Three Things to Watch as CSU travels to The Citadel for the season finale

Three Things to Watch as CSU travels to The Citadel for the season finale

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern closes out the season on the road at Johnson Hagood Stadium as the Buccaneers head to The Citadel for a Lowcountry showdown on Thursday, November 29. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN+. Here's three things to watch as the Lowcountry rivalry continues this week.

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

CSU Notes | The Citadel Notes | Big South Notes

Stop The Option
For nearly as long as there has been The Citadel football, there has been the three-back option attack. This season is no different as the Bulldogs once again boast one of the top rushing offenses in FCS.

The Bulldogs are seventh in FCS in rushing yards in 2018 with 290.2 yards per game picked up on the ground. The Citadel has faced an opponent stacking the box in every competition this year, but it hasn't stopped Coach Brent Thompson and the Bulldogs from continuing to probe the opposing defense for big gains.

The Citadel enters Thursday night's game boasting impressive numbers. The Bulldogs are averaging 60.9 carries per game and have eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark in nine of their 10 games on the season. The Citadel eclipsed 300-rushing yards in five of those contests. The successes on the ground have led to visits to the end zone with the Bulldogs reaching paydirt multiple times in all but one game in 2018.

The Citadel enters the contest with a 4-6 record overall. In their six losses this season, only one opponent was able to limit the Bulldog's rushing attack.

The Citadel Rushing Yards in Losses
Wofford – 217 yards
Chattanooga – 290 yards
Towson – 341 yards
ETSU – 203 yards
Furman – 157 yards
Alabama – 275 yards

The Buccaneers have had measured success against the Bulldogs' option attack over the last four games. CSU is a perfect 4-0 in those contests against The Citadel. Part of their success has been finding ways to limit their Lowcountry rival under 200 rushing yards in each of the last two matchups.

The Citadel Rushing Last Four Games Against CSU
Aug. 31, 2013 at The Citadel – 293 rushing yards
Sept. 20, 2014 vs. The Citadel – 269 rushing yards
Sept. 26, 2015 at The Citadel – 181 rushing yards
Dec. 5, 2015 vs. The Citadel – 199 rushing yards

The Bucs rushing defense has allowed opponents to eclipse 200-yards rushing five times this season but has rounded into form over each of the last two weeks. The Bucs limited Gardner-Webb (41 carries, 72 yards) and Campbell (32 carries, 61 yards) in back-to-back CSU victories. The wins boosted CSU's record back to 5-5 for the season.

CSU has been able to dominate the line of scrimmage over each of its last two games. The Bucs posted two of their top tackle for loss and sack games of the season against Gardner-Webb and Campbell. CSU recorded a season-high seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss against the Runnin' Bulldogs. They followed up with three more sacks and 13.0 tackles for loss against Campbell.

The Bucs led the Big South with 7.3 tackles for loss and 1.6 sacks per game in 2018 paced by the efforts of defensive linemen Johnny Robinson, Solomon Brown, Jonathan Glover, and more. Robinson and Brown are veterans of the series against The Citadel having taken part in the last two wins over the Bulldogs.

Robinson tends to raise his game against option offenses. The two-time All-Big South defensive tackle posted a season-high eight tackles against Kennesaw State this season against the Owls' predominantly triple-option offense. Brown added 14 tackles (nine solo) in against KSU.

Linebackers J.D. Sosebee, Edward King, and Craig Johnson will also need to be in the hunt along the line of scrimmage to limit The Citadel's rushing attack. Sosebee has posted four double-digit tackling efforts on the season, while Johnson bounced back with his first half-sack of the season against Campbell. King continued his recent streak of dominance on the field with a nine-tackle performance that included a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss.

The Bucs defensive efforts will need to contain redshirt freshman A-Back Dante Smith. Smith is coming off a strong performance against Alabama recording 130 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. He scored on runs of 45 and 44 yards to pace the Bulldogs' offense against the Crimson Tide.

The Citadel also counters with sophomore quarterback Brandon Rainey. After assuming the reins of the Bulldogs' offense over the last three games, the Acworth, Ga. native has averaged 161.3 rushing yards per game and has totaled 484 total yards and two scores. He joins Lorenzo Ward (76.4 ypg) and Smith in a talented trio that could provide headaches in the open field for the Bucs' defense.

One thing is for sure – the winner of Thursday's game takes control of the Lowcountry rivalry between the two schools.

Taking Control of the Rivalry
The series is tied up at 5-5 heading into Thursday night's contest. Since the rivalry started back in 2002, the two local teams have taken the field together nine times in the regular season and once in the postseason (2015).

The rivalry has been primarily hosted at Johnson Hagood Stadium with Thursday night's contest the ninth meeting between the two teams at The Citadel's home facility. CSU's two home games during the stretch, the 2014 regular season meeting and the 2015 FCS Second Round Game, were held at Buccaneer Field.

The Citadel held the edge early in the rivalry winning the first three contests and five of the first six overall. Included in the stretch was a 64-10 Bulldog win on Aug. 30, 2003, to provide the largest margin of victory in the series.

All-Time CSU vs. The Citadel
Nov. 21, 2002 – CIT W, 53-19
Aug. 30, 2003 – CIT W, 64-10
Sept. 3, 2005 – CIT W, 28-14
Sept. 9, 2006 – CSU W, 38-35
Sept. 1, 2007 – CIT W, 35-14
Sept. 1, 2012 – CIT W, 49-14
Aug. 31, 2013 – CSU W, 32-29
Sept. 20, 2014 – CSU W, 20-18
Sept. 26, 2015 – CSU W, 33-20
Dec. 5, 2015 – CSU W, 14-6

CSU hit its stride in the midst of the last contract against the Bulldogs. After dropping the season-opener in 2012, the Bucs have rattled off a four-game winning streak including the last matchup between the teams in the 2015 FCS Second Round.

Key to CSU's wins during the series has been a balanced offensive approach and strong play by the Buccaneers backfield. Mike Holloway combined for 297 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the 2015 season to lead the Bucs to the pair of victories over the Bulldogs. Christian Reyes was CSU's leading ball carrier in each of the first two wins.

The Buccaneers will look to establish a similar attack on Thursday night behind London Johnson, Ronnie Harris, and company. Johnson is capable of big performances on the ground with a pair of 100-yard rushing games in his career. Harris has also come through on the biggest stages with season-high performances at Florida and Kennesaw State.

A CSU win over The Citadel would swing the advantage in the all-time series firmly in the Buccaneers' favor, but would also continue another CSU streak – finishing above .500.

Finishing Above .500
You'll have to go back to the 2012 season for the last time the Charleston Southern football team finished below .500 on the year. The Bucs went 5-6 in 2012 with a key loss coming in the season opener against The Citadel.

Since then, a new regime changed for the Buccaneers. Following the tenure of former Coach Jamey Chadwell and continued by current head coach Mark Tucker, CSU has posted a 46-24 record over the last six seasons heading into Thursday's matchup. Included in the record are a pair of Big South regular season championships and berths in the FCS Playoffs.

The Bucs' streak of finishing above .500 is the longest in program history dating back to CSU's inception back in 1991. The longest streak prior to the current stretch was two games. CSU accomplished the mark twice, both in 2008-09 and 2005-06.

Overall in CSU's 28-yard football history, the Bucs have finished above .500 nine times. The Bucs will look to reach double-digits this season with a win over the Bulldogs.

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