Weekend Preview: Buccaneers continue Big South slate with road contest at Gardner-Webb

Weekend Preview: Buccaneers continue Big South slate with road contest at Gardner-Webb

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb continue their respective Big South Conference slates this weekend at Spangler Stadium as the Buccaneers travel to take on Gardner-Webb this weekend. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. with live coverage being provided by College Football Down South. Kevin O'Rourke and Danny Croghan will also be providing coverage for the CSU Sports Network on CSUSports.com. 

All game day information available on the Game Day Central Page.

CSU Notes | Gardner-Webb Notes | Big South Notes

Big South Road Success
Charleston Southern looks to keep the longest road winning streak in conference history alive this weekend as the Bucs travel to Boiling Springs, N.C. to take on Gardner-Webb. The Bucs have won eight consecutive conference road games dating back to the 2014 season and have already topped Presbyterian, 7-0, on the road this season. The Bucs' streak surpassed the seven-game mark set by Liberty (2006-09).

Coming off a Loss
Over the past three seasons, CSU has only once followed a loss with another mark in the losing column. This season is the first time since 2014 that CSU has suffered back-to-back losses in a season, but part of that comes from the Bucs' scheduled contest on September 9 at South Carolina State canceled due to Hurricane Irma. The game was the in-between competition between CSU's contests against Mississippi State and Elon. The Bucs longest losing streak in recent history came in the 2014 season when the Bucs fell in succession to Vanderbilt, Presbyterian, and Coastal Carolina in the month of October.

Big South Preseason Player of the Year Matchup
Saturday marks the lone matchup between the reigning Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in CSU's Anthony Ellis and Gardner-Webb's Tyrell Maxwell. Ellis led the Big South with 16.0 tackles-for-loss and 7.0 sacks -- the second player in Big South history to record two seven-sack seasons. Last season in Big South play, Maxwell averaged 302 yards of offense, rushed for 591 yards (6.5 per carry) and was 64-of-106 passing in leading the Runnin' Bulldogs to their first winning conference season (3-2) since 2003.

Staying in the Conference Hunt
One loss does not eliminate Charleston Southern from defending its conference title for the third consecutive season. However, a second loss over the next three weekends would likely eliminate CSU from the FCS postseason. A two-loss Big South team has never won a share of the conference title, while a one-loss team has been recognized as at least co-champions in seven different seasons, including last year with CSU and Liberty both sporting 5-1 records in conference play.

Hitting the Road in Conference Play
Charleston Southern is undefeated on the road in Big South Conference play since the 2014 season with the Buccaneers posting a perfect 8-0 mark away from Buccaneer Field since their loss on October 25, 2014, against Coastal Carolina. The Bucs have posted three shutouts during the span, including a 34-0 win over Gardner-Webb in CSU's last trip to Boiling Springs in the 2015 season. The Bucs have outscored opponents 227-90 during the stretch. Only two games during the winning streak have been settled by single-digits, a 10-7 CSU win over Presbyterian in 2015, and this year's 7-0 win over the Blue Hose in the Bucs' conference opener.

Continuing Conference Success
CSU has been .500 or better in Big South Conference play in each of the past five seasons and boasts an impressive 21-9 mark against conference competition since the 2012 season. The Bucs went 3-3 in the 2012 season and then turned the corner under former head coach Jamey Chadwell as the Bucs went 3-2 (2013), 3-2 (2014), 6-0 (2015), and 4-1 (2016), over the last four years. CSU has gone a perfect 2-0 against Kennesaw State. The Bucs are 3-1 against Monmouth, 3-2 against Gardner-Webb, 4-1 against Presbyterian, and 3-2 against Liberty over the last five years.

Against the Big South All-Time
Charleston Southern is 27-44 against current members of the Big South Conference. The Bucs are 6-10 all-time against Gardner-Webb, the second-most wins by CSU against a conference opponent. CSU has won two of its last three against the Runnin' Bulldogs and three of its last five against GWU. The Bucs are 35-40 all-time in Big South play dating back to the start of conference competition in the 2002 season. This includes an impressive 16-5 mark in conference competition under former head coach Jamey Chadwell.

What Happened Last Time
Gardner-Webb mounted an 85-yard touchdown drive to take the lead with 27 seconds left and held off Charleston Southern's last-gasp final drive for a 17-10 win on Saturday at Buccaneer Field. The loss snaps CSU's 11-game Big South Conference winning streak and ten-game home winning streak.

Gardner-Webb moved in front on Tyrell Maxwell's one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Estes. Maxwell scampered for gains of 15 and 26 yards on consecutive snaps to set up the winning score. The plays capped a monster effort from the Runnin' Bulldogs junior quarterback as he accounted for 360 of their 430 total yards.

