Weekend Preview: CSU hosts Gardner-Webb for Senior Day and Military Appreciation Day

Weekend Preview: CSU hosts Gardner-Webb for Senior Day and Military Appreciation Day

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern welcomes Gardner-Webb to Buccaneer Field for Senior Day and Military Appreciation Day as CSU hosts the Runnin' Bulldogs in their home finale. Kickoff on ESPN+ is set for 3 p.m.

Military Appreciation: In honor or Veterans day and to celebrate those who have served our country we invite all active and veteran members of our military to attend our game. Simply present your military ID at the gate for FREE admission. Also during our game, together the Big South Conference and Hardee's will donate $5 per point scored to support the Patriot Foundation.

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

CSU Notes | Gardner-Webb Notes | Big South Notes

Senior Day Successes
Charleston Southern's 2018 senior class looks to put a cap on their careers playing in front of the home fans this weekend against Gardner-Webb.  CSU has picked up wins on Senior Day in each of the last four seasons and could make it a perfect 5-0 on the final home game of the season at Buccaneer Field.

Shutting The GWU Pass Down
Charleston Southern's pass defense took a step back this past weekend and currently sits No. 2 in FCS in yards per game trailing behind only Kennesaw State in the rankings. The Bucs will look to shutdown GWU quarterback Jordan Smith with the redshirt freshman entering the game earning back-to-back conference Freshman Player of the Week recognition.

Big South Standings
Gardner-Webb (2-1) and CSU (1-2) both trail Kennesaw State (4-0) and Monmouth (3-0) in the Big South Conference standings heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. Both teams will attempt to make up ground with CSU still to play Campbell, while Gardner-Webb will host Monmouth.

Scouting Gardner-Webb
Gardner-Webb has played arguably the toughest schedule in the Big South Conference this season. The Runnin' Bulldogs faced off against three top-six opponents on the year at the date of competition in North Carolina A&T, Wofford, and Kennesaw State.

GWU bounced back from a six-game losing streak early in the year to win their last two contests in Big South play. The Runnin' Bulldogs enter the weekend with a 2-1 mark in conference competition following back-to-back wins at Campbell (35-7) and at home against Presbyterian (38-20).

Head Coach Carroll McCray boasts a 2-3 record against Charleston Southern. The sixth-year head coach has geared his team up against high-quality competition and knocked off the eighth-ranked Buccaneers, 17-10, last time the two teams faced off in Charleston.

Quarterback Jordan Smith has been key to GWU's pair of wins in Big South play. The redshirt freshman enters the weekend second in conference competition in total offense per game (190.3) and is second in passing yards (156.7). He earned conference Freshman of the Week honors for his four touchdown game against Campbell.

Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb were picked 3-4 in the Big South Conference Preaseason Coaches Poll as announced by the conference office in July. The Bucs received 75 points in the poll, while Gardner-Webb picked up 52 points as voted on by the conference's head coaches and media outlets.

Gardner-Webb's Will Millikan (OL) and Josh Ramseur (DL) represented the Runnin' Bulldogs on the Preseason All-Conference Honorable Mention team.

Gardner-Webb is currently surrendering 37.2 points per game and 477.8 yards of total offense defensively.

Run The Football
Charleston Southern's rushing game will look to get back on track this weekend against a Gardner-Webb run defense that has struggled to contain opposing offenses this season. The Bucs have been held under 150 rushing yards in each of their last three games, but remain among the nation's best at toting the ball this season. CSU is ranked 49th in FCS in rushing yards per game at 179.1, and posts several dynamic players offensively that can make people miss in open space. GWU is currently ranked 124th in the country in run defense allowing an average of 286.3 yards per game on the ground. Opponents have rushed for over 275 yards on five separate occasions against the Runnin' Bulldogs, including Wofford and Kennesaw State both hitting the 490 mark on the ground. GWU has also surrendered 30 rushing touchdowns this season including five games with at least four TDs given up on the ground. CSU will look London Johnson (57.4 ypg), Terrence Wilson (42.0 ypg), and Ronnie Harris (38.4 ypg) to carry the load for the offense this weekend.

Big Plays
Charleston Southern has been adept at hitting the big plays this season. London Johnson's 65-yard pass to Kenny Dinkins this past weekend against Monmouth was the Buccaneers' sixth 60-plus yard play of the year and second passing play to exceed the 60-yard mark. The Bucs do most of their damage on the ground with London Johnson, Ronnie Harris (twice), Kendrick Bell, and Terrence Wilson all eclipsing the 60-yard mark. Dinkins and Garris Schwarting have been the recipients of the big plays through the air. CSU will need to hit the home run this weekend against Gardner-Webb and get off to a fast start against a Runnin' Bulldog defense surrendering 477.8 yards of total offense per game.

