CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern continues the 2017 season this weekend in the Bucs' home opener on the Big South Network. In preparation for the 6 p.m. ET kickoff, here are three things to watch for in Saturday's contest.
BUCS SUCCESS IN HOME OPENERS
Charleston Southern puts its four-game winning streak in home openers to the test this weekend as the Bucs host the Point Skyhawks at Buccaneer Field. CSU has dominated the competition at home in CSU's season debut in front of the home crowd over the last four seasons with a 23-15 win over Shorter in 2013, a 61-9 win over Point in 2014, a 41-14 win over North Greenville in 2015, and a 57-7 win over Kentucky State last season.
The Bucs are 15-11 all-time in home openers dating back to the 1991 season when CSU first hosted Mars Hill on September 14. CSU fell to the Lions in the Bucs' inaugural home game, 29-0, but bounced back the following year to win their home opener against Methodist.
CSU's four-game home opening winning streak is the second-longest in program history. The Bucs won their first five home openers from the 2006-2010 seasons under the helm of former head coach Jay Mills. CSU topped Wingate (20-17, 2006), Johnson C. Smith (44-20, 2007), and North Greenville from 2008-10, before seeing the streak snapped on September 24, 2011, in a 33-3 loss to Norfolk State.
Only one player on the current CSU roster has lined up in each of the home openers dating back to the 2013 season: redshirt senior captain Jackson Williamson. Williamson, a Macon, Ga. native, started all 13 games in 2013 for the Bucs at center and was a part of the CSU line that paved the way for Christian Reyes to set the school's single-season rushing record. Since then, the two-time captain has been a mainstay on the line and enters the game needing just three more starts to become the program's all-time leader in career starts.
The Bucs have posted two shutouts in the home openers, coming in back-to-back years against Guilford (58-0, 2000) and North Greenville (38-0, 2001). The Bucs' 2000 win over Guilford is the largest margin of victory for the team in a home opener. The Bucs have played North Greenville and current Big South member Presbyterian five times in home openers in school history.
BUCS DOMINATE NON-DIVISION I OPPONENTS
The Buccaneers have won their last six contests against non-NCAA Division I opponents dating back to the 2011 season. During the span, CSU has topped Kentucky State, North Greenville, Point, Newberry, Shorter, and Edward Waters, since the Bucs' loss to Wesley in the 2011 season. It's the fifth consecutive season the Bucs have opened their home slate against a non-Division I opponent.
CSU struggled in their last loss against a non-Division I opponent as the Bucs fell to Division III Wesley on October 1, 2011, 32-20. Charles James was the impact player of the day for the Bucs, with nine tackles and punt returned for a touchdown. Current CSU running back's coach Malcolm Dixon also had a strong day, going 15-of-34 for 178 yards and a touchdown through the air and another 71 yards on the ground.
The Wolverines scored the first 13 points of the contest and then scored the first 13 points in the second half on their way to pulling out the win over the Bucs.
The Bucs bounced back the following season with a 42-7 win over Edward Waters on their way to sparking a stretch that has the Bucs outscoring the opposition 240-62 during their six-game winning streak. CSU topped two non-Division I opponents in the 2014 season opening the year with back-to-back wins over Point and Newberry.
BUCS OFF TO QUICK START LAST TIME THEY MET
Charleston Southern made the first night game in school history a memorable one. The Bucs scored touchdowns on their first eight offensive possessions, rolled up 502 yards of offense and pitched a shutout on defense to rout Point, 61-9, at Buccaneer Field.
CSU dominated the football game from start to finish, delighting a crowd of 3,759 fans that came out to root on the Bucs in their first contest under the lights. CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell remarked on the atmosphere.
"This was a great night for this school, for this campus," Chadwell said. "We had so many students come out tonight they had to have them sit in the visitor's section- that's never happened before."
"I can't say enough about our fans and our students," Chadwell continued. "When you run out of that tunnel, and you see all those fans and all your teammates, that is just a special feeling. There is nothing like it. It was a great experience tonight and I can't say enough about it. It was a great win and the start of something for our program to take the steps we really want to; where we are consistent, year in and year out. It was a great night to be part of some history."
Austin Brown directed seven touchdown drives in an excellent debut as CSU starting quarterback. Brown completed 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.
Defensively, the Bucs held Point to 152 yards of offense and forced three-and-outs on two of the Skyhawks' first three drives. Senior safety Demaris Freeman led the charge with seven tackles, and classmate Gabe Middlebrook returned a second-quarter fumble 85 yards for a touchdown. Middlebrook's return was the fourth-longest in Big South history.