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

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

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

SoCon weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

AFCA Coaches’ poll

Brent Thompson’s 10/30 press conference

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

Catamount Football Weekly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a couple of quick observations about the Furman game:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few tidbits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They’re very young.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday will be Homecoming at Western Carolina. Hmm…

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

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

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

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

Go Dogs!

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

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

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

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

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

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview, The Post and Courier

The next two games for The Citadel are fairly important

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

Spann spent most of October intercepting passes and recovering fumbles

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Western Carolina’s website

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

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

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

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

– Promo for Western Carolina-The Citadel (video)

Cam Jackson promo for Senior Day (video)

– ESPN3 replay of Furman-Western Carolina (video)

– Game story from Furman-Western Carolina

– My review of last week’s game against VMI

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

Non-football links:

The Citadel Basketball 2017-18 “Hype Video”

The Citadel’s 2018 baseball schedule has been released

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, Clawson has been around for a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statistics of interest for Western Carolina through nine games:

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

Key stats for The Citadel through eight games:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.