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While Citadel football dodged Hurricane Florence, Bulldogs' schedule got tougher


Citadel slotback Rod Johnson and the Bulldogs travel to Mercer on Saturday. Michael Pronzato/ Staff

With his team sidelined by Hurricane Florence, Citadel coach Brent Thompson found himself with a lot of time and a TV remote in his hand on Saturday.

"I watched a lot of football," he said Tuesday. "Some of it good and some of it not so good."

Some of the best ball, unfortunately for Thompson, was played by The Citadel's next two opponents, Southern Conference team Mercer and non-conference foe Towson. The Bulldogs play at both schools in the next two weeks.

Mercer knocked off SoCon favorite Samford, the No. 9 ranked team in FCS, 30-24. And Towson took down No. 10 Villanova 45-35.

The Mercer score, at least, was no surprise to Thompson.

"As I've been saying for a while, there will be a time when Mercer kind of takes over the SoCon," Thompson said. "I've seen what they've recruited. They've got a great academic school and a good coaching staff, and they've recruited some really good players.

"I knew at some point it would turn for them, so that result doesn't surprise me at all."

The postponement of The Citadel's game with Charleston Southern (until Nov. 29) also means the Bulldogs will open the season with three conference games for the first time since 1926, when they played in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

It also means The Citadel will play just one home game in September, with open dates on Sept. 15 and Oct. 6. And it means the Bulldogs will have played just 10 games when the FCS playoff field is announced on Nov. 18.

Thompson said The Citadel will not try to squeeze in an extra game on the Oct. 6 open date.

"It did cross my mind," he said. "But that bye week falls at a good time for us, and I don't know if I want to take that away. We may need it to practice and get ourselves back to where we were and recover some."

This year marks the third straight year The Citadel's schedule has been disrupted by a hurricane. The previous two seasons, The Citadel was able to keep the team together on the road, at Lookup Lodge in Travelers Rest near Greenville, and reschedule home games for North Greenville and Presybterian, respectively.

That sort of plan was not going to work this year, Thompson said.

"We talked about our 'Travelers Rest plan,' and that has been our plan," he said. "But that maximizes and probably overstretches a lot of our resources. We spent a lot of money the last two years taking the team on the road for four or five days. And, let's face it, that can get very expensive to feed and house close to 100 people.

"Plus, it takes a toll the players and their families, on the coaches and their families and all the support staff. It can become very exhausting and expensive."

Meanwhile, Citadel players were away from football activities for a week before a brief practice on Monday.

"We went out there Monday for a few periods and knocked some of the rust off," Thompson said. "But as we quickly found out, you lose a little bit of your conditioning and some of your fundamentals. So we have to start with that moving forward."

The good news — the Bulldogs should be healthy and fresh as they make the trip to Macon, Ga.

"I told our guys, if you want to get yourselves back on the SoCon map, this would be a good one to get," he said. "This could be a good game for us to sort of break out."

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

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