CSU vs. VMI Game NotesNovember 1, 2007
By CSU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Buccaneers take a third crack at a Big South victory with a match-up against the VMI Keydets Saturday afternoon at Foster Stadium in Lexington, Va. CSU (3-5, 0-2 Big South) has dropped its first two conference contests this season including a 29-25 heartbreaker at first-place Gardner-Webb last week.
VMI (2-6, 0-2 Big South) is also winless in the conference but has held a lead with under seven minutes remaining in each of its Big South contests. The Keydets possess the nation’s fourth-leading rushing attack with an average of 293 yards per game on the ground. CSU, which is playing its final road game of the season, will be looking for its first-ever win at Foster Stadium where in three previous losses the team has been outscored by a total of 124-26. The Bucs need victories in their final three contests to secure a third consecutive winning season.
CSU vs. VMI Game Notes
CSU and VMI are meeting for the sixth straight season, five of which will have come since the Keydets joined the Big South in 2003. VMI leads the all-time series 4-wins-to-2, which also includes a meeting between the teams in 2000. The Bucs lost the first three meetings between the schools by a combined score of 117-38, but have won two of the last three affairs (25-24 in ‘04 and 27-22 in ‘06.) The Keydets are 3-0 against Charleston Southern at home, but only 1-2 when playing at CSU Stadium. Since the arrival of Head Coach Jay Mills in 2003, CSU has a 2-2 record against VMI.
Duvaughn Flagler’s 11-yard TD catch with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter catapulted the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs past CSU 29-25 in a Big South match-up last Saturday in Boiling Springs, N.C. In a game that featured four second-half lead changes, the final one belonged to GWU and upstaged a solid second half performance from CSU back-up QB Sydney Bryant playing in place of the injured Eli Byrd.
Byrd continued to struggle with a shoulder injury that has forced him out of large portions of the last three games and was pulled late in the second quarter with CSU trailing 12-10. Bryant led the Bucs on two TD drives in the second half, capping the first with a nine-yard strike to Ryan Ard that gave CSU an 18-15 lead. Then after GWU’s freshman RB Patrick Hall scored his second TD of the night, Bryant connected with Vernon Huger on a five-yard TD pass to give CSU its final lead at 25-22 with 11:43 left.
Following Flagler’s go-ahead score, CSU drove the ball to the Gardner-Webb 46-yard line where Bryant was intercepted by all-conference LB Mario Brown with 3:48 remaining to seal the victory. GWU improved to 2-0 in conference while the Bucs fell to 0-2.
SECOND HALF STRUGGLES
Through eight games this season, CSU has been outscored in the second half 149-84 by its opponents, including 71-45 in the fourth quarter. During the Bucs’ five losses, opponents have outscored CSU by a whopping 123-25 after halftime (including 65-7 in the fourth quarter.) In CSU’s three victories, the Bucs are outscoring opponents 59-26 in the second half (and 38-6 in the final period.)
THE DEFENSE RESTS
Aside from a commanding performance against Savannah State on Oct. 6, CSU’s defense has struggled this season. The Bucs are currently allowing an average of 36 points per game (101st in the nation out of 116 FCS teams) and 387 total yards per game (79th/116) through the first eight contests.
Against Savannah State, the Bucs D permitted a total of 66 yards and no points while holding the Tigers to five first downs. That is the only game, however, that CSU has held its opponent to fewer than three touchdowns scored. In their five losses, the Buccaneers are allowing an average of 46 ppg (232 total points) and 451 ypg (2,253 total yards.)
WHO’S THE ROSS?
Redshirt senior linebacker Jada Ross is currently 13th in the nation in tackles per game (11.0/gm). Ross, who became the Big South’s all-time leading tackler at Hawai’i on Sept. 22, surpassed 400 career stops Oct.20 against Liberty. He now has 411 career tackles, 47 more than former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer LB Jamar Leath (364 from ‘03-’06).
The Summerville, SC native was named a preseason all-conference selection and a TSN second-team preseason all-American before the start of the campaign. Ross has led the Bucs in tackles in six of the team’s eight games this season (16 at The Citadel, 11 at Wofford, 10 at Hawai’i, 9 at North Greenville, 13 vs. Savannah St., 17 vs. Liberty).
BYRD IN FLIGHT
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Eli Byrd has started the first eight 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 leading the Big South and ranking 43rd in the nation in total offense (206 yards/gm), has completed 125-of-220 passes this season for 1,412 yards and 10 TDs (also 11 INTs). He is also second on the Bucs with 239 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. 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 17 games during his three-year career (including 6 this season) but has not made a start.
The Tampa, Florida native had totaled only 30 career pass attempts in his first 14 games played before throwing a combined 68 passes the last three weeks in relief of the injured Byrd against Savannah State, Liberty and Gardner-Webb. In those games Bryant has completed 40-of-68 attempts for 401 yards, with three TD passes and four INTs thrown.