Limit Turnovers
The turnover bug bit the Buccaneers again this past weekend as CSU was unable to sustain momentum on drives after coughing the ball up twice against the Hawks defense. Monmouth scored on both possessions following a CSU turnover, going for a touchdown following a CSU fumble, and connecting on a field goal after a Buccaneer interception. CSU has turned the ball over 14 times this season with opponents scoring 81 points on the year courtesy of the Bucs' miscues. Gardner-Webb's defense is +0.11 on the season in turnover margin and has forced eight turnovers in Big South play on the year. CSU will need to hold onto the ball to battle against a hot Runnin' Bulldogs team.

Keep Possession
Limiting turnovers is one key for CSU success this season. Another key is keeping possession. The Buccaneers currently rank 116th in FCS in time of possession at 26:51. CSU has won the time of possession battle only twice this season, holding onto the ball for 30:02 in the 48-14 win over Hampton, and 32:02 in the season-opening loss to Florida. The Buccaneers have struggled in Big South Conference play in sustaining drives against the opposition and keeping the defense off the field. CSU was limited to 22:21 in the loss to Kennesaw State. The Bucs held onto the ball a season-low 20:55 in the loss this past weekend to Monmouth. CSU will need to find a way to convert third downs and keep the offense on the field against a Gardner-Webb team that has also struggled in time of possession on the season at 29:47 per game.

Convert Third Downs
First downs are the name of the game for the Charleston Southern offense, but the Buccaneers have struggled to convert this season. CSU is currently converting third downs at a 28.3 percent clip on the season and has struggled over the past two weeks against conference competition going 1-for-10 against Kennesaw State, and 1-for-11 against Monmouth. Overall, CSU has hit better than a 40 percent conversion rate on third downs one time this season with the Buccaneers going 6-of-12 against Elon. The Bucs will look to get back on track this weekend against a Gardner-Webb defense that is very giving allowing opponents to move the chains 48.8 percent of the time this season.

Receivers Step Up
Charleston Southern's receiving corps will be looking to step up this weekend with the full return of senior wide receiver Saire Davis, as well as the steady play of Kenny Dinkins and Garris Schwarting. Key drops have plagued the Buccaneers this year at inopportune times and have limited the team's offensive success. The Bucs turned the corner this past weekend against Monmouth with Dinkins' 65-yard catch and run boosting CSU's efforts as the Bucs eclipsed the 100-yard passing mark for the third time this year. Davis (four catches, 24 yards) and Taz Lindsey (one catch, 18 yards) will play a key role for the Bucs on Saturday, while Schwarting has potential for big plays on the field against a GWU defense surrendering 191.4 yards per game through the air.

Get After the Quarterback
Charleston Southern defense has struggled to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season, particularly over the last four games. During the stretch, CSU picked up a sack against Kennesaw State, but failed to tackle the quarterback against Virginia Lynchburg, Kennesaw State, and Monmouth. Over the last four games, opponents are connecting on 62.7 percent of their pass attempts with seven touchdowns over the span. The Buccaneers had a monster game last season against the Gardner-Webb offensive front recording five sacks and 13 tackles for loss in the 10-9 win over the Runnin' Bulldogs. The Bucs will be looking to Jonathan Glover and Johnny Robinson to continue to provide pressure this season with the duo leading the way with 2.0 sacks apiece on the year. Shaundre Mims has also made noise up front and is coming off a career-high 2.0 tackle for loss game against Monmouth this past weekend.

Third Down Conversions
Faced with teams holding onto the ball for extended periods, the Buccaneers defense has struggled to get off the field in 2018. Over the last two weeks, CSU has faced seven drives of at least nine plays or more and has given up three scoring drives that spanned at least six minutes on the field. Opponents are currently converting 42.8 percent of the third downs against the CSU defense with the Bucs allowing 53 first downs over the last two weeks to Kennesaw State and Monmouth. The Buccaneers have been able to force three turnovers over the last two games with James Allen's 100-yard interception for a touchdown the lone CSU trip into the end zone over the span. The Bucs will face a team that is converting 36.3 percent of its third downs on the season, but only 30.8 percent in conference play. CSU will look to force the early three-and-outs to swing momentum back to the offense in the contest.

Turnover Party
CSU's trip to Monmouth this past weekend was the first time since the Savannah State game the Buccaneers failed to force at least two turnovers in a contest. Solomon Brown's forced fumble recovered by Jahid Beamon was the lone Monmouth offensive miscue in the contest. The Bucs and their well-named "Turnover Playa" has been seen a lot at Buccaneer Field this season. The Bucs forced six turnovers in the win over Presbyterian and two more against Kennesaw State to set up the celebration on the sidelines. With play-by-play announcer Kevin O'Rourke and local sports anchor Scott Eisberg both huge fans of the celebration on the defensive bench facing the crowd, the Buccaneers will look to be dancing again this weekend against a Runnin' Bulldog team that has thrown three interceptions over the last three weeks and coughed the ball up 13 times overall in 2018.

