Weekend Preview: Bucs host No. 2/2 Kennesaw State in Big South showdown

Weekend Preview: Bucs host No. 2/2 Kennesaw State in Big South showdown

CHARLESTON, S.C. - This weekend will put the Buccaneers to the test as CSU welcomes Kennesaw State Buccaneer Field on Saturday night for a Big South Conference showdown. Kickoff for Big South matchup is set for 6 p.m. The game will be carried live on ESPN+.

All game day information is available on the Game Day Central page.

CSU Notes | Kennesaw State Notes | Big South Notes

Championship Battles
Saturday's game has served as the de facto Big South Championship in each of the last three seasons as the Buccaneers welcome Kennesaw State to Buccaneer Field. CSU won the 2015 & 2016 contests, while Kennesaw State broke through last season with the 38-0 win at Fifth Third Stadium. Both teams are undefeated in conference play heading into Saturday.

Ground Game
Both teams place a heavy emphasis on running the football. Kennesaw State enters the contest ranked second in FCS in rushing offense (377.0 ypg) and are paced by the nation's rushing touchdown leader in quarterback Chandler Burks (17). CSU is 32nd in rushing (195.8 ypg). Last season, KSU rushed for 343 yards and limited CSU to 108 rushing yards in the Owls' win.

Pass Defenses Rule
With the heavy emphasis on rushing prevalent on both sidelines, having an effective passing game may be key for either team. CSU (1st, 121.5 ypg) and Kennesaw State (4th, 151.0 ypg) are among the nation's best at deterring the opposition from taking to the air this season.

Scouting Kennesaw State
Defending Big South champion Kennesaw State University was tabbed the favorite in the conference's annual preseason football for the 2018 campaign as voted by the league's head coaches and media panel. The Owls were near unanimous favorites, as KSU collected 17 of the 18 first-place votes and finished with 107 out of a possible 108 points to claim the top spot.

Kennesaw State redshirt senior quarterback Chandler Burks and Owls' redshirt sophomore linebacker Bryson Armstrong were voted the Big South Conference's 2018 Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively, by the league's head football coaches and media panel.

It's the fourth meeting all-time between the Bucs and the Owls. CSU won the first two matchups between the programs in 2015 and 2016. The Owls topped the Bucs for the first time last season at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, 38-0.

Quarterback Chandler Burks is once again among the national leaders in scoring this season. The Owls' senior signal caller leads the nation with 17 touchdown carries on the year and has added five scores through the air. The 2017 Walter Payton finalist is once again in the running for the award given to the nation's top offensive performer.

Kennesaw State is second in FCS in rushing offense on the season at 377.0 yards per game on the ground. The Owls have utilized their ball control to sit fifth in the nation in time of possession (33:24) and 19th in first downs gained (164).

Kennesaw State's offense has also been among the nation's best in third-down conversion percentage at 50.6%.

As strong as KSU's offense has been, its defense has been equally impressive. The Owls are fourth in FCS in third-down defensive percentage (0.274), ninth in first downs defense (99), 20th in rushing defense (113.1), and fourth in pass defense (151.0).

Establishing the Run
Charleston Southern's running game came back down to earth this past weekend against Presbyterian as the Buccaneers were held to their second-lowest rushing output of 2018. The Bucs were limited to 122 rushing yards on 44 carries and picked up two rushing touchdowns on the day against the Blue Hose. CSU had previously picked up a season-best 334 rushing yards the week prior against Virginia Lynchburg. Four different players have led CSU in rushing this season with Terrence Wilson consistently among the team's best. Wilson leads the team with 318 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 55 carries. London Johnson (296) and Ronnie Harris (219) have also been among the team's rushing leaders this season.

Taz Can Do It
Senior h-back Taz Lindsey has been a do-everything player for the Charleston Southern offense and special teams over the last two seasons. After being primarily known for his ball-carrying prowess, Lindsey flashed his hands this past weekend against Presbyterian as CSU's leading receiver. Lindsey hauled in a career-high five receptions for 64 yards and added a touchdown reception in the second quarter of the win. The Augusta, Ga. native scored on a 24-yard catch from London Johnson for CSU's first touchdown of the game and sparked a 41-point run for the Bucs against the Blue Hose. Lindsey was selected a preseason All-Conference return specialist and has seen time out wide and in the backfield for CSU in 2018.

Quarterback Play On Point
London Johnson and Jack Chambers have put together back-to-back strong showings for the mostly run-heavy CSU offense over the past two games. Chambers posted CSU's first 100-yard passing effort of the season in CSU's 58-6 win over Virginia Lynchburg. The redshirt freshman was 7-of-12 through the air for 155 yards and two scores against the Dragons. Johnson followed up with a 6-of-9 game for 104 yards and a score against Presbyterian. CSU is 15-of-24 through the air over the last two games for 324 yards and three scores. The Bucs posted 190 passing yards over its first four games before breaking loose in back-to-back games against the Dragons and the Blue Hose.

Offensive Line – Protect the Quarterback
Charleston Southern has been unable to keep the quarterback upright this season with the Buccaneers surrendering 17.0 sacks over the first six games of the season. Opponents have recorded multiple sacks in all six games with a season-high five coming on the road at Savannah State. CSU surrendered a pair of sacks in each of its last two contests against Virginia Lynchburg and Presbyterian and has given up a combined 14.0 tackles for loss in the two games. CSU surrendered 11 turnovers over its first four games due in part to the team's inability to keep the quarterback upright. With a senior-led offensive line, the Bucs will look to hold off a Kennesaw State defense that has recorded 12 sacks and 48 tackles for loss on the year.

Time of Possession
Part of Charleston Southern's success over the last five seasons has been their ability to hold onto the ball. CSU led the nation in time of possession back in 2014 at 34:05 per game and have consistently been among the nation's top 50 in the category in each of the last five years. This season, however, CSU has struggled to keep possession and currently sits 87th in time of possession at 28:35 per game. The Bucs have won the time of possession battle twice this season. CSU held onto the ball for 32:02 in the opener against Florida. They added a 30:02 time of possession in the 48-14 win over Hampton. Facing a ball-control offense in Kennesaw State, the Bucs will need to keep the offense on the field to allow the defense time to rest against the Owls.

Moving the Chains
Charleston Southern's time of possession woes can be directly related to the team's inability to move the chains in 2018. CSU currently sits 124th in the FCS in total first downs with 76 on the year and will face a tough task against a talented Kennesaw State defense this weekend. The Owls boast the fifth best defense in the nation at 264.1 yards per game and are ninth in the county in first downs allowed (99). CSU face an even tougher test on third downs. The Bucs are converting 34 percent of their opportunities on the season. KSU is fourth in FCS in allowing opponents a conversion rate of 27.4 percent.

Stopping Burks
Chandler Burks. That's the primary engine that leads Kennesaw State's fifth-ranked rushing offense and 13th-ranked total offense in 2018. The quarterback has paced KSU's rise to sitting second overall in both major FCS polls and sits among the national leaders in scoring (3rd), rushing touchdowns (1st), and rushing yards (56th). He has posted multiple rushing touchdowns in each of KSU's last six games, including a career-high four in the Owls' win over Presbyterian. Last season, Burks was held in check with 11 carries for 26 yards in KSU's win over the Bucs. It was one of two times the quarterback was held under 50 rushing yards last season in pacing the Owls to a 12-2 record and a trip to the FCS Quarterfinals. CSU will have to keep the Owls' signal caller in check.

Run Defense
Charleston Southern's defense has struggled to contain the run in 2018. The Bucs will need to get back on track against a KSU offense that is second in FCS in total rushing yards per game (377.0). CSU has surrendered at least 100 rushing yards in every game in 2018 and has allowed opponents to hit the 200-yard mark three times. No coincidence, all three of those games (Florida – 203, Elon – 226, and Savannah State – 213) were CSU's three losses this season. Since being held to 181 yards on the ground in the opener against Georgia State, the Owls have posted five games with at least 300 total rushing yards and four with at least 400. Kennesaw is averaging 487.5 rushing yards per game in Big South Conference play this season with 13 rushing touchdowns in the two contests against Presbyterian and Gardner-Webb. CSU will need to rely on All-American candidates Solomon Brown and Johnny Robinson to help support the line of scrimmage and stem the Owls' rushing attack.

No One Can Pass
Saturday's game may come down to which team is able to establish a consistent rushing attack as both defenses have excelled against the passing game this season. CSU has excelled against the pass in the last four games. The Bucs allowed just 268 combined passing yards against Hampton, Savannah State, Virginia Lynchburg, and Presbyterian on their way to ascending to the top ranking in FCS in passing yards per game (121.5). Kennesaw State tends to make its impact on the ground but has posted a trio of 100-plus yard passing efforts on the season. KSU is averaging 100.1 yards per game through the air and averages 9.3 pass attempts per game. The Bucs have picked off passes in each of the last four games and will look to turn the field if the Owls drop back to throw it.

