A brief review of The Citadel’s 2016 football season

Oh, well. Saturday just wasn’t The Citadel’s day.

That happens sometimes. I can accept it, particularly knowing that in 2016, so many Saturdays (and two Thursdays) were great ones for the Bulldogs.

There really isn’t much to add to what has already been said elsewhere. The Citadel had some chances early in the game, but did not take advantage of them.

The defense played very well throughout the contest, but the offense and special teams weren’t up to par. Wofford had a lot to do with that, of course.

I didn’t have an issue with any particular coaching decision during the game. I know a few people weren’t crazy about Brent Thompson electing to try a field goal down seven points late in the game, but there was still time left for The Citadel to get the ball back (which it did), and the odds of making a field goal in that situation were better than converting the long fourth-and-goal.

In addition, if the Bulldogs had converted on the field goal attempt and then later scored a touchdown, they would have won the game rather than just forced overtime.

I was impressed with the crowd (for both sides). It seemed to me that a higher percentage of folks than normal were really into the game.

In my game preview, I wrote that a probable “acceptable” attendance figure for the matchup would be 10,500, given the various factors involved. The actual attendance on Saturday: 10,333. Close enough.

One of the disappointing things about participating in the FCS playoffs has been the selection committee’s decision to create a “South Carolina mini-bracket” for two straight years. I’ve written before that this is not in keeping with a national tournament, and is fundamentally unfair as well.

Last year, fans of the Missouri Valley Football Conference were angry after all five teams in that league to receive bids were put in the same half of the bracket. In addition, the MVFC commissioner publicly complained.

Do you know what happened after she complained? The selection committee immediately altered the way it sets up the tournament, making an adjustment so that particular circumstance wouldn’t happen again.

It would be nice if the Southern Conference made a public request to the committee to change the over-regionalization of the bracket. However, I do not know if league commissioner John Iamarino is concerned about the issue.

I think he should be.

The selection committee’s gerrymandering of the FCS playoffs at the expense of certain teams and conferences really devalues the tournament as a whole — and if the idea is that it is financially impractical to put together a balanced 24-team event, that begs a rather obvious question: why then hold a 24-team tournament in the first place?

Even before The Citadel played this year, I had serious misgivings about the setup for the FCS playoffs. Until the tournament is properly seeded (as in, all the teams are seeded and appropriately bracketed), I will continue to feel that way.

In fact, while I was previously dubious about the MEAC and SWAC electing to send their respective league champions to another post-season event instead (the “Celebration Bowl”), now I tend to think that those two conferences may be on to something, not only from a financial perspective, but a philosophical one.

The regular season still matters. The playoffs? I’m not so sure.

“If we’re not the best Citadel team ever,” [Tyler] Renew said, “we’re right there with the top one.”

He isn’t wrong. There isn’t much that separates the 2016 squad from the 1992 team, with the latter generally considered the finest Bulldog team of the post-World War II era (if not every era).

This year’s team won ten straight games. Six of those ten victories were on the road.

The 2016 team finished undefeated in the Southern Conference, the first time in school history a Bulldogs squad had done so. I consider that a very significant accomplishment, as The Citadel has been competing in the SoCon since 1936.

The ’92 outfit won 11 games. It lost twice — to the two teams that played in the I-AA title game that season.

Charlie Taaffe’s best team was victorious at Arkansas and at Army, and won at Furman to clinch the league title. It also shut out Appalachian State in Boone, defeated Chattanooga and East Tennessee State by a combined 41 points, won a playoff game 44-0, and pulverized VMI 50-0.

I am inclined to keep the 1992 squad #1 on the my personal all-time single-season list, with the 2016 team a very strong #2. Opinions can vary, to be sure.

However, Renew and company have definitely been part of the best two-season stretch in the school’s long gridiron history. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

The past two years have included a total of nineteen victories (including one at South Carolina), and a 14-1 record in conference play. Two of the four Southern Conference championships in program history have come in the last two years.

Of those nineteen wins since the beginning of the 2015 season, ten came on the road. I also think the players themselves should get extra credit for winning those nineteen games under two different head coaches (with the seniors on the team having been recruited by a third head coach).

As far as three-year runs go, I lean towards keeping Eddie Teague’s 1959-1960-1961 teams at the top — at least, for one more year. Those three squads were a combined 23-7-1, with a Southern Conference title and a Tangerine Bowl victory as just two items on their collective honors list.

Next year’s team will have a chance to be part of a new three-year standard for football excellence at The Citadel. I am quite hopeful on that front (as are most Bulldog fans).

The Bulldogs will be back in action on September 2, 2017, against Newberry. I’m already looking forward to next season, but that is still almost nine months away.

For now, I just want to say thank you to all the players and coaches, especially the seniors. Supporters of The Citadel have been treated to two consecutive years of truly outstanding football, with a bevy of talented and likable players providing a great deal of excitement and satisfaction.

It has been very enjoyable to watch.

Yes, I took pictures. They aren’t very good, but then they never are.

I included a few pictures from The Citadel’s victory over USC-Upstate on Saturday afternoon, which was a fun game to watch. (Yes, I’ll be writing about the Bulldogs of the hardwood in the near future. Give me a little time, though.)

These photos aren’t annotated.

 

2016 Football, Game 12: The Citadel vs. Wofford

The Citadel vs. Wofford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on December 3, 2016. The game will only be available on television via ESPN College Extra

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Greg Mescall will provide play-by-play, while Stan Lewter supplies the analysis. 

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

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

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

– Game notes for The Citadel and Wofford

SoCon weekly release

– The Citadel versus Wofford: a “scary” matchup

Attendance at FCS playoff games has been poor; The Citadel hopes to change that on Saturday

A discussion revolving around the “fourth option”

Brent Thompson had an interesting major in college

Feature on Isaiah Pinson, Jacobs Blocking Award winner in the Southern Conference

“Inside the game” from The Post and Courier

Bulldogs hope home field makes difference

– It’s another dogfight

– Bulldogs and Terriers face off again

– Terriers get shot at redemption

– Wofford battles injury issues

– Wofford player says “we all know, and they [The Citadel] know, that we should have won that first one”

– Wofford’s safeties are key players on their defense

– Five players to watch for The Citadel and Wofford

– Game story from Wofford’s victory over Charleston Southern

– Preview of the game from Yahoo! Sports

– Preview of the game from Southern Pigskin

Brent Thompson’s 11/29 press conference, including comments from Myles Pierce, Isaiah Pinson, and Tyler Renew (video)

Wofford media luncheon interviews with Mike Ayers, Brandon Goodson, and JoJo Tillery (video)

Wofford review of its win over Charleston Southern (video)

– FCS playoff bracket

A couple of other links:

My preview of The Citadel’s 10/22 game versus Wofford

My review of The Citadel’s 10/22 game versus Wofford

Hey, if you’re going to the football game on Saturday night, why not make it a multi-sport doubleheader?

The Citadel’s basketball team will be in action at McAlister Field House, with a noon tipoff for a game against USC-Upstate.

The game against the Spartans is part of the Holy City Hoops Classic (great name for an event). The Citadel defeated Colgate on Friday, and takes on Campbell at 4:00 pm on Sunday.

So far this season the Bulldogs are 5-3, including a 4-0 record at home.

The football game on Saturday will be called on ESPN3 by Greg Mescall (play-by-play) and Stan Lewter (analysis).

As far as I can tell, this is the first time either one has ever called a football game involving a SoCon team.

Mescall is a graduate of Monmouth. In his broadcasting career, he has primarily been a commentator for water polo matches, both as a play-by-play announcer and an analyst (he appears to have spent a considerable amount of time on the west coast, as you might imagine).

This season, however, Mescall started working FBS/FCS college football games, two on play-by-play (both involving Georgia Southern, incidentally) and two as a sideline reporter for the NEC game of the week on ESPN3.

Lewter’s background is actually in basketball. He was an assistant for three years under Jim Valvano at North Carolina State, and later was the head coach at Livingstone.

After starting a broadcasting career as a basketball announcer, several years ago Lewter began to pick up occasional assignments as an analyst for college football games (shades of Nate Ross, a/k/a the “Renaissance Man”). Lewter has called four FBS/FCS games so far this season.

While the game is being streamed on ESPN3, the contest is now also slated to appear on ESPN College Extra.

For those TV viewers with DirecTV, the viewing guide indicates that Wofford-The Citadel will be broadcast in HD on Channel 788-1. For Time Warner Cable subscribers, the matchup is listed on channel 392. In both instances, a subscription to a “sports pack” may be required.

The buildup to this game has featured some loquacious Wofford players, none more voluble than starting free safety JoJo Tillery:

We’re looking for revenge. We all know, and even they know, that we should have won that first one, but mistakes happen.

Tillery wasn’t the only Terrier willing to do some talking. Outside linebacker Terrance Morris had this to say about playing The Citadel:

This is what we’ve been looking for, actually. We [had the] mindset that we let the first one get off the hook…

…now we get to play them all over again at their place and probably get a victory over there, give them a taste of how it felt when they got one over here [in Spartanburg].

Wofford depth chart differences from the first game against The Citadel (10/22), last week versus Charleston Southern, and this week against the Bulldogs:

On offense, there has been only one change. Lennox McAfee, a backup halfback and return man, broke his leg against the Buccaneers. His replacement at both spots is freshman Blake Morgan, who has good speed (and who, it should also be noted, had a 20-yard reception against The Citadel in the October matchup).

Defensively, most of the personnel changes have occurred at linebacker. Dylan Young and Datavious Wilson have been listed as starters for all three games. John Patterson started at inside linebacker versus The Citadel in October, and sustained a serious (and season-ending) neck injury.

Lincoln Stewart replaced him, only to be injured last week. Stewart had to be carted off the field; everyone was relieved to learn afterwards that he had movement in his extremities.

Mike Ayers stated that Stewart had suffered a pinched nerve, and apparently the senior from Florida is available this week, as he is listed as a starter on the two-deep. Stewart had seven tackles versus The Citadel in the regular-season matchup.

Terrance Morris did not start against The Citadel in October, but at the time Morris was completing a recovery from a knee injury that had cost him the entire 2015 season. He started against Charleston Southern and is slated to start on Saturday.

In the defensive secondary, the same four players have been listed as starters on all three of the two-deeps in question. Three of their backups are different on this week’s depth chart from the one that was published for the October game against the Bulldogs.

David Marvin has been listed as the starter at both placekicker and punter for the last two weeks, after Brian Sanders was the projected starter at punter against The Citadel in the regular-season meeting. Sanders is now listed as the backup placekicker, after Luke Carter had held that role through last week. (Sanders is also the holder for the Terriers.)

Statistics of note for Wofford:

Wofford Opp
Points per game 27.9 17.2
Total yards rushing 3395 950
Yards/rush 5.0 2.7
Rushing TDs 32 7
Total yards passing 854 2303
Comp-Att-Int 63-113-2 234-367-15
Average/pass att 7.6 6.3
Passing TDs 4 20
Total offense 4249 3253
Total plays 794 723
Average per play 5.4 4.5
Fumbles/lost 18-9 8-6
Penalties-pen yards 66-614 59-541
Pen yards/game 51.2 45.1
Net punt average 44.8 38.1
Time of poss/game 33:54 26:06
3rd-down conv 71/167 65/159
3rd-down conv % 42.5% 40.9%
Sacks by-yards 28-184 20-2
Red Zone TD% (30-47) 63.8% (24-35) 68.6%
  • Wofford leads the nation in net punting
  • The Terriers have only been intercepted twice all season, the fewest interceptions allowed in the country
  • That is a big reason why Wofford is 7th in fewest turnovers lost, with eleven; four of those came against The Citadel in the 10/22 matchup
  • The Terriers are 25th nationally in offensive 3rd-down conversion rate
  • Wofford is 4th nationally in time of possession and 5th in rushing offense (282.9 yards per game)
  • The Terriers are 4th in FCS in both rushing defense and total defense, and 7th in scoring defense
  • Despite those impressive numbers, Wofford is only 87th in defensive 3rd-down conversion rate

Wofford’s top-5 ranking in rushing defense is even more impressive when you realize that the Terriers are also 5th in yards allowed per rushing attempt. Wofford allowed 4.6 yards per rush against Charleston Southern, but that was actually a solid effort given the opponent, as the Buccaneers lead the nation in yards per rush (at 6.0).

The Citadel is 9th nationally in yards per rushing attempt (5.5), but was held to 3.7 yards per rush against the Terriers in October.

A few stats for The Citadel:

The Citadel Opp
Points per game 28.5 20.8
Total yards rushing 3943 1374
Yards/rush 5.5 4.0
Rushing TDs 32 13
Total yards passing 700 2001
Comp-Att-Int 42-104-3 167-288-8
Average/pass att 6.7 6.9
Passing TDs 5 13
Total offense 4643 3375
Total plays 825 630
Average per play 5.6 5.4
Fumbles/lost 21-10 15-8
Penalties-pen yards 55-572 48-461
Pen yards/game 52.0 41.9
Net punt average 36.9 36.9
Time of poss/game 34:42 25:17
3rd-down conv 88/179 40/131
3rd-down conv % 49.2% 30.6%
Sacks by-yards 28-185 2-11
Red Zone TD% (25-45) 55.6% (14-24) 58.3%

  • The Citadel leads the nation in rushing offense (358.3 yards per game)
  • The Bulldogs are 2nd nationally in time of possession (behind only San Diego; the Toreros pulled off the biggest upset of the first round last Saturday by winning at Cal Poly)
  • The Citadel is 7th in FCS in offensive third-down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs have only thrown three interceptions; as mentioned above, Wofford is tops nationally with only two picks tossed this season
  • The Citadel is 10th in total defense, 14th in scoring defense, 19th in pass defense, and 25th in rushing defense
  • This season, The Citadel has lost 13 turnovers, tied for 15th-fewest nationally (James Madison, helmed by former Bulldogs coach Mike Houston, has the fewest turnovers lost, with just nine in eleven games)
  • The Bulldogs are 11th in FCS in defensive third-down conversion rate

Wofford quarterback Brandon Goodson (6’0″, 205 lbs.) is completing 48.2% of his passes, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt, with three touchdown tosses against two interceptions.

