Chattanooga (1-3, 0-1) at No. 11 The Citadel (3-1, 2-0)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Johnson Hagood Stadium (21,000) • Charleston, S.C.
Radio: ESPN 105.1
Series Record: Chattanooga leads 26-17-2
Why Saturday important
After suffering a setback in its Southern Conference opener to Appalachian State last Saturday, Chattanooga is in dire need of a victory. Their 34-17 loss to the Mountaineers dropped the Mocs to 1-3 on the season, and they’ll need to close out the season with seven consecutive wins to qualify for the postseason. That quest begins Saturday against the Bulldogs.
Three things to know about the Citadel
The Bulldogs are in their third season running the triple-option offense, and their persistence is starting to pay off. The Citadel is averaging more than 300 yards on the ground this season, which is fifth in the nation but only third in the SoCon behind Wofford (480.3 ypg) and Georgia Southern (400.3 ypg). ... The Bulldogs already have a pair of impressive SoCon wins over No. 9 Georgia Southern and No. 17 Appalachian State — their first 2-0 start in conference play since 1992 — and they’ll look to build on that early-season momentum Saturday. ... The Citadel ranks first in the SoCon in pass defense (135.8 ypg), and it’s also the least penalized team in the league.
What you should know about The Citadel head coach Kevin Higgins
Higgins has coached a long time, including seven years as the head coach at Lehigh. Experience has taught him to be flexible. In 2005, Higgins came to The Citadel from the NFL’s Detroit Lions with a spread-option passing offense. And for a time, it worked just fine. In 2006, the Bulldogs captured their first winning SoCon record in 14 years and a year later he guided them to their first seven-win season in 15 years. But after consecutive four-win seasons in 2008-09, Higgins decided change was in order — radical change. He installed the triple-option offense, which utilizes a fullback, two slotbacks and two wide receivers, and gives the quarterback the option of handing the ball off, keeping it or pitching it. The triple option helped The Citadel win the SoCon championship and earn the No. 1 ranking in Division I-AA in 1992, but it was the example of Georgia Tech, coached by triple-option guru Paul Johnson, that gave Higgins the courage to change. “What Georgia Tech has done in the ACC and on national TV (20 wins in Johnson’s first two seasons) has opened so many eyes, and they are doing it against very good football teams,” Higgins told the Charleston Post and Courier in 2010. “I just felt we needed to make this change now to give ourselves a better opportunity to be successful."
UTC player to watch
Quarterback Terrell Robinson probably hasn’t had the season he imagined as freshman Jacob Huesman has handled most of the quarterbacking duties through four games. Huesman will probably take most of the snaps this week as well, but the Chattanooga coaching staff has stressed its desire to get Robinson more involved in the offense — though not necessarily at quarterback. Robinson, one of UTC’s most explosive athletes, showed off his hands and speed in the Mocs’ 35-0 win at Glenville State, and that could be the case this week as well.
The Citadel player to watch
Junior quarterback Ben Dupree (5-9, 185) has rushed for 350 yards in four games. He’s seventh in the SoCon in rushing (87.5 ypg). Two weeks ago against Appalachian State, Dupree ran for 180 yards, including touchdowns of 57 and 48 yards.
Random facts to impress your friends
Sophomore defensive end Davis Tull is tied for the SoCon lead and No. 7 in the nation with four sacks. The Citadel’s Mark Thomas is fourth in the conference with three sacks. ... The Mocs are seventh in the SoCon in total defense, allowing 304.5 yards per game, good enough for 19th in the nation. ... Chattanooga has played The Citadel more than any other opponent in its history — 45 times. The series began in 1926. ... The Citadel’s freshman defensive back Dondray Copeland and UTC sophomore wide receiver Tommy Hudson were teammates at Colquitt County High School in Moultrie, Ga. ... In last year’s game against the Citadel, the Mocs allowed 28 unanswered points in the final 21 minutes to lose 28-27.
“I wish we weren’t playing such a high-quality opponent. We’re going to have to play better to have a chance to win this game. They’re doing a great job with their offense and they know what they want to do in their third year. I think they have better athletes than I’ve seen in a long time at The Citadel.” — Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman
The Mocs will win if ...
They can slow The Citadel’s powerful option attack. Chattanooga’s offense, which is coming off its worst showing since its season-opening loss to South Florida, will have to get back on track too if the Mocs hope to hang with the nation’s No. 20 scoring offense. The Bulldogs are averaging 34.5 points this season.
The Mocs will lose if ...
They can’t contain the elusive triple-option offense run by the Bulldogs. Not only does The Citadel’s offense put up points, but its also set up to control the clock. The Mocs need to be efficient when they have the ball, and make their possessions count.
The Citadel 24, Chattanooga 21
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.