Wildcat helps CSU get back on track

Since his arrival as Charleston Southern’s head football coach in 2003, Jay Mills has talked of offensive balance but rarely achieved that goal.

The Buccaneers have predominately been known as a pass-first offense in Mills’ first nine seasons, and the numbers bear that out.

Prior to this season, CSU has averaged at least 200 yards passing per game in every season except two (2008 and 2011). The Buccaneers have averaged more than 130 yards rushing per game only once, averaging 163.5 yards per game in 2009. Only three times under Mills have the Bucs averaged more than 120 yards rushing per game.

Whether it was due to a lack of talent at running back or having quality quarterbacks under center, CSU has never really focused on being a successful running team. That has changed this season.

Coming off an 0-11 campaign in 2011 in which CSU managed just 96.5 yards rushing per game, and without a consistent passing quarterback in the program, the Bucs have turned to the running game to bring them back to respectability.

It is, however, not the traditional running game. Mills has implemented a wildcat rushing attack that has proved to be the biggest reason that CSU is 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the Big South Conference heading into today’s non-conference home game against NAIA member Edward Waters (3-4).

Charleston Southern is on pace to produce the program’s best season rushing the football under Mills, averaging 178 yards per game on the ground through seven games. CSU is averaging 4.1 yards per rushing attempt, the second-best average per carry in Mills’ 10 seasons. The Bucs have already scored eight rushing touchdowns, two more than all of last season.

With junior running back Teddy Allen taking a large number of snaps in the wildcat, CSU has rolled up big numbers in the running game during its two-game winning streak over VMI and Presbyterian. Allen, CSU’s leading rusher last season with 360 yards, has rushed for 203 yards and five touchdowns in the last two games and is the team’s leading rusher with 266 yards.

The wildcat experiment began earlier in the season with Trey Dorsey taking on the role, alternating with quarterback Malcolm Dixon out of the shotgun formation. Dorsey was injured three weeks ago, so Mills inserted Allen, already known as a physical inside runner. Allen’s 153 yards rushing last week was the sixth-highest total in school history, and his four touchdowns tied a school and Big South Conference record.

“He’s athletic, a very strong runner inside, and he has the speed to get down the field, so he fits what we want to do,” said Mills. “He seems to have found a niche. The offensive line is playing much better, and it has opened up a few things in the passing game where Malcolm Dixon has been very efficient and effective for us.”

Since the shift to the wildcat, Dixon, also a good runner, has indeed flourished. After completing only 42 percent of his pass attempts with four interceptions in the first five games, Dixon is 11 of 14 for 192 yards and three touchdowns in the last two outings.