McAlister Musings, 2017-18: Time for some really fast hoops (hopefully with winning involved)

Links of interest:

Season preview, The Post and Courier

Bulldogs add freshmen to mix

School website preview

League preview, The Post and Courier (The Citadel is picked to finish 7th in the SoCon, out of 10 teams)

Preseason league polls and preseason all-SoCon team (The Citadel is tied for 7th in the coaches’ poll and 8th in the media poll)

NBC Sports league preview (The Citadel is picked to finish 9th)

Blue Ribbon yearbook league preview [not online] (The Citadel is picked to finish 8th)

CBS Sports all-Division I preseason rankings (The Citadel is picked 248th out of 351 D-1 teams, 7th in the SoCon)

Kenpom.com preseason rankings (The Citadel is picked 247th out of 351 D-1 teams, 8th in the SoCon)

ESPN “BPI” preseason rankings (The Citadel is picked 243rd out of 351 D-1 teams, 7th in the SoCon)

2017-18 schedule

2017-18 “Quick Facts”

2017-18 “Hype Video”

Box score of exhibition game at Lenoir-Rhyne (The Citadel lost 97-83)

Box score of exhibition game versus Coker (The Citadel won 122-98)

Hey, it’s time for basketball!

 

No, seriously, it is!

This isn’t really a detailed preview. It is more just an acknowledgement that the season is starting.

A few quick points:

– The Citadel isn’t picked last in the league in any preseason poll, and is generally slotted in the 7-8 range (out of 10 SoCon teams). That’s a step up from recent seasons.

– While the team will still be quite young (no seniors), and a lot of freshmen are on the scene (six), there is actually a lot of returning experience.

When taking into account last year’s numbers, here is what The Citadel has coming back in terms of the various statistical categories, by percentage:

  • Starts: 70.3%
  • Minutes: 69.5%
  • Field goal attempts: 75.6%
  • 3-point field goal attempts: 79.0%
  • Free throw attempts: 75.3%
  • Offensive rebounds: 75.7%
  • Defensive rebounds: 68.6%
  • Total rebounds: 71.2%
  • Fouls: 68.4%
  • Assists: 71.8%
  • Blocks: 64.7%
  • Steals: 73.9%
  • Points: 74.8%

From the school preview release:

Last season, the Bulldogs played at a fast pace and scored in bunches, leading the nation in points per game and ranking in the top-10 in the nation in six other statistical categories. This year, head coach Duggar Baucom wants his young squad to move even faster and score even more.

“We’re going to try to play a little bit faster than we did last season. Last year, we isolated players a little bit more, forcing them to create their own shots, but this year we’re hoping that the offense will create shots for the players,” Baucom said. “The players are getting used to it. It’s a little bit of a style change for the guys who were here last year, but hopefully it will help us play faster and score some more points.”

If The Citadel is really going to play faster this season, that is going to be noteworthy.

Last year, the Bulldogs were second nationally in both adjusted and raw tempo, averaging a shade over 80 possessions per game. I don’t know what Baucom has in mind in terms of a possessions per game average, but he hasn’t had a team with an adjusted tempo significantly higher than last season’s outfit since 2010 (when his VMI team averaged 85 possessions per game).

Baucom’s 2007 squad at VMI is the last Division I team to average over 90 possessions per game against D-1 opponents. That team lost 19 games but also got to the final of the Big South tournament, after the coach “dialed down” the pace during the conference tourney.

If The Citadel could come even close to replicating the pace of the 2007 Keydets with the current talent on the Bulldog roster, that might really be something to watch.

It could be wildly exciting. It could also be a train wreck.

Early-season schedule (first three games)…

Oglethorpe, November 10 at McAlister Field House, 3:00 pm (SoCon Digital Network)

Oglethorpe is a Division III school located in north Atlanta that went 10-16 last season. The team nickname is the Stormy Petrels, a truly excellent moniker.

While it is a regular season game for The Citadel, it is actually considered an exhibition matchup for Oglethorpe. Yes, that is a bit confusing, but not particularly unusual.

The Stormy Petrels did not play a D-1 school last season, and last faced a team in that division during the 2015-16 campaign, when they played Georgia State (another example of a regular season game for the D-1 team, but an exhibition for Oglethorpe). Georgia State won that contest 85-34.

During the 2012-13 season, Oglethorpe (which was 17-10 that year) played Mercer and lost 70-25 in another regular season/exhibition matchup.

Virginia Tech, November 12 at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, VA, 7:00 pm (ACC Digital Network)

The Hokies defeated The Citadel 113-71 last season in Blacksburg, one of the 22 wins Virginia Tech had en route to an NCAA tournament appearance. Buzz Williams should have another good team again this season, despite losing the two top scorers off that squad.

Most outlets believe the Hokies will finish in the top half of the ACC. The Blue Ribbon yearbook gave VT a #25 preseason national ranking.

While Virginia Tech’s adjusted tempo in 2016-17 hovered around the national average, the Hokies were more than happy to run with the Bulldogs in last year’s matchup. Virginia Tech had 89 possessions in the contest, the most it had in any game.

The Hokies open this season on Friday with a home game versus Detroit. As for the contest against The Citadel, Kenpom projects Virginia Tech to win 100-80, with the Bulldogs given a 4% chance of pulling the upset.

North Carolina A&T, November 15 at Corbett Sports Center in Greensboro, NC, 7:00 pm

Simply put, the Aggies were one of the worst teams in Division I last season. North Carolina A&T won just three games all year (only one versus a D-1 opponent) and finished with an RPI of 350, next-to-last in the division.

However, this game won’t necessarily be easy for the Bulldogs. For one thing, the Aggies’ only D-1 win actually came against a very solid North Carolina Central squad that won the MEAC regular-season and tournament titles. Based on that result alone, there is clearly some talent on the roster.

Also, North Carolina A&T had three players sit out last season as transfers. All of them will be eligible to play this season, as will a graduate transfer from Georgia Southern, combo guard Devante Boykins.

On the other hand, last year’s leading scorer for the Aggies transferred to North Carolina State.

Before hosting The Citadel, North Carolina A&T will play at Clemson on November 12. It opens the season with a non-D1 game against Greensboro College.

Kenpom projects The Citadel to prevail by an 88-80 score, with a win probability of 77%.

This could be a fun year for the Bulldogs. I’m ready for some hoops.

Game Review, 2017: Western Carolina

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Notes section, The Post and Courier: “Instant replay comes back to bite Bulldogs”

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

By the numbers, The Post and Courier

SoCon sticking with flawed instant replay “rollout”

School release

Box score

Game highlights (video)

Saturday was not a good day for The Citadel. Five offensive turnovers (admittedly, just four in most SoCon stadiums) doomed the Bulldogs, along with a couple of big plays given up by the defense.

Those turnovers cost The Citadel the contest; there is no doubt about that. I also don’t think you can put the lost opportunities in the game down to youth and inexperience, as that wasn’t really the case. It made the offensive follies (particularly those in the red zone) all the more disappointing.

The Citadel had a good day rushing the football, controlled the clock (almost a 15-minute edge in time of possession), and finished 8 of 16 on third down attempts.

In addition, the special teams unit blocked two WCU punts and forced the Catamounts to “self-block” a third; that, against a team that had come into the game 4th nationally in net punting.

All of that should have been more than enough to win the game. It wasn’t.

I have rarely felt more frustrated after a game than I was last Saturday. Much of that frustration was related to the Bulldogs’ on-field play.

However, the instant replay issue has to be discussed. It cannot simply be ignored, because it hurt The Citadel on Saturday. Also, the league’s position and general attitude towards this aspect of its game administration leaves a lot to be desired.

First, let me quote a couple of things I’ve written before, just to prove this isn’t after-the-fact complaining.

From October 2016, after it was announced the league would not have replay until at least 2018:

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

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

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

Then, the league decided it would have instant replay for the 2017 season, but that schools wouldn’t actually have to implement it until 2019. This led to only two schools (Mercer and The Citadel) having a system in place for this year. As I said last month:

Essentially, league games are being played under two different sets of rules this year, depending on whether or not a stadium has instant replay. I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating: the decision by the SoCon to let conference schools off the hook for setting up replay until (at least) 2019 was dubious at best.

As soon as the league established this haphazard approach to instant replay, it was inevitable that it would lead to inequities. The Citadel got burned on Saturday because it was one of the two schools that actually did what the league wanted (an outcome that was oh-so-predictable).

If the game had been played in Cullowhee, Cam Jackson’s TD would have counted. Instead, game momentum changed in a major way, and not in The Citadel’s favor.

I bolded a couple of sentences above because I think they are relevant to the decision made on Saturday. Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier was good enough to ask the league a few questions about the replay situation.

Let’s go through a few things from that article…

According to SoCon commissioner Iamarino, the league’s game report said play was stopped for two minutes and 14 seconds from the time the official announced the play was under review until the review was concluded. A review of the ESPN3 broadcast put the time of the replay review at 3:56.

So, according to the commissioner, the game report included something that was demonstrably false, namely the length of time of the review. That really inspires confidence, doesn’t it?

Iamarino did concede that the review was “a bit longer than most.” However, he insisted that “the main objective for having replay in the stadium is getting the call right. The replay official concluded he had indisputable evidence to overturn the call of a touchdown.”

If it had really been indisputable, why did it take so long for the replay official to make the call? There was no real answer for that. (It is also worth noting the official on the field who signaled touchdown was actually in perfect position to make the call, something you can’t always say while watching a SoCon game.)

Other close calls haven’t taken nearly as long to review, or apparently haven’t been reviewed at all. Some of those might have benefited the Bulldogs with a longer look, too (a muffed punt in the Mercer game comes to mind).

That inconsistent use of instant replay is a major problem for the league. Of course, the lack of replay at seven of the nine league stadiums is the bigger issue.

Iamarino said he hopes that “five or six” SoCon schools are replay-ready by next season.

“The vast majority of FCS conferences have gradually had their institutions implement replay,” he said. “The Missouri Valley, CAA, Big South, Patriot League are all examples of conferences that had a staggered adoption of replay. The Southland is the one FCS conference I can think of that has gone all in at once.

