Weekend Preview: Charleston Southern starts homestand with Saturday night contest against Savannah State

Weekend Preview: Charleston Southern starts homestand with Saturday night contest against Savannah State

 

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern returns home to Buccaneer Field this weekend for a two-game homestand starting Saturday night against Savannah State. Kickoff between the Bucs and the Tigers on the Big South Network is set for 6 p.m. ET.

Gates open at 4:30 p.m. with all game day information available on the Game Day Central Page.

CSU Notes | Savannah State Notes | Big South Notes

2017 Home Successes
The Buccaneers have been impressive at home in the 2017 season to date with CSU posting 66-0 and 58-7 wins over Point and Mississippi Valley State. The 124-7 scoring margin helps pace the way for a Buccaneer team that has won 15 consecutive non-conference home games and 21 of their last 24 games overall at Buccaneer Field. CSU's success this season has come through all facets of the game as the Bucs have the 43-19 advantage in first downs and the 679-37 advantage in rushing yards. The Bucs have averaged 9.4 yards per offensive play in their home games. Defensively, CSU has dominated the line of scrimmage with 15 sacks and 25 tackles for loss over their first two home games. The Bucs have averaged a defensive touchdown per home game this season with J.D. Sosebee returning a fumble in CSU's win over Point, while Sekwan Jenkins' pick-six came in the Bucs' win over MVSU. CSU also held MVSU to -24 yards rushing in their last home game; the total was the second-lowest rushing attempt by an opponent in CSU history.

Getting After the Quarterback (Both Teams)
It's a battle of two extremes on Saturday afternoon as the Buccaneers offensive line and defensive line have been among the nation's best in 2017, while Savannah State's counterparts have ranked among the NCAA's worst. Featuring one of the nation's best pass rushers in senior defensive end Anthony Ellis (5.5 sacks), the Bucs lead the Big South Conference and sit eighth in the FCS with 21 sacks (3.5 per game) on the year. Conversely, CSU's offensive line has kept Shane Bucenell, London Johnson, and co. mostly clean for the season with the Bucs allowing 1.33 sacks to sit third in the conference and 33rd in the FCS in the category on the year.

Savannah State has struggled to get after the quarterback in 2017 with the Tigers ranking 120th in the FCS in team sacks and 122nd in the season in sacks allowed this season. SSU averages 0.50 sacks per game on the year with the team posting singular sacks against Appalachian State, Bethune-Cookman, and Hampton. Offensively, SSU has allowed an average of 5.33 sacks per game. The Tigers have allowed at least three sacks in all six games in 2017, including eight against Montana, and seven last weekend against Morgan State. Savannah State has allowed opponents to get to the quarterback 18 times over the last three games.

Against the MEAC
The Buccaneers are 7-13 all-time against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference heading into CSU's contest against Savannah State on Saturday evening. The Bucs have posted a perfect 6-0 record against SSU, but have struggled against other competition with a 0-2 record against Hampton, 0-8 against S.C. State, 0-2 against Morgan State, and 1-1 against Norfolk State.

CSU was scheduled to take on two members of the MEAC this season, but the Bucs' September 9 matchup at South Carolina State was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. CSU's last matchup against a MEAC opponent came in the Bucs' 20-12 win over Norfolk State on September 21, 2013. The Bucs' last home game against the MEAC came against the Spartans on September 24, 2011, with CSU falling to Norfolk State, 33-3.

Uneven Quarterback Play
Charleston Southern's uneven quarterback play over the last three games was highlighted this past weekend in the Bucs' Big South opener at Presbyterian. Over the last three games, the Bucs' quarterbacks have combined to go 7-of-29 for 137 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. Redshirt sophomores Shane Bucenell and London Johnson have split time at the quarterback position in the 2017 season with Bucenell throwing for a team-high 525 yards and four touchdown passes, while Johnson ranks among CSU's rushing leaders with 184 yards and two rushing touchdowns. The Bucs did post a 300-yard passing effort in the home opener against Point, but overall CSU is currently ranked 109th overall in the FCS in passing yards per game with 137.8.