Goodson was only averaging 1.7 yards per carry entering the October matchup between the Terriers and Bulldogs, but the junior from Dacula, Georgia has picked things up on the ground since then, and is now averaging a healthy 5.0 yards per rush.

In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Goodson was 4 for 7 passing for 44 yards and an interception (which was really a fumble, in my opinion, but the official scorer ruled that Kailik Williams’ “Pitch Six” was a pick). He added 48 rushing yards on eight attempts versus the Bulldogs.

Lorenzo Long (5’9″, 205 lbs.) is a tough, shifty running back from Pensacola who rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries against the Bulldogs in Spartanburg. Long was named first-team all-SoCon by both the coaches and media.

The senior has rushed for 1,290 yards this season (5.0 yards/carry), with 16 TDs, including two last Saturday. The second of those was an outstanding individual effort that demonstrated both his speed and power.

Will Gay (5’9″, 185 lbs.), a fifth-year senior, is averaging 6.6 yards per carry this season. He is also Wofford’s primary punt returner. He appeared to suffer a shoulder injury of some sort against Charleston Southern, but later re-entered the game.

I noted earlier that freshman Blake Morgan (5’9″, 185 lbs.) is now on the two-deep. Morgan has only 15 rushing attempts so far this year, but he has made the most of them — averaging 11.5 yards per carry.

Tight end Chandler Gouger (6’2″, 230 lbs.) leads Wofford in receptions, with thirteen. The junior from Chattanooga has caught 3 of Wofford’s 4 passing TDs this season, and is averaging 15.8 yards per catch.

Wofford’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’3″, 296 lbs.

I wrote about this in my preview of the October game, but it’s worth mentioning again: left guard Dequan Miller didn’t start Wofford’s contest against East Tennessee State because he was busy taking the LSAT. Miller was a second-team all-league pick by the media.

The line is anchored by right tackle Anton Wahrby (6’5″, 300 lbs.). Wahrby was a first-team all-conference choice by both the coaches and media.

Starting center Roo Daniels (6’2″, 285 lbs.) was a second-team all-league selection by both the coaches and media.

The strength of Wofford’s defense is its line.

Miles Brown (6’1″, 310 lbs.) is more than capable of playing nosetackle (as he did last season), but the sophomore is just as good (if not better) at defensive end. The coaches named him to their all-league first team. He had 10 tackles against The Citadel in the October meeting.

True freshman Mikel Horton (6’0″, 315 lbs.), one of several Kentucky natives on Wofford’s two-deep, has proved to be a quick (and yet immovable) study at nosetackle. He made the all-freshman team; it is possible he should have made one of the all-league teams as well.

Junior Tyler Vaughn (6’1″, 270 lbs.) did make all-conference (first team media and coaches). He has 16.5 tackles for loss, including 8 sacks. Vaughn had 7 stops versus the Bulldogs in the regular-season matchup.

Datavious Wilson (6’1″, 230 lbs.), a freshman from Hartsville, is far and away Wofford’s team leader in tackles, with 78. Wilson was hugely impressive against The Citadel, ranging all over the field to make 15 tackles.

Wilson left the Charleston Southern game in the second half with what may have been a muscle injury. He did not return, but is still listed as a starter.

Because of its line, Wofford’s defense would be formidable with almost any combination of linebackers; however, tackling monsters like Wilson don’t grow on trees. If he were not able to play on Saturday, the Terriers would definitely miss his presence.

Fellow linebacker Dylan Young (6’1″, 235 lbs.) had an interesting afternoon against The Citadel in the first meeting, with one tackle, one interception, and one extended taunting display (that somehow went unnoticed by the SoCon officiating crew). Young is a senior from Collierville, Tennessee.

Both of Wofford’s safeties are solid. Strong safety Jaleel Green (6’2″, 215 lbs.) had a very good game against the Bulldogs. The senior from Jacksonville was a first-team all-SoCon pick by the media. He is second on the team in stops, with 56.

Free safety JoJo Tillery (6’2″, 205 lbs.), a talkative sophomore, is third on the squad in tackles, with 55.

Junior placekicker David Marvin (6’2″, 210 lbs.) was named the all-league placekicker and punter, to the surprise of nobody. He is a major reason why the Terriers lead all of FCS in net punting, and the junior from Charlotte is an even better placekicker.

Marvin is 15 for 19 on field goal attempts this season, including five from 50+ yards. He made a 54-yarder and a 57-yarder against Furman. Marvin’s four misses include a 62-yard attempt and a 49-yard effort (against The Citadel) that was blocked.

Sophomore long snapper Ross Hammond (6’1, 220 lbs.) is the son of South Carolina’s Secretary of State, Mark Hammond. The senior Hammond played college football at Newberry.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny, with a high of 62 degrees. Saturday night is projected to be mostly cloudy, with a low of 47 degrees.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 8th in FCS (down one from last week). Wofford is ranked 10th (up three spots).

Massey projects The Citadel to have a 55% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 20, Wofford 17.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (11th), Samford (22nd), Mercer (40th), Furman (48th), Gardner-Webb (51st), Western Carolina (67th), East Tennessee State (70th), VMI (71st).

The top ten in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Sam Houston State, Jacksonville State, South Dakota State, Youngstown State, James Madison, The Citadel, Central Arkansas, Wofford.

– Massey’s predicted final scores for the other seven FCS playoff games:

  • Jacksonville State 21, Youngstown State 17
  • James Madison 42, New Hampshire 34
  • North Dakota 28, Richmond 24
  • North Dakota State 31, San Diego 10
  • Sam Houston State 41, Chattanooga 36
  • South Dakota State 28, Villanova 17
  • Eastern Washington 35, Central Arkansas 28

The game between Wofford and The Citadel is projected to be the closest and the lowest-scoring of the eight contests. All eight home teams are projected to win; home teams were 7-1 last week, with the aforementioned San Diego-Cal Poly game the only matchup in which the road team pulled off a victory.

– Non-conference opponent update: North Greenville is now 9-4 on the season and 2-0 in the D-2 playoffs after defeating Tuskegee on Saturday. Jeff Farrington and the Crusaders are now in the quarterfinals, but face a tall order if they want to advance any further, as NGU must play North Alabama, a traditional D-2 power that already defeated North Greenville 52-21 earlier this season.

– Speaking of North Alabama, it is widely believed that the school’s varsity athletics programs will be moving to Division I by the fall of 2018. An announcement is expected next week. The Lions would join the Atlantic Sun; as part of a partnership agreement with the Big South, UNA would play football in the latter conference (the A-Sun doesn’t sponsor football) as the newest member of FCS.

– Wofford’s game notes depth chart includes 12 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on the Terriers’ two-deep: Kentucky (7), Georgia (5), Florida (5), Ohio (4), Tennessee (4), North Carolina (2), and one each from Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Maryland.

Offensive tackle Anton Wahrby is a native of Sweden who was an exchange student at Lexington (SC) High School.

– The Citadel’s game notes depth chart includes 17 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on the Bulldogs’ two-deep: Georgia (14), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), and one each from Oklahoma and Texas.

– Cam Jackson’s absence from The Citadel’s two-deep is the only change from the Bulldogs’ official depth chart for the game against North Carolina. Rod Johnson is listed as a starter at A-back, with Jonathan Dorogy as his backup.

It would be a setback of some significance for the Bulldogs if Jackson is unable to play on Saturday. He is arguably The Citadel’s most dynamic player. Jackson is third nationally in yards per rush, at 7.29 yards per carry.

– Georgia Tech’s media relations department announced on Thursday afternoon that the Yellow Jackets will open their 2019 football season against The Citadel. The game will be played on August 31, 2019.

That means the Bulldogs are officially set to play power-5 conference opponents in each of the next three seasons — Clemson in 2017, Alabama in 2018, and Georgia Tech in 2019.

If The Citadel were fortunate enough to win on Saturday, the Bulldogs would face the winner of the Youngstown State-Jacksonville State game. YSU defeated Samford last week, 38-24, while JSU had a bye (the Gamecocks are the #3 seed).

With a victory over Youngstown State, Jacksonville State would host a quarterfinal matchup regardless of which team prevails in the matchup between the Palmetto State schools. If Youngstown State were to pull the upset, and The Citadel were to win, the Bulldogs would host the Penguins (either a night game on Friday, December 9, or on Saturday, December 10).

The Citadel has never faced Jacksonville State on the gridiron. The Bulldogs, of course, have faced YSU once — the last playoff game played at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

All of that is looking ahead, to be sure.

A few brief thoughts on attendance:

A search of attendance figures for last weekend’s first-round games showed that crowds at eight host schools were down an average of 59.8 percent from the season average. Wofford, for example, drew 2,605 fans for its 15-14 win over Palmetto State rival Charleston Southern, a 65.8 percent decrease from its season average of 7,625 fans.

New Hampshire had the biggest drop-off, with 2,240 fans on hand for a 64-21 win over Lehigh, a 76.7 percent slide from its season average of 9,630. Chattanooga saw the smallest decrease; yet the Mocs’ crowd of 5,238 fans still was down 41.1 percent from their season average of 8,886 fans.

 

The Citadel averaged 13,648 fans for four home games this season, a figure that ranks 17th among 124 FCS schools in 2016, and first among Southern Conference members. (A fifth “home” game was played at North Greenville due to Hurricane Matthew).

Citadel fans, including some 500 knobs, packed the visitors’ side at Wofford for the Bulldogs’ 24-21 overtime win at Gibbs Stadium on Oct. 22, part of a season-high crowd of 11,102 for the Terriers.

The Corps of Cadets will be at Saturday’s game, a school official said Monday.

“We had a great crowd for the game at Wofford,” Thompson said. “I think this should be a well-attended game. Our ticket sales are going well, and the Corps of Cadets should help out.”

For The Citadel’s two home playoff games in 1992, the Bulldogs drew 12,300 fans for a 44-0 win over North Carolina A&T, and 13,021 for a 42-17 loss to Youngstown State.

In other news, Wofford is hoping to bring 110 students in buses to the game.

I know that there has been considerable discussion in various corners of the internet about how many people are expected to attend the game on Saturday. While I would like to think the stands at Johnson Hagood Stadium will be packed with an overflow crowd of Bulldog supporters, I’m not counting on it.

The good news is that The Citadel doesn’t have to sell tickets for a game played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The bad news is the school has to compete with Christmas shopping, early-bird holiday parties, the ACC title game (which features Clemson), an absence of discounted tickets, and the fact people understandably don’t plan ahead for a potential home playoff game.

When 13,021 paid to see The Citadel play Youngstown State in 1992, that number was only 71% of the average attendance for the previous seven games. If you take out the other playoff game, the victory over North Carolina A&T (played the Saturday after Thanksgiving), the number drops to 67% of the average attendance for the six regular-season contests.

If you extrapolate those percentages and use them to determine a potential estimate for Saturday, based on this season’s numbers, the expected attendance would be between 9,144 and 9,690 fans.

Now, I’ve written before that I always thought those attendance figures in 1992 were a little bit off. I was at both games; it sure seemed like more than 12,300 people were at that matchup with North Carolina A&T, that’s for sure.

However, even if attendance for those two games was under-reported, it was still significantly less than the average for the regular-season games. That is undeniable.

I don’t know what the department of athletics has in terms of a goal for Saturday’s attendance. I’m glad the corps of cadets will be on hand; that will help, not only in the numbers made up by the corps, but because a fair number of people are likely to attend just because the corps will be at the game.

If the announced attendance is more than 12,000, I think Jim Senter and his crew should be roundly congratulated for a job well done. I suspect the “acceptable” attendance number may be closer to 10,500.

The counter to my somewhat negative arguments above: last year, Bulldog supporters came out in droves to see playoff games in Conway and North Charleston. There is a sizable base of loyal fans that will be ready for action once the weekend rolls around (many are ready now), especially for a home contest.

I hope that kind of excitement is infectious.

Saturday’s game is going to be tough. I suspect that it may resemble the contest played in Spartanburg earlier this season. I don’t think The Citadel can count on winning the turnover battle 4-0 this time, but the Bulldogs don’t necessarily have to do that in order to win, either.

They have to play better on offense, though. While the passing game has drawn a lot of attention, the truth is the number that really jumps out from the 10/22 box score is the 190 net rushing yards. That obviously isn’t good enough, not by a long shot.

Does The Citadel need to do a better job throwing the ball? Yes. However, the running game is what pays the bills for the Bulldogs.

I am a little worried about the early part of the game, and how The Citadel responds to a two-week layoff. The Bulldogs can’t afford a sluggish start. The coaching staff’s experience in postseason competition should help alleviate that potential problem, though.

At any rate, I’m ready for Saturday. Aren’t we all…

Game Review, 2016: Samford

The Citadel 37, Samford 34 (OT).

