Weekend Preview: Bucs look to keep Big South hopes alive this weekend at Kennesaw State

Weekend Preview: Bucs look to keep Big South hopes alive this weekend at Kennesaw State

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern and Kennesaw State continue their respective Big South Conference slates this weekend at Fifth Third Bank Stadium as the Buccaneers travel to take on Kennesaw State this weekend. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. with live coverage being provided by ESPN3.

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

CSU Notes | Kennesaw State 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 Kennesaw, Ga. 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) and Gardner-Webb (10-9) on the road this season.

CSU Undefeated against KSU
Charleston Southern has clinched the Big South regular season title in each of the past two seasons against Kennesaw State. The Bucs are 2-0 all-time against the Owls. The Bucs topped KSU 28-14 in their first meeting at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in 2015. CSU followed up with a dominant 28-7 win over the Owls last season.

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 would likely eliminate CSU from the FCS postseason. A two-loss Big South team has never won a share of the conference title.

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 9-0 mark away from Buccaneer Field since their loss on October 25, 2014, against Coastal Carolina. The Bucs' streak includes a 28-14 win over Kennesaw State in CSU's last trip to Fifth Third Bank Stadium in the 2015 season. The Bucs have outscored opponents 237-99 during the stretch. Only three games during the winning streak have been settled by single-digits, a 10-7 CSU win over Presbyterian in 2015, this year's 7-0 win over the Blue Hose, and last week's 10-9 win over Gardner-Webb.

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 22-9 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 28-44 against current members of the Big South Conference. The Bucs are 2-0 all-time against Kennesaw State since the Owls joined the conference as football-only members in the 2015 season. The Bucs are 36-40 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.

Keeping Playoff Hopes Alive
Charleston Southern entered the season having posted back-to-back Big South titles and back-to-back FCS playoff berths. CSU will need help this season if the Buccaneers are to return to the postseason for the third consecutive season. The Bucs were able to bounce back from an early conference loss last season against Gardner-Webb by topping Kennesaw State and Liberty to earn the Big South's automatic bid into the postseason. This year, the Bucs trail both Monmouth (3-0) and Kennesaw State (3-0) with two games to play. With Monmouth playing Kennesaw State next weekend in the series finale, CSU will need victories over the Owls and Liberty and a Monmouth loss next weekend to KSU to put the Bucs back in the title hunt.

Kennesaw State Outlook
Kennesaw State was named the co-favorite in the 2017 Big South Football Preseason Poll with the Owls receiving 80 total points and nine first-place votes in the tabulation. The Owls finished third in the conference with a 3-2 league mark in 2016. KSU is currently tied with Monmouth with a 3-0 mark in 2017.

Dual-threat quarterback Chandler Burks is reigning Big South Offensive Player of the Week for the past two weeks after leaving Kennesaw State to wins over Presbyterian and Montana State. Burks has scored a rushing touchdown in six consecutive Big South games and is one away from tying the mark set by CSU alum Collin Drafts (2005-06). Burks is a three-time Conference Offensive Player of the Week this season.

Burks currently leads Big South quarterbacks with 755 rushing yards on the season and leads all players with 11 rushing touchdowns. He is averaging 83.9 yards per game and leads the conference with 169 rushing attempts. Burks is also sixth in the Big South with 91.7 passing yards per game.

Jake McKenzie is second on the team with 544 rushing yards on 108 attempts, averaging 60.4 yards per game on the ground. He leads the KSU backs that combined with Burks, pace the FCS with 331.2 rushing yards per game.

When he's not making highlight-reel, ESPN-worthy touchdown catches, wide receiver Justin Sumpter lead the Owls with 19 catches for 385 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sumpter joins CSU's Kameron Brown as the only players in the conference to average 20-plus receiving yards per catch this season.

Linebacker Bryson Armstrong leads the Kennesaw State offense with 68 tackles on the season. He leads the team with 7.0 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and a blocked kick.

