Carolina), the opponent is following up a road game by hosting the Bulldogs.

So far in that scenario, The Citadel is 2-0.

Western Carolina is 3-5, 1-5 in the SoCon. The Catamounts won their first three games, but have lost five in a row.

It doesn’t take a whole lot to sum up WCU. Actually, just the scores of its league games tell a lot of the story:

52-50, 38-44, 28-66, 6-26, 46-59, 43-45 (3OT)

The 26-6 loss to Chattanooga is the outlier. Not counting the matchup versus the Mocs, Western Carolina is averaging 41.4 points per game, but allowing 52.8 points per contest.

As you might imagine, the Catamounts are at or near the top of the league in many offensive categories, while their defensive statistics tend to go in the other direction.

In SoCon games, Western Carolina is second in total offense, third in offensive plays from scrimmage, fourth in yards per play, second in yards per rush, and fifth in yards per pass attempt. WCU has committed 14 turnovers, second-most in the league; eight of those are lost fumbles.

The defense ranks last in total defense, next-to-last in yards allowed per play, 7th (of nine teams) in yards allowed per rush, and fifth in yards allowed per pass attempt. WCU has forced 13 turnovers on defense, tied for the most in the league.

A few tidbits:

  • VMI and Western Carolina combined for exactly 1100 total yards on 191 total plays.
  • Western Carolina averaged 7.0 yards per play versus Furman, but the Paladins averaged 8.5 yards per play against WCU.
  • Mercer and Western Carolina combined to score 48 points…in the second quarter.
  • Samford scored 35 points in the first quarter and averaged 9.4 yards per play for the game.
  • ETSU scored 15 points in the final 5:02 of regulation; WCU missed a field goal that would have won the game in the first OT.

“We don’t want to get into a shootout with them.”

Brent Thompson during his press conference, discussing the Catamounts’ offense

Western Carolina’s offense is led by quarterback Tyrie Adams (6’2″, 180 lbs.), who has received the last two SoCon offensive player of the week awards. Adams, a redshirt junior from St. Petersburg, Florida, is completing 64.6% of his passes, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt (not accounting for sacks), with 16 TD throws against just four interceptions.

In addition, Adams leads WCU in rushing, as the dual-threat QB averages 5.4 yards per carry, and has scored seven rushing touchdowns. Against The Citadel last season, he threw for a relatively modest 133 yards, but three of his tosses went for touchdowns.

Running back Connell Young (6’0″, 205 lbs.), a junior from Greensboro, averages 5.1 yards per rush. Young also has 26 receptions out of the backfield, with three of those catches going for TDs. He had a TD reception last year versus the Bulldogs.

Wide receivers Nate Mullen (5’9″, 185 lbs.) and Daquan Patton (5’6″, 185 lbs.) have combined for 76 receptions and seven touchdowns. Mullen, a redshirt junior from Harrisburg, North Carolina, has 46 of the catches.

Patten (5’6″, 185 lbs.), the son of former WCU and NFL player David Patten, has five of the TDs. The native of Columbia is a redshirt sophomore who went to Blythewood High School.

While tight end Owen Cosenke (6’3″, 240 lbs.) has only 19 catches, eight of them have resulted in touchdowns. During his radio show, Brent Thompson noted the sophomore’s ability to find the end zone.

The projected starters on Western Carolina’s offensive line average 6’4″, 312 lbs. I believe the group is the largest in the SoCon.

Three of them were preseason all-conference picks, with center Zach Weeks (6’3″, 290 lbs.) a first-team selection. Weeks was a first-team choice by the coaches after last season.

Left guard Andrew Miles (6’4″, 310 lbs.) and right tackle Nathan Dalton (6’6″, 340 lbs.) were both preseason second-team picks. Weeks, Miles, Dalton, and right guard Chase Stehling (6’4″, 335 lbs.) are all redshirt seniors. Three of the four are from North Carolina (Miles is from Flowery Branch, Georgia).

“They’re very young.”

Brent Thompson during his press conference, discussing the Catamounts’ defense

He isn’t wrong. On its current two-deep, Western Carolina lists 14 defensive players who are freshmen, redshirt freshmen, or sophomores.

(I should point out here that The Citadel has 11 such defensive players on its depth chart.)

That said, it is a senior, linebacker Mitchell Chancey (6’0″, 225 lbs.), who leads Western Carolina in tackles, with 90, far more than any other Catamount. The native of Asheville has had 10 or more stops in every game this season.

Marvin Tillman (6’1″, 195 lbs.), a senior safety from Durham, is second on the squad in tackles. Tillman, a preseason first-team all-SoCon selection, intercepted two passes against The Citadel in last year’s contest.

Starting noseguard Solomon Clark (6’0″, 270 lbs.), a senior from Richmond, California, leads the Catamounts in tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (5).

Another senior, linebacker Jacquez Williams (6’3″, 220 lbs.), has 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Williams, who has also been credited with a team-leading 10 quarterback hurries, began his college career at Georgia Military.

Redshirt senior Ian Berryman (6’0″, 200 lbs.) has had an outstanding career at WCU as the team’s punter. He was a preseason first-team all-league pick at that spot after being the consensus first-team punter in the SoCon last year. He was also a first-team pick by the coaches as a freshman and a sophomore.

Last year’s game against The Citadel may have been the worst of Berryman’s career, as he had two punts blocked and shanked another one under duress.

Sophomore placekicker Will Horton (5’10”, 165 lbs.) is 9 for 12 in field goal attempts this season, with a long of 47. Horton also handles kickoffs for the Catamounts. Six of his 27 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Cullowhee, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 57 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 36 degrees.

– The Citadel is 11-10 all-time in Cullowhee.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 5-point favorite at Western Carolina, with an over/under of 66.

The spread and over/under listed above are as of Thursday night. When the lines were first posted on Tuesday afternoon, the Bulldogs were a 4-point favorite, and the over/under was 73 1/2.

Other lines involving SoCon teams (all as of Thursday night): Samford is a 5 1/2 point over Wofford; VMI is a 19-point favorite over Tusculum; Furman is a 4 1/2 point favorite over Chattanooga; and Mercer is a 4 1/2 point favorite over East Tennessee State.

Also of note: Towson is an 11 1/2 point favorite over Maine, while Charleston Southern is a 3-point underdog at Monmouth. Alabama is a 14 1/2 point favorite at LSU.

Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 65th in FCS, down two spots from last week. Western Carolina is 75th (a ten-spot move up from last week).

