CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern begins a three-game homestand on Saturday when it hosts Presbyterian for homecoming. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. and fans are encouraged to wear Blue as part of a 'Blue Out' of Buccaneer Field. The game is also being broadcast on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. Fans can listen to coverage on csusports.com, with the pregame show beginning at 5:45.
CSU (3-2, 1-0 Big South) is bidding for its eleventh straight conference win and ninth consecutive home victory. More importantly, the Bucs are looking to establish a rhythm and generate momentum as they start the back half of their season. Presbyterian (2-4, 1-1 Big South) frustrated CSU, 7-3, in a defensive battle in their last trip to Charleston. The Blue Hose almost repeated the feat last year in Clinton before the Bucs rallied for a 10-7 triumph.
Saturday marks CSU's first home game in seven weeks and first of any kind in three weeks. The cancellation of the Albany State game due to Hurricane Matthew backed up against an open week, providing an unorthodox twist to the Bucs' campaign.
"It's been a long time," said CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell of the long layoff. "Four of the next five are at home so we need to take advantage of that. We've had some good success here over the last three years so we need to make sure we do that again. Hopefully, we can play well and get on a little roll because every game from here on out is very important."
CSU will step out of Big South play next week against Bucknell but the PC game is one of four that should determine if the Bucs can reach the heights they did a year ago. PC's win two years ago likely denied CSU a share of the league title and an FCS Playoff bid. The Blue Hose were stingy again defensively in last year's meeting and have proved to be a tough opposition throughout Chadwell's brief tenure.
"They really got after us and we didn't play well but a lot it was what they did to us," recalled Chadwell of the 2014 matchup. "Their defense does just an outstanding job of knowing what you try to do and taking it away from you. They never get out of gaps, they don't misalign and they make you earn everything. Offensively, they've had some quarterback injuries so they're similar to us in that they're trying to find who their guy is. Darrell Bridges is an excellent football player so it starts with stopping him."
Breaking down the Blue Hose
Bridges, an All-Big South Second-Team pick at running back in 2015, is PC's workhorse. The senior comes in with 500 yards on 125 carries. No other Blue Hose back has carried more than 12 times. Ben Cheek opened the year as head coach Harold Nichols' quarterback and started in last week's win over Monmouth before leaving with an injury. Ben Walker played well in relief, connecting on 10-of-17 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. The 44-yard scoring pass to Daryl Wilson early in the fourth quarter provided the difference in the 17-13 final outcome.
PC cornerback Kenneth Coleman broke up a fourth down pass in the end zone to finish off a goal line stand inside the final minute. Defensive end Khari Rosier notched 2.5 tackles for loss en route to garnering Big South Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The Blue Hose have struggled offensively in their four losses, scoring just 13 points across those games. PC posted its first winning season (6-5) at the Division I level in 2014 but fell to 2-9 last year, losing six games by eight points or less.
Thriller in Conway
Charleston Southern's last game was more than memorable. CSU edged rival Coastal Carolina, 59-58, in double overtime in a contest that featured nine lead changes. The Bucs are now 3-0 in multiple overtime games, posting previously pivotal wins over Coastal Carolina (2005 - secured first Big South title) and The Citadel (2006 - first win over Bulldogs; part of 9-0 start to season).
Run the football and churn clock
CSU held the football for 42:41 of regulation against Coastal, running 89 plays to the Chanticleers' 56. The Bucs had won the time of possession battle just once in their first four games. CSU led the country in time of possession in 2013 and 2014, establishing an identity with a unique spread option offense. Two of CSU's five 40+ minute T.O.P performances have been against Coastal, with the other coming in its 2013 upset win.
You don't just come into Buccaneer Field and get a win
CSU is 16-2 at home under Chadwell and has won eight straight games at Buccaneer Field dating to November of 2014. The Bucs were a perfect 6-0 in 2015, capped off by a playoff win over The Citadel in front of nearly 8,500 fans, a Buccaneer Field record. CSU is 4-0 in home openers, posting a hard-fought win over Shorter and blowout victories over Point, North Greenville and Kentucky State.