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WCIV-TV

– Video from WCBD-TV

– Post-game press conference, featuring Brent Thompson, Dee Delaney, Cam Jackson, Tevin Floyd, Nick Jeffreys, Cody Clark, and Tyler Renew (video)

– School release from The Citadel

– School release from Samford

– Samford’s first-half highlights package (video)

– Samford’s second-half and post-game highlights package (video)

– Game story, The Birmingham News

Box score

The Citadel’s post-game notes

Nick Jeffreys, versatility personified

– Brent Thompson’s post-game speech, interrupted briefly due to locker room crowd-surfing by a special guest (video)

– Here is a little video (via Twitter) of Brent Thompson’s own crowd-surfing ability

Game highlights (video)

– On-field end-game videos via the Facebook page for The Citadel Sports: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3

– That page on Facebook also has a video clip of the seniors being recognized prior to the game

Mike Legg and Lee Glaze call Cam Jackson’s ridiculous 63-yard run

– Mike Legg and Lee Glaze call Cody Clark’s game-tying field goal

– Mike Legg and Lee Glaze with the end-of-game call

I hardly know where to begin.

Well, I guess I could start by saying that I was surprised by quite a few things that happened on the field on Saturday…

While talking to a couple of people before the game, the subject of Samford’s defense came up. I suggested that because of SU’s “Bear” front, which tends to clog up the middle of the line, Tyler Renew would probably not have a big game.

Renew proceeded to have one of the greatest rushing days in The Citadel’s long gridiron history.  He made me look like a dope. (I’m glad he did.)

I also wasn’t expecting Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges to turn into a dual-threat star. Hodges had entered the game with only 71 net rushing yards all season. Even if you take out sacks, he still had less than 240 yards on the ground, and had not carried the ball for more than 12 yards on any play.

However, you have to give Samford’s coaching staff credit for taking advantage of an opportunity and making an adjustment in the game plan. As a result, Hodges scored two rushing touchdowns (one for 57 yards) and had two other short runs for first downs.

He was clearly athletic enough to run, including a Houdini act late in the first half that turned a would-be sack into an eight-yard pickup, setting up a field goal.

Then, I wrote in my preview that turnovers would be a critical factor in the game. Naturally, neither team committed a turnover.

The one thing I got right had nothing to do with any type of intellectual analysis.

When asked before the game whether or not I thought The Citadel would prevail, I basically went with the theory that while Samford was a difficult matchup, the Bulldogs had found a way to win all season, and that maybe it was just their year.

They did find a way to win again, and it is their year. It is also a season for the ages.

Random thoughts from an increasingly frazzled fan:

– The atmosphere on Saturday was fantastic. The crowd was into the game from the opening kickoff, despite the delay in clearing the field after the Corps of Cadets and all the reunion classes marched into the stadium. It also took a little time for some of the fans in the East stands to get to their seats.

I was a little concerned when the third quarter began, because I noticed a lot of people had left, presumably to go to their respective tailgates. However, when I looked around a few minutes later, the home stands were packed once again.

By the numbers, it wasn’t one of the larger crowds in the history of Johnson Hagood Stadium (though it was the most-attended game at The Citadel since 2009). However, there was an unusual intensity in the stadium that could be felt by anyone who was there.

I’ve been to a lot of games over the years at JHS. I’m not sure how I would rank that one in terms of an all-around experience.

My top-ranked game in that respect has always been the 1988 contest against Marshall. I probably wouldn’t put Saturday’s matchup on that level, but it was close. Very close.

– When you look at the statistics, it’s a little surprising the game went to overtime. The Citadel dominated time of possession (as expected), ran many more plays (89 to 67), rung up 542 yards of total offense, and held Samford to 280 passing yards (on 46 attempts). As mentioned, there were no turnovers.

However, Samford had a few things go in its favor.

For one thing, SU placekicker Reece Everett had a good game. While he may have missed the fateful 44-yard attempt in overtime, Everett also made two long field goals during the game, from 51 and 44 yards. Prior to Saturday, Everett’s longest made field goal of the season had only been 36 yards.

Samford also benefited from an advantage in field position. This was partly because of a four-yard edge in net punting, but mostly due to stopping The Citadel twice on fourth-down conversion attempts, including one at The Citadel’s own 40-yard line in the fourth quarter. That was a gamble by Brent Thompson which did not pay off. Hey, it happens.

Getting points from your kicker without having to advance to the Red Zone, taking advantage of good field position, and those big run plays by Hodges…they all added up for Samford, and put it in position to win the game.

The Citadel also got hurt by a double whammy of officiating decisions in the fourth quarter. The second of those was a pass interference call that was made by an official 20 yards away from the play, a dubious call exacerbated by the lateness of the flag.

However, that paled in comparison to a non-call made on the previous play, an obvious intentional grounding call that was ignored by the referee.

not-grounding

If that had been called, Samford would have had a 3rd-and-17 (if not longer), instead of the much more manageable 3rd-and-7 that led to the pass interference penalty.

During the game, Samford had five 3rd-down conversion attempts of longer than seven yards. It was 0 for 5 converting in those situations, with three incomplete passes and a sack.

As Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier tweeted after the game, “If Citadel doesn’t win, that no grounding/pass interference sequence goes down in Bulldog/SoCon ref lore”. Luckily for The Citadel (and the Southern Conference), the Bulldogs overcame that situation.

– One of those 3rd-and-long situations for Samford came in overtime. On 3rd-and-12, Devlin Hodges sat back in the pocket and waited…and waited…and waited…and moved to his right, then waited some more…and waited…and waited…and finally threw the football out of bounds.

The play seemed to take an eternity. It almost did. Hodges threw the ball 9.7 seconds after receiving the snap.

That’s an extremely long time for a QB to hold the ball and not find an open receiver. It was great downfield coverage by the Bulldogs, to say the least.

– I mentioned this on my Twitter feed on Saturday night, but I think it’s worth repeating here.

There is a cliché that gets tossed around all the time (usually from TV game analysts) that goes something like this: triple option teams can’t play from behind, mainly because they don’t pass the ball enough (or effectively).

On Saturday, The Citadel trailed by ten points with just 5:30 left in regulation and the clock running, and faced a 3rd-and-7 from its own 31-yard line. From that point forward through the end of the game, the Bulldogs did not complete a pass.

They still won.

– The Citadel clinched an automatic berth in the FCS playoffs with the win. It has not, however, won the “outright” SoCon title yet.

Not everyone seems to understand how that works. Just in case you weren’t sure:

The Citadel has clinched at least a share of the league crown. However, the automatic bid to the playoffs does not constitute an outright championship. Chattanooga can still tie The Citadel for the conference title if the Mocs beat Wofford, and The Citadel loses to VMI.

Last year, the situation was reversed. Chattanooga got the automatic berth in the playoffs by virtue of its victory over The Citadel, but shared the league title with the Bulldogs because the teams finished with the same conference record (the Mocs having earlier lost to Mercer).

In other words, it’s just another reason The Citadel needs to beat VMI next week.

Of course, The Citadel doesn’t really need another reason to beat VMI, not with the coveted Silver Shako at stake. It is the greatest trophy in all of sports, and it needs to stay in Charleston, where it belongs.

I’m glad the freshmen in the corps of cadets are making the trip to Virginia for the game. I’ll write more about VMI when I preview the matchup later in the week. For now, I’ll just say that any alumnus of The Citadel ought to visit VMI at least once, just to get an idea of the similarities and differences between the two schools.

The Citadel will be trying to win the outright league title while finishing undefeated in SoCon play for the first time ever, which strikes me as another good reason to make the trip.

I may have a separate post prior to the game preview that deals with the FCS playoff structure, which seems to be a source of confusion in some quarters (understandably so). If I have time, I’ll outline the basics, explain all the historical problems associated with the selections, mention a few things to watch, etc.

For now, I’ll close with the usual motley assortment of pictures. This week, I wanted to include some non-football shots, since it was Homecoming. I also wandered by the temporary museum in Daniel Library and took a few photos there. Most of the pictures are annotated.

2016 Football, Game 4: The Citadel vs. Western Carolina

The Citadel at Western Carolina, to be played to be played in Cullowhee, North Carolina, on the grounds of Bob Waters Field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium, with kickoff at 3:30 pm ET on Saturday, October 1. The game will not be televised.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Pete Yanity providing play-by-play and Will Merritt supplying 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, is the flagship station. 

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

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

SoCon weekly release

Brent Thompson’s 9/27 press conference, including comments from Dominique Allen and Tevin Floyd (video)

Brent Thompson 9/28 radio show (video)

Dominique Allen returns as The Citadel’s starting quarterback

– Allen is back on board

– Allen had his moments in high school, too

– Catamount Football Weekly — previewing the game versus The Citadel (video)

– Mark Speir says the Catamounts were “embarrassed” by loss to ETSU

– Catamounts face long season if they lose to The Citadel

– Radio broadcast open for Saturday’s game (audio)

FCS Coaches’ Poll

This is going to be a somewhat abbreviated (if not erratic) preview, as I mentioned it might be when I reviewed the Gardner-Webb game two weeks ago. That’s because I’ve been out of the country for a week and am just getting back to a semblance of a routine. I’ve tried to provide the typical assortment of links, and my “Odds and Ends” section is in good order, but as for the rest of it…

I’m going to hurriedly make a few points and get this posted. Please excuse the absence of some of the usual statistical comparisons, although trying to incorporate that stuff would have been tricky this week anyway. Last year’s stats aren’t particularly relevant as the calendar hits October, but as Western Carolina and The Citadel have only played three games each in 2016, the current season statistics also have evaluative limitations.

Having said that, here are some Western Carolina stats for 2016, a quick blast. WCU’s three opponents this year: East Carolina (lost 52-7), Gardner-Webb (won 44-14), East Tennessee State (lost 34-31).

 

WCU Opp
Points/game 27.3 33.3
1st downs/game 23.7 25
Yards/rush 4.7 5.5
Yards/pass att 8.6 8.1
Yards/play 6.7 6.5
Plays/game 72.3 77.3
Penalties/game 9.7 5.3
Pen yds/game 74 53.7
TOP/game 26:04:00 33:56:00
3rd dn conv % 39 58.8
Red Zone TD% 64.3 78.6

Putting aside the game versus ECU, let’s take a quick look at the Gardner-Webb and ETSU matchups.

Against G-W (a game played in Cullowhee), Western Carolina’s offense:

  • completed 36 of 43 passes, averaging 9.9 yards per attempt, with 5 TD tosses (two picks)
  • was not sacked on any of those 43 pass attempts
  • averaged 6.1 yards per rush (263 total rush yards), with one TD
  • scored 5 TDs in 8 trips to the Red Zone
  • had 6 TD drives of 62 yards or longer
  • scored touchdowns on its first two possessions
  • had 19 pass completions of ten yards or more; 10 of those came on first down
  • also had 6 rushing plays of ten yards or more

As a comparison, The Citadel’s offense had a total of 13 plays from scrimmage against Gardner-Webb that went for 10+ yards (12 of them were rushes). It should be noted that Western Carolina ran 86 plays from scrimmage against G-W (The Citadel had 73).

Now for the other side of the ball. Against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, the Catamounts’ defense:

  • allowed only 3.4 yards per pass attempt (25 throws)
  • gave up just 4.8 yards per play
  • allowed 5.5 yards per rush (271 total rush yards)
  • after allowing a TD on G-W’s first possession, didn’t give up more than 48 yards on any subsequent drive
  • shut G-W out over its last nine drives

The game versus ETSU (played at Bristol Motor Speedway) didn’t go quite as planned. WCU’s offense:

  • completed 26 of 39 passes, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, with 2 TDs (no interceptions)
  • was sacked four times
  • averaged just 3.7 yards per rush (100 total rush yards), with 2 TDs
  • was in the Red Zone four times, but only scored one touchdown
  • had 5 drives of 55 yards or longer; 3 resulted in TDs

Then there was the Catamounts’ defense, which:

  • allowed 7.3 yards per pass attempt (37 passes)
  • gave up 5.4 yards per play
  • allowed 4.1 yards per rush (205 total rush yards)
  • gave up 4 TDs and a field goal on ETSU’s last five possessions (all 67 yards or longer)

East Tennessee State picked up 364 yards of total offense on those five drives (the last possession of the first half and the first four of the second), averaging 6.6 yards per play. The Bucs were 13 of 19 on third-down tries, converting nine of their last ten.

