CHARLESTON, S.C. – An early open week gives Charleston Southern the opportunity to focus internally while also turning its attention toward preparation for The Citadel. Here are some items of interest heading into another week of practice and next Saturday's game at the crosstown rival Bulldogs.
Second half yields positives against Gators
CSU actually outgained Florida, 133-90, in the second half of Saturday's opener. The Bucs churned out a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive offensively, and limited the Gators to just five first downs defensively.
"I really liked the way our kids fought and continued to compete," CSU head coach Mark Tucker said. "Even though it was the second group in there for Florida, and some of the third group as it got really late, it was good to see us sustain a 12-play drive against an SEC defense."
"It's hard to use that type of game as a measuring stick because it's skewed," Tucker continued. "It's good teaching film, though, and we came out feeling like we have some things to build on."
O-Line and DB's earn praise
Two units that delivered promising performances against the Gators were the offense line and secondary.
"Even against their best, I felt like we blocked them well," Tucker said of an offensive line anchored by starters Brackin Smith, Zack Evans, Joe Gold, Stephen Haralambis and Gage Bostwick. "Execution-wise, we had some breakdowns but the mismatches weren't as glaring as we thought they possibly could be. Our guys did a really nice job up front, particularly in the second half, to let us hold the ball and make some positive things happen."
In the defensive backfield, Brandon Rowland, Jonathan Slaton and Shadarius Hopkins were three of CSU's four top tacklers. Slaton and Hopkins each broke up a pair of passes, while corner James Allen added another against a deep Florida receiving corps.
"Our corners and safeties played their tails off," Tucker said. "Jonathan Slaton made four or five plays, and James Allen made two, against SEC players that were big-time plays, regardless of where you're at. We were incredibly impressed with their focus and we've gotta build on that."
Early open week lines up with rivalry game
Having an unconventional open week after the first game of the season could be opportune for CSU. It gives the Bucs a chance to heal from the Florida game, and results into extra preparation time for a rival that runs a triple-option offense.
"Preparing for The Citadel, it's a huge blessing," Tucker said. "I know our guys are excited to play them but I have a very good feeling about where they're at mentally as far as not getting too amped, too quick, too early. I like where we're at from that standpoint."
CSU will be looking for its fifth consecutive win in the series. The programs last played in 2015, with CSU defeating The Citadel on the road in September before capturing a playoff triumph at Buccaneer Field in December.