Shuler Finds the End Zone Again
Noah Shuler scored the game-winning touchdown for the Bucs on a two-yard carry up the middle with 3:43 left in the fourth quarter against Presbyterian. The redshirt junior running back leads the Buccaneers with five rushing touchdowns on the season sitting seventh in the Big South in scoring with 5.0 points per game. Shuler had a three-game scoring stretch from September 16-30 with a pair of touchdowns against Elon, and a rushing score apiece in CSU wins over Point and Mississippi Valley. He's eclipsed 50 rushing yards in four games this season, including 62 yards on 13 carries this past weekend against Presbyterian. Shuler leads the Bucs with 281 rushing yards in 2017.

Harris Making Strides
All the best rushing attacks across the country feature more than one running back; CSU has two as Ronnie Harris has found his stride over the last month in the Bucs' run game. Harris has picked up 178 yards over his last 27 carries (6.6 ypc) dating back to the Mississippi Valley State game and added a 31-yard carry in the win over the Delta Devils. Harris added 10 carries for 71 yards two weeks ago at Indiana and then had 12 carries for 59 yards (4.9 ypc) in the Bucs' win over the Blue Hose. Harris currently is second on the Bucs with 234 rushing yards on the season.

Limiting Turnovers
The Buccaneers have been among the nation's best in allowing the fewest turnovers in 2017. CSU turned the ball over three times this past weekend, including fumbling twice in Presbyterian territory to end potential Buccaneer scoring drives. The Bucs have three multi-turnover games this season with the first two coming at home against Point and Mississippi Valley State. CSU coughed up two fumbles against Point in the home opener, and then gave up a fumble recovery and an interception against MVSU. The Bucs are 16th in the FCS with seven turnovers lost on the season and will look to continue their success by holding onto the ball against Savannah State.

Keeping the Quarterback Clean
Prior to the previous two weeks, CSU had been successful at keeping the quarterback upright as the Bucs allowed one sack over the first four games of the season. CSU allowed a sack in the season opener at Mississippi State before the offensive line went through a three-game stretch in keeping the quarterback on his feet. Indiana's pressure broke through the offensive line with three sacks two weeks ago, and then Presbyterian added four last weekend in Clinton, S.C. Savannah State has struggled this season with three sacks over their first six games, while should allow the Bucs' offensive line to get back to full speed heading into conference play.

Can't Cover Him
Charleston Southern redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kameron Brown connected with Bucenell on an 87-yard touchdown pass against Mississippi Valley State in Week 5, tied for the fourth-longest pass play in Big South history. In just 16 career games, Brown has caught 38 career passes for 776 yards -- a 20.42 career yards per catch average -- and eight scores. This season, Brown again leads the Bucs and the Big South Conference with 21.5 yards per catch. Brown paces the Bucs' offense with a pair of 100-yard receiving games on his way to leading CSU with 11 catches for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

On Ellis Island
Charleston Southern defensive end, Buck Buchanan Award candidate and Big South Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Ellis became just the third player in Big South history with 40 career tackles-for-loss and 20 career sacks this past Saturday during the Presbyterian game. He is now second with 21.0 career sacks and is third with 42.0 career tackles for loss. Ellis joins Gardner-Webb's Brian Johnston (53.5 tackles for loss, 20.5 sacks) and Liberty's Chima Uzowihe (44.0 tackles for loss, 25.0 sacks) in this exclusive club. Ellis is second in the Big South with 5.5 sacks and is 1.5 away from joining Uzowihe as the only players in league annals with three 7.0 sack seasons.

