Three Things to Watch as the Buccaneers hit the road to Savannah State

Three Things to Watch as the Buccaneers hit the road to Savannah State

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern hits the road once again this weekend as the Buccaneers travel down I-95 to Savannah, Ga. for a Saturday night matchup at Savannah State University. Kickoff between the Bucs and the Tigers is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN3. In preparation for the contest, here are three things to watch for in Saturday's game.

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

CSU Notes | SSU NotesBig South Notes

Charleston Southern and Savannah State enter the weekend struggling in the passing game on the season. The duo both possess some of the lowest passing yards per game on the season following the first five weeks of the season, however, both have shown signs of life recently.

CSU enters the weekend 124th overall in FCS in passing yards per game, passing yards per completion, and team passing efficiency. The Bucs currently are producing 33.3 passing yards per game on the season and have yet to post their first triple-digit passing effort of 2018 after eclipsing the mark seven times last year.

London Johnson and Jack Chambers combined for 71 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns this past weekend in CSU's 48-14 win. The Buccaneers touchdown passes were their first two passing scores of the season with Saire Davis and Ronnie Harris both finding the end zone through the air in the win over the Pirates.

CSU's Passing Per Game – 2018 Edition
Sept. 1 at Florida – 3 yards, 1 interception
Sept. 22 vs. Elon – 26 yards, 2 interceptions
Sept. 29 at Hampton – 71 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

The Buccaneers will look to get back on track this weekend against a Savannah State team that CSU's passing game dominated last season. Quarterback London Johnson had a career effort against the Tigers last season at Buccaneer Field going 13-of-19 through the air for 219 yards and four touchdowns in the win over SSU. He added 16 carries for 117 rushing yards in the 52-27 win over the Tigers.

CSU will look to get on track this weekend against at Savannah State defense surrendering 220.0 yards passing per game and 13.33 yards per completion. The Tigers have struggled to rush the passer totaling just four sacks through four games and have surrendered 48.8 points per game on the year.

SSU Pass Defense Per Game – 2018 Edition
Aug. 30 at UAB – 263 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Sept. 8 at Miami (Fla.) – 255 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception
Sept. 22 at Florida A&M – 166 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions
Sept. 29 vs. Bethune-Cookman – 196 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception

Similar to CSU's struggles, Savannah State has also struggled to air it out in 2018. The Tigers combined for 71 passing yards over the first two games of the season against UAB and Miami and currently sit 121st in FCS in passing yards per game with 90.0 yards per game.

Savannah State has shown signs of life through the air recently with 153 yards passing in the loss to Florida A&M, as well as 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Bethune-Cookman. Quarterback D'vonn Gibbons paces the team with 205 passing yards and a touchdown, while TJ Bell has also seen time with 155 yards through the air.

SSU has struggled to connect with its quarterback duo completing only 34.18% of their passes. The Buccaneers secondary is among the nation's best this year sitting 16th in FCS in pass defense (166.3 ypg). CSU also boasts two of the top pass defenders in the country with James Allen (1.7) and Jonathan Slaton (1.0) sitting among the nation's best per game.

One of the keys to the game on Saturday will be which team is able to get the passing game going against the opposing defense to keep the chains moving.

The Buccaneers defense finally had its breakout game this past weekend on the road against Hampton. CSU posted a season-high eight tackles for loss and added its second sack of the season in the 48-14 win over the Pirates with multiple players contributing on the defensive side of the ball.

Eight different players recorded tackles behind the line of scrimmage against Hampton paced by J.D. Sosebee's two tackles for loss. The redshirt junior linebacker is tied for the team lead in the category with 2.5 TFL on the season with senior defensive tackle Johnny Robinson.

CSU was able to get contributions from a number of players including Jonathan Glover, Jon Pohahau, Kyle Syvarth, and Theo Goodwin in the contest. The Bucs also forced three fumbles in the game with Slaton, Nick Salley, and Shadarius Hopkins all popping the ball loose against the Pirates.

The Buccaneers will need to continue their pressure against the Savannah State offensive line that has struggled to keep the quarterback upright in 2018. The Tigers surrender 2.25 sacks per game on the season and currently sit 96th in FCS with 109.3 rushing yards per game.

On the flip side, CSU's offensive line will look to continue its run dominance this season. The Buccaneers have averaged at least 220 rushing yards per game in 2018 to once again sit among the national leaders. CSU is currently 20th in the rushing category this season at 228.7 yards per game and ran for 308 yards and three touchdowns last season against the Tigers.

London Johnson and Terrence Wilson have both posted 100-yard rushing games this year, while Ronnie Harris recorded 83 yards in the opener against Florida. CSU has had a different rushing leader in each game this year and has posted three runs of 60-plus yards.

Savannah State's run defense has struggled this year allowing at least 200 rushing yards in three of the four games, including 285 in the opener against UAB. SSU has surrendered at least three rushing touchdowns in all four games and is currently ranked 106th in FCS in run defense at 229.5 yards per game.

Controlling the line of scrimmage is always a key to victory and the Bucs will look to take control early against the Tigers on Saturday night.

Charleston Southern has been among the nation's best over the last few seasons thanks to its strong return game. The Buccaneers enhanced their reputation this past weekend against Hampton with the trio of Taz Lindsey, James Allen, and John Chiaramonte combining for 215 total return yards and a touchdown in the win over the Pirates.

Allen took Big South Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his 80-yard kickoff return touchdown that swung the momentum back into the hands of the Bucs in the first half at Hampton. The return was CSU's first kickoff score since the 2010 season and gave the Bucs a two-score advantage in the game.

Big South All-Conference return specialist Taz Lindsey also got into the action in the game with five punt returns for 90 yards and added a 91-yard return on the opening kickoff that was called back due to a CSU penalty. Chiaramonte also got in on the action on a squib kick with a 23-yard return back to midfield in the second quarter.

CSU boasts one of the top return units in FCS heading into the weekend. The Bucs are 11th in the country averaging 18.0 yards per punt return paced by Lindsey's efforts. CSU is also among the leaders at 13th in FCS in kick returns at 27.36 yards per attempt.

Savannah State struggles to defend the punt allowing an average of 24.0 yards per punt return sitting 120th in the category on the year. SSU is also allowing 22.78 yards per kick return in 2018.

The Bucs coverage units have also been strong this season, but the CSU specialists will be put to the test against an equally strong Savannah State unit. Savannah State leads the nation with 30.25 yards per punt return this season and is in the top 30 in kickoff returns at 23.86 yards per game.

CSU will look toward punter Kyle Reighard to help the Bucs rule the field position game on Saturday night in Savannah. The Bucs team, helmed by the redshirt junior, is 12th in net punting on the year and allows just 4.43 yards per return on the season.

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