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 59% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 38, Western Carolina 35.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey: Colgate (10th), Elon (13th), Towson (14th), Kennesaw State (15th), Wofford (20th), Samford (28th), Yale (30th), Furman (33rd), Chattanooga (37th), North Carolina A&T (39th), East Tennessee State (41st), Mercer (54th), Youngstown State (55th), San Diego (64th), Southeastern Louisiana (66th), Charleston Southern (76th), South Carolina State (90th), Savannah State (91st), Campbell (95th), Gardner-Webb (96th), VMI (99th), Hampton (110th), Presbyterian (117th), Davidson (120th), Mississippi Valley State (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads: North Dakota State, James Madison, UC Davis, South Dakota State, and Dartmouth.

Biggest movers in FCS this week: Gardner-Webb moved up 21 spots after beating Campbell 35-7 (the loss dropped the Camels 14 positions). Meanwhile, Youngstown State fell 20 places after losing 43-17 to Indiana State; Bo Pelini’s squad now has to play North Dakota State in Fargo, where the Penguins will be a 35-point underdog.

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida, Kentucky, and Ohio State. Some other notables: UCF is 13th, Washington State 15th, Mississippi State 17th, Texas A&M 18th, Texas 20th, Auburn 22nd, South Carolina 23rd, North Carolina State 25th, Missouri 26th, Boston College 28th, Syracuse 31st, Army 32nd, Virginia 39th, Mississippi 41st, Duke 43rd, Tennessee 46th, Maryland 48th, Georgia Tech 51st, Florida State 54th, Appalachian State 57th, Wake Forest 58th, Virginia Tech 59th, Colorado 64th, Georgia Southern 65th, Toledo 73rd, North Texas 79th, Air Force 87th, North Carolina 94th, Coastal Carolina 99th, Navy 104th, Liberty 105th, Charlotte 112th, Old Dominion 119th, UTEP 130th and last.

Biggest movers in FBS this week: Oregon State jumped from 120th to 103rd after beating Colorado; conversely, the Buffaloes fell 20 spots after blowing a 28-point lead and losing to the Beavers. Appalachian State also dropped 20 positions after losing to Georgia Southern (which moved up 16 places).

– Among Western Carolina’s notable alumni: football coach (and triple option maestro) Paul Johnson, actress Bobbi Baker, and comedian Rich Hall.

– Western Carolina’s roster includes 48 players from North Carolina. Other states represented on its squad: Georgia (27 players), South Carolina (11), Tennessee (4), Florida (3), Alabama (2), Ohio (2), and one each from California, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The eleven Catamounts from the Palmetto State represent nine different high schools (including two each from Blythewood H.S. and Spartanburg H.S.), but none are from supreme gridiron superpower Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This is an oversight on the part of Western Carolina that will undoubtedly prove detrimental to its football program for decades to come. Ronnie Carr cries himself to sleep every night just thinking about it.

It isn’t like WCU can claim not to be familiar with the region, either. Freshman offensive lineman Torrion Stevenson went to Branchville High School, located in the same county as the famed maroon and orange.

Of note: Stevenson is also a volunteer firefighter in Branchville. At 6’1″, 315 lbs., he is probably the largest firefighter in the local area.

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

– This week’s two-deep changes: Ryan McCarthy is now listed as the starter at one of the wide receiver positions. McCarthy caught three passes against Furman last week in his first action as a wideout.

Incidentally, on his radio show Brent Thompson stated that McCarthy has a 39-inch vertical jump. Of course, McCarthy’s regular position is quarterback, and he also plays on The Citadel’s baseball team.

Dante Smith is officially the starter at one of the A-back slots. At the other A-back position, Grant Drakeford and Keyonte Sessions are both listed as potential starters, probably a reflection of Drakeford’s uncertain injury status.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 8-4-1 for games played on November 3. The Bulldogs are 3-2 away from home on that date, 5-3 in SoCon play. A brief review of a few of the contests, as we travel back in time via the TSA Wayback Machine:

  • 1909: The Citadel and Davidson played to a scoreless tie at the state fairgrounds in Columbia. The longest play from scrimmage, 25 yards, came on a fake punt by the Wildcats. While Davidson never got closer than the Bulldogs’ 30-yard line, The Citadel managed to advance the ball to the opposing 10-yard line late in the first half, but eschewed a field goal and failed to convert on third down (back then, teams had three plays to gain five yards for a first down).
  • 1956: Trailing 13-0 early in the second half, The Citadel stormed back to beat Presbyterian, 20-13, in a Homecoming game at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Quarterback Jack Griffin rushed for a 25-yard TD, which was followed by a three-yard Joe Chefalo touchdown run (set up by a 60-yard pass to Paul Maguire). Connie Tuza’s PAT tied the contest. After PC went for it on 4th down on its own 23-yard line and failed to pick up a first down, the Bulldogs took advantage, scoring the game-winner on a Ray Woodworth one-yard run. A last-ditch pass by the Blue Hose was intercepted by Bobby Schwarze.
  • 1979: The Bulldogs survived a late field goal attempt and edged Marshall, 17-16, in a game played in Huntington, West Virginia. Stump Mitchell rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns, but The Citadel trailed 16-10 after two special teams miscues (including a blocked punt and a safety on a kickoff return). In the third quarter, Tim Russell gained 20 yards on a fourth-down play, setting up a first-and-goal that resulted in Mitchell’s second TD. That score proved to be the winner, as Marshall missed a 28-yard field goal try with 2:08 to play. The Bulldogs would hold on from there.
  • 1990: Before a crowd of 19,754 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel walloped VMI 23-3. Erick Little rushed for 129 yards, while Ray Wimbush and Everette Sands both scored touchdowns. Howard Barnard added three field goals, while the Bulldogs’ D held the Keydets 25 points under their season average. Tony Skole blocked a punt to set up Barnard’s third field goal.
  • 2012: The Citadel defeated Elon, 28-24. Hey, I wrote about this game. Darien Robinson rushed for 178 yards; the game also featured a Hail Mary TD for the Bulldogs on the final play of the first half, courtesy of Aaron Miller. Brandon McCladdie intercepted a pass and had a fine all-around performance as the Bulldogs prevailed at home.

– The referee for that 1909 game between The Citadel and Davidson was Frank “Shag” Shaughnessy, who (among many other things) was the football team captain at Notre Dame, where he also acquired degrees in pharmacy and law; served as Clemson’s head football coach for one season; played nine games in the major leagues; managed hockey’s Ottawa Senators in the forerunner to the NHL; was president of baseball’s International League for 24 years; and created a playoff system that was eventually adopted by the minor leagues (and led to the modern-day divisions in the major leagues).

