CSU vs. Wofford Game NotesSeptember 7, 2007
By CSU Sports Information
The Buccaneers head on the road for a second consecutive week to open the season, this time traveling upstate to battle the #14 Wofford Terriers at Gibbs Stadium. CSU is looking to rebound from a 35-14 loss at The Citadel last week in which the Bulldogs out-gained the Bucs 419 yards to 161. The Wofford contest continues a difficult opening stretch of games for CSU during which the Bucs will play four out of five games on the road. The Terriers lead the all-time series between the schools 9-wins-to-0, with the last meeting coming on Sept. 22, 2001, a 35-10 Wofford victory. The Bucs need six victories to secure a third consecutive winning season.
CSU vs. Wofford Game Notes
CSU opened the 2007 campaign with a 35-14 loss at The Citadel, another Southern Conference opponent. The Bucs hung in the game until late in the fourth quarter despite being out-gained in yardage 419-161, in first downs 24-6 and time of possesion 37 minutes to 23. After going on a 7-play, 65-yard drive to open the third quarter capped by QB Eli Byrd’s 17-yard TD scamper, CSU trailed only 21-14, but the Bulldogs responded by recording the game’s final two scores. In his first collegiate start at quarterback, the redshirt-sophomore Byrd completed a 59-yard touchdown pass to sophomore WR Tim Jones on the team’s fourth offensive play of the game. Byrd finished 11-27 passing for 137 yards with one TD and one INT and also led the team with 28 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Byrd Taking Flight
Last week, redshirt sophomore Eli Byrd became the first signal-caller other than Collin Drafts to start under center for CSU since the second game of the 2003 season. Byrd had played quarterback one game in his redshirt freshman season of 2006, taking over for an injured Drafts in the second half of a loss at Liberty on November 11 and completing 8-of-13 passes for 71 yards with one TD and an INT. He also rushed the ball for a score late in that contest. The former football and basketball standout at Fletcher High School in Jacksonville, Florida saw time as a wide receiver in two games last season, totaling two catches for 13 yards and also a two-point conversion.
Redshirt junior Sidney Bryant serves as Byrd’s back-up. Bryant, the back-up to Drafts for each of the last two seasons, has appeared in 11 games in his career but totaled only 15 pass attempts. The Tampa, Florida native took snaps in four games last season and completed 6 of 10 passes for a total of 67 yards and a touchdown.
Who’s the Ross?
Redshirt senior linebacker Jada Ross, a preseason all-conference selection, continues to move closer to becoming the all-time leading tackler in Big South history. Ross, also a TSN second-team preseason all-american, now has 339 career stops following a team-high 16-tackle performance at The Citadel (11 solo). The Summerville, SC native is currently 9 tackles away from passing former Liberty LB Manny Rojas for second on the Big South all-time list. Former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer Jamar Leath heads the list with 364 career stops.
Redshirt senior Kenny Harper, the leading returning ball carrier for CSU this season, is questionable for Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. Harper, who rushed 100 times in 2006 for a total of 417 yards and five TDs, did see limited action against the Citadel but had only two touches (2 receptions for -3 yards.) Redshirt junior Alexius Ferguson, who has amassed 109 yards on 24 carries in two seasons as a back up, and transfer Michael Jefferson, who carried three times for -2 yards last week, are expected to share carries even if Harper is able to go.
In addition to Kenny Harper, several Bucs at key positions are banged up entering Saturday’s contest. On the offensive line, projected starters Zach Mitchell and J.W. Myers in addition to backup Wes Houston, are all likely out. On the defensive side of the ball, CSU has been hard hit by the injury bug. Senior Linebacker Josh Mitchell, fourth on the team in tackles in 2006, will miss the entire 2007 season. Redshirt senior LB Jonna Lee, second on the Bucs with 80 tackles last year, is out for at least the season’s first month. Senior cornerback Jon Carmon, who started all 11 games and led the Bucs with four interceptions last season, is also out for Saturday’s contest.
On the Road
Charleston Southern will open the 2007 season by playing four of its first five games away from CSU Stadium. The Bucs begin the campaign with games on the road against Southern Conferences foes The Citadel and Wofford, two teams each receiving national recognition in the polls heading into the season (The Citadel is receiving votes while Wofford is ranked #14 in TSN’s Football Championship Subdivision Poll). After a home match up against Johnson C. Smith September 15, CSU heads back on the road for a clash against Hawaii, a Football Bowl Subdivision foe currently ranked #20 by the AP, and then finishes the tough stretch with a date at North Greenville. The Bucs will finish the season with four of their final six games at home.