Transfer WR Dee Brown has quickly become Eli Byrd’s favorite target this season. Brown, who has five TD receptions in the last five games, leads the Big South with 49 catches and is second with 580 receiving yards this season. CSU has had a WR lead the conference in receptions every year in Big South football history (five total seasons, since 2002).
The junior’s 13 receptions at Wofford on Sept. 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 single-game record, came in only his second game played with the Bucs after transferring from Garden City CC in Kansas.
Playing extensively in the CSU backfield as a true freshman, running back DeMarcus Moon has established himself as the team’s leading rusher through eight games. The McDonough, Georgia native has totaled a team-best 271 yards on 55 carries this season while averaging a team-best 4.9 yards per attempt. In the team’s Oct. 6th game against Savannah State, Moon topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career, carrying 16 times for 103 yards in the contest.
CSU has been hard hit by the injury bug this season, but the Bucs are about as close to full strength heading to VMI as they’ve been since the season opener.
Quarterback Eli Byrd suffered a bruised right shoulder against Savannah State Oct. 6 and has missed large portions of the last three games, but he is expected to start against GWU. Sophomore RB Michael Jefferson, who has only two carries since his breakout 104-yard effort against Johnson C. Smith Sept. 15 and has missed four straight games, remains questionable for VMI because of an ankle injury.
Senior running back Kenny Harper, who played sparingly in three games this year, suffered a season-ending injury at North Greenville Sept. 29. On the offensive line, projected starters entering the season Zach Mitchell, J.W. Myers and Jordan Lancaster are all out for the year.
On the defensive side, CSU returned one of its top linebackers when redshirt senior Jonna Lee suited up for the first time this season against Liberty on Oct. 20. Lee, second on the Bucs with 80 tackles last year, missed the first six games in 2007 but has already contributed 15 stops in his two games back.
Senior safety C.J. Hirschman returned to the starting line-up at Gardner-Webb after playing sparingly the previous two games with an ankle injury. Senior LB Josh Mitchell, fourth on the team in tackles in 2006, will miss the entire 2007 season.
HOLD ONTO THAT BALL!
CSU’s offense has been hurt by the turnover bug this season, with the team currently averaging 3.3 TO’s per contest. The Bucs have turned the ball over at least twice in every game, including two contests with five turnovers (at Wofford 9.8 and vs. Liberty 10.20).
Of the team’s Big South-leading 26 turnovers, 19 have been on interceptions. QB Eli Byrd leads the conference with 11 interceptions thrown, while back-up Sidney Bryant is tied for second in the Big South with six picks thrown. No other Big South squad has committed more than 17 turnovers this season. CSU is currently 97th out of 116 FCS teams in turnover margin (-1.00/gm).
Redshirt senior Kenny Harper, the leading returning ball carrier for CSU this season, played sparingly in ‘07 because of injury and will miss the remainder of the campaign. Harper, who rushed 100 times for 417 yards and five TDs in 2006, had only three carries for 20 yards this season.
True freshman DeMarcus Moon (55 rush, 271 yds) heads a committee of running backs besides Harper to see action for the Bucs thus far this season. Moon has been joined in the backfield by redshirt junior Alexius Ferguson (54 rush, 164 yds), transfer Michael Jefferson (23 rush, 110 yds) and redshirt sophomore Reggie Ellington (12 rush, 37 yds). CSU is only 102nd out of 116 FCS teams in rushing yardage this season (107 rush ypg).
NICK THE KICK
With 51 points this season, redshirt senior PK Nick Ellis now has 203 career points. Last week at Garnder-Webb, Ellis became the fifth player in Big South history with at least 200 career points. Also with 119 career extra points made, Ellis has moved into second place in the Big South annals, but is still 59 away from passing Coastal Carolina’s Josh Hoke for the top spot in conference history (177). The Stockbridge, GA native is 31-34 on kicks this season (10-13 FGs and 21-21 PATs).
THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR
Redshirt junior DB 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. The Orange Park, Florida native is second on the Bucs with 58 tackles this season (7.3/gm.) A big playmaker for the CSU defense, Warrior leads the team with two forced fumbles and is tied for the top spot with three interceptions, while he is second on the squad with 6.0 tackles for loss.
The Bucs 29-25 loss at Gardner-Webb last week represented the team’s first close game this season, as the team’s previous closest contest was a 13-point margin at N. Greenville Sept. 29th. CSU’s three victories have come by an average of 22 points (65 total pts.) while the squad’s five losses are by an average of 30 points (149 total pts.)
TRY TO KEEP ‘EM CLOSE
The Bucs have had remarkable success in close games (games decided by eight points or fewer) since Jay Mills took over as head coach in 2003. CSU is 10-4 in such games under Mills, including 3-2 in close Big South contests. In games decided by more than eight points under Mills, the Buccaneers are only 15-23 overall including 2-11 in conference match-ups.
LONG ROAD TO HOE
As is usually the case in college football, CSU has found the going difficult when it plays away from home. In now six seasons of Big South football, the Bucs have only one conference road victory, at Gardner-Webb on Nov. 5, 2005. CSU is 1-9 all-time in Big South road contests (and 5-6 at home.)