– The last time the Bulldogs played on the road on November 3, they defeated Chattanooga 20-17 in double overtime. That day was the Mocs’ Homecoming.

Saturday will be Homecoming at Western Carolina. Hmm…

The Citadel can win this game. The Bulldogs have to control Tyrie Adams; they may not be able to completely stop him, but they have to prevent him from dominating the game.

One way to do that is by keeping Adams off the field. The offense has to maintain possession for long drives. It can’t give the ball away (as was the case in last year’s meeting, when the Bulldogs committed five turnovers).

When the defense has a chance to make a big play, it has to do so — whether that is forcing a turnover or stopping the Catamounts on third (and fourth) down. WCU is probably going to get its yards. The Bulldogs have to prevent the Catamounts from getting points to go along with those yards.

There is opportunity in Cullowhee this Saturday. The Bulldogs have to take advantage; playmakers have to make plays.

Go Dogs!

2018 Football, Game 7: The Citadel vs. Furman

Rarely does a football team live up to its nickname the way The Citadel’s gritty squad did at Johnson Hagood Stadium Saturday afternoon. They don’t call them the Bulldogs for nothing.

Third-string quarterback Joe Sumrall, pressed into action by a rash of injuries, directed Bobby Ross’ team to one first-half touchdown and freshman running back Alvin Perkins exploded 54 yards for another. Handed that cushion, The Citadel defense then hung on to take a 13-9 victory over arch-rival Furman.

“I’ve never been as proud of a team as I am of this one today,” said a relieved Ross afterwards. “We were depleted by injuries, and some other guys were playing hurt. But these kids have shown a lot of spunk all season.”

The Post and Courier, November 16, 1975

The Citadel vs. Furman, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 27, 2018.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen supplies the analysis. Danielle Hensley is the sideline reporter. 

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Furman

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– AFCA Coaches’ poll

– Brent Thompson’s 10/23 press conference

– Brent Thompson’s 10/24 radio show (video)

The Citadel’s oldest fan (presumably) is 101 years old; she watches the Bulldogs while drinking rum and Coke

Bulldogs outlast VMI, retain the coveted Silver Shako

“The Heat” — VMI game (video)

Zane Najdawi a preseason all-conference selection for the Bulldogs; hoopsters picked to finish 6th in the SoCon by the coaches

“Meet the Bulldogs” basketball event to be held outside of Gate 2 at Johnson Hagood Stadium

– Furman enters “must win” portion of the season

This is Hall of Fame weekend at The Citadel. Originally, it was supposed to take place on the weekend of the Charleston Southern game, but then that matchup got postponed due to Hurricane Florence.

This year’s inductees include basketball player Cameron Wells, wrestler Odie Delaney, baseball pitcher Brian Rogers, football player Gene Brown, and honorary enshrinee LTG Claudius “Bud” Watts III, the former school president.

It is an excellent class, but since this is a post that is mostly about football, allow me to single out Gene Brown for a moment. I’m very glad to see him honored; if anything, his election was overdue:

  • Brown was named the Southern Conference’s offensive player of the week four times in 1988. No other Bulldog football player has ever been honored that many times by the SoCon in one season. Brian Ruff was the league’s defensive player of the week three times in both 1975 and 1976; Stump Mitchell, Jack Douglas, and Everette Sands each had three conference offensive player of the week nods in one season (in 1980, 1990, and 1992, respectively). That is an extremely impressive group of players, and Brown actually went one better than all of them.
  • His most critical performance that year came in The Citadel’s 20-3 victory over then-#1 Marshall. On one of the grand occasions in the history of Johnson Hagood Stadium, Brown returned from injury to lead the Bulldogs to a victory as memorable as any football game ever played on the peninsula. Do you remember the goalposts? I do…
  • Besides all-conference and SoCon Offensive Player of the Year honors, Gene Brown was also named the South Carolina State Player of the Year for the 1988 season. He became just the third Bulldog to receive that designation, after Andrew Johnson and Brian Ruff (who picked up that honor twice).
  • He had 286 yards against VMI in the Oyster Bowl! On only 15 carries!
  • That win over Navy at Johnson Hagood Stadium was quite nice, too.

To more than a few observers, the 1988 season marked a turning point in Bulldog football. Supporters and players came to understand that, even in the “modern era” of college football, The Citadel could do more than just compete on the gridiron — the Bulldogs could win, and win big, and with a lot of style. The program’s identity (then and now) as an option team was solidified during that campaign.

The architect of that change in outlook was Charlie Taaffe. The player who best illustrated Taaffe’s vision, and who first demonstrated its power, was Gene Brown.

Saturday will also be Military Appreciation Day at The Citadel (well, the football promotion version; after all, every day is military appreciation day at The Citadel). When Furman last visited Johnson Hagood Stadium, in 2016, it was also Military Appreciation Day. Expect the usual festivities associated with the event; the “Block C” logo at midfield already sports red, white, and blue coloring.

Before getting too far into this week’s preview, I wanted to briefly discuss the victory over VMI. Obviously, retaining the coveted Silver Shako was paramount, and the team succeeded in getting the job done.

That said, it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means. The Bulldogs still have issues that need to be fixed if they want to have a strong finish to the 2018 campaign.

When asked on his radio show about where the team could take away from the win over the Keydets, Brent Thompson mentioned “figuring out a way to win” (not a small thing, given the Bulldogs’ close losses this season). He also stated The Citadel had “played well at times on defense” and that he was pleased with some of the adjustments made on the offensive line.

Offensively, the Bulldogs finally produced some big running plays, including Jordan Black’s 71-yard TD dash in the third quarter.

The Citadel had three 20+ yard rushes versus VMI, which increased The Citadel’s total number this season of such running plays in SoCon action to seven. Those three plays included two touchdowns; the third long run led to a field goal.

I was slightly disappointed in the way the game ended from the Bulldogs’ perspective. The offense had a chance to essentially ice the game twice, and failed to do so. The defense allowed a big play TD in the fourth quarter, and later gave up a potential tying touchdown on a last-gasp drive by VMI.

The Citadel did enough to win the game, particularly on special teams, where the Bulldogs had a huge edge in the contest. Despite that, the Bulldogs still gave the Keydets a chance to force overtime. That isn’t the ideal recipe for long-term success.

However, you have to give the opponent credit too, even one that hasn’t won a game in a while.

Before the season began, I thought VMI might be truly atrocious, perhaps one of the very worst teams in all of FCS. While the Keydets haven’t been good, they are considerably more competitive than I expected.

