After the shock of Saturday’s 33-20 loss to Charleston Southern, disappointed Citadel fans could comfort themselves with a glance at the Southern Conference standings.
Despite a third straight loss to their Lowcountry rival, the 2-2 Bulldogs remain tied for first in the SoCon with Chattanooga and Furman, each with 1-0 league marks. And with an open date this week, The Citadel will remain unbeaten in the SoCon until at least Oct. 10, when it hosts Wofford.
“Our players were very disappointed after the Charleston Southern game,” Houston said Tuesday. “It’s a game we wanted to win, a game we had a chance to win that we put ourselves in position to win.
“But at the same time, it was a non-conference game, and the important ones for us are the conference games. We are 2-2 and 1-0 in the conference with a big game coming up against Wofford. We’re focused on our goals, which are all still in front of us and well within our reach and control.”
Of course, the Bulldogs must fix some problems that Charleston Southern made apparent, particularly on offense. The Citadel, averaging 398 rushing yards coming in, was held to 181 by the Bucs, including just 15 after halftime.
“Charleston Southern is much improved over last year and played very, very well,” Houston said. “But we’ve got to play better up front than we did Saturday night. Charleston Southern had a little bit to do with that, but we fundamentally and technique-wise, we need to clean up some things in order to have a chance to be productive.”
Houston said he would stick with sophomore quarterback Dominique Allen, who against CSU ran 15 times for 65 yards and a touchdown, and hit 7 of 12 passes for 102 yards, with one interception.
“We’ve got to continue to develop Dominique, and to focus on ball security and execution,” Houston said. “We’ve also got to be a little more resilient when we get our backs to the wall.”
The Citadel had three turnovers against CSU and five in a 48-13 loss at Georgia Southern two weeks ago.
Getting the ball to the slotbacks, particularly sophomore Cam Jackson, continues to be an issue. Jackson had four carries for 22 yards and two catches for 18 yards against CSU. Jackson, who rushed for 505 yards and three TDs in nine games last year, averaged 7.2 touches per game in 2014. This year, he’s at four touches per game, though he barely played in the season-opening rout of Davidson.
Last season in the Bulldogs’ triple option, quarterbacks and fullbacks accounted for 69.6 percent of carries. Through four games this year, that number is up to 75.6 percvent.
“We’ve got to continue to get the ball in the hands of the guys who can make plays, and Cam is one of those,” Houston said. “We’ve got to develop ways to get him the ball in space, whether it’s throwing him the ball, in the option game or with designed plays to get him the ball.
“But at the same time, Cam’s got to focus on improving everything in his game. That’s one of the negatives of him taking snaps at quarterback; he’s got to improve his blocking and his fundamentals, so this is a good time for an open week for him.”
Wofford (2-2) will play SoCon opener at Mercer this week, and has beaten The Citadel 16 times in a row.
“Wofford is always a very difficult opponent,” Houston said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for (coach) Mike Ayers and his staff and what they’ve done for many years. They look like the same Wofford team on film that they always are.”