The Citadel at Chattanooga
Saturday, 2:05 p.m. ET
Finley Stadium (20,668) • Chattanooga, Tenn.
Radio: ESPN 105.1 FM
Series Record: UTC leads 27-17-2
Why Saturday is important
Chattanooga is entering a crucial four-game stretch after not having been truly tested in nearly a month. The Mocs have beaten their last three opponents by a combined score of 93-39, and their defense hasn’t allowed a single touchdown in eight quarters. UTC will once again be the favorite heading into this one, but if it goes anything like The Citadel’s first seven games of 2013, it should be closer than the kind of games Chattanooga’s grown accustomed to recently.
Three things to know about The Citadel
The Citadel is coming off a bye after suffering a seven-point loss at No. 24 Georgia Southern the week before. As poor as Bulldogs’ overall record is (2-5), though, they’ve been right there throughout the season. Four of the team’s five losses have come by single digits, including a 59-58 setback at Old Dominion on Sept. 21. ... The Bulldogs’ triple-option attack hasn’t been quite as dangerous as last year’s version, but they’re obviously getting enough offense to be competitive. Senior quarterback Ben Dupree currently leads the SoCon in rushing touchdowns (11). ... Dupree and senior Darien Robinson entered The Citadel together in 2010, and have since formed one of the most dangerous rushing tandems in school history. The pair of Pennsylvania natives have run for a combined 4,812 career yards and 48 touchdowns.
What you should know about The Citadel head coach Kevin Higgins
Higgins, the 2012 SoCon Coach of the Year, 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, Higgins decided change was in order — radical change. He installed the triple-option offense, which, back in 1992, helped The Citadel win the SoCon championship and earn the No. 1 ranking in Division I-AA. It took a couple seasons to iron out the wrinkles, but the Bulldogs seemed to have turned a corner a season ago, averaging around 300 rushing yards per game en route to a 7-4 season.
Chattanooga player to watch
Junior Terrell Robinson is still waiting for a breakout game in 2013, and he’s been very quiet as of late. The versatile Robinson has caught just three passes in the last two weeks, his production on the ground is also way down and he’s only attempted two passes on the year. Keon Williams is carrying the offensive load right now, but he’s going to need some help at some point.
The Citadel player to watch
Aside from in the team’s 24-17 loss to Furman, Ben Dupree has been basically unstoppable this season. The 5-foot-9, 189-pounder has rushed for at least 92 yards and a touchdown in five of the Bulldogs’ first seven games. He hasn’t done a whole lot in the passing department — 24-of-35 for 315 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — but the senior signal caller is a capable thrower when called upon. He’s clearly the Bulldogs’ offensive catalyst.
Random facts to impress your friends
The Mocs, in their 106th season of college football, are going for win No. 500 on Saturday, and they’ll be looking to capture it against one of their oldest opponents. UTC holds a 27-17-2 series advantage in the rivalry that dates back to 1926. Chattanooga has won three of the last four meetings, but the teams are an even 4-4 in their last eight. ... The Bulldogs lead the nation in fewest penalties (2.71) and fewest penalty yards (22.60). ... Chattanooga’s Keon Williams, who has twice been named the league’s offensive player of the week, is currently second in the SoCon in rushing offense (98.1 ypg), rushing touchdowns (9) and yard-per-carry average (5.9). ... UTC defensive end Davis Tull’s fourth-quarter sack against Elon gave him 24.0 for his career, passing former teammate Josh Williams (2009-12) for the Mocs’ all-time record. Tull, who has notched 4.5 sacks in the last two weeks, currently ranks second in the SoCon in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (9.5). ... Junior kicker Nick Pollard is No. 6 on the Mocs’ all-time scoring list with 156 career points, and needs just seven more to pass Cos DeMatteo (1998-01). ... For the second year in a row, the UTC wrestling program is moving its annual Blue & Gold Match to the First Tennessee Pavilion, prior to Saturday’s game against The Citadel. Starting lineups will be introduced at 11:30 a.m., just prior to the football team’s Moc Walk through the pavilion.
“I think it’s neater for me because I’m an alum; I’ve been a part of it as a player and now as a coach. I think the 500th win is something that’ll probably be closer to my heart than our players. I think it’ll be neat for them to be a part of it, but it’ll probably be more important to them five or 10 years down the road.”
— Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman
The Mocs will win if ...
They deliver the same kind of complete performance they did two weeks ago against Furman. The Mocs are probably the more talented team top to bottom, but not by a huge margin. If they play up to their potential, they should notch their sixth win of the season. Another uninspiring performance like last week’s 20-9 win at Elon will likely result in a loss.
The Mocs will lose if ...
The Bulldogs treat Saturday like the start of a new season. They’ve obviously caught some bad breaks this year, which has resulted in a 2-5 start, but they’re much better than their record indicates. Its margin of error is razor thin, but The Citadel is certainly capable of pulling off the upset.
Chattanooga 31, The Citadel 27
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.