Check out this amazing third-quarter drive by East Tennessee State that gave the Bucs the lead for the first time in the game:

  • ETSU 1-10 at Etsu24 ETSU drive start at 08:46.
  • ETSU 1-10 at Etsu24 Austin Herink sacked for loss of 8 yards to the ETSU16 (Jake Helms).
  • ETSU 2-18 at Etsu16 PENALTY WCU unsportsmanlike conduct (Daniel Nash) 15 yards to the ETSU31, 1ST DOWN ETSU.
  • ETSU 1-10 at Etsu31 Jajuan Stinson rush for 2 yards to the ETSU33 (Tyler Junius).
  • ETSU 2-8 at Etsu33 D. Monroe rush for 3 yards to the ETSU36 (Tyson Dickson).
  • ETSU 3-5 at Etsu36 PENALTY WCU offside defense (Andrew Mayton) 5 yards to the ETSU41, 1ST DOWN ETSU.
  • ETSU 1-10 at Etsu41 D. Monroe rush for 2 yards to the ETSU43 (Avery Worsham).
  • ETSU 2-8 at Etsu43 Austin Herink pass complete to Vincent Lowe for 7 yards to the 50 yardline (Avery Worsham).
  • ETSU 3-1 at Etsu50 D. Monroe rush for 4 yards to the WCU46, 1ST DOWN ETSU (Jake Helms).
  • ETSU 1-10 at Wcu46 Austin Herink rush for 8 yards to the WCU38 (Fred Payne).
  • ETSU 2-2 at Wcu38 Austin Herink pass incomplete to Hank Black (Trey Morgan).
  • ETSU 3-2 at Wcu38 Jajuan Stinson rush for 3 yards to the WCU35, 1ST DOWN ETSU (Daniel Nash).
  • ETSU 1-10 at Wcu35 Jajuan Stinson rush for loss of 1 yard to the WCU36 (Daniel Nash).
  • ETSU 2-11 at Wcu36 PENALTY WCU personal foul (Daniel Nash) 15 yards to the WCU21, 1ST DOWN ETSU.
  • ETSU 1-10 at Wcu21 Falon Lee rush for no gain to the WCU21 (Ezavian Dunn; Tyson Dickson).
  • ETSU 2-10 at Wcu21 Falon Lee rush for 9 yards to the WCU12 (Keion Crossen).
  • ETSU 3-1 at Wcu12 Falon Lee rush for 5 yards to the WCU7, 1ST DOWN ETSU (Marvin Tillman; Daniel Nash).
  • ETSU 1-G at Wcu07 Falon Lee rush for 3 yards to the WCU4 (Andrew Mayton).
  • ETSU 2-G at Wcu04 Falon Lee rush for 2 yards to the WCU2 (Marvin Tillman).
  • ETSU 3-G at Wcu02 Austin Herink pass complete to Matt Thompson for 2 yards to the WCU0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 01:20.
  • JJ Jerman kick attempt good.

No play from scrimmage during that 16-play, 76-yard drive went for longer than nine yards. ETSU was five-for-five on third-down conversion attempts, and was also bailed out of two 2nd-and-long situations by personal fouls (committed by the same WCU player). Time of possession: 7:26.

That drive aside, the game arguably turned on a play near the end of the first half:

The Cats had a 21-3 lead when it appeared they were going for the kill. [Tyrie] Adams threw a long pass to Spearman Robinson, who gained 43 yards before losing a fumble that ETSU recovered at its 29. The Bucs then drove 71 yards for a touchdown before halftime to begin the comeback.

“Spearman fumbles the ball, and they  get the ball and go on a two-minute drive. Who knows what the ball game would be (if that hadn’t happened),” [WCU head coach Mark] Speir said.

Western Carolina committed 12 penalties in the loss to East Tennessee State. The Catamounts were also flagged 12 times in their 30-point win over Gardner-Webb, so your mileage may vary.

While WCU is essentially a 50-50 run-pass team, much of its yardage (64.8%) comes via the pass. That speaks to a fairly solid transition from longtime quarterback Troy Mitchell to the new starting QB, redshirt freshman Tyrie Adams.

Adams is a 6’2″, 180 lb. native of St. Petersburg, Florida. A track and field star as well (he was the indoor and outdoor SoCon high jump champion in 2016), Adams is completing an impressive 69.3% of his passes, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, with seven touchdown tosses against three interceptions.

Running back Detrez Newsome (5’10”, 210 lbs.) was the preseason choice for offensive SoCon player of the year after being a first-team all-league selection in 2015. Newsome rushed for 1,109 yards last season and nine touchdowns (and added three more TDs on pass receptions).

Newsome rushed for 121 yards (on only 16 attempts) and a TD last year versus The Citadel. He is also the primary kick returner for the Catamounts.

WCU has several pass-catching candidates (including Newsome). Terryon Robinson (5’11”, 190 lbs.) leads the team in receptions so far this season, with 22. He is not to be confused with redshirt senior Spearman Robinson (6’4″, 215 lbs.), a Greenwood High School product who has seemingly played for the Catamounts since the late 1990s.

Jordan Mathis (5’10”, 200 lbs.) is third on the team in receptions, with 12. C.J. Goodman (5’11”, 185 lbs.) had a career-high seven receptions against The Citadel in 2015.

The Catamounts suffered a blow when preseason first-team All-SoCon tight end Tyler Sexton was lost for the season in August with a knee injury.

Western Carolina’s starting offensive line averages 6’3″, 293 lbs. The largest member of that group is right guard Nathan Dalton (6’7″, 315 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore who was a preseason second-team all-conference pick.

In its last two games, WCU has missed linebacker Daniel Riddle (6’1, 225 lbs.), a preseason first-team all-league pick who had 15 tackles against the Bulldogs last season. The injured Riddle is listed as a backup on the depth chart this week.

Tyson Dickson (6’1″, 220 lbs.) was also a preseason all-SoCon choice at linebacker. In 2014, he had 16 tackles in the Catamounts’ victory over the Bulldogs.

The aptly named Fred Payne (5’10”, 180 lbs.) is a strong safety who had a fine game versus The Citadel last year, making seven tackles and also forcing and recovering a fumble.

Cornerback Trey Morgan (6’0″, 185 lbs.) is a senior who has made 38 starts during his career. As a sophomore, he led the SoCon with six interceptions.

The Catamounts are in good shape when it comes to kickers. Redshirt sophomore Ian Berryman (6’0″, 190 lbs.) was the preseason All-SoCon punter, while Logan Howard (also 6’0″, 190 lbs.) was the second-team preseason pick at placekicker.

Howard’s bio on Western Carolina’s website states that he holds “a black belt in martial arts and is a three-time world champion kick boxer”. The website also notes that Howard hit a career long 46-yard field goal last season.

For the fourth straight season, Chandler Addertion is handling long-snapping duties for the Catamounts. His grandfather, Floyd Wicker, had a brief career in the major leagues with four different National League teams (including the original Expos). Floyd Wicker hit one career home run — off a pitcher named Floyd Weaver.

I was reading Bill Connelly’s excellent preview of the upcoming Louisville-Clemson game when I came across this passage:

Through four games, Clemson has only four gains of 30+ yards. Only four teams have fewer: Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, and Texas State. Two have played only three games. And of those four big gainers [for Clemson], none came via rush…

You can survive without big plays. Navy has for years…Scoring without explosiveness requires consistent execution. Any penalty or loss virtually ends a drive.

A lack of big plays puts a lot of pressure on you to execute in the red zone; you aren’t scoring from 40 yards out, so you have to continue moving as the defense gets more packed in.

Would you care to guess how many gains of 30+ yards The Citadel’s offense has had in its first three games this season? The answer is: five.

One against Mercer (Tyler Renew’s 70-yard run on the Bulldogs’ second play from scrimmage). One against Furman (Josh LeBlanc’s amazing 50-yard reception). Three versus Gardner-Webb (including Dominique Allen’s big 41-yard run on the game-winning drive).

Last year, the Bulldogs had 16 gains of 30 yards or more in seven conference games, averaging slightly more than two such plays per contest in league play. As Connelly points out, if an offense doesn’t get those kind of “explosion” plays on at least a semi-regular basis, it has to be extremely consistent, because a bad play will usually short-circuit a possession.

The Citadel has certainly seen a few possessions end on bad plays this year (mainly drive-killing penalties). Obviously, the Bulldogs need to eliminate the major fouls as much as possible, but they also need more big plays.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Cullowhee, per the National Weather Service: sunny and a high of 75 degrees. It should be a great day for a football game.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 4.5-point favorite over Western Carolina. The over/under is 57.5.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Chattanooga is a 33.5-point favorite at East Tennessee State; Mercer is a 5.5-point favorite at VMI; Samford is a 5.5-point favorite over Wofford; and Furman is a 14.5-point favorite over Kennesaw State.

Gardner-Webb is a 33-point favorite over Benedict this week in Boiling Springs. North Carolina is an 11-point underdog at Florida State.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is 13th among FCS teams. Western Carolina is ranked 47th.

Massey projects The Citadel to have an 62% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of 31-27.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (4th), Samford (22nd), Wofford (26th), Furman (44th), Mercer (46th), VMI (53rd), Gardner-Webb (61st), East Tennessee State (85th).

– Western Carolina has 57 players on its squad from North Carolina. Other states represented on the Catamounts’ roster: Georgia (23), South Carolina (8), Tennessee (3), Florida (3), and Connecticut (1).

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (23), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Alabama (4), Pennsylvania (4), Texas (4), and one each from Louisiana, Maryland, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, and West Virginia.

– Western Carolina has two FBS teams on its schedule, an annual tradition in recent years for the Catamounts. WCU has already played East Carolina this season, and will face South Carolina later in the year.

The Catamounts will have FBS bookends on their 2017 slate, travelling near (UNC in late November) and far (Hawai’i in early September). Western Carolina will also play UNC in 2018, and has scheduled two games against North Carolina State (in 2019 and 2024).

WCU has played at least two FBS opponents every season since 2012, including Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Alabama (twice).

In 2013, Western Carolina played three FBS teams — Middle Tennessee State, Virginia Tech, and Auburn. That year’s schedule for the Catamounts also included two games against schools transitioning to FBS (Appalachian State and Georgia Southern). All five contests were road games; WCU, not surprisingly, lost all five en route to a 2-10 season.

– Triple option oddity, repeat factoid edition: through three games this season, more Bulldogs have caught passes (eight) than had rushing attempts (seven). Against Gardner-Webb, Rod Johnson and Isiaha Smith got their first rushing attempts of the season, with Johnson also catching his first pass reception of the 2016 campaign.

– Saturday’s game is the second of three that The Citadel will play in the state of North Carolina this season, against opponents that compete in three different leagues — the Big South (Gardner-Webb), the SoCon (Western Carolina), and the ACC (North Carolina).

– Western Carolina has won seven straight home games, and eleven of its last twelve. The only loss during that 2014-16 stretch was a big one, admittedly — 51-0 to Chattanooga in 2014.

– There wasn’t a lot of movement on the depth chart over the bye week. One notable addition: Evan McField is now listed as the third B-back. Perhaps he could see action for the first time this year, after he suffered an injury prior to the season opener. Brent Thompson confirmed that McField would be available during his Wednesday radio show.

Which Western Carolina team will The Citadel see on Saturday? The one that dominated Gardner-Webb as the game progressed? Or the one that blew its collective gasket (and the lead, and the game) against ETSU?

My guess would be the former, particularly since the Catamounts were at home for that one, and are at home for this game as well.

Two years ago in Cullowhee, The Citadel committed three turnovers (all in WCU territory), and also had two false-start penalties in fourth-down situations. The defense didn’t fare much better, allowing 9.6 yards per play. It was a rough afternoon all the way around, although the Bulldogs were in the game for much of the contest.

If that happens again on Saturday, there won’t be any opportunity for another fourth-quarter comeback this time, much less a relatively comfortable win.

The Bulldogs have to be sharp coming off their bye week. If they are, they have a chance to go 4-0 for the first time since 1992.

Let’s hope they take that chance.

Game Review, 2016: Furman

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” column, The Post and Courier

School release

Game story, The Greenville News

“Notes” section, The Greenville News

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Brent Thompson, Dominique Allen, and Jordan Black

Video from WCIV-TV

Game story, The Moultrie News

Short game story, Southern Pigskin

Game video highlights

Josh LeBlanc catch

Box score

Post-game notes

The Citadel 19, Furman 14.

It was not the most elegant of contests. Both offenses had plays they would like to have had back. The special teams weren’t all that special.

Then again, the defenses for both sides had a lot to do with the way the game was played. That, and the hard-fought nature of the matchup (which came as a surprise to no one).

Both teams ran 61 plays. Furman averaged 4.5 yards per play, The Citadel 4.9.

The Bulldogs only averaged 3.5 yards per rush, well under expectations, but the Paladins were even more anemic on the ground, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.

It wasn’t a complete debacle for the offenses. The two teams combined to score five touchdowns on five Red Zone opportunities. The Citadel actually converted on 50% of its third down attempts (8-16).

The Bulldogs would have converted at an even better clip if not for some ill-timed penalties. One wonders if the SoCon office had a word with the officiating crew after The Citadel was only called for one penalty last week.

During the course of the game, the two teams combined for a fumbled kickoff, a muffed punt, three missed field goals, and a botched PAT. Yeesh.

The Citadel led 13-7 at the break, with each side taking advantage of special teams miscues for TDs. The difference over the first thirty minutes was the touchdown scored by Jordan Black to conclude The Citadel’s opening drive, by far the longest sustained possession of the half by either squad.

Furman would eventually take the lead late in the third quarter, driving 67 yards for the score. The key play was an outstanding 31-yard reception by Paladins receiver Andrej Suttles, setting up a first-and-goal on the 1-yard line that was converted into a TD two plays later.

The Citadel’s offense would have three opportunities to regain the lead. The first ended in a missed field goal attempt.

The second, a drive set up by Dee Delaney’s second interception of the game, ended after a 4th-and-1 run by Dominique Allen was ruled short of the line to gain by the officials. It was a very poor spotting decision in the eyes of many observers (including mine).

Brent Thompson tried very hard not to say too much when asked about that after the game:

I certainly thought we got it, and I thought we got it pretty clearly…you just hope that nobody really…changes the outcome of a game because of a decision like that.

