After all the talk of T-shirt slogans and future schedules, there remains a football game to be played Saturday night between Charleston Southern and The Citadel.
The 6 p.m. game at Johnson Hagood Stadium promises to be intense and hard-fought. And with no future games between the Lowcountry rivals currently scheduled, the loser might have to live with the result for a long time.
Despite two straight wins over The Citadel, Charleston Southern players are not convinced they’ve earned the Bulldogs’ respect. And those back-to-back losses certainly add incentive for Citadel players.
“Definitely,” said Citadel linebacker James Riley. “With this being a rivalry game, and them beating us last year, it lights a fire in us. I’ve talked to our defense, and we’ve all got the same passion to win. We want to come out and play as hard as we can against these guys.”
The Citadel has won five of eight meetings between the schools since the series started in 2002. But the Buccaneers won by 32-29 in 2013 and by 20-18 last year in the first game in the series played at CSU Stadium.
That, and the Bucs’ 20-8 record in their third season under coach Jamey Chadwell, should convince Citadel fans that this is not the program they remember as Baptist College.
“Anyone who thinks of Charleston Southern as the program they were 20 years ago is making a mistake,” Citadel coach Mike Houston said.
Houston wouldn’t bite this week when asked to comment on the T-shirt that Chadwell donned after last year’s victory. It read, “Charleston, it’s Southern’s city.”
“I’m not going to get into all that,” Houston said.
The rivalry between the coaches dates back to Houston’s days at Lenoir-Rhyne and Chadwell’s as head coach at North Greenville. Houston was the Bears’ defensive coordinator when Lenoir-Rhyne beat Chadwell’s North Greenville team in 2009 and 2010. But Chadwell won their first face-off as head coaches when North Greenville defeated Lenoir-Rhyne in 2011.
This meeting might come down to which defense can control the other team’s run game. Citadel fullback Evan McField, a redshirt freshman from Goose Creek High School, leads the Southern Conference in rushing with 355 yards, averaging 118.3 yards per game. He went for 163 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 48-13 loss at defending Sun Belt champ Georgia Southern.
CSU’s Darius Hammond, a 5-10, 192-pound junior, is third in the Big South in rushing with 294 yards, averaging 98 yards per contest. He ran for 161 yards in CSU’s 44-16 loss to another Sun Belt team, Troy.
In last year’s game, two second-half fumbles cost the Bulldogs dearly. This season, The Citadel has fumbled nine times in three games, losing three of them.
“I expect this to be another four-quarter battle,” Chadwell said. “The weather looks like it might be interesting, so it could be one of those sloppy games. It might come down to what it did last year, which is turnovers. Whoever doesn’t turn it over will have the best chance to win.”