The Ultimate Warrior
Redshirt junior Josh Warrior, only two years removed from a serious back injury that forced him to miss the entire 2005 season, has turned himself into one of the top secondary players in the Big South. In his first game of the season against The Citadel, Warrior forced finished with 10 tackles (6 solo) in addition to one sack and a forced fumble. The Orange Park, Florida native took over the starting “Spur” defensive position at the end of the 2007 season and recorded 1.5 sacks in the penultimate game at Liberty.
Moving on up!
Redshirt sophomore running back Michael Jefferson has made an immediate impact in his first season after transferring from Carson-Newman College. Jefferson has impressed during practice and risen near the top of the depth chart in a short time since becoming eligible to participate this summer. The former Wando High School standout, who was that school’s Homecoming King in 2004, also serves as CSU’s main kickoff return man. Jefferson redshirted at Carson-Newman in 2005 but never played a down.
The Bucs placed six players on the Big South’s Preseason All-Conference Team, led by four members of Coach Darrell Perkins’ defense. Seniors Dennis Justiniani, Jada Ross and C.J. Hirschman in addition to redshirt junior Okeba Rollinson were all selected to the list that was voted on by coaches, media members and sports information directors. Senior center Rick Howell, the leader of the Bucs offensive line, was the lone member of the CSU offense selected to the team, while senior kicker Nick Ellis was voted as the place kicker for the All-Conference unit.
Drafts Day No More
Four-year starting quarterback Collin Drafts, no longer the signal caller for the Bucs, has returned to the CSU program as an assistant coach working with the QBs. Drafts, a three-time All-Conference selection and the school’s all-time leader in passing and total offense, recently finished his first professional season as a back up for the Tri-Cities (Wa.) Fever of the Arena Football 2 League. The Beaufort, SC native started the final two games of the 2007 season behind center for the Fever, including a playoff contest, because of an injury to the starting signal caller. In two impressive starts, Drafts combined to complete 40-of-71 pass attempts for 488 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Maurice Price, CSU’s all-time leading receiver and an AP and TSN All-American in 2006, decided to leave the Bucs prior to his senior season and turn professional. Though going undrafted, Price signed a free agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs and was having a strong training camp before injuring his shoulder in mid-August. The Chiefs have placed the Orlando, Florida native on injured reserve, meaning he will miss the entire 2007 season. Price caught 202 passes in three seasons with the Bucs, totaling 2,429 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Reaching New Heights
In addition to winning a school-record nine games in 2006, the Bucs established many school firsts last season. CSU football compiled a 14-game overall winning streak dating back to the final five games of the ‘05 campaign, the longest overall winning streak in Big South history and second longest in the nation last season (the University of San Diego had an 18-game streak). With nine victories, CSU broke the school record for wins in a season for a second consecutive year, besting the seven-win total for 2005.
Run of the Mills
Head Coach Jay Mills is in his fifth season as the head coach at CSU and currently holds a career record of 22-23. Under his leadership, the Bucs program has improved every season - going from one win in 2003 to five in 2004, then to seven victories and a Big South championship in 2005. Last season, CSU opened the campaign 9-0 before losses at Liberty and at Coastal Carolina left the team with a 9-2 mark, the best in school history.
Change of Hart
The Bucs will no longer have the services of punter Hart Pearson, who decided not to return to the team this fall for personal reasons. Pearson, who averaged 37.7 yards per punt in 27 attempts last season, was the team’s number one punter the past two years. Punting duties have fallen to Preseason All-Conference place kicker Nick Ellis, who is no stranger to the job. Ellis served as CSU’s top punter his freshman season in 2004, averaging 33.7 yards per punt over 43 kicks. Through one game this season, Ellis is averaging 37.5 yards per punt in 10 attempts.
Scouting the terriers
Wofford enters Saturday’s contest at 1-0 and ranked #14 in the Sports Network’s FCS poll following a 38-21 victory over NAIA opponent Georgetown College (Ky.) Saturday at Gibbs Stadium. The Terriers rushed for 401 yards in the contest, including 66 yards and two TDs from senior quarterback Josh Collier.
Collier leads the Wofford attack behind center, while running back Kevious Johnson spearheads a monster wingbone running game that has become a staple of Head Coach Mike Ayers. In week one this season, the Terriers ran 71 offensive plays, 57 of which were rushing attempts. Johnson, who carried for 94 yards and a TD in the Georgetown contest, is fourth in school history in career all-purpose yards.
Ayers, now in his 19th season in Spartanburg, has compiled 124 victories with the Terriers program. Wofford has won six straight games dating back to last season, in which the squad won its final five games following a 14-7 loss at eventual national champion Appalachian State on October 14.