CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern kicks off its 2016 home schedule on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. against Kentucky State. Fans who are unable to attend the game can watch on the Big South Network via csusports.com, with Kevin O'Rourke and former CSU quarterback Danny Croghan III on the call.
CSU (0-1) measured itself against the FCS' premier program last Saturday at North Dakota State, pushing the Bison to overtime in front of an ESPN audience before falling, 24-17. Now, the Bucs will see if they have fully turned their attention forward for a Kentucky State squad led by coaching veteran John L. Smith. The Thorobreds, a Division II program out of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will be playing their first game under Smith with a largely new roster.
The Bucs handled the build-up to the FCS Kickoff with aplomb and coach Jamey Chadwell and his staff hopes they can do the same to be dialed in for game two of eleven.
"That's been our challenge is to get our guys over last week," Chadwell said. "It's over so now let's go forward and improve. Coming off the game we had between the physicality of it and the time we got back, there's some things working against you. The sign of a good team is to put your focus where it needs to be and come out and play the way you're capable so that's been our message."
Kentucky State went 3-7 last season but did have a competitive 35-20 loss to Hampton University to start the year. KSU returns starting quarterback Ora Johnson and tailback Reginal Harris on offense, as well as its three leading receivers. Senior safety Travon Spencer, who has totaled close to 200 tackles in his career, leads a largely new-look defense.
Smith sports a long track record as a head coach, with stops at Idaho, Utah State, Louisville, Michigan State, Arkansas and Fort Lewis College. He posted an 11-win season at Louisville in 2001 and has piloted teams to six bowl games.
"He's been a lot of places and been successful so he's going to have his guys ready to win and they're going to be expecting to do that so we can't go in thinking we can go through the motions," Chadwell said. "I've been at D-II so I know what he's telling his guys as far as us being ripe for an upset off some of the accolades we're getting off the last game. We've got to make sure we come out and do our job."
CSU is 15-2 at Buccaneer Field during Chadwell's tenure and has won seven straight home games dating back to November of 2014. The Bucs were a perfect 6-0 at home last year, including a playoff win over The Citadel before a record crowd of 8,451 fans. CSU has won each of its three home openers under Chadwell, defeating Shorter, Point and North Greenville by an average margin of 29 points.
Nationally ranked Bucs
The first in-season editions of the FCS Coaches Poll and STATS FCS Poll come out on Monday so CSU sits No. 6/7 respectively in the two polls. CSU has been ranked for 22 weeks under Chadwell after being ranked for just one week in the program's first 22 years of existence.
Have yourself a day, Mike Holloway
Mike Holloway's 126-yard effort against North Dakota State marked the fourth 100-yard rushing day of his career. The senior gave CSU a third quarter lead with a brilliant 47-yard touchdown run and added a six-yard score to tie the game late in regulation. Holloway is just 333 yards shy of breaking the program's all-time rushing mark held by Christian Reyes (2,200 yards – 2013-14).
Blue Swarm at it again
CSU's defense turned in an excellent first half against the five-time defending FCS national champions. The Bucs pitched a shutout until the final play of the stanza while forcing a turnover, notching three sacks and holding the Bison's powerful attack to just 138 yards. In the second half, defensive coordinator Chad Staggs' unit came up with several critical stops to give the offense a chance to force overtime. Troy McGowens' interception gave CSU an opportunity to win in regulation.
Senior safeties and captains DJ Curl and Corbin Jackson paced the Bucs with nine tackles apiece. Curl also forced the fumble that led to CSU's first half field goal. Shadarius Hopkins and Solomon Brown each had eight stops. Anthony Ellis, the Big South Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, recorded four tackles and a sack.
Smoak and Burns help special teams
Jacob Smoak drilled a 46-yard field goal on his first attempt at CSU and nearly won the game with a 51-yarder that sailed wide left on the final play of regulation. Punter Truett Burns, meanwhile, was one of the unsung heroes of the night. Burns' 54-yard punt pinned NDSU at its own four-yard line with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter. CSU's defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, resulting in a short field for the Bucs' game-tying drive. Burns, a senior, placed another punt inside the 20 and averaged nearly 43 yards on six attempts.