CSU vs. North Greenville Game NotesSeptember 27, 2007
By CSU Sports Information
The Buccaneers finish a difficult opening stretch of road games Saturday night with a match-up against the Division II Independent North Greenville Crusaders at Younts Stadium. CSU (1-3), coming off a 66-10 loss to FBS opponent Hawai’i last week, will be playing away from home for the fourth time out of fi ve games this season.
This will be the seventh straight season that CSU and North Greenville meet on the gridiron, with the Bucs having won the last three games head to head. CSU leads the all-time series between the schools 6-wins-to-1, with its lone loss to the Crusaders coming in 2003. North Greenville (1-3), coming off its fi rst victory of the season against Edward Waters last Saturday, enters the week ranked 7th in Division II in total offense. The Bucs need five more victories to secure a third consecutive winning season.
CSU vs. North Greenville Game Notes
After leading by only 11 points at halftime and playing without injured Heisman Trophy candidate Colt Brennan, the 19th-ranked Hawai’i Warriors flexed their muscle in the second half and outscored Charleston Southern 45-0 over the final two quarters en route to a 66-10 victory at Aloha Stadium last Saturday. The Buccaneers (1-3) played a solid opening half in the program’s first-ever match-up against a ranked FBS opponent, and found themselves trailing 21-10 at the intermission.
But the Warriors (4-0, 1-0 WAC) scored two touchdowns in the first 1:12 of the third quarter, as Ryan Mouton returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a score and three plays later Adam Leonard returned an interception 36 yards for a TD, quickly putting Hawai’i in front 35-10. LB Jada Ross recorded 10 tackles and to lead the CSU defense, and in the process passed Coastal Carolina’s Jamar Leath to become the Big South’s all-time career tackles leader.
Long Road to Hoe
With an 0-3 road record this season, CSU has now lost five consecutive away games dating back to 2006. The Bucs last road victory came 10.7.06 at Savannah State. CSU is only 6-17 in road games under Jay Mills, while the squad is 17-8 at home during Mills’ tenure.
This season’s trips have been difficult ones - as CSU began the campaign with games against Southern Conferences foes The Citadel and Wofford, two teams each receiving national recognition in the polls (The Citadel is receiving votes while Wofford is ranked #8 in TSN’s FCS Poll). CSU also traveled to play Hawaii, an FBS opponent currently ranked #19 by the A.P. Following this week’s game at North Greenville, the Bucs will finish the season with four of their final six games at home, with the two lone road games coming at Gardner-Webb and VMI.
Second Half Struggles
CSU is being outscored 89-30 by its opponents in the second half of games this season, including 41-6 in the fourth quarter. Hawai’i outscored the Bucs 45-0 in the second half last week.
vs. division ii opponents...
Including this season’s win against Johnson C. Smith, the Bucs have won six straight games against Division II opponents dating back to the 2005 season. The team’s last loss to a Division II school came on 9.10.05 at home to Presbyterian. CSU is 9-6 under Jay Mills against Division II opposition (and 14-19 against all others.)
After the Sept. 15th victory against Johnson C. Smith, the Bucs have won 11 consecutive home games dating back to the 2005 season, one shy of matching the longest home winning streak in Big South history. The team’s last home loss came against Howard on 10.1.05. Coastal Carolina won 12 consecutive home games from 9.11.04 through 11.12.05.
Who’s the Ross?
Redshirt senior linebacker Jada Ross, currently 16th in the nation in tackles this season, became the Big South’s all-time leading tackler with a team-leading 10-stop performance against Hawai’i last week.
Ross, a preseason all-conference selection and a TSN second-team preseason all-American, now has 367 career tackles, three more than former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer LB Jamar Leath. The Summerville, SC native has led the Bucs in tackles in three of the team’s four games this season (11 at Wofford, 16 at The Citadel, 10 at Hawai’i).
Byrd in Flight
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Eli Byrd has started the first four contests behind center for the Bucs in 2007, making him CSU’s first starting QB other than Collin Drafts since the beginning of the 2003 season. Byrd, currently 1st in the Big South and 41st in the nation in total offense (216.5 yards/gm), has completed 70-of-133 passes this season for 769 yards and five TDs (also seven INTs). He is also third on the team with 97 rushing yards.
Byrd had played QB only one game in his career entering the season, taking over for an injured Drafts in the second half of a loss at Liberty on Nov. 11, 2006. That afternoon he completed 8-of-13 passes for 71 yards with one TD pass in addition to one rushing score. 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 at quarterback. Bryant, who backed up Drafts for each of the last two seasons, has appeared in 14 games during his three-year career (3 this season) but totaled only 30 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.
Redshirt senior Kenny Harper, the leading returning ball carrier for CSU this season, has played sparingly in the first four games of ‘07 because of a shoulder injury. Harper, who rushed 100 times for 417 yards and five TDs in 2006, has only two carries for four yards in this season. He has also compiled 4 receptions for 21 yards.
Redshirt junior Alexius Ferguson, who has amassed 151 career yards on 43 carries over three seasons, is part of a committee of running backs besides Harper to see action for the Bucs thus far this season. Ferguson (19 rush, 42 yds) has been joined in the backfield by transfers Michael Jefferson (23 rush, 110 yds) and Dee Brown (7 rush, 4 yds) along with true freshman DeMarcus Moon (17 rush, 101 yds).