“So what we are doing is not unusual at all. I hope we’ll have five or six on board next year and by 2019 all will be compliant.”

Just because other leagues decided to have different sets of rules depending on locale doesn’t mean the Southern Conference should repeat their mistake.

Iamarino “hopes” the league will have “five or six” schools with instant replay next year. That isn’t good enough, in my opinion. It seems to me that based on his statement, there is even a possibility that when 2018 rolls around, Mercer and The Citadel will still be the only schools with instant replay.

Personally, I don’t think The Citadel should cut on its system again until the entire league has instant replay. I know that isn’t going to happen, though.

Instead, we’re going to continue to see games decided in part on whether or not the stadium has instant replay. We’ll probably continue to see games where an overzealous replay official puts his or her stamp on the game in a negative way, too.

A few other items from the game:

– Was it just me, or was the speaker system louder (and thus more painful on the ears) than usual? Maybe it was just me.

– I think playing a home contest after the Homecoming game tends to lead to less attendance for that final matchup at Johnson Hagood Stadium. I suspect a fair amount of people bag the last game of the home schedule in that situation.

Next year, that won’t be an issue (if it actually is an issue), because the Bulldogs’ home finale, which is against Samford, is the Homecoming game.

– I was a little surprised Western Carolina didn’t bring more fans. The Catamounts are having a nice season, and are a relatively entertaining squad to boot. Maybe the home loss to Furman last week led to fewer people making the trip to Charleston.

– I’ll probably mention this next year before the first home game, but on my personal list of things I would like to see more of at Johnson Hagood Stadium: flags.

Yes, we have plenty of flags already. Let’s have even more of them! “Big Red” spirit flags, the D-O-G-S flags, every kind of flag. On the field and in the stands. Big, obnoxious flags, if at all possible.

I must admit this idea was inspired by the Curva Sud when I watched Roma play Udinese in September. I think half of the fans in that section of the Stadio Olimpico were waving giant flags before the game. They waved them after each goal, too, and at the conclusion of the match.

On the other hand, Johnson Hagood Stadium is a tobacco-free facility, and in that respect is definitely superior to Stadio Olimpico…

I’ll have my preview of the Furman game late Thursday night. The last two previews of this season probably won’t be quite as long as my usual production, which won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Here are this week’s pictures. They are not annotated, though they are in order (in terms of game action shots).

2017 Football, Game 9: The Citadel vs. Western Carolina

The Citadel vs. Western Carolina, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on November 4, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Kendall Lewis will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. 

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview, The Post and Courier

The next two games for The Citadel are fairly important

Aron Spann III was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Month for October

Spann spent most of October intercepting passes and recovering fumbles

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Western Carolina’s website

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked #32 if the poll went that far)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked #35 if the poll went that far)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/31 press conference, including comments from Cam Jackson and Aron Spann III (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 11/1 radio show (video)

– Promo for Western Carolina-The Citadel (video)

Cam Jackson promo for Senior Day (video)

– ESPN3 replay of Furman-Western Carolina (video)

– Game story from Furman-Western Carolina

– My review of last week’s game against VMI

– Link to ESPN3’s streaming coverage of Western Carolina-The Citadel

Non-football links:

The Citadel Basketball 2017-18 “Hype Video”

The Citadel’s 2018 baseball schedule has been released

In my review of the VMI game, I made an error. I make plenty of mistakes as it is, but this one was particularly dumb and needs to be corrected.

The record for most wins over a three-year period is held by the 1990-1991-1992 teams, not the 1959-1960-1961 squads (as I incorrectly stated in my post). Therefore, the current Bulldogs still need one victory to tie the mark for most victories over three consecutive seasons. The current mark is 25 (7 wins in 1990, 7 wins in 1991, and 11 victories in 1992).

Over a four-year period, the record for most wins is 30. That has happened twice, in two overlapping stretches — 1989-1990-1991-1992, and 1990-1991-1992-1993.

As of last week, The Citadel has won 29 games over the last four seasons, with three games left in the 2017 campaign.

The Citadel needs one more victory this year to clinch a winning season. It would be the third straight winning campaign for the Bulldogs. There have been five previous occasions in which The Citadel strung together three consecutive winning seasons:

  • 1923-1924-1925
  • 1924-1925-1926
  • 1959-1960-1961
  • 1979-1980-1981
  • 1990-1991-1992

You may have noticed the first couple of three-year runs above include some duplicate seasons. That is because The Citadel actually had four straight winning seasons from 1923 through 1926, the only time in school history that has happened.

The record for most consecutive non-losing campaigns is five, from 1988 through 1992. Four of those years resulted in winning seasons, while the 1989 team went 5-5-1. The Citadel won 38 games during that period, the most ever by the program over a five-year stretch.

After reviewing the participation reports for the Bulldogs’ games so far this season, I believe that 15 “true” freshmen on the current roster have played in at least one game this season. The list:

  • Jalen Barr
  • Brandon Berry
  • Lane Botkin
  • Aaron Brawley
  • Micah Byrd-Brown
  • Jonathan Cole
  • Willie Eubanks III
  • Sean-Thomas Faulkner
  • Collin Flanders
  • Patrick Ivey
  • Jon Barrett Lewis
  • Keyonte Sessions
  • Matthew Taylor
  • John Wesley Whiteside
  • Wally Wilmore

In addition, two freshmen who have since left the team took part in at least one game for The Citadel.

Of the original list of signees, it appears that eight have not yet seen the field for the Bulldogs this season. Presumably, those eight players are likely candidates to redshirt this season.

Three of the players listed above were not on the signee list from last January — Collin Flanders, Micah Byrd-Brown, and Patrick Ivey.

At his first press conference as The Citadel’s head coach, I remember that Mike Houston discussed a personal desire to field “older teams…guys who have been with us for three or four years.” I assume that Brent Thompson has a similar philosophy, but it may be that some of the turnover on the roster following last season, especially in certain positions, has led to more true freshmen playing than might have been expected – or wanted.

Brent Thompson on what the team’s mindset needs to be in the red zone:

We’ve got to get off the football [line of scrimmage] and we’ve got to be able to grind out three or four yards at a time, no matter what the box looks like…

…maybe we need to come downhill more. Maybe we need to stop tricking them, and doing this and that, and let’s just line up and show them the whites of our eyes and let’s play football.

That’s a good line — “show them the whites of our eyes”. Part of Thompson’s education at Norwich obviously included a study of the battle tactics of William Prescott.

On Friday, six new members of The Citadel’s Athletic Hall of Fame will be honored at the annual dinner (which had to be rescheduled after Hurricane Irma disrupted on-campus events earlier this year).

Reading through the bios of the inductees, I naturally learned a few things I didn’t know before. For one, baseball player Steve Arrington won an unusual triple crown in 1973, as he led all Southern Conference batters in home runs and RBI, and also led the league in strikeouts by a pitcher. You don’t see that combination every day.

Francis “Pete” Grant played both offense and defense for The Citadel’s football team in 1965, the only member of that squad to do so. Given that the restrictions on unlimited substitution had been lifted for good by then, I have to wonder if Grant was the last Bulldog to regularly play both ways.

I did know that during his time at The Citadel, Cliff Washburn was named the SoCon player of the week in both football and basketball, the first person to ever pull off that double. I also knew that Kris Kut could really sling the javelin (three league titles), and now helps current Bulldog athletes throw it even farther than he did.

The two honorary inductees are Gil Kirkman, impresario of The Citadel Sports Network, and Andy Clawson, head athletic trainer for The Citadel. When Clawson was hired by The Citadel, the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce.

Yes, Clawson has been around for a while.

As is almost necessary when discussing Western Carolina, the school must be harshly criticized for a decision made long ago that has had a lasting impact.

Back in 1933, the students and administration at the institution chose “Catamounts” as the official nickname for its varsity athletic teams. The runner-up choice was “Mountain Boomers”.

How in the world can you not pick “Mountain Boomers” as your nickname when you have a golden opportunity to do so? What a waste.

From reading between the lines in the school’s official account of how the nickname was chosen, it appears that the football coach at the time, a gentleman named C.C. Poindexter, influenced the final decision.

Poindexter wanted his players to have the “fierce spirit, savage attacks, and lightning quick moves” of a catamount. Alas, his football teams at the school compiled a record of 10-26-2 over four seasons.

I bet they would have won a lot more games as the Mountain Boomers.

As far as this Saturday is concerned, Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir had this to say on the game’s importance to his program:

This is probably our biggest week…maybe since our staff has been here…to decide [if] the culture, the expectations, the standards of this program [have] changed.

…Now that [we’ve] been knocked down and had a disappointing loss, are we a different team this week because we have two losses, as we were last week. Are we going to be a front-running team, or are we going to be a team that’s satisfied and complacent, or is this a football team that has truly made a change — and not necessarily even how the scoreboard comes out. We can…play a whale of a game this Saturday, and lose…because we’re playing a good football team in The Citadel, and we can go play great football and still get beat.

What I’m saying is we’re going to see as a staff, how this team comes [to] practice this week. How are we going to compete this Saturday…this may be our biggest week since we’ve been here. That is the challenge. What is the character of the 2017 Cats…this will say a lot about where we are as a program.

Western Carolina is 6-3 on the season, 4-2 in the SoCon.

