Weekend Preview: Bucs host Point in 2017 home opener

Weekend Preview: Bucs host Point in 2017 home opener

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern makes its home debut this weekend as the Buccaneers host Point University on Saturday night under the lights at Buccaneer Field. Kickoff for the contest is set for 6 p.m. ET on the Big South Network.

It's a Blue Out in the Bucs' home opener as fans are encouraged to wear their CSU blue and support the Bucs at the contest against the Skyhawks. Saturday's game day sponsor is Raising Cane's.

CSU Notes | Point Notes | Big South Notes

Charleston Southern has posted a lifetime 6-0 record against current members of the Mid-South Conference. CSU has taken on three institutions in the Mid-South including Point, Edward Waters, and Bethel. The Bucs first took on Bethel in 1998 coming away with a 71-0 win over the Royals.

Since then, CSU has taken on Edward Waters (four times) and Point University. The Bucs won all four matchups against EWC with the latest coming in 2012 with a 42-7 win over the Tigers. The Bucs' lone contest against Point came in the 2014 season opener as the Bucs topped the Skyhawks in CSU's first game under the lights, 61-9.

It's the second time in program history that CSU and Point have taken the field together after the Bucs and the Skyhawks faced off in the 2014 season opener. The Bucs won the only matchup between the two teams with a 61-9 victory over Point on August 28.

Aug. 28, 2014     CSU, W, 61-9

HOME SUCCESSES             
Charleston Southern has boasted an impressive winning percentage over the last four years with the Bucs winning 19 of 22 contests in front of the home crowd at Buccaneer Field. CSU saw its 10 game winning streak snapped last season against Gardner-Webb, but bounced back to win the season finale against Kennesaw State. The Bucs enter the weekend having won 11 of their last 12 contests at home.

The Buccaneers have also won 12 consecutive non-conference home games dating back to 2012 home opener against Jacksonville. During the span CSU has topped non-FCS and non-FBS opponents seven times with the latest coming in a 57-7 win over Kentucky State on September 3, 2016. During the stretch was the Bucs' 61-9 win over Point in the 2014 home opener.

The Buccaneers struggled to stop the run this past weekend against Elon as the defense gave up 226 yards on the ground with 178 coming from running back Malcolm Summers. The sophomore back picked up 128 yards in the first half before the Blue Swarm defense stepped up and limited the Phoenix in the second half.

Summers' individual yardage was the fourth-most by a single player against the Bucs' defense in the past four years. Jacksonville State's Troymaine Pope (250 yards) and Eli Jenkins (195), and Charlotte's Kalif Phillips (196) are the only three ball carriers to gain more yardage than Summers over the last three seasons. The Bucs have allowed only 11 100-yard rushers over the last four seasons (2013 – 3; 2014 – 4; 2015 – 3 (2 in Jacksonville State game); 2016 – 1).

For the first time since the 2015 season, Charleston Southern has fallen out of both major national FCS polls following the Buccaneers' loss to Elon on Saturday afternoon. By falling out of the polls this week, CSU saw its streak end at 25 weeks in a row dating back to the 2015 season.

CSU finished No. 14 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 15 in the STATS FCS Top 25, marking the second straight year and third time in four years it has concluded the season among the nation's elite. CSU captured its second consecutive Big South Conference championship and FCS playoff berth in 2016. The Bucs beat three ranked teams in the process.

The Skyhawks have played at least one Big South team in each of the past four seasons. Point is currently winless against the Big South after falling to Presbyterian in 2013, Charleston Southern in 2014, and Kennesaw State in each of the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Junior quarterback Derek Ballard leads the Point passing attack on the season. The Lake Charles, La. native has lined up in all three contests and paves the way with a 41-of-89 performance on the season with six touchdowns and six interceptions. La'Darrius Mathis is Point's leader in the backfield in the 2017 season. The Riverdale, Ga. native has carried the ball 43 times for 120 yards, averaging 40.0 yards per game on the ground.

Wide receiver Charles Ducksworth became Point's all-time receiving yard leader this past weekend against Georgetown. Ducksworth leads the Skyhawks' receiving efforts with 12 catches for 278 yards and a team-high two touchdowns.

Defensively, K.J. Minniefield is the team leader with 22 tackles and five tackles for loss on the year.

Bucs scored touchdowns on the first eight offensive possessions in the 2014 game. Point's only points came via blocked PAT return & punt return touchdown.

Charleston Southern breached the 200 yard rushing mark for the first time in the 2017 season this past weekend as the Buccaneers ran for 211 against the Phoenix this past weekend. Redshirt junior running back Noah Shuler paved the way for the CSU rushing attack with 14 carries for 69 yards, including his first two collegiate touchdowns. The Bucs had more than 200 rushing yards in seven games last season, including 405 in the home opener against Kentucky State in the wind over the Thorobreds.