The Owls have been held to 285 rushing yards in the two games the Bucs and KSU have lined up over the past two seasons.

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 leads the team with 737 passing yards and six touchdowns, while Johnson is third on the Bucs with 299 rushing yards and a pair of scores. Robert Mitchell is also expected to see time at quarterback this weekend after leading CSU's comeback with a 49-yard completion to Kenny Dinkins to set up the last second field goal.

Shuler Helms the Gold Rush
Game-in and game-out redshirt junior running back Noah Shuler has been the reliable back for the Bucs offense in the 2017 season. Shuler paces the Bucs offense with 460 rushing yards on 98 carries and has been the team rushing leader in five different games, including this past weekend against Gardner-Webb. Shuler toted the ball 12 times for 59 yards and added a six-yard rushing touchdown to cap CSU's first drive in the game as the Bucs topped Gardner-Webb and extended their conference record road winning streak. For the season, Shuler has six double-digit carry efforts and has scored touchdowns in six of his last eight games, including in each Big South contest this season.

First Downs Move Chains
Charleston Southern has accumulated 139 first downs in the 2017 season; 59 have come over the past two weeks against Savannah State and Monmouth. Overall, 89 of CSU's 139 first downs (64.0%) have come inside the friendly confines of Buccaneer Field. The Bucs have averaged 10.0 first downs per game on the road with 16 coming on the road at Elon on September 16. 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 27:20 in the win against the Runnin' Bulldogs. CSU ran 52 offensive plays and averaged 5.7 yards per play this past weekend against Gardner-Webb. 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 fourth in time of possession in the Big South Conference on the year trailing Kennesaw State (33:26), Gardner-Webb (30:27), and Monmouth (30:21) and has perennially been among the national leaders in the category finishing 10th in 2015.

Limiting Turnovers
Charleston Southern lost the turnover battle for the fourth time in the 2017 season this past weekend, but it highlights a more troubling issue for the Bucs over the last month. CSU turned the ball over three times this past week in the win over Gardner-Webb as the Buccaneers threw a pair of interceptions and gave up a fumble. The Bucs have turned the ball over 11 times in the last month. CSU also gave up a pair of fumbles and threw an interception the previous week against Presbyterian. The Bucs continued the trend this two weeks ago with a pair of interceptions against Monmouth. Prior to the past month weeks, the Bucs had 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 back in the top 10 with 21.70 yards per reception to sit 10th 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 against Monmouth.

Ellis Setting Records
Anthony Ellis earned Big South Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time this season after the senior defensive end set a conference record with 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 12 tackles in CSU's win against Gardner-Webb. Ellis enters the Saturday contest with 23.5 career sacks and 48.5 tackles for loss. He is second all-time in Big South history in both categories, trailing only Liberty's Chima Uzowihe (25.0 sacks) and Gardner-Webb's Brian Johnston (53.5 tackles for loss). Ellis tied for the conference record with his third 7.0 sack season with the Apopka, Fla. native posting a conference-leading 8.0 sacks this season. He was the preseason Big South Defensive Player of the Year and a selection to the Buck Buchanan Preseason Watch List.

Robinson's Special Season
Not to be overshadowed by his cousin, Johnny Robinson has had a standout season for the Buccaneers in 2017 as the junior defensive tackle has dominated his matchups in the interior this year. Robinson is currently third in the conference with 5.5 sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss after posting highs of 1.5 tackles for loss in each of his first two seasons. The Apopka, Fla. native has posted 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks over the last two games against Monmouth and Gardner-Webb and added a two-sack, 2.5 tackle for loss game against Mississippi Valley State. He posted a season-high nine tackles last season against Kennesaw State to combine with fellow tackle Noah Oliver to control the line of scrimmage in the Bucs' 28-7 win over the Owls.

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. Fifteen different players have accumulated at least a partial sack this year with Ellis leading the way with a team-high 8.0 sacks on the season. Johnny Robinson (5.5, 3rd) 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. CSU (31) has a double-digit sack lead over Monmouth (20) and Kennesaw State (20).