The Bulldogs persevered, however, and four plays later Furman had to punt. The ensuing drive would be the decisive one, with the critical play a 29-yard completion from Allen to DeAndre Schoultz on 3rd-and-7 from The Citadel’s 25-yard-line.

Two plays later, Thompson and offensive coordinator Lou Conte dialed up their best play call of the night, a 1st-and-10 pass to Tyler Renew that went for 21 yards. Five rushing plays later, Allen scored what proved to be the winning TD.

Furman’s last chance was snuffed out by a Malik Diggs interception, one of three picks by the Bulldogs.

Random thoughts:

– If you’re an official and you decide to call a taunting penalty on a player for pointing at an opponent, perhaps you should also consider the action that led to the player pointing at the opponent — and penalize that individual as well. Just an idea.

– The Citadel needs to clean up its placekicking mechanics. I’m not necessarily talking about the kicker, but all the elements involved.

– The first-half injury to Furman running back Darius Morehead further exacerbated what appears to be the Paladins’ biggest problem, namely a lack of offensive playmakers.

– Dee Delaney was a preseason first-team All-American, and he had an All-American kind of game against Furman. He had two interceptions (both impressive), two pass breakups, and four tackles.

– Kailik Williams was all over the field (12 tackles), and Noah Dawkins was also a prominent on-field presence (8 tackles).

– The Citadel’s defense had no sacks, but I thought it got decent pressure on the passer for a good portion of the game. Tevin Floyd helped create the first of Dee Delaney’s two interceptions with what was recorded as a “hurry”; another hurry (by Dawkins) led to the second of Delaney’s picks.

– In the “links of interest” section above, I included a link of freshman wide receiver Josh LeBlanc’s first career reception. It was certainly a memorable one. LeBlanc is a native of Houston, Texas.

– Brent Thompson’s answers in his post-game Q-and-A sessions with the media have included some of the more quietly thoughtful, introspective comments you will hear from a coach in that type of setting. He clearly hasn’t been a head coach for long.

– It was the first home game of the season for the folks running the PA. Let’s hope things will improve by the time North Greenville comes to town.

– All things considered, it was a solid crowd for the home opener (particularly given the stadium seating situation). It was by and large a good show, too, on the field and off. That should pay dividends for attendance at home games later in the season.

Next up: a non-conference road game against Gardner-Webb. I’ll have a preview for that one later in the week (maybe by Thursday).

As usual, I took pictures, which can be seen below (most of them are annotated). As is often the case, they are mostly bad.

If you’re wondering about the paucity of action shots (such as they are) for the third and fourth quarters, my camera’s batteries died on me shortly after halftime. Then my cellphone’s battery started a downward spiral of its own late in the game. It was one of those nights.

I’ll trade all that for the victory, however.

2016 Football, Week 2: The Citadel vs. Furman

The Citadel…was expected to nose out a victory from the visiting Furman contingent, while the Baptists, being exceedingly jealous of their position in the football world, were counted on to put their last ounce of strength into the fray with a view to nothing less than copping the contest. Hence Hampton Park bade fair to be the scene this afternoon of a hotly contested battle between two well nigh evenly matched teams.

Preview article, The Evening Post, November 1, 1913

 

The Citadel football machine ran up the biggest score of its season yesterday, when it swamped Furman, 75-0. Although the Baptists were fully as husky as the local boys and played a hard game throughout, they were simply up against a far superior team…

…End runs, off-tackle plays, line plunges, and forward passes were all successful ground-gainers, and it is the consensus of local opinion that The Citadel has improved 100 per cent since she smothered the College of Charleston 72-0 in her previous appearance here…

…There was plenty of drive and pep in the Blue dashes, the quartet of Folger, Weeks, Holliday, and James, showing much sang-froid and elan, as they say at Furman.

…taking all this into consideration, The Citadel put up the best exhibition of offensive play in years, and it is doubtful if the famous 1909 gang had anything on Folger, Weeks, and Company in their exhibition of yesterday.

Game story, The Sunday News, November 2, 1913

The Citadel vs. Furman, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 10. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Kevin Fitzgerald providing play-by-play and Sadath Jean-Pierre supplying the analysis. 

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

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

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

Game story for The Citadel-Mercer, The Post and Courier

– Box score from The Citadel-Mercer

– The Citadel faces a choice at quarterback

–  Johnson Hagood Stadium’s East Stands won’t be used this week

– Tyler Renew is the SoCon offensive player of the week

– Game notes from The Citadel and Furman

SoCon weekly release

Brent Thompson’s 9/6 press conference (video)

Brent Thompson 9/7 radio show (video)

– Furman set for first SoCon challenge at The Citadel

– Box score from Furman-Michigan State

– BTN highlights of Furman-Michigan State (video)

Entire Furman-Michigan State game in less than 23 minutes (video)

Promotional spot for Furman-The Citadel (video)

FCS Coaches’ Poll

A quick review of last Thursday’s opener…

For the third straight year, The Citadel eked out a win over Mercer. This time the Bulldogs built a big lead early, let it slip completely away, then retook the lead and held on.

I thought Jordan Black did a nice job in his first start. The coaching staff also should be commended for not overburdening him, but instead letting him use his strengths, including mid-range passes. The absence of turnovers was pleasing.

The offense was mostly shut down after the first quarter, but Mercer’s defense has to get some credit for that. Also, with the game on the line, the Bulldogs marched 65 yards down the field, in just over seven minutes, setting up the game-winning field goal.

The biggest play of the night, in my opinion: after a bad pitch on the aforementioned drive resulted in a 2nd-and-17 on The Citadel’s 20-yard-line, Black completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Renew (who hurdled over a defender for the last four yards). That set up a manageable 3rd-and-2, which Black converted with a 5-yard run.

Two plays later, Black hooked up with Reggie Williams on a 25-yard completion. Then, on 3rd-and-7 from the Mercer 32-yard-line, Cam Jackson brushed aside an early challenge from a defender and used his blockers well to pick up a key first down. Shortly thereafter, Cody Clark kicked the 35-yard field goal that proved decisive.

The Citadel’s defense struggled at times during the the first half, which is indicated in Mercer’s yards-per-play statistics. The Bears averaged 6.4 yards per play. However, Mercer only had 96 yards of total offense in the second half.

The Bulldogs did a good job in the Red Zone, allowing just one touchdown in Mercer’s three trips inside the 20. The Citadel also had three sacks and forced two bookend turnovers (a strip-sack by Kevin Graham on Mercer’s first offensive play from scrimmage, and an interception by Kailik Williams to end the Bears’ last possession).

Mercer’s surfeit of offensive penalties could arguably be attributed to pressure from the Bulldogs’ D.

The Citadel’s special teams units were solid, the missed field goal aside.

I won’t miss seeing John Russ under center for the Bears against the Bulldogs. He’s a good college quarterback, a smart playmaker. I expect Russ to lead Mercer to several conference wins this season.

The Citadel won a road game in league play against a quality opponent. It’s a victory that looks good now, and could look really good in November.

Furman was supposed to be a pushover for Michigan State, but the Paladins gave the defending Big 10 champions all they wanted on Friday night. It was a one-possession game midway through the fourth quarter.

Darius Morehead, a “true” freshman running back, rushed for 83 yards on 20 carries against a normally stout Spartans defense. Furman only committed one turnover, and could have had a real chance to win if it had done a better job in the Red Zone. The Paladins had two separate drives in which they had first-and-goal from the five-yard-line or closer, only to settle for field goals.

On defense, FU forced two turnovers and held the potent Michigan State ground game to 4.3 yards per rush.

While it was a loss, it was still a very encouraging performance by a team that has struggled in each of the last two seasons. The Paladins’ coaches and players will be very confident when they arrive at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday.

The next few sections include statistics for 2015 SoCon contests only, unless otherwise indicated.

Before making some statistical comparisons, a quick review of each team’s 2015 SoCon season (and yes, I’m repeating myself with regards to The Citadel’s season and stats):

Furman was 4-7 overall last season, 2-5 in conference play. After losing two of its first three games, FU opened league play in 2015 with a 24-21 victory over VMI. The Paladins trailed 14-0 midway through the second quarter before rallying past the Keydets. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown was a key play in the game. Also of note: Furman had almost a 16-minute advantage in time of possession.

FU won a non-league game against South Carolina State before resuming its SoCon campaign, but the Paladins threw up a dud at Chattanooga, losing 31-3. Furman only managed 59 rushing yards during the contest, and was also victimized by a pick-six.

After a bye week, Furman hosted The Citadel. The Bulldogs won the matchup 38-17, overcoming an early 7-0 deficit by scoring 24 straight points. The Citadel rushed for 388 yards. My review of that game can be found here: Link

Furman rebounded from that loss to The Citadel with a stirring comeback at Samford, winning on a last-second field goal 20-17. The Paladins had trailed 17-0 at halftime. FU’s rushing output of 252 yards was easily its highest of the season.

The momentum from that victory was short-lived, however, as the following week the Paladins were crushed in Cullowhee by Western Carolina, 48-10. The Catamounts led 31-3 at halftime after turning two early turnovers into touchdowns; Furman was never in the game after that.

Furman then lost at Mercer, 27-20 in overtime. FU trailed 20-0 before making another comeback, tying the game late on a touchdown run by running back Kealand Dirks. However, Dirks received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after spiking the football following his TD, which meant the Paladins had to attempt a 35-yard PAT. It missed, setting up the OT session won by Mercer.

In its final game of the 2015 season, Furman lost 38-28 at Wofford. The Terriers outrushed the Paladins 417-109, with 73 of Wofford’s rushing yards coming on a game-clinching fourth-quarter drive after Furman had rallied to within a field goal.

The Citadel opened its SoCon campaign in 2015 with a fine home win over Western Carolina, 28-10. The Bulldogs’ next conference game was also at Johnson Hagood Stadium, against Wofford, and The Citadel ran past the Terriers 39-12.

Following that victory, The Citadel won consecutive road games in impressive fashion, versus Samford (44-25) and Furman (by the 38-17 score mentioned earlier). The Bulldogs then edged Mercer 21-19, and retained the coveted Silver Shako with a tough 35-14 win over VMI.

Both of those games were at home. The Citadel lost its final league game of the season, 31-23 at Chattanooga; despite that setback, the Bulldogs still won a share of the Southern Conference title.

In conference play, Furman’s offense averaged 17.4 points per game. The Paladins averaged 4.8 yards per play, including 3.2 yards per rush and 6.7 yards per pass attempt.

Furman threw the football 213 times, averaging 30.4 tosses per league game. FU passed or was sacked attempting to pass on almost half (49.4%) of its offensive plays from scrimmage. Paladin quarterbacks were sacked nineteen times in seven SoCon matchups.

In terms of yardage, 63.5% of FU’s total offense came via the air. Furman scored fourteen touchdowns in conference play, six rushing and eight passing. The Paladins were intercepted eight times (twice versus the Bulldogs) and fumbled thirteen times in league contests, losing six of those fumbles.

Defensively, The Citadel allowed 18.3 ppg in SoCon action. The Bulldogs allowed 5.1 yards per play, including 3.7 yards per rush and 6.7 yards per pass attempt. As I mentioned last week, my statistical review of The Citadel’s 2015 league campaign included the tidbit that the Bulldogs’ yards per rush stat was an improvement over the corresponding 2014 average by almost exactly two yards.

The Bulldogs sacked opposing quarterbacks twenty times in league play, and intercepted thirteen passes (breaking up twenty other throws). SoCon opponents averaged 30.3 pass attempts per game versus The Citadel, with those tosses accounting for 46.1% of all offensive plays run from scrimmage against the Bulldogs. Furman attempted 26 passes against the Bulldogs in last year’s matchup, picking up 159 yards on those throws (6.1 yards per attempt).

The Citadel’s defense recovered seven fumbles in conference action.

Furman had 106 third-down attempts in SoCon play, converting 46 of them into first downs (43.4%). The Paladins went for it on fourth down eleven times in conference action, successfully picking up the first down six times (54.5%).

FU was in the Red Zone eighteen times in seven league contests, scoring nine touchdowns in that situation (for a RZ TD rate of 50%; hey, that was easy math).

Furman’s time of possession per game in conference play was 30:56. While this is close to break-even in terms of TOP, the Paladins occasionally controlled the football for major portions of individual quarters. That included the third quarter of last season’s game versus the Bulldogs, when FU had the ball for exactly 11 minutes.

Other quarters in which Furman had the football for an extended period of time: the first quarter against VMI (10:44), the fourth quarter versus Samford (11:56), and in the fourth quarter of two of the Paladins’ non-conference matchups (10:59 against UCF and 11:30 versus South Carolina State).

In games (including non-conference matchups) last season in which Furman had what I’ll call dominant possession quarters, defined as controlling the football for 10:30 or longer, the Paladins were 4-1, with the loss against The Citadel.

On Friday night, Furman had yet another dominant possession quarter, holding the ball for 11:47 of the third quarter against Michigan State. The Spartans turned that around in the fourth quarter, as MSU possessed the football for 10:41 of the final period.

FU averaged only 4.1 penalties per SoCon game. Curiously, the average yardage assessed for Paladin infractions in league play was more than 10 yards per flag, so when Furman committed a penalty, it was often a major foul.

The Citadel’s defense held conference opponents to a third-down conversion rate of 33.7%. Furman was 5 for 13 converting third downs against the Bulldogs in last season’s contest.

Against the Bulldogs, SoCon opposition was 8 for 13 on fourth-down tries (61.5%). Last year, the Paladins converted their only fourth-down attempt against the Cadets.

