Three Things to Watch as CSU hosts Virginia Lynchburg Saturday night

Three Things to Watch as CSU hosts Virginia Lynchburg Saturday night

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern returns to start a three-game homestand this weekend at Buccaneer Field as CSU welcomes Virginia Lynchburg for Saturday night football on ESPN+. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. between the Bucs and the Dragons. 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 | Big South Notes

HOLD ON TO THE BALL
Charleston Southern has struggled to maintain possession in 2018 as the Buccaneers enter Saturday's contest near the bottom of FCS in turnover margin. The Bucs have coughed the ball up 11 times over the first four games and are currently minus-four in the category on the season. CSU enters the VUL contest ranked 81st in FCS in total turnovers and 104th in turnover margin on the season.

CSU's multiple turnovers have hindered the Bucs and allowed opponents to fight their way back into the games. Opponents have scored 121 total points against CSU this season with 48 (39.6%) coming off drives following a Buccaneer miscue.

Game - Score (Points off Turnover)
Sept. 1 at Florida - L, 53-6 (6)
Sept. 22 vs. Elon - L, 31-22 (14)
Sept. 29 at Hampton - W, 48-14 (14)
Oct. 6 at Savannah State - L, 23-3 (14)          

Opponents have been able to net two touchdowns in each of the last two games off CSU turnovers. Elon utilized untimely Buccaneer errors in the second half to rally from a 19-10 halftime deficit. Savannah State took advantage of a CSU turnover early in the second quarter to double their lead at the half and rode the momentum to the win.

CSU's offense has struggled at times this season and has posted six interceptions and five fumbles on the year. The Bucs have been in the minus this season in turnover margin in three of the four games this year. CSU's lone win in the turnover battle came in the Bucs victory over Hampton when the defense forced five turnovers in the 48-14 victory over the Pirates.

The Bucs have traditionally been near the median in FCS in turnover margin over the last five years. Over the last three seasons, CSU has been in the negatives in the category.

CSU Turnover Margin Last Five Seasons
2018 – (-1.00)
2017 – (-0.09)
2016 – (-0.27)
2015 – 0.31
2014 – 0.67

Virginia Lynchburg enters the game posting four interceptions over their first five games. Fumbles forced and fumble recoveries are not available at this time. CSU will look to hold onto the ball and extend their drives, which leads directly into the second thing to watch for this weekend.

CONTROLLING POSSESSION
Charleston Southern ranked first overall in FCS in time of possession as recently as the 2014 season. The Bucs held onto the ball 34:05 on their way to posting a top-25 defense and a top-50 offense on the year and boasted a healthy plus-0.67 turnover margin for the year.

Since then, the trend has been going down with the defense playing extended minutes on the field.

CSU Time of Possession
2014 – 34:05, 1st
2015 – 33:12, 10th
2016 – 31:07, 38th
2017 – 30:19, 47th
2018 – 28:35, 80th

This trend was apparent in the second half against Savannah State as the Tigers held onto the ball more than 21 of the final 30 minutes of the game. The Tigers utilized several long drives to keep the Buccaneers' offense off the field and prevented a potential comeback attempt.

Part of CSU's struggles in the time of possession battle this season has been its ability to generate first downs, as well as convert on third down opportunities. The Bucs rank last in the conference in total first downs (42) and first downs per game (10.5) through the first four games of the season. CSU's season high in the category is 13 coming in the Bucs' 48-14 win over Hampton.

The Bucs will look to get back on track this weekend against a Virginia Lynchburg defense that has allowed opponents to hold onto the ball an average of 31:05 per game on the year. This includes Bethune-Cookman holding onto the ball 32:05 in the game against the Dragons with 13:14 of that coming in the fourth quarter with the game decided.

CSU will look to reestablish itself in the time of possession game and get the ground game up and moving again this weekend against Virginia Lynchburg.

REESTABLISH THE RUN GAME
Key to Charleston Southern's resurgence over the last five years has been the success of the offensive rushing unit. Four of CSU's top five team rushing efforts have occurred over the last five seasons. The Bucs eclipsed the 3,000-yard rushing mark in 2013 and have surpassed 2,000 yards in each of the last six seasons. The magic number for the Bucs has been 300 rushing yards in each of the last four seasons with CSU posting an 8-0 record when eclipsing the triple century mark.

300-Yard Rushing Games Over Last Three Seasons
Sept. 26, 2015    306 at The Citadel
Sept. 3, 2016       405 vs. Kentucky State
Sept. 24, 2016    322 at Monmouth
Oct. 22, 2016      343 vs. Presbyterian
Nov. 12, 2016     344 at Liberty
Sept. 23, 2017    320 yards vs. Point
Sept. 30, 2017    359 yards vs. Miss. Valley State
Oct. 21, 2017      308 vs. Savannah State

CSU has yet to reach that elusive number this season but has topped at least 220 yards in each of its first three contests. This past week against Savannah State, the Buccaneers were limited in the run game picking up only 33 yards on 34 carries.

The Savannah State game put the Bucs down to averaging 179.8 rushing yards per game and held the Bucs without a gain of 60-yards or more for the first time in 2018. CSU's leading rushers on the season, London Johnson, Ronnie Harris, and Terrence Wilson, were held for a combined 38 rushing yards in the game. Johnson and Wilson both have 100-yard games to their tallies this season with Johnson (119) going over the century mark against Elon, while Wilson (103) topped the mark against Hampton. All three are capable of big games against Virginia Lynchburg.

The Dragons' defense has been stingy against the run at times this season. Virginia Lynchburg is ranked fifth in the NCCAA in run defense (144.8) and has allowed opponents to crack 150 yards rushing only twice this season.

Teams Rushing Against VUL
Sept. 8 at Bethune-Cookman      129 yards
Sept. 13 at Newberry     157 yards
Sept. 22 vs. Brevard        31 yards
Sept. 29 at Fort Valley State        92 yards
Oct. 6 at Benedict            201 yards

CSU will look to rely on a veteran offensive line that was bruised this past weekend against Savannah State, but still retains experienced seniors Joe Gold, Gage Bostwick, and junior Brackin Smith who will attempt to carve running lanes in the VUL defense on Saturday.

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