  • WCU lost its opener 41-18 at Hawai’i, but actually outgained the Rainbow Warriors
  • The Catamounts then dismantled Davidson 63-17; WCU had 778 yards of total offense in the contest
  • Western Carolina won the next week at Gardner-Webb, 42-27; Detrez Newsome’s 146 yards lifted his career rushing yards total to over 3,000
  • WCU opened SoCon play with a big home win over Samford, 38-34 (incidentally, the game took 4 hours and 10 minutes to play)
  • At Chattanooga, the Catamounts bashed the Mocs 45-7
  • Western Carolina lost a tough game in OT at Wofford, 35-28 (a game marred by shaky officiating in the extra session)
  • In a 49-10 victory, WCU took care of business in the second half against East Tennessee State, scoring 21 points in both the third and fourth quarters
  • The Catamounts got past a stubborn VMI in Lexington, 26-7
  • Last week, Furman beat WCU in a rainstorm in Cullowhee, 28-6

Statistics of interest for Western Carolina through nine games:

WCU Opponents
Points per game 35.0 22.9
Rushing yardage 2239 1765
Average per rush 5.4 4.6
Average per game 248.8 196.1
TDs rushing 22 14
Passing yardage 1851 1504
Comp-Att-Int 144-243-8 129-265-10
Average per pass 7.6 5.7
TDs passing 16 11
Total offense 4090 3269
Total plays 659 647
Yards per play 6.2 5.1
Kick returns-yards 28-541 49-827
Punt returns-yards 20-135 13-94
Fumbles/lost 11/6 9/7
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 7.3/69.6 6.9/62.1
Net punt average 40.1 35.8
Time of possession/game 27:49 32:11
3rd down conversions 50/121 50/142
3rd down conversion rate 41.3% 35.2%
Sacks by-yards 19-135 22-129
Field goals-attempts 7-14 8-9
Red Zone touchdown rate (23-34) 67.6% (19-32) 59.4%
  • Western Carolina is 7th nationally in rushing offense, but 97th in rushing defense
  • WCU’s offense is 11th in yards per rush, while its defense is 89th in yards per rush allowed
  • The Catamounts are 31st in offensive third down conversion rate, and 42nd on defensive third down conversion rate
  • WCU is 19th in FCS in scoring offense, and 41st in scoring defense
  • Western Carolina is 34th in offensive pass efficiency, and 6th in defensive pass efficiency
  • The Catamounts have excellent special teams numbers, including 4th nationally in net punting and 8th in kick return defense
  • With three defensive TDs, Western Carolina ranks 12th-best in that category
  • WCU is one of the league’s more penalized teams, and ranks 49th in most penalties per game nationally

Key stats for The Citadel through eight games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 24.4 17.8
Rushing yardage 2573 855
Average per rush 5.3 3.5
Average per game 321.6 106.9
TDs rushing 20 12
Passing yardage 705 1454
Comp-Att-Int 41-104-3 128-215-11
Average per pass 6.8 6.8
TDs passing 6 7
Total offense 3278 2309
Total plays 590 456
Yards per play 5.6 5.1
Kick returns-yards 15-281 18-441
Punt returns-yards 15-118 8-55
Fumbles/lost 16/5 9/5
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.6/42.0 2.9/28.4
Net punt average 36.1 36.2
Time of possession/game 34:26 25:33
3rd down conversions 57/126 29/89
3rd down conversion rate 45.2% 32.6%
Sacks by-yards 16-87 5-33
Field goals-attempts 4-12 3-5
Red Zone touchdown rate (19/34) 55.9% (12/18) 66.7%
  • The Citadel is 14th in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate, and 18th in defensive third down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs are 2nd in rushing offense (behind only Kennesaw State), and 19th in rushing defense (which leads the SoCon)
  • The Citadel is 14th nationally in yards per rush and 36th in yards per rush allowed
  • Offensively, the Bulldogs are 48th in yards per play; on defense, The Citadel is 39th in yards per play allowed
  • The Citadel is 2nd in FCS in time of possession (McNeese State leads in that category)
  • The Bulldogs are 67th in scoring offense and 14th in scoring defense
  • The Citadel has committed the 11th-fewest penalties per game in FCS

When it comes to individual performers, much of the focus this week for the game at Johnson Hagood Stadium has been on one player, Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams.

Adams (6’2″, 180 lbs.), a dynamic dual-threat QB, was injured last week in the Catamounts’ loss to Furman. The redshirt sophomore from St. Petersburg was sacked early in the second quarter and appeared to suffer a lower leg injury (on the ESPN3 broadcast, the play occurs at the 57:10 mark).

Despite what looked to be a potentially serious injury, Adams is still listed as the starter on the WCU two-deep. There are other indications that he may in fact play on Saturday. Brent Thompson stated during his radio show that the Bulldogs would certainly prepare for the game with the assumption that Adams would start.

If Adams does not play, Ray Smith (6’1″, 190 lbs.) will likely start. Smith, a redshirt junior who began his college career at East Carolina, entered the game against Furman after Adams went out.

Adams’ status is one thing, but Western Carolina has another impact player in the backfield, preseason all-SoCon selection Detrez Newsome (5’10”, 210 lbs.). Over the last decade, Newsome is the only Catamount running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season — and the native of Raeford, North Carolina has done so each of the last two years.

Despite missing three games this season, Newsome still has a chance at another 1,000-yard campaign, as the senior has amassed 736 yards in just six contests. Newsome is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

Newsome is also a threat as a kick returner, and leads the Catamounts in returns. However, he is not listed in that role on this week’s two-deep.

Western Carolina’s all-time leading receiver is redshirt senior Terryon Robinson (5’11”, 190 lbs.). The preseason all-league pick has 45 receptions this season, averaging 15 yards per catch, and has seven TD receptions.

In the 2014 game between WCU and The Citadel, Robinson caught 10 passes for 183 yards.

The average size of Western Carolina’s projected starters on the offensive line: 6’4″, 298 lbs. The tallest and heaviest member of that group is Nathan Dalton (6’7″, 315 lbs.). The redshirt junior from East Flat Rock, North Carolina was a preseason second-team all-conference choice.

Outside linebacker Tahjai Watt (6’5″, 215 lbs.) leads the Catamounts in tackles for loss (8) and sacks (6). The redshirt senior from Charlotte had only one career start before this season, but is clearly making the most of his final collegiate campaign.

The leading tackler for Western Carolina to this point in the season has been safety Marvin Tillman (6’1″, 195 lbs.). The native of Durham has 77 stops, and also shares the team lead in interceptions with three.

Keion Crossen (5’10”, 180 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon pick. The senior cornerback is also a track star, as he won the league title in the 100-meter dash last year.

Redshirt junior Ian Berryman (6’0″, 205 lbs.) is one of the nation’s best punters. This season, Berryman has boomed 14 of his 44 punts for 50 yards or more, and has landed 20 of them inside the 20-yard line.

Berryman has also kicked off at times for Western Carolina, and is one of four different Catamounts to attempt field goals this season. Joshua Gibson (5’8″, 163 lbs.), the listed starter at the position, is 4 for 5 on field goal attempts this season, with a long of 43 yards.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with an expected high of 78 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 61 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Western Carolina is a 1 1/2 point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 50 1/2.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Mercer is a 2-point favorite over Samford; Wofford is a 12-point favorite over Chattanooga; and East Tennessee State is a 17 1/2 point favorite over VMI. Furman is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 7 1/2 point favorite at North Carolina State; South Carolina is a 24 1/2 point underdog at Georgia; Coastal Carolina is a 23 1/2 point underdog at Arkansas; Presbyterian is 17 1/2 point underdog at Monmouth; and Charleston Southern (ravenous for a league win) is a 10 1/2 point favorite at Gardner-Webb. South Carolina State is off this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 47th in FCS (out of 124 teams), a drop of one spot from last week.

Western Carolina is ranked 35th in FCS, falling three places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 197th, while Western Carolina is 177th.

Massey projects a final score of Western Carolina 26, The Citadel 24. The Bulldogs are given a 47% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Furman is 16th (up seven places), Wofford is 21st (unchanged from last week), Samford is 31st (down nine spots), Mercer is 34th (up six spots), Charleston Southern is 49th, Chattanooga is 66th (up nine spots), East Tennessee State is 72nd (down five places), Presbyterian is 88th, South Carolina State is 100th, and VMI is 115th (down one spot).

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, South Dakota, South Dakota State, and Northern Iowa.

– Since 1911, The Citadel has an ominously poor 4-11 record in games played on November 4.

The last time the Bulldogs won a game on that date, it was in 1989 against Samford. The Citadel won 35-16 in the first home game played at Johnson Hagood Stadium after Hurricane Hugo.

The Citadel’s offense only attempted two passes during that contest, completing one (the QB in question was Speizio Stowers). While starting QB Jack Douglas did not complete a pass in the game, he did rush for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Douglas, Tom Frooman, and Raymond Mazyck combined for 310 yards and five TDs (three by Frooman). Alfred Williams added 55 yards to a potent ground attack.

That 1989 game is The Citadel’s only November 4 home victory in the modern history of Johnson Hagood Stadium. Indeed, the Bulldogs have only won twice on that date since World War II, once at home and once on the road.

The November 4 road triumph was a big one, though. It was the 14-8 victory at VMI in 1961 that clinched The Citadel’s first Southern Conference title. Bill Whaley’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Henry Mura with 2:29 to play proved to be the difference. Earlier in the game, Whaley had scored from one yard out on a quarterback sneak.

You can watch video highlights of that 1961 contest on YouTube. The game-winning TD pass comes at the 1:36 mark of the clip. I’m not completely sure, but I believe Mura’s catch was his only career TD reception. He picked a great time for it.

– The Citadel’s two-deep for the Western Carolina game includes no changes on offense or defense, the fourth consecutive week that has been the case. On special teams, there are now no listed backups at placekicker or punter.

It should be noted that there will be one new starter on defense this Saturday, regardless of the depth chart listing, as Ben Roberts will be suspended for the first half after being called for targeting in the second half of the VMI game.

– Jacob Godek has had touchbacks on 19 of his 37 kickoffs this season. As a result, The Citadel’s touchback rate of 51.4% ranks 11th-best in FCS.

– Among Western Carolina’s notable graduates are comedian Rich Hall, former NFL referee/current ESPN officiating consultant Gerry Austin, and actor Sean Bridgers.

– The roster for Western Carolina (per its website) includes 58 players from the State of North Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (22 players), South Carolina (8), Tennessee (4), Florida (4), and one each from Alabama, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, and Virginia.

The eight Catamounts from the Palmetto State attended the following high schools: Blythewood (two), Spartanburg (two), T.L. Hanna (two), St. Joseph’s, and Rock Hill. Surprisingly, none of WCU’s South Carolina-based players attended historic gridiron superpower Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. Ronnie Carr would be very disappointed.

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

Saturday’s game will mark the end of The Citadel’s home slate. Will the final game of the season at Johnson Hagood Stadium provide a happy result for the home fans?