Turnover Machines
The Blue Swarm defense has forced at least one turnover in each of the last five games and multiple turnovers in the last three contests as the Bucs have posted a plus-7 turnover margin in the 2017 season. CSU has shined in the takeaway game across the board with 10 different players being involved in either forcing a fumble, recovering a fumble, or recording an interception. Anthony Ellis leads the Bucs with three forced fumbles on the season, while Sekwan Jenkins paces the Bucs with two fumble recoveries. Ellis and Jenkins are both tied for the team lead with two interceptions apiece. Savannah State has turned the ball over eight times in their past three games, including four turnovers in the loss against Hampton two weeks ago.

Team Sacks

A multi-faceted pass rush has guided the Buccaneers defense to lead the Big South in sacks in the 2017 season. Thirteen different players have accumulated at least a partial sack this year with Ellis leading the way with a team-high 5.5 sacks on the season. Johnny Robinson (3.0, 4th) and Joey Maxberry (2.0, 9th) are also among the Big South leaders in quarterback takedowns on the year, while Anton Williams (1.5) and Ty'Reik Faulks (1.5) have both stood out in limited time in their freshman seasons. The Bucs have also come up with sacks in key situations, including Ellis' 19-yard quarterback takedown to force a punt last weekend against Presbyterian, while Landon Sayegh brought the quarterback down to effectively end the game against PC. The Bucs also set a school single-game record with nine sacks against Mississippi Valley State.

They Can't Score
CSU posted its second shutout of the 2017 season this past weekend as the Bucs held Presbyterian scoreless over 60 minutes in Clinton, S.C. this past weekend in the 7-0 win. The Bucs previously shutout Point on September 23 topping the Skyhawks, 66-0, at home. The pair of shutouts marks just the fourth time in program history CSU has shutout multiple opponents in a single season dating back to the program's inception in 1993. CSU previously recorded multiple shutouts in the 2000, 2001, and 2008 seasons. The Bucs have never shutout three opponents in a single season.

Under 100 rushing yards
A common trend in each of CSU's three wins in the 2017 season has been the Bucs' ability to limit the opponents' rushing attack. CSU held Point to 61 yards in the Bucs' home opening 66-0 win. The Bucs followed up by limited Mississippi Valley State to -24 yards in the 58-7 win over the Delta Devils. This past weekend the Bucs limited then-Big South rushing leader Torrance Marable and the PC rushing offense to 76 yards on 32 carries in the Bucs' 7-0 win over the Blue Hose. CSU limited opponents to under 100 yards' rushing five times in the 2016 season with the Bucs victorious in each contest.

Sayegh He Can't
When's he's stepped foot on the field, Landon Sayegh has made an impact. None more apparent than this past weekend when the Simpsonville, S.C. native made his first collegiate start at middle linebacker. Sayegh came through in the spot with three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery in the Bucs' win. Sayegh, who made key plays in big CSU games in years' past including last season at North Dakota State and Wofford, continued his knack for being in the right spot at the right time this past weekend by recovering a fumble at the PC 15 yard line late in the fourth quarter to set up the Bucs' scoring drive. He closed out the contest by chasing PC quarterback Ben Cheek out of bounds for the game-clinching sack on the Blue Hose' last drive of the game.

Big South Special Teams Player of the Week
Busy in the field position battle for the Bucs on Saturday, Kyle Reighard punted the ball six times for an average of 44.0 yards per attempt. The redshirt sophomore pinned two inside the 20-yard line and eclipsed the 50-yard mark for the fifth time this year with a 52-yard punt late in the third quarter to switch the field against the Blue Hose. Reighard leads the Big South with a 41.5 ypa average with 12 punts inside the 20 this season.

Taz Can Do It
CSU return specialist Taz Lindsey is ready for his opportunity against Savannah State this weekend as the Tigers enter the contest ranked 116th in the NCAA in punt return defense in allowing 15.57 yards per return in the 2017 season. Lindsey, who returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown against Mississippi Valley State, is averaging 17.0 yards per punt return on the season to sit second in the Big South among returners with more than one attempt.

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