CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern continues the 2017 season this weekend as CSU welcomes Mississippi Valley State to Buccaneer Field on Saturday, September 30th. In preparation for the 6 p.m. ET kickoff on the Big South Network, here are three things to watch for in Saturday's contest.
RUSHING ATTACK AGAINST A STRUGGLING DEFENSE
Charleston Southern's rushing attack will look to continue its ground assault this weekend as the Buccaneers take on the 123rd-ranked run defense in the FCS. The Delta Devils have struggled to stop the run in 2017 allowing an average of 391.5 yards per game on the ground on the year. North Dakota State sprinted out of the gates in the opener against MVSU with 498 yards and seven rushing touchdowns in the opener. Southern Illinois followed up with 285 yards and five scores on the ground, while Grambling State picked up 221 yards and a touchdown last week in the win over the Delta Devils.
CSU has traditionally been among the nation's best when it comes to pounding the ball against an opponent's defense. The Bucs finished sixth in the FCS last year averaging 266.5 yards per game and have rebounded into form following their first week's setback against Mississippi State. Since the loss to the Bulldogs, the Bucs picked up 211 yards against Elon and then followed with 320 yards rushing last weekend in the home opener against Point.
Senior Noah Shuler leads the Bucs at the point of attack this season with a team-high 147 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Shuler has also crossed the goal line three times over the past two games to pace the Bucs' scoring offense on the year.
Shuler leads a deep crop of Buccaneer ball-carriers this season with 10 different players recording multiple carries in 2017. London Johnson is also over 100 yards rushing on the season with 116 yards on 15 carries, including a career-high 54-yard touchdown run last weekend against Point. Terrance Wilson (10), Ronnie Harris (17), Shane Bucenell (24) and Chanin Hamilton (14) also have recorded double-digit carries this season.
The Bucs recorded at least 150 yards rushing in all 10 games last season and racked up more than 240 yards on seven different occasions last season including 405 at home against Kentucky State.
AMONG THE NATION'S BEST IN PASSING D AGAINST MVSU AERIAL ATTACK
Mississippi Valley State has struggled to gain traction on the ground this season with the Delta Devils' rushing offense sitting last in the FCS at -39.5 yards per game on the ground. However, the MVSU passing offense has seen life over their three games with the Delta Devils recording over 300 yards through the air in each of the last two contests.
After a lackluster 89 yards on seven completions in the opener against North Dakota State, Mississippi Valley State recorded 322 yards against Southern Illinois, and then a season-high 358 this past weekend against Grambling State. The Delta Devils are currently 17th in the NCAA standings in passing yards per completion on the year at 14.68.
Leading the MVSU passing attack are quarterbacks Christopher Fowler and Dewayne Betts. Fowler has helmed a majority of the snaps this season with a 67.11% completion percentage going 51-of-76 for 591 yards over three games. Betts threw the longest pass of the season with an 82-yarder against Southern Illinois.
The top two targets for MVSU are receivers Quinn McElfresh and Darrion Harper. McElfresh leads the way with 16 catches for 267 yards, including the aforementioned 82-yard reception from Betts against SIU. Harper is close behind with 14 catches for 186 yards on the year. MVSU spreads the ball around with 14 different players recording a reception this season.
The MVSU passing attack will be put to the test this weekend as they face off against one of the nation's best passing defenses. The Buccaneers enter the weekend eighth in the FCS in pass defense allowing 152.0 yards per game. It follows the trend established last season when the Bucs finished third overall in the national rankings allowing just 158.8 yards per game, including holding the opposition under 100 yards' passing on four separate occasions.
Leading the Bucs up front is the resurgence of Preseason Big South Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Ellis. Ellis recorded a career-high 2.5 sacks last weekend and a pair of forced fumbles to disrupt the Point passing attack. Several other familiar faces were in the backfield for CSU with Noah Oliver, Joey Maxberry, and Nick Sands also pressuring the quarterback.
Jonathan Slaton, Brandon Rowland, and Shadarius Hopkins will look to contain the MVSU receiving corps from the defensive backfield with the help of Sekwan Jenkins and company. Jenkins recorded his first collegiate interception two weeks ago against Elon and then followed up with four tackles this past weekend in the win against Point. Rowland added a team-high five tackles in the win.
TEKAC CONTINUES CLIMB IN CSU SCORING RECORD BOOKS
Junior kicker Tyler Tekac continues to be a weapon for the Charleston Southern special teams. Fresh off a career-high 49-yard field goal against Point and a 7-for-7 performance from the PAT stripe, Tekac continues to climb the CSU record books in multiple categories.
Tekac surpassed Clint Kelly's mark of 31 consecutive extra points made over the 1998-1999 seasons last weekend and has made his last 37 attempts dating back to last season. The Goose Creek, S.C. native's 10 points this past weekend helped him pass former CSU greats Christian Reyes and Maurice Price to climb to fifth all-time in the career scoring lists.
Tekac enters the weekend fourth all-time in career field goals made (13) and his 49-yard make was the second-longest field goal in CSU program history trailing only John Paglia's 51-yard field goal made back in the 2009 season against Stony Brook.
The CSU placekicker will look to extend his streak this weekend against a MVSU defense that allows 55.0 points per game.