Citadel vs. Chattanooga (copy)

The Citadel and Cam Jackson have one more hurdle to leap at home this season, against Western Carolina on Saturday. File/Michael Pronzato/Staff

It's in the film room, Citadel senior Cam Jackson says, where the Bulldogs can see how close they are.

"When you look at the film the next day, it's like, 'Man,'" the slotback said this week. "If we just get this guy down, if we don't false start here, if we get three more inches on this play. It's just small stuff."

The small stuff can add up, as the Bulldogs have learned this season. By their own admission, they've yet to put together a complete performance in a Southern Conference game.

The Citadel, coming off two straight SoCon championships, endured a three-game skid on the way to a 5-3 overall record and 3-3 league mark heading into Saturday's final regular-season home game against Western Carolina (6-4, 4-2).

"We haven't played really a full, complete game yet," said coach Brent Thompson, whose team has won two straight, including a 21-3 win over VMI last week.

"You look at the last game, we should have stuck the ball in the end zone a little more and converted our field goals. We know that. On defense, I think we've played fairly well all season and they've held us in some games.

"But in Southern Conference games, we could have played better. Some of that is due to inexperience, but eight games into the season, we've got to start clicking on all cylinders. I'm looking for that this week."

The Bulldogs will need it against a Western Carolina team that seems to have finally turned a corner in coach Mark Speir's sixth season.

The Catamounts rebounded from a 2-9 record last year to contend for the SoCon title this season, with blowout wins over Chattanooga and ETSU, a 38-34 win over Samford and an overtime loss to league-leader Wofford.

But in a 28-6 loss to Furman last week, standout quarterback Tyrie Adams was injured in the first half and did not return. Speir said this week that Adams' injury was not an ACL or MCL knee injury, but Adams' status for Saturday is uncertain.

Adams ranks second in the SoCon in total offense, with 65.8 rushing yards and 190.4 passing yards per game. His backup is redshirt freshman Ray Smith, who has appeared in seven games and has hit 12 of 22 passes for 137 yards with one TD and one interception, and averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 10 carries.

"Tyrie is a special player for us," Speir said this week. "I don't know the extent of (the injury), but he could not play (the rest of the game against Furman). It's not an ACL or MCL, but we don't know how bad it is.

"We've talked about 'next man up' all year. Now Tyrie is a little different. It is tough when you lose your starting quarterback. But I thought Ray Smith came in and did a good job. He did everything we asked him to do."

Senior running back Detrez Newsome missed three games with injury but is back and averaging 122.7 yards per game. Receivers Terryon Robinson and Steffon Hill have combined for 82 catches and 11 touchdowns for the SoCon's No. 1 offense, averaging 35 points per game. 

The Catamounts spread the field with run-pass option plays, and will be a big challenge for a Citadel defense that ranks No. 1 in the SoCon in scoring defense (17.8 ppg), total defense (288 ypg) and rushing defense (106.9 ypg).

"We're going to have our hands full," Citadel safety Aron Spann said. "We have to be really disciplined this week, play hard in practice and hope it carries over to the game."

The result will impact the FCS playoff hopes for both teams. The Citadel needs to win out against Western Carolina and Furman to have any shot at the 24-team field; the Catamounts at the least need to split with The Citadel and Mercer before their regular-season finale at North Carolina.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC