CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern hits the road in Big South competition this weekend as the Buccaneers make their longest road trip of the season up to West Long Branch, N.J. and Monmouth University. Here's three things to watch as the Bucs-Hawks prepare for kickoff on ESPN3 on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.
All game day information is available on the Game Day Central page.
Top Pass Defense vs. Top Pass Threat
Charleston Southern's pass defense has been the nation's best since September 29 and has not stopped over the last month heading into November. The Buccaneers have surrendered only two 100-yard passing efforts since their matchup against Hampton at the end of September.
Kennesaw State (192) is the only team to eclipse the 150-yard passing mark this season since CSU's season-opening games against Florida and Elon. The list below showcased how the Bucs have stifled the opposition's passing over the last five games.
Team Passing vs. CSU (2018)
September 29 at Hampton – 38 yards
October 6 at Savannah State – 11 yards
October 13 vs. Virginia Lynchburg – 128 yards
October 20 vs. Presbyterian – 91 yards
October 27 vs. Kennesaw State – 192 yards
The Bucs have faced only two of the top pass-catching threats in the conference this season, but that number will change heading into the final three weeks of the year. None are bigger than Monmouth's Reggie White.
The senior wide receiver boasts a 6-3, 210-pound frame that has made him one of the most feared pass-catchers in Big South history. Borrowing from Big South Associate Commissioner Mark Simpson's notes from this week's conference report, "Monmouth senior WR Reggie White Jr. is on the cusp of another Big South career record, as he needs 109 receiving yards to become the league's all-time leader. The Big South's all-time receptions leader with 231, a record he achieved in Week 8, White is second in conference annals with 3,062 yards and approaching the career mark of 3,170 set by Liberty's Darrin Peterson from 2012-15. White owns five career 10-reception games, the second-most in Big South history behind Charleston Southern's Maurice Price's record total of eight, and is tied for fifth with 26 career touchdown grabs."
White has not seen much success against the Bucs over the last three seasons totaling nine catches for 86 yards. The Bucs limited the Randallstown, Md. native to one catch for negative-three yards in their last matchup in West Long Branch.
CSU's success against the pass will face a stiff test over the next three weeks as they take on eight of the top 10 receiving threats in the conference this season. Along with White, Lonnie Moore (42.3 ypg) and Vinny Grasso (31.4 ypg) sit among the conference's leaders.
Here's the top-10 breakdown and how they've faced against the Bucs this year.
Big South Top 10 Receiving Threats vs. CSU
1. Reggie White Jr., Monmouth – 102.8 ypg
2. Caleb Snead, Campbell – 81.0 ypg
3. Keith Pearson, Presbyterian – 61.7 ypg – 3 catches, 28 yards
4. Aaron Blockmon, Campbell – 60.8 ypg
5. DaShawn Davis, Presbyterian – 52.3 ypg – 5 catches, 36 yards, 1 TD
6. Kyle Horton, Gardner-Webb – 46.0 ypg
7. Lonnie Moore, Monmouth – 42.3 ypg
8. Jonathan Blackmon, Gardner-Webb – 36.5 ypg
9. Vinny Grasso, Monmouth – 31.4 ypg
10. Braylin Collins, Gardner-Webb – 28.1 ypg
Allen is 10th in the country and second in the Big South averaging 1.4 passes defended per game. He also boasts a pair of pick-sixes, including a 100-yard return this past weekend against Kennesaw State, to go with a trio of three pass break-up games. Slaton recorded his first pick-six of the season against Presbyterian and had a three pass breakup contest in the season opener against Florida.
The duo is joined by senior safeties Brandon Rowland and Shadarius Hopkins who have proven their tackling ability is par-none among the conference's defensive leaders. Rowland leads the Big South's defensive backs with 6.3 stops per game, while Hopkins is third with 6.1 tackles. Hopkins also leads the conference with a pair of forced fumbles and earned Defensive Player of the Week recognition for his 16-tackle game against Elon.