VMI has played six league contests. In four of those, the Keydets lost by 3 or fewer points, and they could have easily won three of the matchups. Reece Udinski is a good quarterback, and he has a few playmakers with which to work. Defensively, VMI has really struggled, but opponents still have earn their points against them.

When VMI finally breaks through and wins a game, I think the team that loses to them will be very unhappy — but the squad that plays the Keydets in the following game shouldn’t be all that excited, either.

This is the first time since 2012 that The Citadel has played VMI and Furman in back-to-back weeks. That year, the Bulldogs defeated VMI 27-24 in Lexington, and followed that up with a 42-20 triumph over Furman in Greenville.

Before then, you have to go back to 1992 to find the last time The Citadel played the Keydets and Paladins in consecutive games. That season, the Bulldogs beat VMI 50-0 at Johnson Hagood Stadium, then won 20-14 at Furman to clinch the Southern Conference title.

Future scheduling report: Furman has the following games lined up against FBS opponents:

  • 2019: Georgia State and Virginia Tech (remember, next year FCS teams can play 12 regular-season games)
  • 2020: Tennessee
  • 2021: North Carolina State
  • 2022: Clemson
  • 2024: Mississippi
  • 2025: Clemson

The Citadel’s future FBS foes (so far) look like this:

  • 2019: Georgia Tech
  • 2020: Clemson
  • 2021: Coastal Carolina
  • 2024: Clemson
  • 2025: Mississippi

Clemson and Mississippi are basically switching out the two SoCon schools as their respective FCS matchups in 2024 and 2025.

As for non-conference FCS opponents over the next five years: Furman currently has scheduled matchups with Colgate (two games) and Kennesaw State; in addition, Clay Hendrix stated this week on his radio show that the Paladins will face Charleston Southern next year in Greenville.

Meanwhile, The Citadel will play Towson, Elon (two games), Charleston Southern (three games), and Campbell (two games). Both schools have slots available to add other non-conference contests.

From the preview of the game on Furman’s website:

The game will mark the 98th meeting between the Paladins and Bulldogs in a series that began in 1913 and has been played annually since 1919, with a brief three-year cessation from 1943-45 when the two schools closed ranks with the rest of America and the Allies to fight Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito in World War II.

I couldn’t help but notice this blurb. For one thing, “Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito” is a phrase doesn’t make a lot of game previews. However, Furman used the same line in its game notes for the 2015 matchup.

The Citadel won that contest 38-17, spoiling Furman’s Homecoming, so perhaps history can repeat itself.

Furman is 2-4 overall so far this season, 2-2 in the Southern Conference. The Paladins had a very tough start to their 2018 campaign, beginning with a 48-7 loss to Clemson.

The loss to the Tigers was predictable, but a 45-7 beatdown at the hands of Elon the following week was not. The two teams had split their matchups the previous season, with the Paladins prevailing in a playoff game.

In this contest, though, the Phoenix had more rushing yards (275) than Furman had total yards (262). Elon added 173 yards passing, while the Paladins committed three turnovers and were never really in the game.

FU’s would-be first home game of the season (against Colgate) was cancelled, thanks to Hurricane Florence. The next Saturday, the Paladins blew a 27-6 second-half lead and lost at East Tennessee State, 29-27. The winning points for the Buccaneers came on a late-game safety with the score tied, something you don’t see every day.

Furman rebounded the following week, outlasting Western Carolina 44-38. It was the Paladins’ first home game of the season (on September 29), and the team responded by jumping out to a 31-10 lead, then hanging on down the stretch to pick up the victory. The game was filled with numerous big plays, including a kickoff return for a touchdown by FU’s Dejuan Bell.

After a bye, the Paladins then played their best game of the season, defeating Wofford 34-14. Starting quarterback Harris Roberts threw for three touchdown passes and rushed for two others. The Paladins’ defense kept the Terriers’ offense in check, in large part by getting off the field on third down (Wofford was only 3 for 11 converting third down attempts).

Last week, Samford defeated Furman 38-25. The Paladins led 19-9 early in the third quarter, but Samford proceeded to score four TDs in less than eleven minutes of game action to put the game away. The key play was a 58-yard fumble return for a touchdown by SU defensive lineman Ahmad Gooden.

Despite the loss, the most impressive performer during the game was arguably Furman placekicker/punter Grayson Atkins, who kicked three field goals of 50 or more yards, and averaged 45.8 yards on six punts.

Furman’s regular starting quarterback is Harris Roberts (6’4″, 209 lbs.), a redshirt senior from Cumming, Georgia. For the season, Roberts is 37-54 passing, with four TDs against two interceptions, averaging an outstanding 10.1 yards per attempt (this does not account for sacks).

The problem for the Paladins has been keeping Roberts on the field. He missed much of the Clemson game, all of the Elon game, and left the Samford game last week early in that contest.

Whether or not he plays this Saturday is a big question, and Furman is trying to keep The Citadel guessing. FU’s depth chart lists four potential starters at quarterback.

Everyone knows that when a team has two quarterbacks, it really has none. What everyone doesn’t know is that if a team has four quarterbacks, it really has -2.

Redshirt senior Kealand Dirks (6’0″, 250 lbs.) was a preseason first-team all-SoCon pick, after being a second-team selection following last season. Dirks is averaging 3.6 yards per carry this year after averaging 4.7 yards per rush in 2017.

Devin Wynn (6’0″, 195 lbs.) has just as many carries this year as Dirks, but has gained 118 more yards. The sophomore tailback got his first start last week versus Samford, running for 83 yards on 13 rushes.

Junior flanker Thomas Gordon (6’0″”, 174 lbs.) leads the team in receptions, with sixteen. Gordon, a preseason second-team all-league choice, is averaging 16.2 yards per catch; he had a 77-yard touchdown catch against Samford.

Although listed as a backup, another receiver to watch is Dejuan Bell (5’9″, 160 lbs.), a freshman from North Augusta who was a high school track star. As noted in the overview of Furman’s season, Bell returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Western Carolina. He also had a 45-yard TD reception in that game.

Although he only has two receptions this season, by rule I have to mention Furman’s starting tight end, who will traditionally be seen running wide open across the middle of the field at least three times during this game. Jake Walker (6’4″, 228 lbs.), a sophomore, was a preseason second-team all-conference selection.

Furman’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 283 lbs. Left guard Reed Kroeber (6’4″, 286 lbs.), a versatile lineman who began the year as the center (and who has also played tackle for the Paladins) was a preseason second-team all-league pick, and the redshirt sophomore arguably should have been on the preseason first team.