It’s possible, but there is a surprising amount of opaqueness when it comes to this matchup, despite the fact we are now in the month of November. I don’t have a very good read on what might happen. (Of course, that is arguably the case for every game.)

At any rate, there is quite a lot riding on this contest for the Bulldogs. That includes a possible winning season and a chance to make a late-season playoff push.

It’s time to start the stretch run of the 2017 season.

Game Review, 2017: VMI

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” section, The Post and Courier

– “By the numbers”, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

– Video from WCSC-TV, including postgame comments from Dominique Allen

– Video from WCIV-TV

– AP game story

– School release (The Citadel)

– School release (VMI)

– Extended box score

Game highlights, including postgame comments from Brent Thompson, Brandon Rainey, and Dominique Allen (video)

– ESPN3 replay of the game

The greatest trophy in all of sports, the coveted Silver Shako, will remain in Charleston for at least one more year. With any luck, the most lustrous of laurels shall continue to reside in the Holy City for many years to come.

Odds and ends:

– Saturday’s game had a lot of similarities with the last matchup between the two teams at Johnson Hagood Stadium:

  • The Citadel won the toss and deferred in 2015 and 2017; VMI defended the north end zone to open the game both times
  • Cam Jackson scored on the Bulldogs’ third play from scrimmage in 2015; Grant Drakeford scored on the Bulldogs’ third play from scrimmage in 2017
  • The Citadel held VMI’s offense to 87 rushing yards in 2015 and 72 rushing yards in 2017
  • VMI had 212 yards of total offense in 2015 and 219 yards of total offense in 2017
  • VMI threw 36 passes in both games
  • The Keydets punted 7 times in 2015 and 6 times in 2017 (and would have punted 7 times on Saturday, but a punt snap got mishandled)
  • In 2015, The Citadel ran 71 plays from scrimmage, VMI 70; in 2017, both teams ran 68 plays from scrimmage
  • The Citadel was 0 for 5 scoring TDs on red zone opportunities in 2015; the Bulldogs were 1 for 5 in 2017

When it came to the red zone, the difference between the game on Saturday and the 2015 contest was that in the latter game, the Bulldogs converted on all of their field goal attempts.

– Speaking of the red zone:

“There were a couple of times we got inside the red zone and shot ourselves in the foot,” said [Brent] Thompson, whose team totaled 407 rushing yards against VMI (0-9, 0-8) and 405 in last week’s 20-14 win at Chattanooga. “We had some opportunities to put the ball in the end zone, and that’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all season. And that’s something we are usually pretty good at.”

The Bulldogs’ red zone TD rate for the season is 55.9%, which is actually slightly better than last season (52.1%). However, in SoCon play The Citadel’s red zone TD rate is only 45.8%.

– I was a little surprised that Brent Thompson elected to try another field goal late in the game. From a “game theory” point of view, I probably would have gone for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal, even from the six-yard line.

If the Bulldogs punch in the TD in that spot, they go up by three scores and completely ice the game. A successful field goal wouldn’t have altered the two-vs.-three score dynamic.

Also, if The Citadel didn’t make it, VMI probably would have wound up with the ball around or inside its own 5-yard line. The odds of the Keydets marching 95+ yards down the field (just to get within one score) were not good.

However, game theory aside, there is also something to be said for sending a message to your kicker, which in effect was this: “You’re struggling, but you’re still our kicker, and we are still counting on you and have confidence in you.”

Thompson also might have decided that whether or not the Bulldogs could go up two/three scores was irrelevant, because his defense wasn’t going to give up any more points anyway. If that was in fact his thought process, it was a very reasonable assumption.

– Brandon Rainey and Lorenzo Ward combined for 25 carries from the B-back position. Between them, they averaged 8.2 yards per carry. That will work.

From the quarterback position, Dominique Allen and Jordan Black combined to tote the football 20 times for 93 yards. The A-backs had 11 carries for 113 yards.

– Even though he was only 1 for 8 passing, I thought Dominique Allen threw the football fairly well. VMI made a couple of good defensive plays, and Bulldog receivers could have (and perhaps should have) caught at least two other pass attempts.

– VMI entered the game committing fewer penalties per game than any other FCS team, and didn’t hurt its reputation on that front against The Citadel. The Keydets were only whistled for one infraction all afternoon.

– It was good to see members of the VMI band make the trip. As usual, the Keydets brought a decent number of fans to Charleston. Considering the geographic distance, school size, and the program’s record over the last few decades, the fact that VMI often meets or exceeds other SoCon opponents in terms of “traveling” is very impressive.

– I have a suggestion: no matter where The Military Classic of the South is played, Charleston or Lexington, each team should wear a solid-colored jersey. In other words, it should be color-on-color, with The Citadel wearing light blue jerseys and VMI sporting red tops.

I think it would look great. The schools’ colors are not dissimilar to those for UCLA and Southern California, which have had well-received color-on-color matchups the last few years.

It is likely such a move would require league approval, but I don’t see why the SoCon would have any issues with it.

– I enjoyed the “Meet The Bulldogs” event for the basketball team held on the plaza at Johnson Hagood Stadium prior to the football game.

Along with the players, the cheerleaders and Spike the Bulldog showed up for the festivities. A bunch of kids had a good time, and it appeared that the players did as well.

I have no idea what kind of getup Spike was wearing, though…

– It was fun to watch all the reunion classes “march” into the stadium before the game. I was impressed to see several graduates of the Class of 1952 on the field, armed with a giant flag and a sign that read ‘1952’.

– The ceremony after the game is nice, but the P.A. announcing got a little bit behind the action. That caused some confusion (and also led to the start of The Citadel Alma Mater being drowned out).

– After the presentation, the colors were lowered. Those in the stadium (and on the field) stood silently as the flag was removed from the pole. In fact, it was so quiet that you could hear the cranking as the flag was lowered.

In a way, I was appreciative of the fact you could hear the crank. On the other hand, it may be time to break out the WD-40.

– During the postgame press conference, the assembled media learned that Dominique Allen has a “small budget”. Much hilarity ensued.

(Check out his postgame interview session on the second of the two WCSC-TV links listed above for context.)

– With the victory on Saturday, The Citadel has won 24 games over the past three seasons. The Bulldogs won 9 games in 2015, 10 games in 2016, and 5 games (so far) in 2017.

That total of 24 wins is one short of the record for victories over a three-year period. The Citadel won 25 games in the 1990-1991-1992 seasons.

I took quite a few photos this week, including a few related to some of the activities surrounding Homecoming. Some of the pictures are actually half-decent.

 

2017 Football, Game 8: The Citadel vs. VMI

…The Citadel came from behind twice in the fourth quarter against a VMI team that literally fought and clawed in an attempt to avoid its seventh loss in eight games and spoil the heavily favored Bulldogs’ championship hopes.

VMI, with its aggressive play, succeeded in making what happened while the clock was running a sidelight to the after-the-whistle skirmishes — even a fight that put a player from each team on the sidelines for the game. The two teams were penalized a total of 21 times for 183 yards.

The visiting Keydets’ strategy worked well. With 8:59 to play, they took a 24-20 lead, getting together an 80-yard drive that was capped by sophomore tailback Trent Bridges’ third touchdown of the day, a one-yard dive.

That put the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Citadel quarterback Robert Hill…

…Hill and flanker Lee Glaze combined for 17- and 49-yard pass plays on the game-winning drive, the 17-yarder coming on 3rd-and-15 from The Citadel 12-yard line and Glaze taking the ball away from a VMI defender on the 49-yard completion.

Hill scrambled for nine yards and a first down to the VMI four. Two running plays by Mike Lewis covered the four yards, the touchdown coming on a one-yard plunge into the middle with 4:47 left to play.

VMI still had time in the Military Classic of the South, [but] The Citadel defense rose to the occasion, twice intercepting passes by VMI quarterback Jim Daly. Scott Thompson, a 260-pound sophomore defensive tackle, got the first interception on a deflected pass that Daly threw to avoid being sacked. Sophomore linebacker Joel Thompson made the game-clinching interception with a minute to play.

The News and Courier, November 4, 1984

The Citadel vs. Virginia Military Institute, The Military Classic of the South, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 28, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Kendall Lewis will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. 

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

Links of interest:

Game preview, The Post and Courier

– Where is the coveted Silver Shako?

Noah Dawkins: more sacks than the Visigoths

– Game notes from The Citadel and VMI

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked #32 if the poll went that far)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked in a tie for #34 if the poll went that far)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/24 press conference, including comments from Grant Drakeford and Aron Spann III (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/25 radio show (video)

– Promo for VMI-The Citadel (video)

– Review/highlights/postgame package for VMI’s game versus Western Carolina

– ESPN3 replay of Western Carolina-VMI (video)

Game story from the Western Carolina-VMI contest

– My review of last week’s game against Chattanooga

Link to ESPN3’s streaming coverage of VMI-The Citadel

Non-football links:

– Don’t forget to meet the Bulldog hoopsters at the game on Saturday; posters and three-point shotmaking to be had

– Caroline Cashion: “I want to play again”

Homecoming Week is here, with all the traditional activities associated with it. The schedule: Link

Since 1953, VMI has been the Homecoming opponent for The Citadel 15 times. The Bulldogs are 11-4 in those games, winning the last five matchups. The most recent such contest came just two years ago, with The Citadel prevailing 35-14.

In that time period, the only team The Citadel has faced more often on Homecoming is Furman (16 meetings). Therefore, this week the Keydets will tie the Paladins for most Homecoming appearances by an opponent at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

It should be noted that there were Homecoming games prior to 1953. Furman was the opponent for the first such recorded contest, in 1924. The 1953 season just happens to be the starting point for tracking certain statistical and historical information in The Citadel’s record book.

In 2018, The Citadel’s Homecoming game will take place on November 10, and the opponent will be Samford.

This is the earliest meeting during the season between VMI and The Citadel since 1991. That year, the game was played on October 26, and was held at the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk, Virginia. The Bulldogs defeated the Keydets 17-14 that afternoon.

When the series began, the two schools usually met in mid-October. After World War II, however, the matchup shifted to early-to-mid-November.