In Red Zone situations versus league teams, the Bulldogs allowed a TD rate of 52.2% in 2015. Furman’s offense was in the Red Zone three times in last year’s matchup. The Paladins scored two touchdowns and kicked a field goal.

As we all know, SoCon officials rarely call penalties against The Citadel’s opponents (with last week’s game against Mercer a notable exception to that rule). In 2015, the Bulldogs were called for 42 penalties in seven conference games (6.0 per contest), while the opposition was only flagged 29 times (4.1 per game).

In last year’s game, Furman and The Citadel combined for nine penalties. Naturally, six of them were against the Bulldogs.

FU allowed 31.4 points per game against conference opposition. League teams averaged 5.7 yards per play against the Paladins, including 5.5 yards per rush and 6.2 yards per pass attempt.

Furman’s defense faced 177 pass attempts in SoCon action. The Paladins’ D had only six sacks in conference action (and just eight sacks all season).  Only 37.0% of their opponents’ plays were pass attempts (or sacks while attempting to pass).

FU allowed 2,838 yards of total offense in seven SoCon games, with 38.9% of that total being passing yardage. The Paladins allowed 26 touchdowns in SoCon play, 19 via the rush (five of those rushing TDs were by the Bulldogs).

Furman intercepted five passes in league play (one was against The Citadel), and recovered three fumbles.

Offensively, The Citadel put up 32.6 points per game in conference action. The Bulldogs averaged 6.1 yards per play, including 5.6 yards per rush and 9.7 yards per pass attempt (on 63 total throws in seven SoCon contests).

League opponents intercepted two Bulldog passes (as mentioned, the Paladins got one of those), and broke up four others.

The Citadel lost eight fumbles in seven SoCon games. As I noted in last week’s preview, the Bulldogs lost twelve fumbles in their other six matchups, losing at least one fumble in every non-league contest except the matchup against South Carolina.

Holding onto the football will be a point of emphasis for The Citadel all season. The 2016 Bulldogs passed their first test on that front, with no turnovers and only one mishandled pitch (which was recovered by The Citadel).

Furman’s defense allowed a third-down conversion rate of 47.6% against league teams. On fourth down, Paladin opponents were eight for twelve (66.7%).

SoCon opposition entered the Red Zone against FU 27 times in conference play. The Paladins allowed 19 touchdowns in that situation (70.4%).

The Citadel’s third-down conversion rate on offense was exactly 50% in SoCon games. On fourth down, the Cadets were 3 for 8 (37.5%). In last year’s game between the two teams, the Bulldogs were 7 for 12 on third down and had no fourth down conversion attempts.

In 2015, The Citadel’s time of possession in SoCon play was 32:13. The Bulldogs had a Red Zone TD rate of just 56.3% in 2015 against conference opposition. The Bulldogs scored three touchdowns in five Red Zone situations against the Paladins.

For individual statistics, all games (SoCon and non-conference) are included.

A quick review of the four non-conference games Furman played last season:

Furman opened the 2015 campaign with a tough home loss to Coastal Carolina, 38-35. The Paladins had 525 yards of total offense, including 365 passing yards from Reese Hannon — a school record. The game was statistically very even, two Furman turnovers being the difference.

The next week, the Paladins were thumped 42-3 by Virginia Tech. The Hokies had 583 yards of total offense, and Furman didn’t help itself by committing three more turnovers.

Furman then upset UCF, 16-15. The winning margin came courtesy of a 55-yard fourth-quarter field goal by Jon Croft Hollingsworth, the longest in Paladins history. After not forcing a turnover in its first two games, Furman intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble against the Knights.

FU’s game versus South Carolina State was played in difficult conditions, with both rain and wind affecting the contest. The Paladins won the turnover battle, 3-0, and were never seriously threatened after halftime. The final score was 17-3.

Furman returns 15 starters (including offense/defense/specialists), including six on offense and seven on defense.

Offensively, it appears the Paladins will generally operate out of the pistol formation.

FU did not announce who its starter at quarterback would against Michigan State until shortly before kickoff in East Lansing. It turned out to be junior P.J. Blazejowski.

Blazejowski (6’0″, 193 lbs.) started three of the final five games last season for Furman, and also played last season against The Citadel after Reese Hannon was injured.

You may recall Blazejowski from his performance against the Bulldogs in the 2014 matchup, when he compiled 382 yards of total offense in a wild game The Citadel managed to win in OT. He will make his 12th career start on Saturday (if he remains the starter, which seems likely).

Entering this season, he had a career pass completion rate of 58.3%, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt, with 13 TDs and 13 interceptions. Against Michigan State, Blazejowski was 15-30 passing, for 123 yards. He threw one interception (which came after the Paladins had picked off a Michigan State pass attempt on the preceding play).

I mentioned in my brief summary of the Michigan State game that freshman running back Darius Morehead (5’9″, 171 lbs.) had a promising collegiate debut for the Paladins. Morehead was a track star in high school, winning the Tennessee D2-AA state title in the 100-meter dash.

His primary backup is Richard Hayes III (5’11”, 201 lbs.), a senior who played safety last year for Furman. Hayes actually tied for the team lead in tackles against the Bulldogs in last season’s meeting, with ten. Based on that game, I think it is safe to say that he’s not afraid of contact.

Six different receivers caught passes last week for Furman. As always with the Paladins, the tight end is a key player. Duncan Fletcher (6’4″, 234 lbs.) had four receptions last week, and also completed a 16-yard pass on a trick play; that tied for FU’s longest completion against MSU.

Last year against the Bulldogs, Fletcher was on the receiving end of a wide receiver pass, one that went for a TD. He began his collegiate career as a quarterback, and played that position versus The Citadel in 2013.

Andrej Suttles (5’11”, 187 lbs.) was a second-team All-SoCon selection last season. The redshirt senior wide receiver has 138 career receptions. He also sees action at punt returner, and had one return last week against Michigan State for five yards.

Furman’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’3″, 293 lbs. Junior center Matthew Schmidt (6’3″, 290 lbs.) played tackle for the Paladins last year, before having his season cut short by an injury suffered in the game against the Bulldogs.

Against Michigan State, Furman started a true freshman at left tackle, Tim Coleman (6’3″, 285 lbs.). The other side of the line, however, features two experienced performers — senior right guard Jackson Buonomia (6’3″, 299 lbs.) and redshirt senior right tackle Harrison Monk (6’4″, 278 lbs.).

Starting defensive end T.J. Warren (6’2″, 233 lbs.) is a redshirt senior who has also seen time at linebacker during his career for the Paladins. According to Furman’s game notes, Warren (a native of Chattanooga) will attend Marine Corps Officers Candidate School at Quantico following graduation.

Furman’s starter at DE opposite Warren is also a redshirt senior. Brian Ross (6’4″, 246 lbs.) has made 13 straight starts. He can be a factor on special teams, too, having blocked a punt last year against VMI that he picked up and ran in for a TD.

Seven of the eleven projected starters for the Paladins are seniors, either fourth- or fifth-year players. One who isn’t is redshirt sophomore DT Jaylan Reid (5’11”, 265 lbs.), a member of last year’s SoCon all-freshman team.

Middle linebacker Carl Rider (6’2″, 232 lbs.) has seemingly been at Furman since the Truman administration. Now finally a redshirt senior (allegedly), Rider was a first-team All-SoCon selection in 2013.

Furman’s active leader in tackles with 260, Rider intercepted a pass last year versus the Bulldogs.

Safety Trey Robinson (6’2″, 220 lbs.) was a second team all-conference pick in 2015, and the senior is a preseason first-team choice this year.

Jon Croft Hollingsworth (5’11, 169 lbs.) handles all of Furman’s kicking duties — placekicking, punting, and kickoffs. The junior did the same last year.

He made two field goals last week versus Michigan State. Hollingsworth also missed a field goal against the Spartans, a 50-yarder, but he is more than capable of making a long kick (as UCF found out last season).

Hollingsworth averaged 38.9 yards per punt last season. On kickoffs, he had 18 touchbacks.

Luke Cuneo is in his second year as the Paladins’ holder. As I noted last year, Cuneo is one of the smaller football players in Division I; the Massachusetts native is 5’6″, 165 lbs.

Furman has a new long snapper this year, true freshman Evan Vaughn (6’1″, 230 lbs.) Vaughn was a Shrine Bowler at Belton-Honea Path High School.

Starting cornerback Aaquil Annoor (5’10”, 165 lbs.) returned one kickoff last week against Michigan State. The sophomore had eight returns last season, all in the final three games.

This is not the greatest ticket sales stadium graphic in the history of The Citadel: Link

Furman fans will be sitting on one end of the West Stands on Saturday, because no one will be sitting in the East Stands. To recap:

The Citadel is considering tearing down the visitors’ side at Johnson Hagood Stadium and expects to make a decision by the end of the week, athletic director Jim Senter said Monday.

Flaking lead paint, a health hazard, was discovered on the east side of the 21,000-seat stadium over the summer, and fans were not allowed to sit on that side during the Sertoma Football Classic earlier this month.

The Citadel had planned to repaint the east side stands over the summer. But a lead-testing report received on July 28 confirmed a level of lead-based paint applicable to disposal standards of the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Conditions on the east side of the stadium deteriorated quickly over the summer, said Col. Tom Philipkosky, senior vice president for operations and administration.

“We have been monitoring conditions there, and it got worse very quickly this past year,” he told [The Citadel Board of Visitors’ operations and risk management committee]. “And unfortunately, we caught up to it late.”

Lead paint also is on the underside of the structure on the east side, Senter said.

“So we have to mitigate the entire east side stands,” he said. “At this point, the most important thing is, can fans be seated on the top side with safety? And then, how do we go about utilizing the underneath side, where the restrooms and concession stands are located?”

Johnson Hagood Stadium was originally built in 1948. The old home side was knocked down in 2005, with the new west side stands opened in 2006 and the West Side Tower, housing luxury suites and the press box, opened in 2008.

The fact this problem wasn’t discovered (at least, in its totality) until shortly before the beginning of the season is more than a little irksome, but that can’t be helped now. The question is, what will The Citadel do going forward?

I don’t know, but the long-term answer has to involve replacing the East Stands, and sooner rather than later. Even before the current issue arose, that section of the stadium was problematic.

The visitors’ side of the football stadium needed to be a high priority for the school, in terms of maintenance and upgrading/replacing the structure. I’m not sure that has been the case.

It is now, though, and that’s a good thing. I’m hopeful that in the long run the visitors’ side of the stadium will become a source of pride for the school and something that is appreciated by travelling supporters. That should be the goal.

Regardless, the lack of seating will be a problem this season (I’ll be curious to see what happens for the Parents’ Day and Homecoming games). I get the distinct impression, however, that Jim Senter is going to get things moving.

Part of my confidence in Senter’s ability to navigate the stadium issue is the deft way he handled the Charleston Southern situation, the other off-the-football-field event that has been in the news of late.

The Citadel will play Charleston Southern again (starting in 2018), but the scheduled four-game series will not be a home-and-home. Johnson Hagood Stadium will be the site for all four games. That should never have been in question, really. As Senter pointed out:

“The bottom line is if we draw 9,000 or 10,000 people for each of those games,” he said. “And their capacity is (4,000). Frankly, we’re leaving money on the table that both of us need. So the arrangement is that we will provide 3,000 tickets for (CSU) to monetize, so it would be pretty much like they had the game there, monetarily.”

To his credit, Charleston Southern director of athletics Hank Small saw the writing on the wall:

“At some point, you have to make a decision,” he said. “We’d love to play College of Charleston and The Citadel in basketball home-and-home, as well. But that’s not happening. So what do you do about it? Do you say, we’re just not going to play people? Or do you make the decision that we want to play?

There have always been two major issues related to The Citadel playing Charleston Southern in football. One has to do with schedule flexibility, the other CSU’s stadium. Those concerns have not received a lot of attention from the local media, though one gets the idea that perhaps the press may finally begin to cast a more critical eye on CSU’s facilities issues (after all, it’s not just about The Citadel — College of Charleston isn’t going to play any basketball games at the “Buc Dome”, either).

One thing left unsaid by both ADs is that no matter where the games are played, the overwhelming majority of fans will be supporting The Citadel. Hence, there is no philosophical or practical reason to play the games anywhere other than Johnson Hagood Stadium.

That is something that nobody seems to really want to discuss, but it is reality. Charleston Southern simply doesn’t have that many fans. This isn’t an indictment of its program; it’s just the truth.

On the heels of the program’s most successful season, and after a huge amount of publicity from its televised game at North Dakota State (a contest that was covered onsite by a columnist from The Post and Courier and at least one Charleston-area TV station), Charleston Southern’s announced attendance for its home opener last Saturday was 1,780.

1,780.

That was the lowest attendance of any of the 41 games hosted by FCS schools during the first week of the season. Even Georgetown, which plays its home games at a “stadium” that only has temporary bleachers, drew more fans for a game against Davidson.

It was the second-lowest total for a CSU home game during Jamey Chadwell’s tenure as the Buccaneers’ head coach. It was also the smallest crowd for a Bucs home opener since 2005.

For the record, The Citadel has not appeared in a game with attendance that low, home or away, since at least 1966.

I was a little surprised, but I probably shouldn’t have been. After a strong attendance boost in Chadwell’s first season in North Charleston, the crowds haven’t consistently been coming, other than for home games against Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. In fact, if you take the games against those two schools (and their respective fan bases) out of the equation, average attendance at CSU home games has declined in each of the last two seasons.