CSU is only 107th out of 116 FCS teams in rushing yardage this season (83.5 rush ypg).
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 impressed during fall practice and has risen near the top of the RB depth chart in a short time since becoming eligible to participate this past summer. In only his third collegiate game, Jefferson rushed for 104 yards and three TDs on 15 carries against Johnson C. Smith on 9.15.
The former Wando High School standout (in nearby Mt. Pleasant, S.C.), who was that school’s Homecoming King in 2004, also serves as one of CSU’s main kickoff returners. Jefferson redshirted at Carson-Newman in 2005 but never played a down.
Banged up Bucs
CSU has been hard hit by the injury bug this season. Several Bucs at key positions are banged up entering Saturday’s contest, many on the offensive side of the ball where several projected starters are questionable for the game.
The receiving corps has been hardest hit, with the team’s leading returning WR from last season Markus Murry, in addition to big -play threats Tim Jones and Vernon Huger all questionable for Saturday due to injury. Murry and Huger have missed the last two games, while Jones was limited at Hawai’i with an ankle problem.
Senior running back Kenny Harper has missed two straight games with an injury and is questionable this for week, while sophomore RB Michael Jefferson continues to be bothered by an ankle injury but is expected to play. On the offensive line, projected starters Zach Mitchell, J.W. Myers and Jordan Lancaster are all out for the contest.
On the defensive side, CSU is potentially missing three of its top linebackers. Senior LB Josh Mitchell, fourth on the team in tackles in 2006, will miss the entire 2007 season, while redshirt senior LB Jonna Lee, second on the Bucs with 80 tackles last year, is out for at least the season’s first month. Redshirt freshman LB Chris Patrick, sixth on the team with 14 tackles this season, missed the Hawai’i game and is questionable for this week as well.
-Junior WR Markus Murry, who has missed the last two games, needs only 49 yards to become the 12th player in Big South history with 1,000 career receiving yards.
-Senior PK Nick Ellis, who is a perfect 14-14 on kicks this season (3-3 FGs and 11-11 PATs), is now 3rd in Big South history with 109 career extra points. Ellis needs nine more PATs to move into second place all-time, but is still 69 away from passing Coastal Carolina’s Josh Hoke for the top spot in conference history (177).
WR Dee Brown has become Eli Byrd’s favorite target in recent weeks. Brown, who caught a 57-yard TD pass at Hawai’i last week, leads CSU and all Big South players with 24 catches this season. CSU has had a WR lead the conference in receptions every year in Big South football history (since 2002).
The junior’s 13 receptions at Wofford 9.8 tied a school record for most catches in a game, also held by Maurice Price and the late Eddie Gadson. Brown’s 13 grabs, only one shy of matching a Big South all-time record, came in only his second game played with the Bucs after transferring from Garden City CC in Kansas.
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. Warrior has intercepted a pass in each of the past two games for CSU against Johnson C. Smith and Hawai’i. In his first game of the season against The Citadel, Warrior finished with 10 tackles in addition to one sack and a forced fumble. The Orange Park, Florida native is second on the Bucs with 24 tackles this season.
After solid performances against Johnson C. Smith Sept. 15, sophomore DB Philip Ashley was named the Big South defensive player of the week while freshman RB DeMarcus Moon earned Big South freshman of the week honors. Ashley returned a blocked field goal 68 yards for a TD against the Golden Bulls (the first blocked FG TD for CSU since 10.18.98), while Moon rushed for 74 yards and a TD on seven fourth-qaurter carries.
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, S.C. 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.
Scouting the Crusaders
North Greenville enters Saturday’s contest at 1-3 after a 42-28 win at Edward Waters last week. The team lost its first three games of the season including two at home, but both of those home losses came against currently undefeated opponents (UVA-Wise (4-0) and Newberry (4-0)).
Head Coach Mike Taylor is in his fourth season during his second stint at the helm of the Crusaders program (8th total), and he runs one of the top offenses in Division II year-in and year-out. Through four games this season, North Greenville is 7th in the nation in total offense (490 ypg), 16th in rushing offense (240 rush ypg) and 31st in passing offense (250 pass ypg) (out of 144 Div. II teams.)
After losing to CSU 20-10 on 9.30 last season, North Greenville won its final seven games in 2006 including a victory in the Victory Bowl and finished with the program’s best-ever record at 10-2. The Crusaders have been a first-half team this season, having outscored opponents 86-53 in the first two quarters through four games. However, North Greenville is being outscored by opponents 96-48 in the second half, including 39-7 in the third quarter.
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.
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 23-25. 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.
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.
Against FBS Opponents...
After losing at Hawai’i, CSU has now played four games against FBS competition (Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A) in program history. Below is a list of CSU’s games against FBS opponents.
Date Opponent Conference Result
Nov. 21, 1996 @UAB Independent L 49-13
Nov. 2, 2002 @South Florida Independent L 56-6
Oct. 18, 2003 @South Florida Conf. USA L 55-7
Sept. 22, 2007 @#19 Hawai’i WAC L 66-10