The linchpin of Furman’s defensive unit is senior noseguard Jaylan Reid (5’11”, 278 lbs.), who has started 36 games for the Paladins during his college career. Reid was a second-team all-conference choice after last season; it is a testament to how many outstanding defensive linemen there are in the league that Reid did not make first team, because he is really good.

Elijah McKoy (6’2″, 225 lbs.) leads the team in tackles, with 56. The sophomore linebacker was a preseason first-team All-SoCon pick. He also has one of the Paladins’ three interceptions this season.

Middle linebacker Donavan Perryman (6’2″, 225 lbs.) has 46 stops on the campaign. Perryman is a sophomore from Rock Hill.

Although not listed as a starter, Adrian Hope (6’1″, 218 lbs.) warrants mentioning. He has seven sacks from the “Bandit” position (including three against Wofford). Hope is a redshirt freshman from Ocala, Florida, who had 56 career sacks in high school.

Aaquil Annoor (5’10”, 178 lbs.) was a second-team all-conference pick after last season, and the senior from Nashville was a preseason first-team selection this year. The strong safety has 31 career starts.

As discussed earlier, Grayson Atkins (5’10”, 187 lbs.) handles both the placekicking and punting duties for the Paladins, and handles them very well. The sophomore from Inman is 7 for 9 on field goal tries this year, with his two misses from 48 and 50 yards, and the three aforementioned makes of 50+. Atkins also handles kickoffs, and has a touchback rate of 51.6%.

Besides returning kicks, Dejuan Bell is now listed as the primary punt returner for Furman.

Evan Vaughn (6’2″, 227 lbs.) is in his third season as the Paladins’ long snapper. He is a junior from Honea Path.

Reese Vita (6’1″, 203 lbs.), the holder on placements, is a redshirt junior quarterback from Sarasota. He somehow was not listed as a potential starting QB on Furman’s depth chart this week, surely a missed opportunity.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service:  mostly cloudy, with a 20% chance of showers, and highs in the upper 60s.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Furman is a 7-point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 54 1/2.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Wofford is a 9-point favorite over Mercer; VMI is a 17 1/2 point underdog at Chattanooga; and East Tennessee State is a 6 1/2 point favorite over Western Carolina.

Samford is off this week.

Those lines are all as of Thursday evening.

– Also of note:  Towson is a 1-point underdog at Delaware, while Charleston Southern is a 23-point underdog against Kennesaw State.

Alabama is off this week, preparing for its November 3 contest at LSU — a night game in Baton Rouge.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 63rd in FCS. Furman is ranked 44th.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 40% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Furman 31, The Citadel 28.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey:  Towson (8th), Elon (12th), Colgate (14th), Kennesaw State (18th), Yale (21st), Wofford (26th), Samford (34th), Chattanooga (36th), North Carolina A&T (43rd), Mercer (48th), East Tennessee State (49th), San Diego (62nd), Charleston Southern (79th), Western Carolina (85th), Savannah State (99th), South Carolina State (101st), VMI (105th), Hampton (109th), Presbyterian (116th), Gardner-Webb (117th), Davidson (118th), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads: North Dakota State, James Madison, Dartmouth, Northern Iowa, and South Dakota State.

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Florida, Iowa, and Ohio State. Some other notables:  Texas is 12th, UCF 13th, Texas A&M 14th, North Carolina State 18th, Missouri 21st, Auburn 23rd, Mississippi State 25th, South Carolina 27th, Duke 33rd, Boston College 34th, Virginia 36th, Appalachian State 37th, Army 39th, Virginia Tech 46th, Tennessee 52nd, Florida State 53rd, Maryland 55th, Vanderbilt 61st, Georgia Tech 66th, Wake Forest 67th, North Texas 76th, Georgia Southern 81st, Air Force 83rd, Toledo 86th, Arkansas 93rd, North Carolina 95th, Coastal Carolina 100th, Navy 104th, Liberty 106th, Old Dominion 113th, Charlotte 118th, UTEP 130th and last.

– Among Furman’s notable alumni:  philologist Maurice Bloomfield, opera singer Elizabeth Bishop, and soccer player/fisherman/rapper Clint Dempsey.

– Furman’s roster includes 35 players from Georgia. Other states represented on its squad:  North Carolina (15 players), South Carolina (15), Tennessee (10), Florida (9), Alabama (6), Maryland (4), Ohio (2), and Virginia (1).

While Furman has 15 players who attended 14 different high schools in South Carolina (two Paladins went to Dreher), none of them are graduates of legendary gridiron steamroller Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This is a staggering omission that will undoubtedly have a permanently negative impact on the FU football program, and for that matter the university as a whole. Ignoring the mighty maroon and orange is no way to run an institution.

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

– This week’s two-deep is very similar to the one released for the VMI game. There are two changes, both due to an injury to Rod Johnson, who may not play the rest of the season. As a result, Khafari Buffalo is listed as one of the Bulldogs’ two kick returners, while Dante Smith is now a potential starter at one of the A-back positions.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 6-8-1 for games played on October 27. The Bulldogs are 5-1-1 at home on that date. A brief review of a few of the contests, as we go into the Bulldogs’ Wayback Machine:

  • 1951:  Before a Parents’ Day crowd of 6,085, The Citadel defeated Presbyterian 35-0. Starting quarterback Buddy Friedlin ran for two touchdowns, including a 62-yard sprint down the sideline. Other Bulldogs to score that day: Rudy Willcox, Curtis Bozeman, and Johnny Mamajek (who rushed for 121 yards on 15 carries). The game was described as a “rough and tumble” affair and featured a post-game fistfight between two opposing linemen.
  • 1984:  In Boone, North Carolina, The Citadel beat Appalachian State 21-5, the fourth straight victory for the Bulldogs. While the Mountaineers outgained the Bulldogs, four turnovers by App State proved costly. Cliff Walters intercepted a pass to set up one TD, and another Bulldogs score came after Warren McGrier recovered a fumbled punt. Robert Hill threw a touchdown pass to Victor Frazier and ran for another; the third TD for The Citadel came on a run by Mike Lewis.
  • 1990:  One week following the Bulldogs’ upset of South Carolina, Jack Douglas ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-15 victory over East Tennessee State. The 200 yards rushing would prove to be a career high for Douglas, who also threw a pass to Cornell Caldwell for 64 yards. Others scoring TDs for The Citadel that day: Erick Little and Everette Sands. Torrence Forney, fresh off the most famous recovered onside kick in Bulldog history, intercepted two passes. Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium that afternoon: 13,217.