Despite the strong game against the Phoenix, the Bucs are still ranked among the bottom in the FCS in total offense in the 2017 season. CSU is currently 121st overall in the NCAA in total offense at 177.5 yards per game, sitting fifth overall in the Big South in the category. CSU is currently 81st in the NCAA in rushing yards per game (114.5) and 123rd in the NCAA in passing yards per game (63.0).

The Bucs have consistently sat among the NCAA leaders in keeping the quarterback clean over the past four years and look to an experienced offensive line led by captain Jackson Williamson and All-Conference guard Frank Cirone to continue CSU's success in 2017. CSU has currently allowed just one sack in the 2017 season, coming this past weekend against Elon in the loss to the Phoenix.

The Bucs scored touchdowns on their first eight offensive possessions, rolled up 502 yards of offense in their first contest against Point back on August 28, 2014. Quarterback Austin Brown directed seven touchdown drives in an excellent debut as CSU starting quarterback, completing 9-of-12 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 41 yards and two more scores. Christian Reyes led a 336-yard rushing effort with 81 yards on ten carries, all in the first half. Ben Robinson turned in some highlight reel plays in the first half and added 32 yards and a touchdown on three carries. He also caught three passes for 68 yards, highlighted by a 45-yard grab on a wheel route down the right sideline.

Saire Davis turned in a solid effort this past weekend against the Phoenix as the junior wide receiver corralled a team-high three catches for 53 yards in the loss to Elon. Davis hauled in a 37-yard pass from Shane Bucenell to set up the Bucs' first field goal attempt of the day. Davis and the Bucs' receiving corps was bolstered by the season debut of All-Conference wide receiver Kameron Brown against Elon as the passing offense will look to make strides this weekend against Point.

Charleston Southern remains one of two teams in the NCAA without a turnover in the 2017 season. The Bucs recovered four offensive fumbles in opener against Mississippi State and didn't cough it up this past weekend against Elon.

Demetri Royer is the conference tackles leader following the season's opening weekend as the redshirt freshman safety racked up 12 stops in each of his first two collegiate start. Royer paced the Bucs' defensive effort against Mississippi State in the opener with 12 tackles over the 86 defensive plays. The Clearwater, Fla. native added 12 more tackles in 62 defensive plays on Saturday against Elon. Royer recorded nine tackles in the first half on his way to lead the Bucs for the second consecutive weekend.

Two of the nation's best at getting behind the line of scrimmage have combined for one tackle for loss over the first two games. Anthony Ellis and Solomon Brown finished 1-2 in the Big South rankings in tackles for loss in 2016, but the bookend defensive ends have struggled to penetrate the opponents' offensive lines this season. Brown picked up the duo's lone tackle behind the line of scrimmage in the season opener against Mississippi State. Middle linebacker Zane Cruz leads Charleston Southern's defensive efforts in the 2017 season with a team-high two tackles for loss on the year, while Ramel Hambrick-Crawford and Johnny Robinson are the Bucs' sack leaders with one apiece on the year.

Charleston Southern's run defense has struggled to stop the opponents' backfields in the 2017 season as the Buccaneers are ranked 112th in the NCAA in run defense at 253.5 yards per game. The Bucs have allowed over 200 yards rushing in each of the first two games of the season after allowing opponents to reach the mark just three times in the 2016 season. CSU held five different opponents under 100 rushing yards this past season including back-to-back contests against Presbyterian (28) and Bucknell (71).

Defensively, the Bucs held Point to 152 yards of offense and forced three-and-outs on two of the Skyhawks' first three drives. Safety Demaris Freeman led the charge with seven tackles, and linebacker Gabe Middlebrook returned a second quarter fumble 85 yards for a touchdown. Middlebrook's return was the fourth-longest in Big South history. The Bucs allowed 11 first downs and held opponents to an 18% third down rate in the 2014 win over the Skyhawks.

Ramel Hambrick-Crawford came through with the Bucs' first sack of the 2017 season as the junior defensive lineman took down the quarterback near midfield late in the second quarter. It was the Atlanta, Ga. native's first career sack with the Bucs. Sekwan Jenkins recorded the first interception of his collegiate career on an Elon trick play as the freshman played centerfield on a ball thrown at the CSU 10 yard line with 2:31 left in the third quarter. Rounding out the group of firsts, Anton Williams recovered a fumble on a punt return leading to the Bucs' fourth quarter field goal attempt.

Junior kicker Tyler Tekac is approaching another milestone with the Buccaneers this weekend as the Goose Creek, S.C. native will look to move into first all-time in consecutive PATs this weekend. Tekac is currently one PAT short of tying the consecutive record mark held by alum Clint Kelly (31, 1998-99).

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