Tackling Pride
EJ Pride, Jr. posted one of the top tackling games in the Big South Conference this season as the freshman defensive back posted 16 tackles in Saturday's loss to Monmouth. Pride posted 11 tackles in the first half and added tackles for loss in each half at Kessler Stadium. His 16 tackles tied for the most in a single game in the conference this season and tied with teammate Shadarius Hopkins for the most by a Buccaneer this year. Pride's efforts helped limit Monmouth's vaunted passing attack to its second-lowest total of the season and held conference's leading receiver Reggie White Jr. to four catches for 43 yards. Among his tackles were 14 solo stops in the contest. The freshman defensive back has seen increased playing time over the last few weeks and will continue to see his numbers go up with Gardner-Webb and Campbell both featuring adept passing attacks.

Fearsome Foursome
Charleston Southern's defensive backs have embraced the "F4" moniker this season and continue to shine on the defensive playing field heading into the final two Big South Conference regular season games. Brandon Rowland and Shadarius Hopkins continue to sit among the conference leaders in tackles per game. Rowland leads all defensive backs with 6.6 per contest, while Hopkins is fourth overall at 6.1. James Allen is among the conference leaders with 10 passes defended on the year and leads the Big South with two interception return for touchdowns. Jonathan Slaton has six passes defended and a pick-six of his own this season against Presbyterian. The senior defensive backs will look to be back to creating havoc in the secondary this weekend against Gardner-Webb's receiving game.

Passing Game Slips
Charleston Southern held Monmouth to 155 passing yards last weekend, but it was not enough for CSU to hold onto the top ranking in passing defense. The Buccaneers boasted the No. 1 pass defense in FCS from September 29 to November 3, before slipping behind Kennesaw State in this week's standings. CSU is allowing opponents to throw for 134.5 yards per game on the season, sitting behind KSU (129.6 ypg) heading into Saturday's contest. The Bucs face a heavy challenge with GWU redshirt freshman Jordan Smith heading into the weekend. Smith has earned back-to-back Big South Freshman of the Week recognition after throwing for 418 yards and seven touchdowns in wins over Campbell and Presbyterian. The Bucs have limited opponents to less than 200 passing yards in each of the last six games and will look to contain the GWU passer this weekend.

Senior Day
Charleston Southern's 2018 senior class looks to put a cap on their careers playing in front of the home fans this weekend against Gardner-Webb.  CSU has picked up wins on Senior Day in each of the last four seasons and could make it a perfect 5-0 on the final home game of the season at Buccaneer Field. CSU has topped Gardner-Webb, Kennesaw State, and Liberty (twice) at Buccaneer Field over the last four seasons in their final game in front of the home crowd. Last year, Tyler Tekac connected on the game-winning 42-yard field goal against the Flames. The Bucs Senior Class has posted an all-time mark of 34-21 dating back to the 2014 season. Included in their efforts is a pair of Big South regular season championships and FCS Playoff berths.

Tekac Chasing Records
The mark is getting shorter by the week for senior placekicker Tyler Tekac as the Goose Creek, S.C. native continues to push his way up into the CSU record books following this past weekend's game against Monmouth. Tekac's 22-yard field goal pushed the Bucs' senior within 15 points of Nick Ellis' career mark of 214. Tekac did eclipse former Gardner-Webb kicker Ryan Gates (198, 2008-10) to enter into the top-10 scoring all-time in Big South history this weekend. Tekac's nine field goals is tied for sixth all-time in CSU single season history, while his 27 field goals place him third all-time in the CSU annals. Tekac nearly connected on a school-record 55-yard field goal attempt this past weekend against Monmouth, which would have eclipsed John Paglia's 51-yard attempt in 2009 against Stony Brook. Tekac is currently second in the Big South this season in field goals made, while his percentage is also second in the Big South this season.

Reighard Bouncing Back
Charleston Southern redshirt junior punter Kyle Reighard has struggled over the last two weeks record his lowest punt averages over the season. Reighard struggled in the heavy winds at Kessler Stadium this past weekend posting a 36.0 average, but did connect on two of his longest kicks against the Hawks. Reighard put one punt inside the 20-yard line and connected on punts of 51 and 55 yards to add to his season totals. The Salem, Va. native is averaging 40.5 yards per punt on the year, has recorded 20 fair catches, and dropped 15 punts inside the 20-yard line on the season. CSU is currently ninth in FCS in net punting at 39.36 yards per attempt on the year.

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