– Kickoff for that 1990 contest was at the somewhat unusual time of 4:00 pm ET. The Citadel experimented with that start time for a few games. Why, you ask?

Well, according a newspaper column by the estimable Ken Burger, the Downtown Merchants Association complained to the school that earlier kickoff times were hurting downtown businesses, while the Restaurant Association claimed night games had a negative effect on the local dinner trade.

You just can’t please everybody.

– The excerpt from The Post and Courier at the top of this post is from the game story of The Citadel’s 13-9 win over Furman in 1975. I just wanted to note that, despite neither team being in contention for a league crown, the article was on page A-1 of the newspaper. The front page also featured a large photo of a play from the game.

Attendance that afternoon (it was Homecoming): 17,345. Defensive stars from the game for the Bulldogs included Brian Ruff (nine tackles, two fumble recoveries), Tony Starks, and Ron Shelley. The Citadel clinched the victory when Cary Vick forced a fumble on a sack, which was recovered by David Sollazzo.

– Completed unrelated to sports, and maybe anything else: While researching this post, I learned that for the 1951-52 school year, The Citadel’s appropriation from the state was $825,000.

Last year against Furman, the Bulldogs played their poorest game in several seasons. It was disappointing, and unacceptable.

I don’t know if The Citadel will win this week, but I am very confident that the squad will put in a much better performance than it did last season.

Whatever happens at Johnson Hagood Stadium this Saturday, we’ll be watching.

2018 Football, Game 6: The Citadel vs. VMI

Scenes of rare color preceded the game. As the crowd filled in every gate four bands played, and sailors from the destroyer squadrons, soldiers from Fort Moultrie, and The Citadel cadet corps marched into the stadium.

The blue-clad cadets spread out in front of the stands in regiment [order] and gave cheers for The Citadel team. All the while hundreds of mere civilians were swarming into the seats on four sides of the field. As soon as the cadets were seated they began their songs and cheers.

The VMI squad could be seen outside the stadium as it waited to enter, their red jerseys glistening in the sun. The four bands vied with each other. One Citadel cheerleader led a vicious-looking bulldog along the sidelines in front of the cadets. The crowd was tense and seemingly impatient for the arrival of the teams.

The VMI team entered the field by the Sumter Street gate and was given a big hand by the crowd as it started across the field to the bench, led by the towering captain, Roy Dunn…they had the field to themselves for ten minutes before The Citadel squad arrived, and got a resounding ovation.

The News and Courier, October 12, 1930

 

The Citadel vs. VMI, to be played on Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium in Lexington, Virginia, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on Saturday, October 20.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3, and is also available via ESPN College Extra. Wade Branner will handle play-by-play, while Chip Tarkenton supplies the analysis. 

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and VMI

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– AFCA Coaches’ poll

– Brent Thompson’s 10/16 press conference (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/17 radio show (video)

Brent Thompson would like one play back from the ETSU game

VMI hopes “Air Raid” can outmatch the Bulldogs’ ground game

Radio interview of VMI coach Scott Wachenheim on “The Game of the Year”

– My review of last year’s game between The Citadel and VMI

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

On DirecTV, for example, the game will be on channel 792. If you have AT&T U-Verse, check channels 614 through 621; the matchup should be on one of those channels. For Verizon FIOS, the ESPN College Extra channels are 821 through 828. Spectrum’s ECE channels are 505 through 512.

The newspaper blurb that opened this post is from the play-by-play of the 1930 game between The Citadel and VMI, the third meeting in the series and the first to take place in Charleston. It was also Homecoming at The Citadel.

The Bulldogs won that day, 7-6, when captain “Pop” Wilson threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Larkin Jennings. Wilson added the extra point (on a drop kick) to provide the winning margin. VMI had taken the lead on a touchdown earlier in the game, but the Keydets’ PAT attempt was blocked by Bulldog end John Carlisle.

A throng of 7,000 spectators watched the battle between the military colleges, the largest crowd to watch a football game in Charleston at that time.

Before moving to this week’s preview of The Citadel-VMI, I wanted to briefly discuss a couple of aspects of the ETSU game.

– The two fourth-down plays in the first half that the Bulldogs failed to convert were very reasonable calls. I agreed with going for it on both occasions. You could perhaps argue about the actual play calls, but The Citadel had been successful in previous weeks running similar stuff on fourth and short.

I might have done something differently (a pass play, for instance), but I’m not going to quibble about that kind of thing. The fourth down plays didn’t work out; that does not mean the decision to go for them was wrong.

– In one sense, “the numbers didn’t add up” in the game versus East Tennessee State. Yes, the Bulldogs had 167 more yards and ran 26 more plays. However, a closer look at the statistics shows something else.

On offense, The Citadel averaged only 4.07 yards per rush (in all the stats to follow, sacks and sack yardage are taken out). That isn’t a dominant performance, particularly when the Bulldogs only rushed for a total of 216 yards.

While the passing yardage came in handy, that’s obviously not the Bulldogs’ bread and butter.

Just as a reminder, The Citadel’s yards per rush in SoCon play over the previous three seasons:

  • 2015: 5.57 yards per rush
  • 2016: 5.28 yards per rush
  • 2017: 5.24 yards per rush

So far in 2018, the Bulldogs are averaging 4.33 yards per rush in SoCon action.

What is the difference? Well, I think a large part of the problem is the lack of “big plays” in the running game. Defining a big play as one of 20 or more yards from scrimmage, The Citadel’s totals in league games over the past three years:

  • 2015: 19
  • 2016: 15
  • 2017: 21

In four conference matchups thus far in 2018, the Bulldogs have only four rushes of 20 or more yards.

Three of them were against Mercer (and as it happens, The Citadel won that game). The other came on the last play of the first half of the Wofford game, when Lorenzo Ward picked up 43 yards while the Terriers were in “safe mode” on defense.

The Citadel has to break a long gainer in the run game more often. It is very hard to drive the field solely in 3- and 4-yard increments.

– Defensively, the Bulldogs did a lot of things right against ETSU, but they missed a few chances at sacks (one of which resulted in the Buccaneers’ biggest offensive play of the game) and, perhaps more importantly, they did not force a turnover.

The Citadel has only forced two fumbles in four SoCon games. One came on a punt against Wofford, when the ball bounced off one of the Terriers’ blocking backs (which isn’t really much of a “forced” fumble, if we’re being honest). The other was a strip sack versus Mercer that somehow wound up resulting in a first down for the Bears.

