CSU continues three-game road trip at Shorter this weekendSeptember 20, 2012
CHARLESTON, S.C. – After a trip to Big 10 Country, Charleston Southern (0-3) continues their out-of-conference schedule and three-game road trip by heading to Rome, Georgia to battle the Hawks of Shorter University (2-1) with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Barron Stadium.
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Saturday will mark the first-ever meeting between the Buccaneers and the Hawks. Shorter University is in their first season as a Division II school after transitioning from NAIA.
The two squads are coming off extremely different weeks. The Hawks are riding the momentum of a come-from-behind, 28-17 win against Chowan, while the Buccaneers will try to take the experience gained in a 44-0 loss at the University of Illinois to grind out their first win of the season.
"We wanted to find out what some guys could do. If they could handle a pressure situation against a top FBS conference [school], we feel like they’re going to be in great shape the rest of the way as we play FCS and Division II programs," commented Bucs’ head coach Jay Mills.
CSU will look to rebound after a game where offense was at a premium against the Big 10 opponent in the University of Illinois. The Bucs were held to 125 yards of total offense (96 rushing, 29 passing) a week ago. The running game was a true running back by committee featuring eight different ball carriers, five of which were running backs. Freshman quarterback, Briar Van Brunt, led the ground attack with a 54 yard scamper but finished with 10 carries for 52 yards.
CSU’s passing game struggled against the Big 10 secondary, only going 5-of-17 through the air for 29 yards and an interception. Coach Mills spoke on his team’s quarterback play, "We definitely need to get consistent play at [quarterback]. I don’t care what level of football it is, the quarterback position is so key… As he goes so does the team go." Derek Hatcher complete four of the five passes while Malcom Dixon and Van Brunt combined to go 1-of-6 through the air. Chase Jones led the receiving-core with two catches for 15 yards while Pre-Season All Big South receiver, Nathan Parera was held to one catch for 15 yards.
The Hawks will come out with an option offense that is scoring 24 points per game. Led by Sophomore quarterback Eric Dodson, Shorter is averaging 251 yards per game on the ground with 127 yards per game through the air. At the start of the season, CSU faced off with The Citadel who featured a similar option attack.
"We saw [the option offense] earlier in the year and had difficulties with it, but I’m confident that we will continue to progress and push through it," said Mills.
A pair of upperclassmen running backs in Bradley Moon and T.J. Telfair will lead the way on the ground for the Hawks while Senior receiver Brandon Morten has been Dodson’s favorite target (6 catches for 215 yards) through the air. With an option-offense, there is always the danger of turnovers and the Hawks have had struggles holding on to the football. Shorter has fumbled nine times, losing four of them as well as throwing two interceptions through the first three games.
The Bucs will likely stay with a run heavy attack against the Hawks, but the key may stay with the passing game. After a week where CSU only gained 29 yards through the air, Shorter will look to pack the box in an effort to slow down the option attack from CSU. A few large gains through the air will spread out the Hawks’ defense and open up running lanes while an ineffective offense through the air puts all the pressure on the Bucs’ run-game. On the Shorter side, turnovers will be key. If Shorter coughs up the ball, CSU will have a better chance to find their rhythm offensively.
Despite allowing 479 yards (114 rushing, 365 passing) to the Illini, the CSU defense played extremely well a week ago. Although the halftime score was 20-0 in favor of Illinois, the Bucs defense only allowed 13 first-half points with one of Illinois’ touchdowns coming on a pick-six. The offense’s struggles to move the football led to a worn down CSU defense in the second-half resulting in 24 points allowed in the final two quarters. CSU had issues through four quarters slowing the passing game from Illinois. The Illini completed 30 of 37 passes with five touchdowns coming through the air. Charles James led the way defensively with eight tackles, 1.5 for loss and an interception. The interception was James’ eleventh of his career matching the CSU record set by Philip Ashley (2006-2009). Linebacker, Zack Johnson, and cornerback, Damian Dixon, added in eight tackles each to lead the way with James. On the year, the Bucs have given up an average of 230 yards rushing per game while allowing eight total rushing touchdowns.
On paper, the Hawks’ defense looks to match up well with the Bucs. Through the first three games, Shorter has been stingy when it comes to opposing rushing games (110 yards allowed per game) while struggling to defend the pass (269 yards allowed per game). The Shorter defense is anchored by Senior linebacker Demery Hawkins. An NAIA All-American a season ago, Hawkins has led Shorter with 23 tackles this season, 5.5 of them for loss. Hawkins played a major role on a defense that only allowed 74 rushing yards last week against Chowan and forced several turnovers. Takeaways are a major factor in the success of the Hawks’ defense. In Shorter’s two wins, the defense has forced ten turnovers. In their one loss, the defense did not record a takeaway.
In a game that features two teams that showcase run-heavy offenses, the battle in the trenches will be an important aspect to keep an eye on. The front-four’s ability to get a push on the line and disrupt the Hawks’ option in the backfield will be paramount for CSU who has struggled against the run this year. Against Illinois, James showed the ability to come forward from the secondary to make stops in the run-game. CSU will need the same kind of versatility from their star-cornerback to help slow down the Hawks offense.
According to Coach Mills, "We’re getting better fundamentally. We’re starting to buy in and we’re starting to have success defensively."
The Bucs have not missed a field goal or PAT to this point in the season. The punting game has been inconsistent at times but Cameron Mitchel has a solid average of 34 yards on his 17 punts this season while Mark Deboy has pounded two touchbacks. Kevin Glears handled most of the return duties on kickoffs last week with James returning the punts.
Shorter is 1-for-3 on field goal tries this season. With an offense that has scored only three touchdowns in nine trips to the red zone this season and a Bucs defense that has shown a bend-but-don’t-break ability, the Hawks struggles in the kicking game may be a major factor.