Beginning in the late 1960s, the game moved to a mid-season date (usually in October). That status continued until the late 1980s, when the series again became a (mostly) late-season clash.

In 1978, The Citadel defeated VMI 14-3 on September 23 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. That is the only time the matchup has ever been played in September. The latest in the year the contest has been held? 2005, when The Citadel won 22-14 at Foster Stadium in Lexington; that season, the game was played on November 19.

VMI has played Virginia Tech 79 times, which is actually more often than the Keydets have played The Citadel (72 times). However, the Hokies have not met VMI on the gridiron since 1984.

That will change in 2026, when the two schools are scheduled to meet again. VMI also has scheduled games with North Carolina State (2023) and Virginia (2020).

Virginia is another school that VMI has played many times (82 times, to be exact). The Keydets have also had long-running series with William and Mary (87 meetings) and Richmond (86), though neither of those schools has appeared on VMI’s schedule in the last few years.

Next year, VMI has scheduled non-conference matchups at Toledo and at Old Dominion. The Keydets reportedly will also play at Gardner-Webb.

In 2019, VMI has non-conference games at Army and at Marshall.

Fast mascot/nickname facts about VMI:

– Why is VMI’s mascot a kangaroo? Shouldn’t it be a rat?

Back in 1947, two VMI cheerleaders saw a picture of a kangaroo on the front of the magazine and realized how uncommon the animal was as a mascot. As one of the mascots was finally procured, a contest was held to give the creature an appropriate name. The prize winning name was “TD Bound.”

Later the name of the mascot was changed to Moe, because A) Moe wasn’t a football-specific name, and B) “TD Bound” was kind of dumb. VMI actually had a live animal mascot until the 1970s; one of the real-life animals was actually a wallaby and not a kangaroo. I guess the folks at VMI weren’t too picky about things like that (can’t say that I blame them).

– They weren’t always Keydets, whatever Keydets are…

In ancient days of yore the football team was known as the “Flying Squadron”. The Keydets moniker is only around 85 years old.

If you’re keeping track of old-timey nicknames for SoCon schools, here are a few:

  • VMI: Flying Squadron
  • Furman: Purple Hurricane
  • The Citadel: Light Brigade (this was a thing in the late 1930s-early 1940s, but it didn’t quite catch on)
  • Samford: Baptist Tigers
  • Western Carolina: Teachers (and later chose Catamounts over Mountain Boomers, an atrocious decision)

Scott Wachenheim’s first two teams at VMI won two and three games, respectively. His third squad is in danger of winning fewer than two games, which would make Wachenheim the latest Keydet coach to suffer through a one-win or winless season.

Wachenheim is VMI’s 11th head football coach since 1953. Of the ten men who preceded him in the position, all but one had at least one season in which the team went winless or won only a single game. The exception to that unforunate rule was Wachenheim’s immediate predecessor, Sparky Woods.

Woods won at least two games in all seven seasons he coached the Keydets. Admittedly, in five of those seasons (including the last four) his squads won exactly two games.

Conversely, The Citadel has had 14 head coaches over that same time period — and in none of those seasons (65 in all) have the Bulldogs failed to win at least two games.

VMI is 0-8 this season, and has lost 14 straight games going back to last year. That is now the longest active losing streak in FCS, as last week Delaware State (helmed by Kenny Carter, a graduate of The Citadel) broke a 17-game losing streak by stunning South Carolina State in Dover, 17-14.

The slate for VMI so far:

  • Air Force crushed VMI in Colorado Springs, 62-0; the Keydets only picked up six first downs
  • Catawba, a Division II school, upset the Keydets 27-20, scoring the game-winning TD with 42 seconds to play
  • Robert Morris then shut out VMI, 23-0, the first time RMU had shut out an opponent in seven years
  • VMI opened SoCon play by getting hammered by Chattanooga, 63-7
  • After an early pick-six for the Keydets, Mercer scored 35 straight points and beat VMI 49-14
  • Samford defeated VMI 26-7 in Lexington after allowing the Keydets to score on the game’s opening drive
  • Furman broke open a close game at halftime, beating VMI 42-10; the Paladins had 523 yards of total offense
  • Last week, Western Carolina won 26-7 at Alumni Field, matching the Samford-VMI score

VMI will not have a bye week this season, playing on eleven consecutive Saturdays. After this week, the Keydets travel to Johnson City to face East Tennessee State on November 4, and then will close out their 2017 campaign at home versus Wofford on November 11.

Statistics of note for VMI through eight games:

VMI Opponents
Points per game 8.1 39.8
Rushing yardage 694 1699
Average per rush 2.98 4.39
Average per game 86.8 212.4
TDs rushing 4 23
Passing yardage 1025 1992
Comp-Att-Int 109-218-15 140-223-4
Average per pass 4.7 8.9
TDs passing 3 17
Total offense 1719 3691
Total plays 451 610
Yards per play 3.8 6.1
Kick returns-yards 42-716 14-276
Punt returns-yards 10-65 22-205
Fumbles/lost 10/5 1/0
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 3.1/26.4 5.9/49.1
Net punt average 37.5 38.5
Time of possession/game 26:28 33:32
3rd down conversions 30/110 56/116
3rd down conversion rate 27.3% 48.3%
Sacks by-yards 16-119 18-129
Field goals-attempts 3-8 9-12
Red Zone touchdown rate 3-8 (37.5%) 26-39 (66.7%)
  • VMI is last in FCS in scoring offense
  • The Keydets are also last in offensive pass efficiency, in part because they lead the nation in passes intercepted
  • Offensively, VMI is 119th in third down conversion rate
  • VMI is 116th nationally in scoring defense, and 119th (out of 123 teams) in third down conversion rate allowed
  • The Keydets have not recovered a fumble on defense this season, and somehow have only forced one
  • In terms of turnover margin, VMI is next-to-last in FCS (ahead of only Bryant); the Keydets are -16 in that category
  • VMI’s net punt average is solid and ranks 28th nationally
  • The Keydets are the least-penalized team in FCS, as they have been called for only 3.1 infractions per game

The Citadel’s key stats through seven games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 24.9 19.9
Rushing yardage 2166 783
Average per rush 5.07 3.75
Average per game 309.4 111.9
TDs rushing 17 12
Passing yardage 691 1307
Comp-Att-Int 40-95-3 106-179-10
Average per pass 7.3 7.3
TDs passing 6 7
Total offense 2857 2090
Total plays 522 388
Yards per play 5.5 5.4
Kick returns-yards 14-263 17-419
Punt returns-yards 11-83 6-53
Fumbles/lost 14/5 7/4
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.4/38.4 3.1/31.6
Net punt average 36.1 37
Time of possession/game 34:54 25:06
3rd down conversions 51/111 24/73
3rd down conversion rate 45.9% 32.9%
Sacks by-yards 11-61 4-27
Field goals-attempts 4-8 2-4
Red Zone touchdown rate (20-29) 69.0% (13-17) 76.5%
  • The Citadel is 62nd nationally in scoring offense, and 24th in scoring defense
  • The Bulldogs are 14th in offensive third down conversion rate, and 24th in third down conversion rate allowed
  • At 42.1%, the Bulldogs’ pass completion rate is the lowest in FCS (out of 123 teams)
  • The Citadel’s kick return defense is 115th nationally (last week certainly didn’t help in this category)
  • The Bulldogs are 19th in turnover margin
  • Rush report: The Citadel is third in rushing offense and 22nd in defense against the rush
  • The Citadel is second nationally in time of possession (behind only McNeese State; two undefeated teams, Columbia and North Dakota State, rank third and fourth, respectively)
  • The Bulldogs are 11th in FCS in the “fewest penalties per game” category

VMI quarterbacks have thrown the football (or been sacked attempting to throw) on 52.3% of the offense’s plays from scrimmage this season. Counting sack yardage, 52.2% of VMI’s yardage has come via the pass, so the Keydets have been more or less the same in terms of effectiveness on the ground and in the air.

The current starting quarterback for VMI is Duncan Hodges (6’3″, 220 lbs.), a redshirt freshman from Kimberly, Alabama. He is the younger brother of Samford QB Devlin Hodges.

For the season, Hodges is completing 53.0% of his throws, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt, with three touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also has two rushing TDs.

VMI’s leading rusher is Daz Palmer (5’10”, 180 lbs.), a sophomore from Norfolk. He is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, with a long of 56 (which was a TD run against Catawba). He also had a 51-yard run versus Furman.

Palmer can also catch the ball out of the backfield — indeed, he had three receptions against The Citadel last season, including a 30-yarder. This year, Palmer has 18 catches, second-most on the team.

Sophomore wide receiver Rohan Martin (5’10”, 175 lbs.) has started all 19 games of his VMI career. He leads the Keydets in receptions this season, with 19. Martin had a 3-yard TD catch against Furman.

Martin also occasionally returns punts (and is listed in that role on this week’s depth chart). He had a 34-yard punt return earlier this season.

Javeon Lara (6’2″, 178 lbs.), a sophomore from Schulenburg, Texas, is a breakaway threat. The Citadel’s defense must be particularly wary of Lara, who had a 79-yard TD reception against Mercer and a 73-yard catch for a touchdown versus Chattanooga.

VMI’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 272 lbs. The largest of the group is right tackle Sawaar Canady (6’5″, 290 lbs.). Canady, a native of Newport News, is one of three redshirt freshmen who start on the Keydets’ o-line.

VMI’s defense is led by senior Allan Cratsenberg (6’3″, 223 lbs.), a tackling machine from Natrona, Pennsylvania. Cratsenberg was a first-team All-SoCon pick by the media last season after averaging 11.5 stops per contest. That included a 20-tackle day against The Citadel, the first time this century a Keydet had been credited with 20 or more tackles in a game.

This season, Cratsenberg (described by Brent Thompson as “smart and savvy”) is again racking up stops, averaging 11 tackles per game (and leading the league). He has 35 combined tackles in VMI’s last two games.

Cratsenberg has added interceptions to his repertoire in 2017. He has three so far this year, including a 60-yard pick-six versus Mercer. That interception return for a touchdown, by the way, is the only time this season the Keydets have scored following an opposing turnover, either on a defensive return or on the ensuing offensive possession.

