Weekend Preview: CSU hits the road for Saturday afternoon battle at Hampton

Weekend Preview: CSU hits the road for Saturday afternoon battle at Hampton

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern football returns to the road this weekend as they take on Hampton University on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff at Armstrong Stadium is set for 2 p.m. with the game set to be streamed live via ESPN+.

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

CSU Notes | Hampton Notes | Big South Notes

This is the first of two first-time opponents for Charleston Southern this season. The Bucs and the Pirates have never lined up against each other in the past, but this matchup will start an annual rivalry between the two teams as Hampton joins the Big South Conference as a football playing institution in 2019.

Hampton is battling their way through the 2018 season as an FCS Independent this year as they transition to joining the Big South Conference as a full member in 2019. The Pirates made the switch from the MEAC to the Big South this season with all sports (except football) eligible to win the conference championship this season.

Charleston Southern enters the weekend still searching for their first win of 2018. CSU is currently 0-2 heading into the fifth week of the season. It marks only the fifth time in program history the team heads into the final week of September winless and first since 2011. CSU went 2-2 last September and is 17-7 over the first month of the season over the last five years.

Hampton heads into new territory this season as the Pirates are playing a year as an NCAA FCS Independent this season prior to joining the Big South Conference next year. The Pirates entered the season under first-year head coach Robert Prunty after leaving the MEAC and joining the Big South this summer.

Hampton enters the contest with a 1-2 overall record on the season. The Pirates picked up a win in their opener against Shaw, before falling in back-to-back contests on the road at Monmouth and Northern Iowa. Their September 15 contest against Tennessee State was postponed due to Hurricane Florence.

The Pirates went 6-5 last season, including a 5-3 mark in MEAC play and a 4-2 record at home in Armstrong Stadium. Hampton's home field record has traditionally been strong with HU posting only four losing seasons on their home turf since 1983. Altogether, Hampton is 182-137-6 at home.

Hampton does have the pleasure in 2018 of returning both quarterbacks who saw action during the 2017 season. Senior Delmon Williams headlines the offense after leading the team last season with 1,757 passing yards completing 52.7% of his passes. He threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns against Delaware State and had three touchdown passes against Florida A&M.

Defensively, the Pirates return several standouts from 2017 who will be counted to guide a youthful look in 2018. Safeties Dereon Carr, Chaka Diarrassouba, Oral Varcciann and Aladonte Howard will patrol the secondary. Carr and Varcciann combined for seven pass deflections and six pass breakup.

Hampton will take on three members of the Big South this season with dates against Monmouth, CSU, and Presbyterian on the schedule.

Charleston Southern eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark for the second time this season this past weekend against Elon. Paced by London Johnson's second career 100-yard rushing performance, the Bucs ran for a season-high 238 yards and a trio of touchdowns in the game against the Phoenix. CSU enters the game against the Pirates looking to continue their success on the ground, entering the contest ranked 26th in FCS in rushing yards per game and second in the Big South behind Kennesaw State (361.0). Ronnie Harris (53.5 ypg) and Johnson (95.5 ypg) lead the Bucs' rushing attack on the season and will look to find open space against the Pirates defense that is limiting opponents to 144.0 yards on the ground this season.

While the rushing game has been moving strong, the passing game has struggled to gain traction through the air in 2018. The Bucs enter the Hampton contest ranked 124th in total passing with 14.5 yards per game through the air. CSU opened the season with five completions for three yards in the opener against the Gators. The Bucs found a few more openings in the Elon secondary this past weekend with 26 yards against the Phoenix. However, CSU surrendered a pair of interceptions in the contest that came at costly times and allowed Elon to fight their way back into the game.

London Johnson had his way with the Elon defense in the first half as the redshirt junior quarterback found the end zone three times over the opening 30 minutes. Johnson scored from one, 78, and two yards out in helping the Bucs rushing attack eclipse their opponents for the second time this season. Johnson's one-yard plunge in the first quarter put CSU in the lead. On the ensuing drive, he faked the pitch right and went untouched up the right sideline for 78 yards and the score. The 78-yard run was the longest play for the Bucs in 2018 and longest run since the 2016 season. It marked the eighth time in program history CSU has had someone score three rushing touchdowns in a game and the first since Mike Holloway accomplished the feat on Oct. 10, 2015, against Monmouth.

The Bucs have played two games in 2018 and CSU has struggled to hold onto the ball in both contests this season. CSU has turned the ball over three times in each contest and opponents have outscored the Bucs 20-3 off turnovers this year. The Bucs' issues have come on both the offensive side, as well as on special teams this season. CSU gave up a pair of fumbles and an interception in the opener against Florida. Against Elon, an untimely fumble on a kickoff return led to Elon retaking the lead during a 21-point swing. The Bucs also threw a pair of interceptions in the game, including one early in the fourth quarter that effectively ended CSU's comeback attempt.