There is no doubt that Jim Senter and his staff are well aware of those facts.

The beginning of this post includes blurbs from a preview article and game story for the first matchup between The Citadel and Furman, a 1913 contest played at Hampton Park that was won by the military college 75-0.

The Citadel scored eleven touchdowns in the game, with six different players accounting for them. There were six rushing touchdowns, three passing TDs, a touchdown scored on a blocked punt, and a TD after The Citadel fumbled the ball into the end zone, where a blue-clad lineman fell on it.

Furman was held to two first downs, one in each half. One reason for that is the Baptists elected to kick off to The Citadel after most of those touchdowns, rather than receive the football (teams were allowed to do that back then, which I guess says something about the perceived value of field position in those days).

Incidentally, I called Furman’s team the “Baptists” in the preceding paragraph because that’s how it was described in the newspaper. About a decade later, the football team at Furman would be nicknamed the “Purple Hurricane”. The gridiron squad wouldn’t officially become the “Paladins” until 1963, when students voted to call all of their varsity athletic teams by that moniker (previously, it had been limited to the school’s basketball team).

Furman wasn’t done playing football in the Low Country after its game against The Citadel. Two days later, the twenty-player squad rebounded nicely from that loss by defeating College of Charleston, 30-0.

(Yes, the game against CofC was played just two days after the matchup with The Citadel. It was a different time.)

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service:  mostly sunny with a high near 88, then turning partly cloudy that night with a low around 76.

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 15.5-point favorite over Furman. The over/under is 46.5.

Last year, The Citadel entered this matchup as an eight-point favorite.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Chattanooga is a 23-point favorite over Presbyterian; Samford is a 5.5-point favorite at Central Arkansas; Western Carolina is a 15-point favorite over Gardner-Webb; VMI is an 8.5-point favorite at Morehead State; Mercer is a 32.5-point underdog at Georgia Tech; and Wofford is a 40.5-point underdog at Mississippi.

East Tennessee State is off this week. ETSU will be back in action next week in the “Second Battle of Bristol” against WCU.

Last week in non-conference action, SoCon teams were 6-1 against the spread, with only Western Carolina failing to cover.

North Carolina, which The Citadel will play in its regular-season finale, is a 10-point favorite at Illinois.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is 12th among FCS teams, unchanged from the previous ranking. Furman is ranked 45th, a six-spot jump after its performance at Michigan State.

Massey projects The Citadel to have an 82% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of 28-14.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Chattanooga (9th), Samford (21st), Western Carolina (28th), Wofford (31st), Mercer (49th), Gardner-Webb (56th), VMI (64th), East Tennessee State (109th).

Mercer’s ranking was the same this week as it was last week. Gardner-Webb leaped 25 spots after its 31-6 road rout of Elon.

ETSU moved up 11 positions following a surprising 20-17 2OT win at Kennesaw State. The Buccaneers were a 26-point underdog, having lost 56-16 to KSU in Johnson City last year.

– As noted by Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier, this season marks the first time The Citadel has begun its gridiron campaign with two Southern Conference games since 1963. That year, the Bulldogs lost to William & Mary in their opener before defeating Davidson in the season’s second contest.

In fact, 1963 is the only other year The Citadel has opened the season with two SoCon games. The last time the Bulldogs played two conference games to start the season, the year was 1935 and the conference was the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA). That team, under the tutelage of Tatum Gressette, began the year 2-0 by defeating Erskine and Wofford in league play.

Both of those games were played in October, as the 1935 season did not begin until October 5.

– Before 2010, The Citadel and Furman had only met one time on the gridiron in the month of September (that happened in 1976). However, since 2010 the two schools have played in the ninth month no fewer than four times, counting this Saturday’s game.

The 2011 matchup was also contested on September 10, which is the earliest any game in the series has been played.

I’ve mentioned this before (actually, several times), but The Citadel-Furman can’t be an end-of-season matchup because of the military college’s academic calendar. That’s not a big deal, because historically the game has been played at midseason more than at any other time.

Having said that, it really shouldn’t be played in September, either. I wish the SoCon office would set aside the second or third Saturday in October on the league schedule every year for these two teams to play. I know it’s not that easy to set up a conference schedule, but I suspect there may be more room to maneuver in October than in September or November (due to more “guarantee games” being played in those months).

– According to the roster included in its game notes, Furman has 30 players from Georgia on its roster, the most from any state. Other states represented: South Carolina (17), North Carolina (14), Florida (12), Tennessee (12), Alabama (6), Ohio (2), and one each from Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The Paladin who will be closest to home on Saturday is Hilton Head resident Brad Meccariello, a redshirt sophomore. The 5’11”, 185 lb. safety went to Hilton Head Academy.

– Furman has three changes this season from its 2015 schedule. Michigan State, Kennesaw State, and East Tennessee State replace Virginia Tech, UCF, and South Carolina State as opponents, evidence the Paladins’ slate is more stately this year.

FU will play the same seven league teams it faced last year, of course, with ETSU now included as an additional conference foe. Coastal Carolina repeats as a non-conference matchup for the Paladins.

– Furman got a guarantee of $655,000 for playing Michigan State.

– After playing The Citadel, Furman will host Chattanooga next week in Greenville.

– Next season, Furman’s three non-conference games will be at North Carolina State, at Colgate, and home against Elon. In 2018, the Paladins will play Colgate, Elon, and Clemson (the latter two on the road).

In 2019 (a year in which FCS schools can schedule 12 regular-season games), three of FU’s non-league opponents are set: Georgia State, Virginia Tech, and Kennesaw State, all away from home. Presumably, Furman will add a home game against a non-conference opponent to complete its slate for that season.

Furman is also scheduled to play at North Carolina State in 2021, and will host Colgate that same season. The following year, the Paladins will travel to Hamilton, New York, to conclude the four-game series with the Raiders.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (23), Florida (9), North Carolina (7), Alabama (4), Pennsylvania (4), Texas (4), and one each from Louisiana, Maryland, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, and West Virginia.

– It’s only one week, but I took a look at the FCS national statistical rankings anyway. The Citadel leads the nation in fewest penalties (1); considering the contest in question was a Southern Conference game, that has to be a borderline miracle.

Among individuals, Tyler Renew is 8th nationally in rush yards per game (after his 146-yard effort versus Mercer), while Malik Diggs is 6th nationally in solo tackles per conference (he had nine such stops against the Bears, finishing with 11 tackles overall). Quinlan Washington averaged 32 yards per kickoff return in two opportunities, which ranks 6th nationally after one week.

– The game notes factoid of the week: Reggie Williams averaged 14 yards per play last week, carrying the ball four times for 45 yards, including a 29-yard TD (that was a very nice play call, perfectly executed), and making that big 25-yard catch on the drive that set up the winning field goal.

– Triple option oddity: more players caught passes last week for The Citadel (five) than had rushing attempts (four).

– Saturday’s game will be Military Appreciation Day.

While The Citadel is opening with two league contests, after Saturday’s matchup it won’t play another SoCon game until October 1, when the Bulldogs travel to Cullowhee to face Western Carolina. The next home conference game isn’t until October 15, against Chattanooga.

That puts a little extra emphasis on this week’s game for the Bulldogs, not that more juice is really needed when Furman comes to town.

Of course, this is a big game for the Paladins as well. If it wins this matchup, Furman gets a shot at home against Chattanooga next week with the chance to go 2-0 over the 2015 conference co-champions.

There is also the fact The Citadel has won three of the last four meetings between the schools, including the last two. Furman desperately wants to get on the right side of the ledger again as far as the series is concerned. Otherwise, the Paladins are looking at a potential 0-4 start (a trip to Conway to play Coastal Carolina is Furman’s fourth game on its schedule).

Furman has only won seven games in the past two seasons. A bad start this year would not bode well for head coach Bruce Fowler.

This is a critical game for Furman, and the Paladins will treat it as such. The Bulldogs better be ready.

I think they will. It should be a fun game on Saturday.

2015 Football, Game 12: The Citadel vs. Coastal Carolina

The Citadel at Coastal Carolina, to be played in Conway, South Carolina, at Brooks Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 28. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Drew Fellios providing play-by-play and Tom O’Brien supplying the analysis.

The game 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. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

– “Back to playoff business” for The Citadel

– Game notes from The Citadel and Coastal Carolina

SoCon weekly release

Big South weekly release

Joe Moglia on the Big South teleconference

Mike Houston’s 11/24 press conference (with comments from Mitchell Jeter, Tyler Renew, and Joe Crochet)

Notes on The Citadel-Coastal Carolina from the Myrtle Beach Sun-News

“Bulldogs’ offense is rolling in Mike Houston’s second year at helm”, from the Myrtle Beach Sun-News

Tyler Renew is the SoCon offensive player of the week

– Things haven’t always been easy for Renew

SoCon media awards

SoCon coaches’ awards

FCS Coaches’ Poll

– STATS preview of The Citadel-Coastal Carolina

– Ticket website

This is a preview I really didn’t expect to be writing when the season began, to be honest. However, I’m happy to stop eating turkey and dressing for a few minutes in order to scribble a few paragraphs about a previously unscheduled football game.

One big key to this game for The Citadel is for its players and coaches to be emotionally and mentally prepared to play. It probably won’t be easy to come down from the high that was winning at South Carolina, but the Bulldogs will have no chance against Coastal Carolina if their collective mentality is still focused on last Saturday.

One thing is for sure: Coastal Carolina won’t be too impressed by what happened in Columbia last week. If you had any doubts about that, let Chanticleers junior linebacker Alex Scearce put them to rest:

I know they definitely have some confidence after beating big, bad South Carolina, but you watch the game and South Carolina had a few good drives, but it didn’t seem like some of them wanted to be there. It looked like The Citadel wanted it more than they did, so that’s definitely the reason they came out on top. I think they’re going to be real confident when they come in here thinking they can whup up on us physically, but I think this year we’ve been able to handle it OK between the tackles, especially towards the end of the season. So I think it’s going to be a challenging game for them as well.

He doesn’t think the Gamecocks tried very hard, and figures that’s the only reason The Citadel won. Okay then.

In my preview for last year’s regular season game between the two schools, I wrote the following:

Coastal Carolina may not have hired Joe Moglia because it has the FBS in its sights. However, that is the perception in certain circles.

[In this article] Moglia was reported to have said that CCU had only achieved 75% of his vision. Not everyone is sure what the remaining 25% of his vision would be.

Less than 12 months later, Coastal Carolina accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt and move to the FBS.

Because of that, this will be the last time CCU participates in the FCS playoffs. The two seasons to follow (2016 and 2017) will be “transitional” campaigns, with the Chanticleers ineligible for postseason play. Coastal Carolina will begin playing Sun Belt teams on a regular basis in 2017.

This is the second meeting between Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. It will likely also be the two schools’ last matchup on the gridiron for the foreseeable future. That is due to a situation very similar to the one The Citadel now has with Georgia Southern, which I described earlier this season in my preview of the GSU game:

…if Georgia Southern wants to schedule The Citadel again, the military college is going to demand a lot more cash. $175,000 isn’t going to be nearly enough; The Citadel is going to want more than twice that amount of money. Maybe more than three times that amount of money.

In a way, it illustrates a problem Georgia Southern now has as an FBS member when it comes to scheduling home games. Schools that pay FCS schools big bucks for a “guarantee game” can afford to make those payments, because they have large stadiums and huge budgets. That isn’t the case for the folks in Statesboro.

Georgia Southern may have expanded Paulson Stadium, but 25,000 seats is a far cry from the likes of the facilities at Florida State, or South Carolina, or even North Carolina (opponents of The Citadel last year, this year, and next year).

Mike Houston explained his position on the issue in the press conference that preceded the game against Georgia Southern:

You are playing an FBS program that has more resources and scholarships than we have. And if you are playing those kinds of games, there needs to be financial restitution that matches that.

Jim Senter appears to be on the same page as his head football coach. The Citadel isn’t going to play anyone for less than a significant guarantee, something schools with smaller fan bases and/or stadia will not be able to provide.

Coastal Carolina has plans to expand Brooks Stadium to 20,000 seats, smaller than Paulson Stadium.

As for Joe Moglia, it will be interesting to see what he does after the season is over. Moglia is 66 years old; he will be 67 by the time the 2016 season starts.

If he intends to pursue a more high-profile coaching job, it may be now or never. Moglia has been mentioned in various quarters as a potential candidate at Syracuse, though most of those reports originated from a speculative column by Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel (followed up by a Thayer Evans tweet).

Another school that might give Moglia a look is Rutgers, a possibility first broached by college football reporter Bruce Feldman. To me, that one makes sense, though there are a couple of problems with Moglia getting the Rutgers job: A) it isn’t technically open yet; B) there is no more dysfunctional department of athletics in all of major-college sports.

The sections that follow include statistics for the full season for both Coastal Carolina and The Citadel. Each school has played 11 games.

Coastal Carolina is 9-2, with home wins over Western Illinois (34-27), Bryant (31-17), Alabama A&M (55-0), Presbyterian (24-17), Gardner-Webb (46-0), and Kennesaw State (45-13); the Chanticleers have road victories over Furman (38-35), South Carolina State (41-14), and Monmouth (23-20). CCU has lost at Charleston Southern (35-27) and at Liberty (24-21).