Fellow linebacker Brian Lipscomb (6’3″, 225 lbs.), a redshirt junior from Hampton, is having an outstanding season for the Keydets. Lipscomb leads the Southern Conference in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (7).

During his radio show, Brent Thompson had a lot of praise for Lipscomb, saying he has a “knack for the football [and] knows where to be. He is very athletic…he did a great job against us last year.”

Ryan Francis (6’1″, 215 lbs.), a redshirt senior from Knoxville, is tied for second on the team in tackles, with 73. The linebacker also has seven tackles for loss.

Safety Greg Sanders (5’11”, 195 lbs.) also has 73 stops for the Keydets. The native of Memphis had nine tackles against The Citadel in last season’s contest (and also recovered a fumble). Now a senior, the three-year starter was a second-team all-league selection last year.

VMI’s starting placekicker, Grant Clemons (6’2″, 185 lbs.), is 3 for 7 on field goal tries this season, with a long of 39 yards (accomplished twice, both against Catawba). Clemons, a sophomore who began his collegiate career at Georgia Military, also handles kickoffs for the Keydets.

Something worth watching on placekicks: holder Jake Paladino (6’1″, 205 lbs.) is a quarterback, and it would not be a major surprise if VMI attempted some trickery out of a field goal formation. Last season, in fact, Paladino played quarterback against The Citadel in a relief role, and the redshirt sophomore fared rather well (completing nine of thirteen passes for 100 yards and a TD).

Paladino can also punt, but VMI’s primary punter this season has been Bill Hogan (6’1″, 217 lbs.). The redshirt junior is in his second season as the regular at the position. He is averaging 43.4 yards per boot.

Six of Hogan’s 49 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line; one has been blocked.

Mason Dermott (5’8″, 167 lbs.) is a redshirt sophomore in his second season as the kick return specialist for the Keydets. He had a 71-yard return last season against Chattanooga.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 40% chance of showers, with an expected high of 78 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 61 degrees, with a 70% chance of precipitation.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 26-point favorite over VMI. The over/under is 42.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 3-point favorite at Western Carolina; Samford is a 15-point favorite over Chattanooga; and Wofford is a 15.5-point favorite at East Tennessee State. Mercer is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 14.5-point favorite over Georgia Tech; South Carolina is a 7.5-point favorite against Vanderbilt; South Carolina State is a 2-point home underdog versus Howard; Coastal Carolina is an 8-point favorite over Texas State; Presbyterian is 12.5-point home underdog against Kennesaw State; and Charleston Southern (starving for a conference victory) is a 3-point favorite versus Monmouth.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 46th in FCS, a drop of 2 spots from last week.

VMI is ranked 114th (out of 124 teams) in FCS, falling two places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 188th, while VMI is 414th.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 34, Virginia Military Institute 6. The Bulldogs are given a 98% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 21st (down ten spots), Samford is 22nd (unchanged from last week), Furman is 23rd (up four places), Western Carolina is 32nd (down three spots), Mercer is 40th (down six spots), Charleston Southern is 41st, East Tennessee State is 67th (up five places), Chattanooga is 75th (down five spots), Presbyterian is 84th, and South Carolina State is 95th.

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, Western Illinois, Northern Iowa, and South Dakota.

– Since 1916, The Citadel has a 7-9 record in games played on October 28. The last time the Bulldogs played on October 28, in 2006, they defeated Georgia Southern 24-21. Tory Cooper had both a rushing and receiving touchdown in that contest; Duran Lawson was 18 for 27 passing for 201 yards and two TDs.

The Citadel has only one other home victory on October 28 in the last 65 years. In 1978, the Bulldogs defeated Delaware 21-14 on a rainy afternoon in Charleston. In that contest, The Citadel scored on offense (a 51-yard run by Stump Mitchell), on defense (an 84-yard pick-six by Joe Harvey), and on special teams (after Mike Cunningham blocked a Blue Hens field goal attempt, Mike Adams picked up the ball and ran 71 yards for the game-winning TD).

– There are no changes to The Citadel’s two-deep for the VMI game, the third consecutive week the depth chart has remained the same.

Through seven games, the Bulldogs’ starting lineup on offense has remained unchanged. The same is true for ten of the eleven starting spots on defense; the only exception came at cornerback, when Shy Phillips started the Wofford game in place of Tyus Carter.

– The Citadel has been outscored 56-35 in the first quarter this season. In the other three quarters, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 139-83 (including 90-41 in the second half).

– In eight games this season, VMI has scored a total of 17 points in the second half.

– Among VMI’s notable graduates are actor Fred Willard, playwright/screenwriter Fred Finklehoffe, and civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels.

– Baseball player Dan Crawford is arguably the most well-known VMI alum on the athletic side of the ledger. He later had a conspicuous career in politics.

– The roster for VMI (per its website) includes 66 players from the State of Virginia, slightly over 70% of the total number of players. Other states represented: Tennessee (6 players), North Carolina (6), Pennsylvania (4), Alabama (3), Georgia (2), Texas (2), and one each from West Virginia, New York, California, Maryland, and Kentucky.

There are no Palmetto State players among the Keydets, not even from pigskin powerhouse Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. A quick Google search suggests that no player from that school has suited up for VMI in at least the last 35 years, which if true would be simply staggering. Not coincidentally, the Keydets have not had a winning season on the gridiron during that stretch.

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

The beginning of this post features an excerpt from the game story for a 1984 contest played between VMI and The Citadel. Why did I choose that particular game to highlight?

  • It was a Homecoming game played at Johnson Hagood Stadium
  • The Citadel had a solid team that year, while VMI was scuffling
  • The Bulldogs were heavily favored to win, and had a big game on tap for the following Saturday

Does any of that seem familiar?

I could have picked out several other games between these two schools with a similar profile. Bulldog fans of every era can remember games like that in this series. Some of them didn’t end on a positive note for the Bulldogs, either.

Heck, last year would have been a decent example. The Citadel was trying to complete a first-ever perfect conference campaign, while VMI was 3-6, but when the fourth quarter rolled around the Bulldogs were only up by three points and the Keydets seemed to have the momentum.

VMI tried just about everything in the trick-play handbook in that game, and some of it worked. Back in 1984, the Keydets apparently employed slightly different tactics, but the principle was the same — do whatever it takes to win this game.

“You can throw the records out when these teams play” is such a trite sports cliché, and one that is often not true — but it is very much true when these two institutions meet on the gridiron. Over the years, both schools have played spoiler.

Of course, this game is about a lot more than just conference standings or making a late-season playoff push.

It is the Military Classic of the South. VMI and The Citadel will both be ready for battle on Saturday. The action will be fast and fierce.

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.

Game Review, 2017: Chattanooga

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

“By the numbers”, The Post and Courier

Game story, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Game story, University Echo

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WRCB-TV

Game story, The Chattanoogan

AP game story

School release (The Citadel)

School release (Chattanooga)

Extended box score

Postgame comments from UTC coach Tom Arth (video)

ESPN3 replay of the game

The Citadel needed that win. It wasn’t easy, to the surprise of no one, but that’s okay — it wasn’t supposed to be. The bottom line is the Bulldogs went to Chattanooga and got the victory.

Random observations:

– The Citadel’s special teams weren’t at their best on Saturday. The missed 27-yard field goal hurt, but the real problem came in defending kickoffs and punt returns.

Chattanooga freshman Brandon Dowdell had 167 return yards, which is why three of UTC’s eleven possessions began at or inside the 50-yard line, despite the fact the Bulldogs committed no turnovers during the contest. Dowdell’s 37-yard punt return in the second quarter gave the Mocs a first down on The Citadel’s 35-yard line, and UTC scored its second (and final) touchdown of the game on the ensuing drive.

For the game, Chattanooga had a 14.0-yard edge in average field position, a significant margin. As a comparison, the largest field position differential advantage in all FBS games on Saturday was 16.7 by TCU against Kansas, a game the Horned Frogs won 43-0.

– Chattanooga only had four second-half possessions. The first three drives for UTC in the second half resulted in just 54 total yards and five first downs. Two of those first downs came via a defensive penalty; one of those calls was dubious, and the other was a simply terrible officiating decision.

Despite the bizarre rulings by the men in stripes, the Bulldogs’ defense kept the Mocs in check throughout the second half until the final possession, when The Citadel almost unfathomably gave up 69 yards to Chattanooga in just five plays.

However, the defense held Chattanooga at bay when it counted, with Aron Spann’s second interception of the afternoon sealing the victory.

– The Citadel was 8 for 17 on third down, which is solid. Meanwhile, Chattanooga was 0 for 7 trying to convert on third down. That discrepancy explains the difference in time of possession (37:02 – 22:58) and plays (72 to 50).

The Mocs actually averaged more yards rushing per attempt than The Citadel, 7.5 to 6.2. Of course, the Bulldogs had many more rushes (65 to 19).

If you took out plays of 30+ rushing yards (along with sacks and kneeldowns), Chattanooga would have averaged 4.82 yards per rush, while The Citadel would have averaged 3.97 yards per carry.

– Breakdown of running plays for The Citadel: the A-backs got 28 carries, including 15 from Cam Jackson. The B-backs had 19 carries, the quarterback position finished with 14, and the wideouts had two rushes.

– The Citadel had four rushing plays of 30+ yards on Saturday. Dominique Allen, Grant Drakeford, Raleigh Webb, and Rod Johnson all had one each.

In their four previous SoCon games this season, the Bulldogs had a combined total of *one* 30+ yard rushing play.

The big play has been all too absent for much of this year for The Citadel’s offense. Hopefully its return against Chattanooga is a sign of things to come.

– I’m glad Grant Drakeford didn’t get hurt on his 35-yard run in the third quarter. Drakeford was brought down by a horsecollar tackle, and it was ugly. He could easily have been seriously injured on that play.

Speaking of injuries, let’s hope Kailik Williams can return to action soon. He missed much of the second half on Saturday with what was called a “lower leg deal” by head coach Brent Thompson.