Nine of the ten offensive linemen on CSU's preseason two-deep are in their fourth or fifth seasons in the program. The lone exception is backup left guard JT Melton, a redshirt freshman who headlines a promising group of underclassmen. Offensive line coach Matt White likes the makeup of his group, especially the return of senior interior lineman Joe Gold. Gold is a versatile interior lineman who returns after missing all of 2017 due to an injury suffered during the final week of fall camp. Gold, who started eight games for the Bucs' 2016 Big South championship team, has experience at center and guard. He transferred to CSU in 2015 after starting six games as a true freshman at Florida Atlantic in 2014.

Terrence Wilson averaged a team-best six yards per carry last season. He opened eyes and earned Big South Freshman of the Week honors with a 106-yard performance, on just two carries, in CSU's blowout of Mississippi Valley State. Wilson took both of his touches into the end zone with long scoring runs of 62 and 44 yards. The Batesburg-Leesville High School product came to CSU as the South Carolina 2-A Player of the Year.

Known for getting after the quarterback over the last few seasons, Charleston Southern has been unable to generate their push up front this year. Through the first two games, CSU has posted one sack with Johnny Robinson the recipient of the lone quarterback takedown this season. The senior defensive tackle broke through the line on the first play of the second quarter and dropped Elon's Davis Cheek for the 11-yard loss. CSU recorded a program-record 34.0 sacks last season as a team and will look to get back after it this weekend at Hampton. The Pirates allow 1.67 sacks per game as a team in 2018.

Charleston Southern has struggled to take control of the line of scrimmage this season. The Bucs have recorded just nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage on the year through the first two games to sit 101st in FCS in the category per game. Johnny Robinson's return after injury at Florida was a huge boon to the defensive line as the senior tackle leads the team with two tackles for loss and the lone sack on the year. Freshman tackle Taequan Washington also has 1.5 tackles for loss on the season. The Bucs need to win the battle up front against an offensive unit surrendering 8.0 tackles for loss per game.

Charleston Southern redshirt senior safety Shadarius Hopkins was named the Big South Conference Football Defensive Player of the Week on Monday afternoon, as announced by the conference office. The weekly accolade was the first of the Winnsboro, S.C. native's career and CSU's first weekly honor of 2018. Hopkins paced CSU's defensive efforts in the 31-22 loss to Elon on Saturday evening at Buccaneer Field. Hopkins established new career highs in both total tackles (16) and solo tackles (10) in the losing effort. His totals marked the second time a Big South player eclipsed double-digit solo stops this season, while his 16 tackles tied for the Big South's top mark this year with Gardner-Webb's Corey Horne (Sept. 14 vs. Western Carolina).

Through two games, redshirt junior linebacker J.D. Sosebee is once again among the team's tackling leaders in 2018. The Gainesville, Ga. native burst onto the scene in his sophomore year on his way to finishing fifth in the Big South with a team-high 81 tackles, as well as eighth in the Big South with 8.0 tackles for loss. Among his highlights this past season includes three games with 10 or more tackles, as well as a 60-yard scoop and score on a fumble against Point. Sosebee returns as a veteran presence on the field for the Bucs and will be counted on by Coach Vance to build off a season that saw the 6-1 athlete earn Second Team All-Conference recognition in 2017.

Charleston Southern's defensive backs are back to their ball-hawking ways this season. All four starters in the defensive backfield have at least one pass defended on the season, including Jonathan Slaton's team-leading three on the year. Slaton currently is in a three-way tie for the most per game in the conference with 1.5, while safety Shadarius Hopkins is closing in on the top-10 all-time in the category in Big South history. Brandon Rowland and James Allen have also gotten into the mix this season with a pass breakup apiece. The Bucs have broken up six passes on the season and are currently looking for their first interception on the year.

Time of possession was not in CSU's favor this past weekend against Elon. The defense was on the field for 34:25 and was unable to keep the first half momentum going late in the game when the Phoenix made their run. For the year, the Bucs defense has been on the field an average of 31:12 per game with the offense sitting 74th in the NCAA in the category. A result of the team being on the field, the Bucs have surrendered 446.0 yards per game on the year.

Tyler Tekac joins a legacy of successful Charleston Southern kickers as the rising senior enters his final season of competition with the Bucs. The Goose Creek, S.C. native currently ranks fourth all-time in career field goals made and could become the fourth kicker in program history to reach 20 career made field goals this season. Tekac also could make his mark in career extra points made as he currently ranks second all-time in the category trailing only Nick Ellis (2003-07) in the mark. Tekac set the CSU extra points mark last season connecting on 43 consecutive PATs prior to a miss against Mississippi Valley State last September.

All Kyle Reighard does is boom the ball down the field. The rising redshirt junior lit a spark under the Buccaneers' special teams efforts last season as the Salem, Va. native led the Big South Conference by a wide margin of 1.4 yards per attempt. A welcome element to CSU's punting game, Reighard paced the conference in punts over 50 yards (11) and inside the 20 (20) last season. The Salem, Va. native helmed a unit that finished sixth in the Big South in net punting (39.1) in 2017 and will once again be counted on to pace CSU in the field position battles this year.

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