In terms of pass defense, league opponents have the following line: 60-94 (63.8% completion rate), six touchdowns, four interceptions. Taking out sacks, the Bulldogs are allowing 7.87 yards per attempt. The Citadel’s passes defensed rate is 14.9%. The PD rate is fine, but the yards per attempt number is too high. Of course, sample size has to be considered.

Simply put, the Bulldogs have to pick up a few more defensive turnovers.

At the end of this post, I’ve included photos from the ETSU game. They aren’t very good. You’ve been warned.

VMI has yet to win a game this season. The Keydets did not win a game last season.

The difference is that at least this year, VMI has occasionally been entertaining. In 2017, VMI only scored 8.0 points per game, worst in all of FCS.

Head coach Scott Wachenheim decided to do something about that — namely, switching to the “Air Raid” offense. He hired a new offensive coordinator (Brian Sheppard, who had been at Northern Arizona), and so far this season the Keydets have been unleashing flying pigskins all over an unsuspecting Shenandoah Valley.

VMI is averaging over 58 pass attempts per game. Over 72% of the Keydets’ offensive plays from scrimmage have been throws or sacks.

Has it worked? Well…sort of. VMI is averaging 25.2 points per game, which is a vast improvement over last season. However, the Keydets tend to leave their defense on the field a lot (a time of possession shortfall of over five minutes), and the defense is not nearly good enough to handle the load. VMI is allowing 54.2 points per contest.

One caveat: the defense has been slightly more respectable at home than on the road. VMI lost a tough matchup to ETSU earlier this season (27-24), so any Bulldog fan who might be overconfident about Saturday’s game might want to think again. The Keydets also competed well versus Mercer, losing 48-38.

Now, the defense has been a complete horror show away from Lexington (allowing 66, 59, 52, and 73 points, the latter coming last week against Devlin Hodges and Samford). However, this year’s edition of the Military Classic of the South is at Foster Stadium, so perhaps those results aren’t as important or revealing.

Do I think an aerial attack can work long-term at a military school? Not really. Am I going to be critical of VMI for trying it, given the way the last three decades on the gridiron have gone for the Keydets? Absolutely not.

Hey, you never know. It might work. Something has to work eventually, right?

Before I highlight a few of VMI’s key performers, I want to mention something that is actually listed below in the “odds and ends” section, as one of the regular features of that part of the weekly post.

VMI has 86 players on its roster. Of that group, 63 are from Virginia, which is 73% of the squad.

In terms of roster makeup, that is the largest instate cohort in the league, and only Mercer (69%) is even close to having a similar percentage of players from its “home” state. However, MU is in Georgia, and can pick and choose from a large number of talented high school players. Bobby Lamb recruits heavily from Georgia by choice.

Meanwhile, VMI’s emphasis on Virginia players is apparently due more to an administrative policy. If so, having roster construction limited in that fashion has to be rather difficult on the coaching staff.

Reece Udinski (6’4″, 224 lbs.) is the pilot of VMI’s “Air Raid” attack. The sophomore from North Wales, Pennsylvania has completed 55.6% of his passes, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt, with 11 TDs against 10 interceptions.

In the Keydets’ 52-50 loss at Western Carolina, Udinski was 43 for 72 for 491 passing yards, all school records. He also threw four touchdown passes in that contest. The following week, Udinski threw for 434 yards against Mercer. Two weeks, 925 passing yards. Not bad.

Quan Myers (5’10”, 200 lbs.), a redshirt junior from Altavista, Virginia, leads VMI in rushing attempts (80) and yards (228). While averaging only 2.8 yards per carry, he does have seven rushing TDs. He is also the Keydets’ third-leading receiver.

Seventeen different Keydets have caught passes this season. The two leading receivers are redshirt sophomore Kris Thornton (5’8″, 164 lbs.), who has 45 catches, and junior Javeon Lara (6’2″, 188 lbs.), who has 37 receptions. Lara is averaging over 15 yards per catch and has 5 TDs. Thornton had six receptions versus The Citadel in last season’s meeting.

If you’re a fan of offensive skill position players wearing single-digit numerals, VMI is the team for you. Udinski wears #2; Myers, #3; Thornton, #1; and Lara, #7.

Wideout Rohan Martin (5’10”, 181 lbs.), who is also VMI’s primary punt returner, wears #5, and jack-of-all-trades Jake Paladino (a backup QB, punter, tight end, and the Keydets’ holder on placekicks) sports jersey #4.

When The Citadel last appeared at Foster Stadium, in 2016, Paladino entered the game in relief at quarterback and played quite well (completing 9 of 13 passes, including one for a TD).

Average size of VMI’s projected starters on the offensive line: 6’4″, 294 lbs. Manning the left tackle spot is Marshall Gill (6’4″, 270 lbs.), a “true” freshman from West Point, Virginia. Gill has started every game for the Keydets at that position.

Gill is the youngest of a very young unit. The other starters include three redshirt sophomores and a “true” sophomore.

Strong safety A.J. Smith (6’2″, 204 lbs.) is the Keydets’ leading tackler, with 46 stops. The sophomore from Virginia Beach also has two pass breakups.

Inside linebacker Elliott Brewster (6’2″, 220 lbs.) has 45 tackles this year for VMI. Last week against Samford, Brewster had 11 tackles and an interception, which is about as good an afternoon a linebacker can have for a team that gave up 73 points.

In his bio on VMI’s website, it is stated that Uzoma Kpaduwa “will likely be a defensive back for his senior season”, understandable given his size (5’10”, 190 lbs.). However, Kpaduwa has started five games at outside linebacker for the Keydets. He is tied for third on the team in tackles.

Free safety Ethan Caselberry (6’4″, 201 lbs.), a freshman from Sparkman, Alabama, had 10 tackles versus Samford. He is tied with Kpaduwa in tackles for the season (42).

Redshirt senior Zach Baker (6’2″, 263 lbs.), a defensive end from Roanoke, leads VMI in tackles for loss, with five. Collin Loftis (5’10”, 170 lbs.), a redshirt freshman from Arlington, Texas, has three interceptions this season, tops among the Keydets.

VMI has used two placekickers this season. One of them, junior Reed King (5’9″, 168 lbs.), is also the Keydets’ punter.

Grant Clemons (6’2″, 185 lbs.) is the current incumbent at the PK spot. The junior, who began his college career at Georgia Military, has made both of his field goal tries so far this season (including a 40-yarder against Samford).

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Lexington, Virginia, per the National Weather Service:  a chance of showers, mainly before 8:00 am. It will be partly sunny, with a high of 64 degrees. Winds will be out of the west at 6-14 miles per hour.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 6-point favorite over VMI (as of Thursday night), with an over/under of 71 1/2. That is easily the largest over/under for any game played by the Bulldogs this season.