With its victory at North Greenville on Sept. 29, CSU snapped a five-game road losing streak that dated back to 11.11.06 at Liberty. CSU is only 7-18 in road games under Jay Mills, while the squad is 18-9 at home during Mills’ five-year tenure. The Bucs have only one road contest remaining this season (this week at VMI).
Three of this season’s four road losses have come against teams currently receiving national attention in the polls. CSU began the campaign with road games against Southern Conferences foes The Citadel and Wofford (The Citadel is receiving votes in TSN’s FCS Poll while Wofford is ranked #10), and later traveled to play Hawaii, an FBS opponent currently ranked #12 by the A.P.
HITTING SOME MILESTONES
-Sophomore QB Eli Byrd established new single-game Big South records for completions (34) and pass attempts (54) Sept. 29 at North Greenville. Byrd also totaled 398 passing yards in the contest, the third-most in a single game in conference history. In only his second season, Eli has already tied for eighth in Big South history with 11 career TD passes.
-Junior WR Markus Murry returned from injury Sept. 29 at North Greenville and caught six passes for 88 yards to become the 15th player in Big South history with 1,000 career receiving yards. Murry (1,117 career yards) is the fourth Buc to accomplish that feat, tying CSU with Gardner-Webb for the most players on the 1,000 yards receiving list in Big South history.
CSU had its 12-game home winning streak snapped with its loss to Liberty on Oct. 20. The streak, which began Oct. 15, 2005 against West Virginia Wesleyan, was the third-longest in the nation at the time it ended and matched the longest home run in Big South history. Coastal Carolina also won 12 consecutive home games from 9.11.04 through 11.12.05.
Redshirt junior running back Alexius Ferguson has established himself as one of CSU’s primary ball-handlers in 2007 after serving as a back-up the previous two years. Ferguson had 43 total carries over three seasons before getting 22 rushes for 92 yards and a TD at North Greenville Sept. 29. He also recovered a fumble for the go-ahead score late in that contest. Ferguson is second on the Bucs in all-purpose yards (551), first in return yards (270) and third on the team in rushing yards (164) .
MOVIN’ ON UP!
Redshirt sophomore running back Michael Jefferson made an immediate impact in his first season after transferring to CSU from Carson-Newman College. In only his third collegiate game, Jefferson rushed for 104 yards and three TDs on 15 carries against Johnson C. Smith on Sept. 15. The former Wando High School standout (in nearby Mt. Pleasant, S.C.), who was that school’s Homecoming King in 2004, redshirted at Carson-Newman in 2005 but never played a down. He has been limited by an ankle injury to only two carries in the team’s five games since the J.C. Smith contest.
VS. FBS OPPONENTS
After losing at Hawai’i Sept. 22, CSU has 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
VS. NON D-I OPPONENTS
Including wins this season against Johnson C. Smith and North Greenville, the Bucs have won eight straight games against non-Division I opponents dating back to the 2005 season (seven against Division II schools and one against NAIA opposition). The team’s last loss to a non-Div. I opponent came on 9.10.05 at home to Division II Presbyterian. CSU is 12-6 under Jay Mills against non-Div. I opposition (and 13-19 against D-I schools).
SCOUTING THE KEYDETS
VMI enters Saturday’s contest at 2-6 (0-2 Big South) following a 42-35 loss at Coastal Carolina last Saturday. Coach Jim Reid’s squad has squandered a late lead in each of its conference losses.
The Keydets led Coastal 35-28 with just under seven minutes remaining, but the Chanticleers scored the game’s final 14 points on two TDs in a span of 3:49 to earn the come-from-behind victory. In its first Big South game vs. Gardner-Webb, VMI led 22-21 with just over five minutes remaining, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs scored the game’s final 15 points on two TDs in a span of 2:15 to get the win.
The Keydets, picked fifth in the preseason Big South poll, are 1-3 at home this season and 1-3 on the road. VMI boasts the nation’s fourth-best rushing attack at an average of 293 yards per game on the ground and are on pace to set a new conference record for rushing yards in a season. Sophomore FB Howard Abegesah leads the squad and all Big South players with 883 rushing yards this season (110 ypg).
Sophomore QB Kyle Hughes is averaging only 87 passing yards per game, but is second on the team with 389 rushing yards (49/gm). Head coach Reid is in his 2nd season at the helm for VMI, and thus far has only three victories at the school (3-16 record.)
Because of solid performances against Savannah State Oct. 6th, the Big South named senior DB Josh Warrior the conference’s defensive player of the week and senior K Nick Ellis the Big South special teams player of the week. Warrior recorded three tackles for loss (including a tackle of the opposing punter for the second straight game) and his third interception of the season in the shutout win. Ellis kicked a career-high four FGs during the victory, matching a conference record for the most FG made in a game.
After CSU’s Sept. 15th victory against Johnson C. Smith, sophomore DB Philip Ashley was named the Big South defensive player of the week while freshman RB DeMarcus Moon earned conference 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, 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 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.
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 25-27. Until this season, the Bucs program has improved every season under his leadership, 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.