Charleston Southern, The Citadel revive football rivalry
It’s been so long since The Citadel played Charleston Southern that not even the old man of Bulldogs football, running back Rickey Anderson, has taken the field against the Buccaneers.
Who: Charleston Southern at The Citadel
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: Johnson Hagood Stadium
BUCS VS. BULLDOGS
2002 Citadel 53, CSU 19
2003 Citadel 64, CSU 10
2005 Citadel 28, CSU 14
2006 CSU 38, Citadel 35 (OT)
2007 Citadel 35, CSU 14
Anderson, beginning his sixth season at The Citadel today, was a redshirt freshman when the ostensible rivals last played in 2007.
The Bulldogs and Bucs meet for the sixth time tonight at Johnson Hagood Stadium, with not even the principals sure what to make of the relationship between the two schools, separated by a few miles of I-26.
“I don’t know if you can call it a crosstown rivalry,” said CSU coach Jay Mills, “because nobody on either team has really played in it. I think it was headed for a rivalry — the last couple of games were competitive, we won one and they won one — but nobody has really played it on either side.”
The teams played five times in six years from 2002-2007, with the 2004 game wiped out by Hurricane Frances. The Bulldogs won four of the five, with CSU taking a 38-35 overtime win in 2006 before The Citadel claimed a 35-14 victory in the last meeting in 2007.
Since then, CSU has concentrated its non-Big South schedule on guarantee games, playing teams such as Central Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Florida, South Florida and Miami for big paychecks.
That money helped pay for a new athletic facility at CSU that houses locker rooms for football and track and a new athletic training facility.
“A lot of nice facilities have been built here and at The Citadel, and guarantee games play a big part in that,” Mills said. “In our case, almost every dollar was raised by guarantee games.”
The Citadel, meanwhile, has rekindled its military-school rivalry with VMI after skipping three years, and wants to fit Charleston Southern into a rotation of regional foes to go along with guarantee games, the annual game with VMI and an eight-game Southern Conference slate.
“We want Charleston Southern to be a part of that rotation, for sure,” said Citadel athletic director Larry Leckonby, who said the Bucs and Bulldogs will meet in 2013 as well. “We’ve got teams like Presbyterian and Davidson coming up in the future, and we want Charleston Southern to be part of that as well.”
Mills, whose team is coming off an 0-11 season, says this is the best Citadel team he’s seen since that 2007 season, when the Bulldogs went 7-4, their only winning record in seven seasons under coach Kevin Higgins.
“They play extremely hard and had one of the top rushing attacks in the nation last year, and now that group is a veteran group,” Mills said. “And they have one of the best defenses we’ve seen on film in the last couple of years. This is the best Citadel team I’ve seen in years, and they should challenge for the upper echelon in the Southern Conference.”
Mills has a new defensive coordinator, former Georgia Southern assistant Shawn Quinn, to help the Bucs deal with the Bulldogs’ triple-option. Higgins will be interested to see how his defense — with new coordinator Denny Doornbos, and without All-SoCon tackle Derek Douglas (knee) and three starting linebackers from last year — copes with CSU’s speed on offense.
“The No. 1 concern is their speed at the skill positions,” said Higgins. “Historically, they have very good receivers, and this year is no different. The bubble screens, the wide receiver screens and the long balls, we have do a good job of defending those.”
Dual-threat junior Malcolm Dixon won the Bucs’ starting quarterback job in fall practice, but 6-3 receiver Nathan Perera, who caught 43 passes last year, is questionable with injury. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are sticking with their two-QB system, starting junior Ben Dupree with sophomore Aaron Miller in relief. Both are focused on improving a passing attack that averaged just 32 yards per game last year.
“It’s not that we have to pass it 20 times a game,” Dupree said. “But we’ve got to hit 60 or 70 percent of the ones we throw. We’ve got to have some passing touchdowns this season.”