Weekend Preview: Bucs host No. 14/12 Elon in 2018 home opener on Saturday

Weekend Preview: Bucs host No. 14/12 Elon in 2018 home opener on Saturday

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern football makes its home debut on Saturday evening as CSU hosts No. 14/12 Elon for a showdown on ESPN+. Kickoff between the two teams is set for 6 p.m. at Buccaneer Field.

Saturday's game will be carried live on BSN on ESPN+ with "Voice of the Bucs" Kevin O'Rourke calling the action in the game. Joining O'Rourke on the broadcast will be Danny Croghan III (Booth) and Danielle Hensley (Sideline). The link to watch is available HERE. (Disclaimer, ESPN+ is a pay-per-view platform)

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

CSU Notes | Elon Notes | Big South Notes

This weekend marks the third consecutive season CSU has had a football game impacted by weather conditions. CSU and The Citadel have rescheduled their game for November 29 contingent on neither team making the FCS Playoffs. Elon's scheduled CAA opener against William & Mary was also postponed due to weather.

Last season's contest came down to the wire between the two teams. The Bucs mounted a furious comeback in the second half to cut Elon's lead down to one possession late in the game. However, Tyler Tekac's 51-yard field goal attempt fell short as time expired in Rhodes Stadium allowing the Phoenix to hold on for the win.

CSU puts a five-game home opener winning streak on the line against the Phoenix this weekend. The Bucs have won each of their last five home openers dating back to the 2013 season. During the stretch, CSU has outscored opponents 248-45 in their home openers, including last season's 66-0 win over Point.

It's the sixth meeting all-time between Charleston Southern and Elon and second in as many seasons. The two programs met in four consecutive seasons in 1999-2002 with Elon taking the win in each game. The series renewed last season with the Phoenix improving to 5-0 all-time against CSU following the 19-17 win. This is the third time the teams have played at Buccaneer Field and first since 2002.

Elon had a season for the ages last year as the Phoenix advanced to the FCS Playoffs for the second time in program history. Elon was picked fifth in a deep CAA conference that boasted a national-best six teams ranked in the preseason polls, including national runner-up James Madison.

Elon already boasts a top win in the 2018 season with a dominant 45-7 victory over then-No. 21 Furman. The Phoenix jumped out a 28-0 halftime lead and built a 45-point advantage before surrendering a late rushing touchdown. The win boosted Elon's record to 1-1 after falling to FBS South Florida in the season-opener.

The Phoenix are also coming off an unexpected bye week as their September 15 game against William & Mary was postponed due to Hurricane Florence.

Elon boasts top offensive talent including returning CAA Offensive Freshman of the Year Davis Cheek, as well as senior running back Malcolm Summers. Summers was one of two running backs to tally 100+ rushing yards against the Bucs' defense last season. Cheek posted 145 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns in Elon's 19-17 win over the Bucs last season.

CSU and Elon renewed their rivalry with each other last season after a 15-year hiatus. The Bucs and Phoenix battled annually from 1999-2002 with the teams swapping home-and-home series during the stretch. Elon took the contest last year in Elon with a 19-17 victory over the Bucs to improve to 5-0 in the series.

Elon (233.5, 23rd) is among the national rushing leaders in 2018.

Buc Walk:
 Charleston Southern will be incorporating a new feature to its game day festivities this year as the team will incorporate a Buc Walk prior to the game. The team, joined by members of the band and cheer team, will walk the length of Academic Drive starting at Jones Hall and ending at the Stadium. Fans are encouraged to meet and greet the team as they prepare for Saturday night's kickoff against Elon. The walk will start at 3:15 p.m.

Free Student Tailgate: Current students are invited to join the FREE student tailgate located inside the student entrance.  To access the tent students should wear their Blue Crew shirt or present a student ID while wearing Buc Gear. Students who are not members of the Blue Crew can join for free at the marketing table, located behind the band stands. 