The Citadel is 8-3, with home wins over Davidson (69-0), Western Carolina (28-10), Wofford (39-12), Mercer (21-19), and VMI (35-14); the Bulldogs have won on the road at Samford (44-25), Furman (38-17), and South Carolina (23-22). The Citadel’s three losses came at Georgia Southern (48-13), versus Charleston Southern (33-20), and at Chattanooga (31-23).

Coastal Carolina’s offense has thrown the ball 337 times, with 14 other would-be pass play attempts resulting in sacks. Not counting those sacks, the Chanticleers have rushed 401 times; thus, CCU has passed the ball (or attempted to pass) on 46.7% of its offensive plays from scrimmage.

Passing yardage accounts for 55.3% of Coastal Carolina’s total offense (with sack yardage removed from the total). CCU averages 7.69 yards per pass attempt (again, with sacks/yardage taken into account). That yards per attempt number is comparable to Chattanooga among SoCon teams.

Coastal Carolina averages 34.8 points and 443.8 yards per game, with an average of 6.5 yards per play. CCU would have led the SoCon in two of those three categories (Samford averaged 479.7 yards of total offense per game).

Defensively, The Citadel has allowed 21.0 points and 350.5 yards per game, allowing 5.4 yards per play.

CCU is averaging 5.1 yards per rush, gaining 192.2 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs have allowed 156.5 yards per contest (4.4 yards per play).

The Chanticleers have completed passes at a 65.9% clip, with 19 TDs against just 5 interceptions. CCU’s pass efficiency rating ranks 13th in all of FCS.

The Citadel is 24th nationally in defensive pass efficiency, having allowed 7 pass TDs while intercepting 17 errant tosses. The Bulldogs’ opponents have a completion percentage for the season of 58.8%.

Coastal Carolina has converted 42.8% of its third-down attempts, which ranks 33rd nationally. The Citadel has allowed opponents to pick up 36.2% of third down tries (42nd in FCS).

The FCS leader in defensive pass efficiency and defensive third-down conversion rate, by the way, is still South Carolina State, as has been the case for the past month.

CCU has gone for it on fourth down fifteen times, picking up a first down on nine of those attempts. On defense, The Citadel has given up fourteen conversions in twenty-two opponent tries.

Coastal Carolina’s defense is allowing 18.2 points per game (which would lead the SoCon). CCU has given up 403.6 yards per game, with an average of 5.7 yards allowed per play. Both of those statistics would be in the middle of the pack in the SoCon.

The Citadel is averaging 32.1 points and 423.3 yards per game, gaining 6.2 yards per play.

CCU is allowing 4.2 yards per rush (168.4 yards per game). The Chanticleers have allowed 12 TDs through the air while intercepting 6 passes, and rank in the bottom half of FCS in terms of defensive pass efficiency.

The Citadel’s offense averages 344.7 yards per game (2nd nationally), gaining 5.8 yards per carry. The Bulldogs obviously don’t throw the football that often, though they have generally been effective when they have (33rd nationally in offensive pass efficiency, with 5 TD passes against 4 interceptions).

The Citadel remains second nationally in rushing offense, behind Cal Poly.

The Bulldogs have an offensive third-down conversion rate of 49.3%, which is 6th-best in FCS. Coastal Carolina has allowed third down conversions at a 38.7% rate.

The Citadel is 6 for 16 in fourth-down tries, one of the poorer rates in the country, while CCU opponents are only 9-24 converting fourth-down attempts (24th nationally). Sharp-eyed readers may notice that The Citadel converts fourth downs at the exact same rate as CCU opponents (37.5%).

Coastal Carolina’s offense has a 60.8% Red Zone TD rate. The Bulldogs have a defensive Red Zone TD rate of 51.4%. Of the Chanticleers’ 31 Red Zone TDs, 21 have been via the rush.

CCU opponents have a Red Zone TD rate of 70.0%. The Citadel’s offense has a Red Zone TD rate of 60.9%. Of the 28 touchdowns the Bulldogs have scored on Red Zone possessions, 26 have been rushing TDs.

The Citadel is +6 in turnover margin (gained 25, lost 19). Coastal Carolina’s turnover margin is +2 (gained 13, lost 11).

Coastal Carolina is 16 for 21 on field goal attempts (33-33 on PATs). The Citadel is 12 for 14 on FG tries (39-40 PATs).

The Citadel has a net punting average of 36.1; CCU’s is 36.3.

The Bulldogs have 28 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs, while the Chanticleers have 7 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs (though the net average favors CCU).

Coastal Carolina has 2 kickoff return TDs this season and led the Big South in return yardage. The Citadel has averaged slightly more yards per return than the Chanticleers, but has not returned any kicks for a score.

CCU has averaged an excellent 11.7 yards per punt return. The Citadel ranked last in the SoCon in that statistic.

Coastal Carolina has averaged only 27:42 in time of possession per game. The Bulldogs have controlled the clock more, with a per-game TOP average of 31:25.

The Chanticleers are averaging 68.4 offensive plays from scrimmage per game, with a 2.47 plays-per-minute rate, which is not in Samford territory but is still a fairly fast pace. The Citadel is averaging 68.2 plays per game, but with a plays-per-minute rate of 2.17.

Coastal Carolina is averaging 5.8 penalties per game (54.1 penalty yards per contest). Opponents of the Chanticleers are called for slightly more penalties (6.1 per contest, 56.5 penalty yards/game).

The Citadel has been called for 6 penalties per game (50.7 penalty yards per contest). As fans of the Bulldogs know, opponents of The Citadel have largely been penalty-free, particularly in SoCon play. For the season, Bulldog opponents have been flagged 4.7 times per contest (just 36.4 penalty yards per game).

During his press conference on Tuesday, Mike Houston was asked to compare Coastal Carolina’s offense to those of other teams the Bulldogs have faced. He referenced Western Carolina, a team with a balanced (but potentially explosive) offense under the direction of a talented, experienced dual-threat QB.

Alex Ross (6’1″, 205 lbs.) is a native of Alpharetta, Georgia, who has started 40 games for the Chanticleers at quarterback. This season, Ross is completing 66.7% of his passes (8.2 yards per attempt), with 18 TD throws against just 5 interceptions.

Ross has been the all-conference QB in the Big South for three consecutive seasons. In the game last year at Johnson Hagood Stadium, he was 24-32 for 263 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 58 yards in that contest, an example of his mobility.

De’Angelo Henderson (5’8″, 205 lbs.) was named the Big South offensive player of the year earlier this week. The resident of Summerville has rushed for 1,245 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Henderson rushed for 88 yards and a TD versus The Citadel last season. He can also catch the ball, as he is the Chanticleers’ second-leading receiver.

Coastal Carolina’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’3″, 300 lbs. Right guard Sam Ekwonike (6’2″, 350 lbs.) is the biggest member of the group; he is a first-team all-league performer, as is left tackle Voghens Larrieux (6’5″, 290 lbs.).

Right tackle Chase Tidwell (6’5″, 275 lbs.) is a second-team All-Big South pick. Tidwell started his collegiate career as a baseball player at Charleston Southern; he had never been on the field during a high school or college football game until the Chanticleers’ season opener this year at Furman.

Bruce Mapp (6’0″, 210 lbs.) is a first-team all-conference selection who leads CCU in receptions (47) and TD catches (6). He had a big game last year against the Bulldogs, catching 10 passes for 108 yards and a TD.

Wideout Chris Jones (5’11”, 170 lbs.) and slot receiver Tyrell Blanks (5’11”, 165 lbs.) have combined for seven touchdown receptions.

Coastal Carolina generally operates a 4-2-5 defense, but as always, formations can change when teams defend the triple option.

Defensive tackle Jabari Bothwell (5’11”, 290 lbs.) played last year for Coastal Carolina after transferring from Western Michigan. This season, Bothwell made first-team All-Big South.

He has 8.5 tackles for loss among his 64 stops in 2015. Against Kennesaw State (which runs the triple option), Bothwell had 1.5 sacks, 8 tackles (including 2.5 for loss), and blocked a field goal.

Both of CCU’s starting defensive ends were second-team all-league picks. Roderick Holder (6’1″, 235 lbs.) has 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, while Calvin Hollenhorst (6’3″, 235 lbs.) made the conference’s second-team unit for the third consecutive season despite missing three games with an injury.

The aforementioned Alex Scearce (6’3″, 220 lbs.) also made second-team All-Big South. Scearce leads the Chanticleers in tackles with 70.

Coastal Carolina has injury issues in the secondary. Ray Lewis III (5’9″, 195 lbs.) is listed as a projected starter at cornerback on the two-deep; it would be the first career start for the son of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

CCU should have no concerns at the other corner spot, however, as Kamron Summers (5’11”, 185 lbs.) has started 30 consecutive games for the Chanticleers. Summers leads the team in pass breakups, with six.

Placekicker Ryan Granger (5’11”, 175 lbs.) was named All-Big South after making 15 of 19 field goals this season, with a long of 47. Granger, who has not missed a PAT this year (33-33), scored a TD on a fake field goal against Presbyterian.

Masamitsu Ishibashi (5’10”, 170 lbs.) is CCU’s kickoff specialist. He has 7 touchbacks on 69 kickoffs.

Evan Rabon (6’0″, 150 lbs.) is averaging 36.5 yards per punt. Thirteen of his thirty-one boots have landed inside the 20. None of his punts have resulted in a touchback.

The holder for Coastal Carolina is Tyler Keane (5’9″, 185 lbs.). Keane has occasionally run two-point plays from his position. The long snapper is freshman Connor Kubala (6’1″, 225 lbs.).

Kickoff returner Devin Brown (5’8″, 170 lbs.) is a dangerous weapon for the Chanticleers. Brown, who was named the Big South’s special teams player of the year, has returned two kickoffs for TDs this season. The junior has five such returns in his career.

Chris Jones is an excellent punt returner, averaging 11.5 yards per return (with a long of 64).

Odds and ends:

– There are 39 players from South Carolina on the Chanticleers’ roster. Other states represented: Florida (15), Georgia (14), North Carolina (8), Maryland (7), New Jersey (6), Pennsylvania (5), Virginia (4), Connecticut (3), California (3), Massachusetts (2), and one each from Texas, New York, Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There is also one player from Washington, DC, and another from Rome, Italy (reserve tight end Lorenzo D’Angelo).

– Of the eighteen players on the Chanticleers’ roster who began their careers at junior colleges or other four-year schools, seven are listed as starters on this week’s two-deep.

– Coastal Carolina installed artificial turf at Brooks Stadium prior to the beginning of this season. The color of the surface is teal.

– CCU last played at Liberty on a Thursday night, so the Chanticleers have had two extra days to prepare for this week’s game. Of course, that is mitigated to an extent by Coastal Carolina not knowing its opponent until Sunday.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Coastal Carolina is a 1-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 57 (which, coincidentally, was also the over/under for the Bulldogs’ game against South Carolina).

Other lines for FCS playoff games: Chattanooga is a 9.5-point favorite over Fordham; Western Illinois is a 17.5-point favorite at Dayton; South Dakota State is a 3-point favorite at Montana; Southern Utah is a 1-point favorite at Sam Houston State; William & Mary is a 22-point favorite over Duquesne; New Hampshire is an 11-point favorite over Colgate; and Northern Iowa is a 19.5-point favorite over Eastern Illinois.

– Among FCS teams, The Citadel is 8th in this week’s Massey Ratings. Other FCS ratings of note: Charleston Southern, 9th; Chattanooga, 15th; Coastal Carolina, 20th; Fordham, 21st.

The top 5 in the Massey Ratings are (in order) Illinois State, North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Dartmouth, and South Dakota State. Western Carolina is 24th; the Catamounts are ranked higher than one of the at-large teams (Eastern Illinois, which is 25th).

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Conway, according to the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high around 72 degrees.

– Last season, Coastal Carolina hosted a playoff game against Richmond. Attendance for that matchup was 5,601. The game was played on the second Saturday after Thanksgiving.

In 2013, CCU hosted Bethune-Cookman at Brooks Stadium on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and drew 3,007.

I’m guessing there will be more people in the stands this Saturday. The Citadel sold out its ticket allotment of 1,500 by noon on Tuesday.

As of this writing (Thursday night), there were still tickets available from Coastal Carolina: Link

– It appears that many Bulldog fans will be parking in lot “YY”: parking map

That lot is about a half-mile from the stadium, but shuttles will be available.

I’m a bit worried by the current Bulldogs’ lack of postseason experience (particularly when compared to Coastal Carolina), but that concern is largely alleviated by the wealth of successful playoff experience shared by The Citadel’s coaching staff. Still, it’s going to be a little different for the players. Once kickoff rolls around, though, I suspect it won’t matter all that much.

I believe the Bulldogs will be able to move the ball on CCU’s defense. It will be important to finish off long drives with touchdowns, though. That means avoiding fumbles and costly penalties, and making it happen in the red zone.

Dual-threat QBs have given the Bulldogs problems in the past (including last season against the Chanticleers). This year, the defense has done a better job limiting explosive plays, and a really good job forcing turnovers.

However, The Citadel’s D has only come up with one turnover in the past two games. To win this game, Bulldog defenders need to return to their ball-hawking ways.

I’m a little nervous about special teams this week. Devin Brown is a dynamic kickoff returner, and punt return specialist Chris Jones is no slouch either.

The Citadel managed to survive the South Carolina game without giving up a big return, but it was touch-and-go at times. That has to improve against CCU.

I think a large contingent of Bulldog supporters will be in Conway this Saturday. They’re probably going to witness a good, tight ballgame.

I hope the fans clad in light blue go home happy.