After the over hit in The Citadel’s first four games this season, last week’s total wound up as a push.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Wofford is a 3-point favorite over ETSU; Samford is a 7 1/2 point favorite at Furman; and Mercer is a 10 1/2 point favorite over Western Carolina. Those lines are all as of Thursday night.

Chattanooga is off this week.

– Also of note:  Alabama is a 28 1/2 point favorite at Tennessee; Charleston Southern is a 6 1/2 point favorite over Presbyterian; and Towson is a 17-point favorite at Albany.

That CSU-PC number has really moved. On Tuesday afternoon, the Buccaneers were a 13 1/2 point favorite over the Blue Hose.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 61st in FCS, while VMI is ranked 111th.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have an 83% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 41, VMI 28.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey:  Towson (9th), Elon (11th), Colgate (14th), Kennesaw State (19th), Yale (28th), Wofford (30th), Furman (35th), Chattanooga (37th), East Tennessee State (39th), North Carolina A&T (42nd), Samford (44th), Mercer (46th), Western Carolina (74th), Charleston Southern (80th), South Carolina State (97th), Presbyterian (113th), Gardner-Webb (116th), Mississippi Valley State (125th and last).

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

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida, and Iowa. Texas is 12th, UCF 13th, North Carolina State 15th, Duke 19th, West Virginia 20th, Mississippi State 24th, South Carolina 30th, Auburn 32nd, Appalachian State 34th, Missouri 35th, Army 40th, Maryland 46th, Virginia Tech 47th, Wake Forest 55th, Tennessee 56th, Virginia 57th, Florida State 63rd, Georgia Tech 64th, North Texas 71st, Toledo 81st, Air Force 84th, Georgia Southern 91st, Navy 96th, North Carolina 97th, Arkansas 104th, Liberty 105th, Coastal Carolina 110th, Old Dominion 119th, and UTEP 130th and last.

– Among VMI’s notable alumni:  rugby star Dan Lyle, movie producer Frank McCarthy, and civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels.

– VMI’s roster includes 63 players from Virginia. Other states represented on its squad:  Alabama (5 players), Maryland (3), Pennsylvania (2), North Carolina (2), Georgia (2), Tennessee (2), New York (2), Texas (2), and one each from California, New Jersey, and South Carolina (freshman defensive back Tim Smith is from Rock Hill and went to Nation Ford High School).

Thus, none of the Keydets are graduates of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, the internationally celebrated bastion of gridiron excellence located in the Palmetto State. The continued failure to draw talent from the unquestioned epicenter of elite pigskin performance goes a long way to explaining VMI’s struggles in the sport.

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

– This week’s two-deep is similar to the one released for the ETSU game. There are a few changes, however. Kyler Estes appears on the depth chart at the “KAT” position. Also, Sean-Thomas Faulkner is now officially listed as the starter in the “Bandit” role.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 6-5 for games played on October 20. The Bulldogs are 3-4 away from home on that date, and 3-3 in SoCon play. A brief review of four of the victories, as we go into the Bulldogs’ Wayback Machine:

  • 1917:  The Citadel defeated Erskine, 18-7, in a game played at Hampton Park in Charleston. The Bulldogs opened the game by successfully recovering an onside kick, an aggressive ploy that set the tone for the contest. Three of The Citadel’s players accounted for all the home team’s scoring. “Wild John” Crouch caught two TD passes, one from Billy Dotterer and another from Archie Reynolds. The third touchdown for the Bulldogs came on a throw from Reynolds to Dotterer.
  • 1979:  In Lexington, Virginia, The Citadel walloped VMI 37-6. Stump Mitchell rushed for 188 yards and a touchdown. Other Bulldogs to dent the end zone that day: Tim Russell, Wilford Austin, Mark Hunt, and Jeff Turner. Emmer Chavez added a field goal. The defense, keyed by the likes of Scott Wages and Paul Gillis, held the Keydets to 194 total yards.
  • 1990:  The Citadel 38, South Carolina 35. You know all about this one. According to The State newspaper, all the Gamecocks had to do to win was “just show up”, arguably the laziest analysis in the history of sports journalism. I just wish I had a tape of Bob Fulton and Tommy Suggs calling the game on the radio.
  • 2007:  A high-scoring game in Cullowhee against Western Carolina resulted in a 37-31 win for the Bulldogs. Andre Roberts had 9 catches for 119 yards and a TD, while Tory Cooper added two rushing touchdowns. Mike Adams kicked three field goals for the Cadets, as The Citadel built a 17-point lead before hanging on for the victory.

– Incidentally, the 188 yards rushing by Stump Mitchell against VMI in 1979 that I referenced above was Mitchell’s career high in a game during his time at The Citadel. The following year (1980), Mitchell rushed for 173 yards versus the Keydets, including a 75-yard TD scamper that is the greatest run I’ve ever seen in person at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Mitchell also had 157 yards rushing against VMI as a sophomore. In four games against the Keydets, The Citadel’s career rushing leader averaged 8.6 yards per carry.

The Citadel is busing most of the freshmen in the Corps of Cadets to the game. I’m very pleased about that, as I was when the freshmen made an appearance at Wofford.

I’ve said this more than once, but if you are a graduate of The Citadel, a trip to VMI is almost a must. Every alum should make the journey to “the Post” at least once, if only to watch a parade and check out the gameday experience.

I won’t be able to make it this year, which is my loss. I’ll be intently watching the game on TV, though.

I have concerns about this game from The Citadel’s perspective. VMI always brings its best to this matchup. While the Keydets don’t have any wins this season, they can remain confident in the fact they do some things well, and have been competitive in three of their five SoCon games.

The Bulldogs have been just good enough to lose four of five league contests. Sometimes, that becomes an unwanted pattern. The Citadel has to come out aggressively and put its stamp on the game; otherwise, it could be a long and difficult afternoon.

This game is important. This game matters.

The coveted Silver Shako is at stake, 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.

Coda: the pictures from the ETSU game. They aren’t the most stellar of photos, which is the norm.

I will say that I like the blue and white smoke as the team runs on to the field, and it shows up fairly well in the pictures.

2018 Football, Game 5: The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State

The Citadel vs. East Tennessee State, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 13, 2018.

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and East Tennessee State

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– AFCA Coaches’ poll

– Brent Thompson’s 10/9 press conference

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

– ETSU press conference (from 10/8)

The Citadel offers potent rushing attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s been a very tough slate thus far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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