CSU gave itself a chance to tie the game and force overtime on the ensuing possession as Robert Mitchell fired a 55-yard strike to Larry Jones, III. The Bucs had two shots at the end zone from the Gardner-Webb 16 but a dropped pass and an interception by Jaylan Foster sealed the final outcome.

Gardner-Webb Outlook
Gardner-Webb was picked third in the 2017 Big South Football Preseason Poll with the Runnin' Bulldogs receiving 54 total points and two second-place votes in the tabulation. The Runnin' Bulldogs finished tied for third with a 3-2 league mark in 2016 with a strong November campaign featuring an undefeated 2-0 mark.

Dual-threat quarterback Tyrell Maxwell was named the Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. He was a Walter Payton Award Finalist and a Hero Sports All-American in 2016 after becoming the first quarterback in Big South history to lead the league in rushing with 965 yards.  Maxwell was a three-time Big South Player of the Week honoree last season and set the conference season record with five games of 100+ yards rushing & passing.

Maxwell currently leads the Big South with 668 rushing yards on the season and is third with 121 passing yards per game on the year. Maxwell has posted three 100-yard rushing, 100-yard passing games in 2017.

Jayln Cagle is coming off a strong performance against Liberty. The sophomore running back ran for a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown. It was his first double-digit carry game of his career with 24 attempts against the Flames.

Brody Rollins is the team's leading receiver on the season with 14 catches for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the year.

Kenyatta Dunbar paces the Big South Conference with 12.5 tackles for loss on the season to go with 57 total tackles. Dunbar posted three consecutive games with at least three tackles for loss this season against Wyoming (4.0), Western Carolina (3.0), and Wofford (3.0).

Davis Neilands is also a threat along the defensive line for the Runnin' Bulldogs with five tackles for loss and a pair of sacks this season.

Gardner-Webb has the 6-2 all-time home advantage against Charleston Southern.

Quarterback Battle
The Buccaneers have seen both London Johnson and Shane Bucenell split time in the quarterback position effectively in the 2017 season. The duo is expected to continue to battle for playing time the remainder of the year with both quarterbacks offering unique skill sets to the position. Johnson showcased his dynamic athletic ability with 336 total yards (117 rushing, 219 passing) in earning Big South Offensive Player of the Week honors two weeks ago against Savannah State. Bucenell came in relief this past weekend against Monmouth and nearly led CSU to the comeback with a pair of second-half touchdown passes to Kenny Dinkins. Bucenell leads the team with 637 passing yards and six touchdowns, while Johnson is third on the Bucs with 299 rushing yards and a pair of scores.

Shuler Helms the Gold Rush
Game-in and game-out redshirt junior running back Noah Shuler has been a reliable back for the Bucs offense in the 2017 season. Shuler paces the Bucs offense with 401 rushing yards on 86 carries and has been the team rushing leader in four different games, including this past weekend against Monmouth. Shuler toted the ball a career-high 19 times for 77 yards and added a two-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter as the Bucs continued to fight their way back into the game against the Hawks. For the season, Shuler has five double-digit carry efforts and has scored touchdowns in five of his last seven games, including in each Big South contest this year.

First Downs Move Chains
Charleston Southern has accumulated 126 first downs in the 2017 season; 46 have come over the past two weeks against Savannah State and Monmouth. Overall, 89 of CSU's 126 first downs (70.6%) have come inside the friendly confines of Buccaneer Field. The Bucs have struggled on the road falling twice to a pair of FBS opponents and to No. 11/14 Elon following a week of missed practice due to Hurricane Irma. The Bucs have averaged 24.3 first downs per game at home with 29 coming in the opener against Point and 14 in CSU's win over MVSU. CSU is fourth in the Big South in overall first downs on the season.

Time of Possession Battle
The Bucs were held under the 30-minute mark in time of possession this past weekend as CSU held onto the ball for 27:50 in the loss to the Hawks. CSU ran 61 offensive plays and averaged 5.4 yards per play this past weekend against Monmouth. The Bucs have cracked the 30-minute time of possession mark four times in the 2017 season. CSU is 3-1 in such games with their lone loss coming against Elon (33:35). CSU is third in time of possession in the Big South Conference on the year trailing only Kennesaw State (32:41) and Monmouth (30:33) and has perennially been among the national leaders in the category finishing 10th in 2015.

Limiting Turnovers
Charleston Southern lost the turnover battle for just the third time in the 2017 season this past weekend, but it highlights a more troubling issue for the Bucs over the last three weeks. CSU turned the ball over three times this past week in the win over Savannah State as the Bucs coughed up three fumbles against the Tigers. CSU also gave up a pair of fumbles and threw an interception the previous week against Presbyterian. The Bucs continued the trend this past weekend with a pair of interceptions against Monmouth. Prior to the past three weeks, the Bucs have only turned the ball over four times; twice each against Point and Mississippi Valley State.