CSU's ability to deter opponent passing games will play a key role in Saturday's contest as the Buccaneers will also look to control the game through its rushing attack against a strong opponent.
Establishing the Run against the Monmouth Run Defense
Monmouth's run defense has been a tough nut to crack for nearly every single team this season. The Hawks enter Saturday's contest allowing just two opponents to rush for more than 100 yards this season and have limited their last four opponents to a combined 232 rushing yards (58.0 ypg).
Nationally, the Hawks rank 12th in FCS in run defense allowing just 103.0 yards per game on the season. Their four-game streak of holding opponents under 100 yards rushing is the second-longest streak in Big South history and is the longest streak since Stony Brook achieved the mark in 2011.
Monmouth's rush defense has gotten even stingier in Big South Conference play allowing just 96 combined rushing yards to Campbell (54) and Presbyterian (42). Below is the Hawks' rushing marks in holding opponents under 100 yards on the ground in 2018.
Hawks Defense Under 100
Sept. 8 vs. Hampton – 29 carries, 90 yards, 1 TD
Sept. 15 at Lafayette – 27 carries, 48 yards, 1 TD
Sept. 29 vs. Wagner – 31 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD
Oct. 13 vs. Bucknell – 30 carries, 77 yards, 1 TD
Oct. 20 vs. Campbell – 22 carries, 54 yards, 1 TD
Oct. 27 at Presbyterian – 27 carries, 42 yards
Opponents have found success in the air against Monmouth (285.5 ypg), but for the Buccaneers to take control of the game on Saturday, CSU will need to establish the run once again against the Hawks. As seen below, CSU has been successful on the ground against the Monmouth defense in the past.
CSU Rushing Against Monmouth
Nov. 1, 2014 – CSU W, 27-0 – 338 rushing yards, 3 TD
Oct. 10, 2015 – CSU W, 37-7 – 275 rushing yards, 5 TD
Sept. 24, 2016 – CSU W, 35-7 – 322 rushing yards, 3 TD
Oct. 28, 2017 – MU W, 23-20 – 130 rushing, 1 TD
CSU's lone loss in the all-time series against the Hawks has come in the only game Monmouth limited the Bucs' option attack.
The Bucs offense in 2018 has been able to go big on the ground at times this season evidenced by five 50-plus yard rushes. Ronnie Harris picked up his second 50-plus carry on the Bucs' opening drive against Kennesaw State this past weekend that led to a CSU field goal early in the contest.
The Hawks have yet to give up a 50-plus yard carry in 2018 with Princeton's Trey Gray picking up the longest run of the season against the Monmouth defense. Gray went 41 yards in the September 22 contest in Princeton's 51-9 victory.
CSU has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in six of its seven games this season and has hit 220-plus rushing yards four times on the year. Terrence Wilson (339), Ronnie Harris (306), and London Johnson (306) comprise the primary trio in CSU's option attack. They will look to get off the ground against the Monmouth defense and continue the Bucs' success on the ground as CSU enters the weekend sitting 30th in FCS averaging 203.1 yards per game.
Special Teams Battles – Kickers Can Hit
As evidenced by last season's battle, the game between Charleston Southern and Monmouth can come down to the wire. Luckily for both coaches, the teams boast two of the top placekickers in the Big South Conference.
CSU's Tyler Tekac (8-for-10, Long of 46) and Monmouth's Matt Mosquera (7-for-9, Long of 49) have consistently been the top kickers among the Big South this season and boast the two highest field goal percentages on the year.
Distance has not bothered both kickers on the year. Tekac is 5-for-5 from 30-39 yards and 3-for-4 from 40-49 yards on the season. He has shown a strong leg capable of hitting from 50. Mosquera is 3-for-3 from 40-49 yards on the year. However, he has struggled from the mid-range converting only one of his three attempts from 30-39 yards.
Last season, Mosquera's 35-yard field goal attempt was the difference in Monmouth's 23-20 win. If the game is on the line this year, both coaches can have confidence their kicker is up to the task.