Sosebee Flying Around Everywhere
All J.D. Sosebee does is make plays as the redshirt sophomore linebacker leads the Buccaneers with 65 tackles on the season. Sosebee is fifth overall in the Big South with 7.2 tackles per game and has posted three double-digit tackle performances this season, including a career-high 11 tackles twice against Mississippi State and Indiana. The Gainesville, Ga. native is coming off another standout performance against the Runnin' Bulldogs following his second sack of the season and a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss. He added a 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the Bucs win over Point.

Under 100 Rushing Yards
A common trend in each of CSU's wins in the 2017 season has been the Bucs' ability to limit the opponents' rushing attack. The Bucs have faced three of the conference's leading rushers in 2017 and held them to a combined 116 yards on 50 carries (2.3 ypa). CSU held Presbyterian freshman tailback Torrance Marable for 28 yards on 13 carries in their matchup. The Bucs followed up by limiting Big South rushing leader Pete Guerriero to 29 yards on 15 attempts in CSU's contest against Monmouth. Last weekend, the Bucs limited GWU's Tyrell Maxwell to 22 carries and 59 yards on the ground. The Bucs face another tough test this weekend facing the FCS' top rushing offense of the season as the Owls average 331.2 yards per game on the ground paced by Chandler Burks (83.9, 2nd) efforts.

Containing Chandler Burks
Key to Kennesaw State's offensive attack this season has been the efforts of redshirt junior quarterback Chandler Burks. Burks is second in the conference with 83.9 rushing yards per game and tops the Big South with 11 rushing touchdowns on the year. Burks has currently scored on the ground in each of the last six games and is closing in on the conference's record for rushing touchdowns in consecutive games set by CSU alum and Big South Hall of Fame member Collin Drafts (seven games, 2005-06). Burks is currently sixth in the conference averaging 91.7 passing yards per game. CSU limited the KSU quarterback to nine carries for 48 rushing yards last season to go with a 6-of-17 performance through the air for 71 yards and two interceptions.

Tekac's Game-Winner
Tyler Tekac kept CSU's conference title hopes alive with a 43-yard game-winning field goal as time expired in the Bucs 10-9 win over Gardner-Webb. With one second remaining on the clock, the Bucs special teams unit got the snap off in time and Tekac connected on the game-winner to help CSU continue its road conference winning streak. It was Tekac's fourth 40-yard field goal of the season. He was also perfect on his lone extra point attempt. The junior placekicker continues to excel this season as he moved into fourth all-time in the CSU career scoring standings surpassing John Paglia (143, 2008-10) following his field goal against the Runnin' Bulldogs. He is currently seventh in the conference in scoring with 5.9 points per game.

Spotting Up With Reighard
Redshirt sophomore punter Kyle Reighard continues to lead an elite FCS unit as the Bucs are averaging a 38.9 net punting average. The Bucs lead the Big South and are 13th in the NCAA this season in large part due to Reighard's efforts. The Salem, Va. native has averaged 40.7 yards per attempt on the season to sit second in the conference with 16 punts placed inside the 20. Nineteen of his attempts have been fair caught. Reighard has placed four punts over 50 yards including a career-high 57 yards at Indiana.

Ray's Aptitude for Success
The unsung hero from last Saturday's thrilling last-second win over Gardner-Webb, long snapper Ethan Ray has played a huge part in CSU's success in 2017. The redshirt freshman replaced All-American long snapper and three-year starter Joseph Smith this season. A Boiling Springs, S.C. native, Ray spent the previous year shadowing Smith who earned Second Team All-American honors in 2015 from STATS FCS. Ray graded out at 100 percent during his playing career at Boiling Springs High School and earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors in his senior season. Ray alertly snapped the ball in the final second to start the game-winning kick that led to CSU's 10-9 win over the Runnin' Bulldogs.

View: Mobile | Desktop