Get Him the Ball
When the ball gets into the hands of redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kameron Brown, good things happen. The Beech Island, S.C. native finished fifth in the NCAA in receiving yards per catch in 2016 with 20.00 yards per reception. This year Brown is just outside the top 10 with 22.79 yards per reception to sit 11th overall in the category on the year. Brown posted back-to-back 100-yard receiving efforts against Point and Mississippi Valley State and posted a five-catch, 123-yard game this past weekend against Monmouth.

Robinson Dominance on the Line
While Anthony Ellis draws most of the offense's attention on the line, and deservedly so, his cousin and fellow defensive lineman Johnny Robinson has come into his own in 2017. Robinson is currently second on the team and is 4th in the Big South Conference with four sacks. The Apopka, Fla. native is also third in the conference with 7.5 tackles for loss on the season. Both marks are career-highs for Robinson after accumulating a combined 3.0 tackles for loss over his first two years with the Bucs. The added pressure in Defensive Coordinator Zane Vance's scheme has opened up avenues for both Robinson and fellow defensive tackle Noah Oliver on the season as the talented duo will continue to help the Bucs control the line up  front.

Ellis Pursuing History
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 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.

Getting After the Quarterback
A multi-faceted pass rush has guided the Buccaneers defense to lead the Big South in sacks in the 2017 season. Fourteen 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 (4.0, 4th) and Solomon Brown (2.5, 8th) are also among the Big South leaders in quarterback takedowns on the year, while Joey Maxberry (2.0), Anton Williams (1.5), and Ty'Reik Faulks (1.5) have both recorded multiple sacks on the year. The Bucs also set a school single-game record with nine sacks against Mississippi Valley State.

Hopkins Makes Plays
Charleston Southern cornerback Shadarius Hopkins has showcased the explosive ability that saw the Winnsboro, S.C. lead the Bucs with 14 passes defensed and earn Preseason All-Conference honors from the Big South prior to the 2017 season. Hopkins came through with a pair of big plays against Indiana as the junior forced a fumble inside the CSU red zone on the Hoosiers' second drive of the game and was indirectly responsible for Anthony Ellis' interception in the third quarter. Hopkins is third on the team with 43 tackles and leads the Bucs with six pass breakups in the 2017 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. 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 Savannah State to 24 yards rushing this past weekend in the 52-27 win over the Tigers. CSU limited opponents to under 100 yards' rushing five times in the 2016 season with the Bucs victorious in each contest.

Containing Maxwell
Key to a Charleston Southern victory will be the Buccaneers ability to contain Gardner-Webb quarterback Tyrell Maxwell. Maxwell, the preseason Big South Offensive Player of the Year has a trio of 100-yard passing and rushing efforts this season. Maxwell currently leads the Big South with 673 rushing yards and is third in the conference with 968 passing yards on the year. Last season, Maxwell sprung loose for 165 rushing yards and 97 passing yards in Gardner-Webb's 17-10 upset win over the Buccaneers last season.

Tekac Moving Up the Record Books
Junior placekicker Tyler Tekac continues to move up the CSU record books this season following his pair of extra points this past Saturday against Monmouth. The Goose Creek, S.C. native has converted 4-of-7 field goals and 25-of-26 extra points this season for a total of 37 points over the six games he's been on the field this season. Tekac, with 140 career points, is currently four points away from surpassing John Paglia (143, 2007-10)  and moving into fourth all-time in the CSU record books for his career. Tekac is currently sixth in the Big South with 6.2 points per game.

Reighard Pinning Them Deep
For the third time, this season Kyle Reighard's accuracy helped the Bucs get a leg up in the field position game as the redshirt sophomore punter pinned Monmouth inside their own 10 yard line on three separate occasions in the game. Reighard dropped two second-half punts inside the MU five-yard line to help aid the CSU comeback attempt. Reighard leads the Big South with a 41.5 yard per attempt average this season and has placed 15 punts inside the opponent's 20. The Bucs' punt unit ranks among the nation's best sitting eighth overall with a 39.38 net punting average.

Kennedy's Kickoff Average/Coverage
David Kennedy had the opportunity to showcase his leg strength this past weekend with three touchbacks and a career-high 65.0 kickoff average against Monmouth. It marked the second game Kennedy's had with at least three touchbacks in his career and highlights the Buccaneers' kicking efforts in 2017. Kennedy's unit leads the Big South and is 17th overall in FCS allowing 17.47 yards per return on the season

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