Bulldogs hope to copy Buccaneers’ formula against App State

Citadel fullback Darien Robinson and the Bulldogs will try to emulate Charleston Southern’s success against Appalachian State. (Paul Zoeller/Staff)

Charleston Southern’s 27-24 victory at Appalachian State last week wasn’t quite enough to get the Buccaneers into the FCS football polls this week.

But it did lay out a road map to victory that The Citadel hopes to use when struggling App State comes to Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday, a matchup of two of the most disappointing teams in the Southern Conference.

Charleston Southern rushed for 298 yards and held the ball for more than 42 minutes in its win over the Mountaineers, who are off to a 1-3 start under new coach Scott Satterfield.

“I’ve never heard of that in a game before,” Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said of the Bucs’ 24-minute edge in time of possession. “Keeping that offense of App State’s on the field for only 18 minutes … They didn’t get as many possessions as they’d like and could not do the things they wanted.

“Charleston Southern did a very good job of mixing up the run and pass and got the ball downfield. They did a great job converting third and fourth downs.”

Charleston Southern, which opened the season with a 32-29 win over The Citadel, did not commit a turnover and ran 81 plays to 51 for App State last week. Running back Christian Reyes totaled 167 yards on 34 carries, and quarterback Malcolm Dixon added 95 yards on 12 attempts.

Charleston Southern converted 10 of 18 tries on third down and 3 of 3 on fourth down.

CSU operates from the spread formation, but the Bucs’ success running the ball against App State’s new 3-4 defense could bode well for the Bulldogs’ triple option.

Under new defensive coordinator Nate Woody, the Mountaineers are sixth in the SoCon in rushing defense, allowing 220 yards per game, and tied for fourth in scoring defense (25.5 ppg).

“They have a new coordinator implementing a different system based on entirely different principles,” Higgins said. “That’s an adjustment for them.”

A 52-28 win at App State was the highlight of The Citadel’s 7-4 season in 2012, but the Bulldogs have stumbled to a 1-4 start this season after last week’s 24-17 loss to Furman. Higgins said Monday he’s contemplating no major personnel changes this week.

“I really don’t believe it’s the heart or the will of any of our guys,” he said. “This is as good a group as we’ve ever had, and I’ve been a lot of different places. The leadership, the work ethic, wanting to get it done, it’s all exactly what you want as a coach. We’re just not making the plays on the field.”

Two areas in particular were hurtful against Furman — giving up the long pass on defense, and failure to hit some open receivers on offense. Shoring up the first area will be vital against App State, which leads the SoCon in passing offense (305.5 yards per game) and features 6-5 receiver Sean Price and freshman running back Marcus Cox.

Furman stacked the box against the Bulldogs’ option, daring The Citadel to pass. Quarterbacks Ben Dupree and Aaron Miller combined to hit 13 of 22 passes for 189 yards, with two touchdowns (one for each QB) and one interception (by Miller).

“The thing we have to do is make some plays,” Higgins said. “Defend the long pass, make that throw — that will get people excited.”

The Citadel is seeking clarification from the SoCon after Saturday’s throwback uniform snafu. Citadel officials say they had approval from the SoCon to wear the adidas throwbacks, which feature a large block letter ‘C’ and smaller number on the front. They are similar to throwback uniforms worn by Michigan and Wisconsin this season.

Word apparently did not reach the game officials, who said the Bulldogs faced a penalty if they did not change into their regular uniforms. Athletic director Larry Leckonby said the Bulldogs are hoping to wear the throwback uniforms at another game later this season.