– I thought UTC coach Tom Arth may have made a mistake early in the fourth quarter when he elected to punt on 4th-and-9 from the Bulldogs’ 35-yard line. At the time UTC trailed 17-14.

I understand that 4th-and-9 is not an easy conversion opportunity, but it seemed to me trying to pick up the first down that deep in opposing territory was the better move than giving up a possession (particularly in a game like that; as mentioned, UTC only had four second-half possessions).

Instead of pinning the Bulldogs deep, the punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback. On the very next play from scrimmage, Dominique Allen burst through the UTC defense for a career-long 54-yard run. That took care of any field position advantage.

– Chattanooga has now gone four straight games without causing a turnover.

– The Citadel is now 2-1 on the road in league play this year, with a conference game at Furman still to play. The Bulldogs have won at least half of their SoCon road games in each of the last seven seasons.

– The Bulldogs had 405 yards rushing against UTC, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Last year, there were three conference games in which the Bulldogs had 400+ rushing yards while averaging six or more yards per carry — Samford, East Tennessee State, and Western Carolina.

Upcoming: a big, big week. Not only is it Homecoming Week at The Citadel, but the coveted Silver Shako is on the line as VMI comes to town.

It’s time to ratchet the intensity up another ten or twenty notches…

 

 

2017 Football, Game 7: The Citadel vs. Chattanooga

The Citadel at Chattanooga, to be played at Finley Stadium/Davenport Field, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 21, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Chris Goforth will handle play-by-play, while B.J. Coleman supplies the analysis. 

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

Links of interest:

Bulldogs aren’t giving up on the playoffs just yet

– Game notes from The Citadel and Chattanooga

Preview from The Citadel’s website

– SoCon weekly release

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is in the “receiving votes” category, and would be ranked #31 if the poll went that far)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is in the “receiving votes” category, and would be ranked #31 if the poll went that far)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/17 press conference, including comments from Rod Johnson and Quinlan Washington (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/18 radio show (video)

Tom Arth wants Chattanooga to “be the aggressors” on Saturday

Rushing defense key for Mocs against The Citadel

– A trying season for UTC’s seniors

– Chattanooga searching for its first home win (video from WDEF-TV)

– Chattanooga media luncheon with head coach Tom Arth, quarterback Cole Copeland, and defensive back C.J. Fritz (videos)

– Inside Chattanooga Football (video)

Highlights of Chattanooga’s win over VMI (video)

The Citadel hits the road again after two disappointing home losses, looking to break a three-game losing streak. If the Bulldogs have even a remote chance of making a third straight trip to the FCS playoffs, they almost certainly have to win their next four games. That starts on Saturday in the River City against Chattanooga.

The Mocs are having an even more difficult time on the gridiron, as they are currently 1-6 for the 2017 campaign. UTC’s only victory came against the other military school in the Southern Conference, VMI.

New coach Tom Arth has had a tough debut season to date in the SoCon, perhaps more so than was expected. Among other issues, Chattanooga is now featuring its third starting quarterback of the season, a true freshman who was originally going to be redshirted.

Every year, it is mandatory to explain the history related to Chattanooga and its mascot/nickname. I’ve written frequently about the school’s identity and branding issues over the years.

Chattanooga has a webpage on its varsity sports website devoted to the one big question that has dominated discussion at the school for decades: What is a Moc?

 The term “Moc” is short for “Mockingbird.” Mockingbirds are fiercely territorial creatures which protect their homes with courage, determination and skill…

Named after legendary football coach A.C. “Scrappy” Moore, Scrappy, the Chattanooga mascot, is a fixture for the Mocs.  A re-design in 2008 puts Scrappy in the image of the State Bird of Tennessee, a Mockingbird.  The mockingbird is known as a fierce protector of its nest and environment. It is sometimes seen swooping down on a dog, cat or predator that may be venturing too close to the bird’s protected territory.   Once described by “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon as “a sledge-hammer wielding mockingbird with a heart of Blue & Gold,” Scrappy symbolizes that competitive passion.

Faced with politically sensitive issues and in need of a stronger core identity to help establish a strong brand as Chattanooga’s Team, the athletics department embarked on a comprehensive identity program in 1996. A new direction for the athletics identity was determined, moving away from the politically incorrect Native American Indian imagery.

The “Power C” and “Cowcatcher logo” are also branding symbols of note at Chattanooga. The subject even came to the attention of The New York Times back in 2009.

The official name of the school, meanwhile, is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In this post, I’ll refer to “Chattanooga”, “UTC”, and “Mocs” when discussing its football program.

Why does Finley Stadium/Davenport Field have artificial turf? Well, because the facility was relentlessly mocked on ESPN’s SportsCenter program about 13 years ago.

A recent article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press explains:

James Madison and Montana met for the [2004 FCS] title at Finley, but that showdown was upstaged by the stadium’s new sod coming up in chunks throughout the game that was televised nationally on ESPN2.

“That’s probably the worst field I’ve ever played on in my life, grade school through college,” then-James Madison quarterback and current UTC offensive coordinator Justin Rascati said afterward. “I was really surprised how bad it was for this type of game.”

[Former Finley Stadium executive director Merrill] Eckstein explained that the field was resodded after UTC’s 2004 season because the NCAA repeatedly griped about how brown it looked.

“We would paint it green, but by the end of the first quarter, the green was all over the uniforms of the players,” Eckstein said. “Somebody had to sign on the sod deal, and I’m the genius who did that.”

[Gordon] Davenport, the current chairman of the Stadium Corp., vividly remembers the morning after the 2004 FCS title game and watching ESPN’s “SportsCenter” at home.

“They were using the visuals of the field as their entire story,” Davenport said. “I’m sitting there looking at Davenport Field. I wasn’t involved with the stadium at that point, but I jumped right in for the fundraising for the first version of the artificial turf and have ratcheted up my involvement ever since.”

Finley Stadium/Davenport Field hosted the FCS title game from 1997 through the 2009 season. Thus, both Chattanooga and The Citadel have hosted the I-AA/FCS championship, as Johnson Hagood Stadium was the site of the final in 1983 and 1984.

Here is a trivia question: which school has Chattanooga faced on the gridiron more than any other opponent?

The answer, which might be surprising for some, is The Citadel. On Saturday, the Mocs and Bulldogs will meet for the 51st time.

It is Chattanooga’s longest football series in terms of games played, despite the fact that this is the school’s 110th year of fielding a football team. Conversely, The Citadel has played five different opponents 51 or more times.

I don’t think fans of either program would consider this matchup a classic (or even modern) rivalry. The two schools are not close in terms of geography, nor are they similar in enrollment size or mission.

Nevertheless, the game preview on UTC’s website suggests the ‘rivalry’ is a “hot one”, one that has been “turning into one of the more heated rivalries in the league over the last few meetings.”

As mentioned above, Chattanooga is 1-6 so far this season.

  • In the FCS Kickoff game, played in Montgomery, Alabama, Jacksonville State defeated the Mocs 27-13
  • UTC then lost (somewhat predictably) at LSU, 45-10
  • In its first home game of the season, Chattanooga didn’t score until late in the third quarter, and dropped a 21-7 decision to UT Martin
  • The Mocs picked up their first win of the season at woebegone VMI, routing the Keydets 63-7
  • Chattanooga then got rolled at home by Western Carolina, 45-7
  • The following week wasn’t much better, as UTC lost its Homecoming game to Furman, 41-17
  • Last Saturday in Macon, Mercer beat the Mocs 30-10

One thing that is noticeable when perusing those games: Chattanooga has yet to play a close game this season.

Former UTC head coach Russ Huesman left his alma mater after the 2016 season to take the job at Richmond. In a bit of a surprise, Chattanooga reached down into the Division III coaching ranks to pick his successor.

Tom Arth is only 36 years old, but he has already had an interesting (and largely successful) run in the game of football. A star quarterback at John Carroll University, Arth spent three seasons (2003-2005) as a backup for the Indianapolis Colts, where he befriended Peyton Manning.

Arth never took the field for the Colts in a regular season game (to be fair, backups to Manning back then never played), but he did suit up for various NFL Europe and Arena League teams. Arth is surely the first coach in Southern Conference history to have played for the Scottish Claymores and the Hamburg Sea Devils.

He returned to his alma mater as an assistant in 2010. Arth became head coach of the Blue Streaks in 2013, and in four seasons compiled a 40-8 record. Last season, John Carroll went 12-2, including a monumental win over D-3 heavy Mt. Union.

Arth is a native of Cleveland. He played his high school ball at perennial power St. Ignatius.

Another critical piece of information: according to Wikipedia, he was the lowest-rated player in the ESPN NFL 2K5 video game.

