Citadel planning on being surprised
With a three-week head start on fall practice and two games already under its belt, The Citadel football team should be ready for anything Princeton brings to Johnson Hagood Stadium today.
And the Bulldogs better be.
Princeton, two years removed from an Ivy League championship, journeys south today for its season opener, just the second airplane trip in the history of a program that dates back to the first college football game in 1869.
And with no current game film or scouting reports to work from, Citadel coach Kevin Higgins is planning on being surprised.
"We've got to be somewhat simple in our game plan," Higgins said this week. "And we've got to be ready to make adjustments. It's critical that we be able to adjust to whatever they might do during the game."
When the Bulldogs opened fall camp on Aug. 4, Princeton was still three weeks away from starting practice. When The Citadel stomped Webber International 54-7 on Aug. 30, the Tigers were holding just their fifth workout. And when the Bulldogs passed for 338 yards in a 45-17 loss at then ninth-ranked Clemson on Sept. 6, Princeton was coming off a "scrimmage" against Yale.
So while the Bulldogs should be much closer to midseason form, they can only look at last year's Princeton film and hope coach Roger Hughes hasn't changed things too much.
The Tigers return 14 starters from last year's 4-6 team, and still have four players who started on the team that went 9-1 and claimed the Ivy League title in 2006.
After relying mainly on the option during their title run and last season, the Tigers are moving toward a spread offense this season, with senior quarterback Brian Anderson at the helm. Anderson, a lefty at 6-2 and 205 pounds, has started just one game in his career, when he was 16-of-21 for 186 yards passing and ran 15 times for 72 yards and a touchdown in a 17-14 overtime win over Dartmouth last year.
Backup QB Dan Kopolovich, moved over from his starting cornerback position, also will see action. Hughes has said both QBs could be on the field at the same time.
Senior receiver Will Thanheiser led the Tigers with 27 catches last year and should get even more this season; all five of the offensive linemen have starting experience. Junior Jordan Culbreath, who had a breakout game with 145 yards and two TDs in a 31-28 win over Cornell last season, will carry the load at tailback.
On defense, the Tigers line up in a 3-4 and return two all-Ivy linemen in Pete Buchignani and Matt Koch, but are good at changing up their schemes.
"You look at what they did a year ago, and they were very multiple and did a lot of things in the course of the year," Citadel offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini said of the Tigers' defense. "You try to have a good general game plan, and then adjust."
For The Citadel, quarterback Bart Blanchard will try to cut down on the three interceptions he threw against Clemson while building on the 22 of 35 passes he hit for 279 yards. Slot receiver Josh Haney has been practicing at wideout this week and should be the second receiver in two-receiver formations alongside All-American Andre Roberts.
And on defense, all-SoCon nose guard Terrence Reese makes his 2008 debut after missing the first two games with ankle and knee injuries.
--Today's game is "Take a Kid to the Game Day," sponsored by The Post and Courier. All children are admitted free with a paid adult ... It's also "Education Day" at Johnson Hagood Stadium as The Citadel honors area teachers of the year.
Reach Jeff Hartsell at firstname.lastname@example.org