Third Down Priorities
It will be a battle of wills on third down this weekend as the Buccaneers face off against an offense ranked third in FCS in third down conversion percentage. Kennesaw State records a first down an impressive 50.6% of the time when facing third down and currently are ranked 19th in FCS in total first downs gained with 164. The Bucs counter back with the 30th ranked defense on third downs allowing opponents to convert just 32.9% of the time. CSU is also ninth overall in first downs allowed on the season with 99. Shortening drives and keeping the Owls' offense off the field could be one of the keys to CSU's defensive game plan on Saturday.

Generating Turnovers
Charleston Southern's defense has been opportunistic this season and it has paid off in all three of CSU's wins in 2018. In all three CSU wins, the Buccaneers have forced multiple turnovers that have led to touchdowns or touchdown drives. CSU recorded a five-turnover game in their 48-14 win over Hampton with James Allen taking an interception in for the score in the Bucs' win. Against Virginia Lynchburg two weeks later, CSU turned a Jonathan Slaton interception and a fumble recovery deep inside Buccaneer territory into touchdown drives. Last week against PC, the Bucs scored 28 points off five fumble recoveries and a Slaton pick-six to take the win over the Blue Hose. The Bucs are now +4 in the turnover category on the season and will need to get after the KSU rushing attack that has lost nine fumbles on the year.

Getting After the Quarterback
Charleston Southern continues to struggle generating a pass rush this season, but Solomon Brown and Johnny Robinson have started to pick things back up as the duo combined for a strip sack this past weekend against Presbyterian. The Bucs posted a school-record 34.0 sacks last season, but through six games in 2018, CSU has taken the quarterback down six times this year. Robinson leads the way with 2.0 sacks this season and has consistently been fighting through double teams on the line of scrimmage. Jonathan Glover has added 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss from the outside after joining the Bucs from Albany State. CSU will need to regain momentum and get after Burks in the rare instances he drops back to pass to help the Bucs' top-ranked pass defense.

Holding the Line of Scrimmage
While CSU's pass rush has faltered, the Buccaneers are still making plays at, or behind, the line of scrimmage in 2018. The Bucs enter Saturday's contest ranked 40th in FCS in team tackles for loss per game at 6.8. Leading the charge is Big South leader Solomon Brown at 7.0 tackles for loss on the season. Brown did a majority of his damage on the road at Savannah State with a career-high 4.5 tackles behind the line against the Tigers. He added 1.5 TFL this past weekend against Presbyterian in CSU's win over the Blue Hose. Kennesaw State prides itself on setting up a short field on third downs – the Owls lead the nation in team tackles for loss allowed on the year at 2.86 per game. The Bucs will have to force KSU into third-and-long situations to help end Owls' drives.  

Tekac Continues to Climb
Charleston Southern senior placekicker Tyler Tekac continues to move up the all-time rankings in both the CSU and the Big South record books. Coming off back-to-back double-digit scoring games, Tekac inched his way closer moving to the tops in the record books. Tekac (25) is currently trailing CSU alums John Paglia (29, 2007-10) and Nick Ellis (29, 2003-07) in the all-time CSU field goal list. He is also second all-time in points scored with 192 trailing only Ellis (214). He continues his assault on the Big South record book as well sitting seventh all-time in career 40-yard field goals made, as well as climbing in the top 10 all-time in PATs made.

Reighard Kicking It Away
Redshirt junior punter Kyle Reighard continues his leadership on one of the best punt units in the country as the Buccaneers enter the weekend ranked third overall in net punting on the season. The Bucs have posted a 41.83 net average per punt attempt behind the leg of the preseason All-Conference selection. Reighard has posted two punts of at least 50 yards this season and has once again excelled in pinning opponents deep within their own territory. Reighard has posted nine punts inside the 20 this season and forced 10 fair catches on the season. He has averaged at least 40.2 yards per punt in each of the five games this year and increased his punting average nearly two full yards from last season (43.1-41.4).

Containing KSU's Return Game
Charleston Southern's coverage units will face a stiff test this weekend taking on one of the nation's best return teams. The Owls are first in FCS in kickoff returns averaging 45.7 yards per return behind Isaac Foster's nation-leading two scores on the year. KSU also boasts Courtney Mills, one of the top punt return men in the game who sits third in FCS in punt return touchdowns. Kyle Reighard has handled the primary kickoff and punting duties for the Bucs over the last two games and will be put to the test providing key hang time to allow the coverage units time to converge and prevent the long return.

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