Game Day Giveaway: 500 poms will be available for FREE to fans while supplies last, courtesy of IOA.  (https://www.ioausa.com)

Halftime Recognition: Charleston Southern University and the football program have a special recognition ceremony planned for halftime. Be sure to stick in your seats for this special ceremony.

Men's Basketball Alumni Day: Former CSU head coach Tommy Conrad, who directed the program to its only NCAA Tournament berth in 1997, will be honored at the football game as CSU men's basketball hosts an Alumni Day on September 22. All basketball alumni are invited to play in an Alumni Game, watch CSU practice, and partake in a pregame tailgate. Contact Assistant A.D. for Development Tyler Davis at tdavis@csuniv.edu for more information.

The Big South Conference and ESPN reached a seven-year extension to its media rights deal in July that will see close to 1,000 annual conference events carried on ESPN networks -- including a minimum 900 events each year on ESPN+, the first multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company Direct-to-Consumer & International segment and ESPN which launched in April. The agreement runs through 2024-25, 34 years since the longstanding relationship began in 1991. The comprehensive new deal makes ESPN+ the exclusive streaming home of Big South Network productions. Big South football will still air on ESPN3, and the first exclusive broadcast is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Although Charleston Southern struggled to get the ball moving through the air against the Gators in the season opener, CSU was able to get the ground game clicking in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Ronnie Harris paced the way with an eight-carry, 83-yard rushing effort. Terrence Wilson added a 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs on their way to recording 222 rushing yards in the contest, averaging an impressive 5.2 yards per carry. CSU recorded the second-most rushing yards in program history against an FBS opponent in the game trailing only their 2015 contest at Troy (263 yards).

100-100 CLUB
Solomon Brown eclipsed 200 career tackles in the contest against the Gators following his team-leading eight stops against UF. The redshirt senior defensive lineman has posted over 100 career solo and 100 career assisted tackles with the Buccaneers over the last four seasons. Brown has also been one of the Big South's most active players around the line of scrimmage over his career. The redshirt senior enters the Elon game sitting sixth all-time with 36.0 tackles for loss. He is also as seventh all-time with 15.0 career quarterback sacks.

With CSU facing 2nd-and-5 from its own 22, Ronnie Harris took the ball over the right end and down the sideline, shedding several would-be tacklers along the way. The redshirt junior was finally tracked down at the UF eight-yard line inside the final minute of the second half. It was the longest run of his CSU playing career and the Bucs' longest carry since 2016. The Richmond Hill, Ga. native finished 2017 second on the team with 405 rushing yards and is expected to lead a deep, versatile rushing attack for the Bucs this season.

CSU has been dominant on the line of scrimmage over the last few seasons and the opener against the Gators was no exception. Thanks to their strength up front, the Bucs limited the Gators to a 22.2% third down conversion percentage in the opener. The performance was good enough to rank CSU seventh in FCS following the contest. The pass rush up front was highlighted by freshman Taequan Washington recording a team-high 1.5 tackles for loss in the game, one of five team stops behind the line of scrimmage.

CSU's senior-laden defensive backfield came to play at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium against the Gators. Paced by national-leader Jonathan Slaton's three pass breakups, the Buccaneers knocked away five passing attempts in the contest against UF. Fellow cornerback James Allen also recorded a knockdown on the day, while senior safety Shadarius Hopkins added to his growing totals in the game. Hopkins is currently fifth all-time in conference history with 26 career pass breakups and his 30 career passes defended ties him for 11th in the conference annals.

Kyle Reighard continues to shine in his second season as the Buccaneers' punter. The redshirt junior put together a strong line against the Gators finishing with seven punts and an average of 41.7 yards per attempt. The Salem, Va. native put one inside the 20-yard line and recorded three fair catches in the game to pace CSU's special teams efforts. The Bucs enter the contest against the Phoenix ranked 20th in FCS in net punting in 2018.

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