Stats of note for UTC through seven games:

Chattanooga Opponents
Points per game 18.1 30.9
Rushing yardage 398 1144
Average per rush 2.01 3.96
Average per game 56.9 163.4
TDs rushing 6 11
Passing yardage 1431 1286
Comp-Att-Int 143-246-11 88-135-5
Average per pass 5.8 9.3
TDs passing 9 13
Total offense 1829 2430
Total plays 444 427
Yards per play 4.1 5.7
Kick returns-yards 34-591 23-435
Punt returns-yards 10-88 9-152
Fumbles/lost 7/5 3/1
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 6.9/55.7 6.7/64.0
Net punt average 39.9 36.6
Time of possession/game 29:43 30:17
3rd down conversions 32/98 36/88
3rd down conversion rate 32.6% 40.9%
Sacks by-yards 8-57 24-198
Field goals-attempts 5-6 5-12
Red Zone touchdown rate 11-19 (57.9%) 15-23 (65.2%)
  • Chattanooga is 119th (out of 123 FCS teams) in rushing offense; UTC’s 2.01 yards per attempt is fourth-worst nationally
  • The Mocs are 74th in rushing defense
  • UTC is 83rd in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate, and 86th in defensive third down conversion rate
  • Chattanooga’s defense has only one fumble recovery, the lowest total in FCS
  • Partly because of that, UTC’s turnover margin is 114th nationally
  • Chattanooga completes a lot of short passes, which is why the Mocs are 109th in yards per pass completion
  • That, plus UTC’s 11 interceptions, has led to an offensive pass efficiency rating that is 91st in FCS
  • The Mocs are 115th in defensive pass efficiency
  • Chattanooga is 100th nationally in scoring offense and 86th in scoring defense

I took a quick look at some of last year’s stats for the Mocs (the full 13-game season). A few eye-opening differences from 2016 to 2017:

  • UTC’s offense scored 34.2 points per game in 2016; in 2017, 18.1
  • Chattanooga averaged 5.1 yards per rush last year; so far this season, 2.01
  • UTC quarterbacks only threw 7 interceptions in 342 pass attempts last season; they have already thrown 11 picks (in 246 attempts) this year
  • The Mocs’ defense is allowing 9.3 yards per pass attempt this season; in 2016, that number was 6.2
  • Chattanooga’s offense is averaging a full 2 yards less per play this year (6.1 to 4.1) while the defense is allowing 1.1 more yards per play (5.7 to 4.6)

Key stats for The Citadel through six games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 25.7 20.8
Rushing yardage 1761 640
Average per rush 4.9 3.4
Average per game 293.5 106.7
TDs rushing 16 10
Passing yardage 652 1152
Comp-Att-Int 38-88-3 89-148-7
Average per pass 7.4 7.8
TDs passing 5 7
Total offense 2413 1792
Total plays 450 338
Yards per play 5.4 5.3
Kick returns-yards 12-226 14-289
Punt returns-yards 11-83 5-16
Fumbles/lost 14/5 6/4
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.5/37.2 3.2/31.0
Net punt average 37.5 38.1
Time of possession/game 34:32 25:28
3rd down conversions 43/94 24/66
3rd down conversion rate 45.7% 36.4%
Sacks by-yards 10-55 4-27
Field goals-attempts 2-4 2-4
Red Zone touchdown rate 17-26 (65.4%) 11-15 (73.3%)
  • The Citadel is 17th in offensive third down conversion rate and 51st in defensive third down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs have been called for the 12th-fewest penalties per game in FCS
  • The Citadel is 5th nationally in rushing; the Bulldogs are 26th in FCS in yards per rush
  • In terms of pass efficiency, The Citadel is 74th on offense, and 72nd on defense; both of those numbers took a hit last week
  • The Citadel is 60th in the country in scoring offense and 31st in scoring defense
  • The Bulldogs are 4th nationally in time of possession
  • The Citadel is 37th in FCS in turnover margin

At his weekly press conference, Brent Thompson described Chattanooga’s offense as being “a little more pass-oriented” and “more pro-style” this season under Tom Arth’s direction.

UTC’s offense has been affected by a revolving door at quarterback. Last year’s starter, Alejandro Bennifield (6’3″, 220 lbs.), was suspended for the first four games of the season for academic reasons. He returned to the field against Western Carolina, only to suffer a concussion after one of the more brutal hits on a QB you will ever see.

He has yet to return for the Mocs, and may not, although Arth said this week that Bennifield was improving. That is good to hear.

Nick Tiano (6’5″, 240 lbs.), a transfer from Mississippi State, started the season at quarterback, but he was also injured against the Catamounts, hurting his shoulder.

The starter for the last two games has been Cole Copeland (6’4″, 200 lbs.), a true freshman from Cleveland, Tennessee. Copeland was going to redshirt this year, but he is running the show now (and presumably will for the foreseeable future, as long as he stays healthy).

Copeland’s stats versus Furman: 30 for 42 passing for 317 yards and two touchdowns, which is fairly impressive for a debut. He did throw four interceptions, however, and was sacked three times.

Last week against Mercer, Copeland was 22 for 39 for 206 yards, suffering one interception and three sacks. The Mocs only rushed the ball 42 times combined in those two games (and that includes six sacks), so it is fairly clear that despite Copeland’s inexperience, UTC’s coaches are willing to put the offense in his hands.

Darrell Bridges (6’1″, 200 lbs.), a senior from Chattanooga, leads the Mocs in rushing, although he is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry. Bridges had 88 yards (on only 15 carries) and UTC’s lone touchdown versus LSU. He also scored last week against Mercer.

Bingo Morton (6’2″, 215 lbs.), though not listed as a starter on the two-deep, is Chattanooga’s leading receiver so far this season, with 23 receptions (three for TDs). Two of those touchdowns came against VMI; Morton, tipped as a potential breakout candidate in the preseason by at least one publication, also had a 59-yard TD catch versus UT Martin.

Chattanooga’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 300 lbs.

Starting center Josh Cardiello (6’3″, 305 lbs.) began his collegiate career at Georgia. The senior was a preseason first-team All-SoCon pick this year after being a second-team all-league selection at the end of last season.

Left tackle Malcolm White (6’6″, 305 lbs.), was a preseason second-team all-league selection. The sophomore from Johnson City, Tennessee made the All-Freshman team for the SoCon last year.

Despite missing last week’s game, middle linebacker Tavon Lawson (6’1″, 225 lbs.) still leads the Mocs in tackles, with 50. The native of Talladega also has 5 1/2 tackles for loss.

Noseguard Derek Mahaffey (6’2″, 205 lbs.) had nine tackles last week against Mercer, which strikes me as a lot of tackles for someone at that position. He had eight tackles the week before versus Furman.

Also worth mentioning: Mahaffey wears #5 on his jersey. How many interior linemen wear #5?

Defensive end Taylor Reynolds (6’3″, 275 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon choice.

Lucas Webb (6’1″, 205 lbs.) already has two interceptions and a fumble recovery, not surprising given that he is already a three-time first-team all-SoCon performer. Webb had eight tackles against The Citadel in last year’s game between the two teams. He has 47 career starts.

Cornerback C.J. Fritz (5’11”, 175 lbs.) had six tackles versus The Citadel last season. Fritz has started every game for the Mocs over the last two seasons.

Placekicker Victor Ulmo (5’8″, 180 lbs.) is 5 for 6 on field goal attempts, including a 44-yarder last week versus Mercer. His one miss was from 47 yards. Ulmo also handles kickoffs for the Mocs.

Colin Brewer (6’1″, 205 lbs.), UTC’s punter, made the All-Freshman team last season. Brewer also serves as the holder on placekicks. Both Ulmo and Brewer are from Chattanooga.

The primary punt returner for the Mocs is freshman Brandon Dowdell (5’10”, 195 lbs.), a native of Cordele, Georgia. He is averaging 10.1 yards per return, which is outstanding. The Bulldogs must be very careful when (if?) punting to him on Saturday.

Running back Richardre Bagley (5’9″, 180 lbs.) has returned most opponents’ kickoffs for Chattanooga this season.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Chattanooga, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny, with a high of 75 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 3.5-point favorite over Chattanooga. The over/under is 47.5.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is a 3.5-point favorite over Mercer; Western Carolina is a 27.5-point favorite at VMI; and Wofford is a 2.5-point favorite over Samford. East Tennessee State is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State: Clemson, South Carolina, and Presbyterian are all off this week. South Carolina State is a 17-point favorite at Delaware State; Coastal Carolina is a 23.5-point underdog at Appalachian State; and Charleston Southern (hungry for a victory) is a 30-point favorite over Savannah State.

Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 44th in FCS, a drop of 3 spots from last week.

Chattanooga is ranked 70th in FCS, falling nine places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 193rd, while Mercer is 252nd.

Massey projects a final score of The Citadel 24, Chattanooga 20. The Bulldogs are given a 63% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Wofford is 11th (up two spots), Samford is 22nd (up one position), Furman is 27th (down two places), Western Carolina is 29th (up two spots), Mercer is 34th (also up two spots), Charleston Southern is 35th, East Tennessee State is 72nd (down eight places), Presbyterian is 78th, South Carolina State is 85th, and VMI is 112th.

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, South Dakota, Western Illinois, and Eastern Washington.

– Since 1911, The Citadel has a 5-6-1 record for games played on October 21. The last time the Bulldogs played on October 21, they defeated Western Carolina in overtime, 30-27.

The Citadel has played Chattanooga twice on this particular date, splitting the two matchups. The Bulldogs’ 12-0 win over the Mocs in 1972 is the only time the program has won on the road on October 21.

– The Citadel’s two-deep for the Chattanooga game is the same as that for the Wofford contest, the second consecutive week there has not been a change on the depth chart.

– Changes on the UTC two-deep: Darrell Bridges is listed as the starter at running back, ahead of Richardre Bagley, who was in that spot for the Mercer game. Cole Strange was not listed as a starter at left guard on last week’s depth chart, but actually started the game anyway and is the presumed starter against The Citadel. As noted earlier in this post, linebacker Tavon Lawson did not play against the Bears due to injury, but is back in the starting lineup this week.

– Among Chattanooga’s notable graduates are actor Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins, retired general Burwell Bell, and chemist Irvine Grote.

– For the second straight week, The Citadel will be involved in a “Military Appreciation Day” game. As part of the festivities, Mocs coach Tom Arth will wear camouflage pants.

– The roster for Chattanooga (per its game notes) includes 52 players from the State of Tennessee. Other states represented on the roster: Georgia (26 players), Alabama (14), Florida (8), and one each from Ohio, Arkansas, Kentucky, Colorado, and California.

There are no Palmetto State residents on the Chattanooga roster. That means, of course, that not even one UTC player is from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, internationally recognized for its superiority on the gridiron. This mind-boggling recruiting oversight almost certainly explains the sudden downturn in the Mocs’ pigskin fortunes.

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

The Citadel has not won at Chattanooga since 2011. That was a memorable game, as the Bulldogs came back from a 27-0 deficit in the third quarter and won 28-27.

I think Saturday’s contest presents the Cadets with a reasonable opportunity to pick up another victory at Finley Stadium, but it won’t be easy. While UTC is struggling this season, the Mocs still have a lot of talented players, many of whom are used to winning.

If that sounds a lot like the makeup of The Citadel’s roster, well, that is because there are a lot of similarities. Both teams know what it is like to win. Both teams need to win.

I expect this game to be hard-fought and close. However, if the Bulldogs can put together four solid,well-played quarters of football, they should return to Charleston with a victory.

Here is hoping they do just that.