Charleston, S.C. - The Citadel Football team fell to Western Carolina in front of 10,207 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday afternoon in their home Southern Conference opener.
The Bulldogs outscored the Catamounts in the second half, but could not overcome a 17-3 halftime deficit. The Citadel falls to 2-3 overall, 0-2 in the SoCon, while Western Carolina improves to 2-3 overall, 1-1 in SoCon action.
Western Carolina won the coin toss and elected to receive. The Catamounts earned a pair of first downs after a run by Michael Johnson and a 41-yard pass to Andrew Rogers from Brandon Pechloff. However, Quintin Turner forced a fumble by Nate Harris that was recovered by Tolu Akindele on The Citadel 29-yard line.
The Bulldogs could not take advantage as they went three-and-out on their first offensive possession. Cass Couey booted a career-high 68-yard punt to put the Catamounts back to their own 20-yard line. WCU used key third down pass completions to drive 57 yards on 10 plays that resulted in a 40-yard field goal by Blake Bostic to make it 3-0 with 7:04 to play in the first quarter.
On the following drive, The Citadel was unable to pick up a first down and turned the ball over on downs to WCU on their own 44-yard line. The Catamounts took advantage of a pair of pass interference penalties and drove 44 yards on three plays to convert a touchdown. Pechloff's pass found Marquel Pittman in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard score, making it 10-0 at the 3:21 mark in the opening quarter.
The Citadel would gain their initial first down of the game on the next possession, but were forced to punt. On the next Catamount drive, Erik Clanton forced a fumble by Pechloff that was recovered by Chris Billingslea at the 23-yard line. Unable to get a first down, Ryan Sellers converted on a 37-yard field goal, the first of his career, to cut the lead to 10-3 with 9:31 to play in the second quarter.
After forcing Western Carolina to punt, Greg Adams fumbled the punt return and it was recovered by the Catamounts at the 28-yard line. On four plays that covered 28 yards, the Catamounts converted a touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Pechloff to Jacob Mitchell to push the lead to 17-3 with 4:40 remaining in the first half.
The Citadel ran 29 plays and gained 94 yards in the first half. Matt Thompson led the rushing attack with 19 yards and Domonic Jones was the leading receiver with 30 yards. Akindele led the defense with five tackles and a fumble recovery. WCU ran 32 plays and gained 180 yards. Johnson gained 33 yards on the ground while Pechloff was 6-for-12 with 123 yards and two touchdowns.
The Citadel opened the second half and drove 79 yards on six plays, capped off by a 45-yard touchdown run by Terrell Dallas to narrow the gap to 17-10. The Bulldog defense then held the Catamounts to a three-and-out and the offense proceeded to drive 34 yards on nine plays that ended in a 36-yard field goal by Sellers to tighten the score to 17-13 with 5:54 to play in the third quarter.
After forcing the Catamounts to punt on a second consecutive series, The Citadel then drove down the field 40 yards in 10 plays, but a 47-yard field goal attempt by Sellers sailed wide right, giving WCU the ball back on the 30-yard line. Western Carolina answered with a 70-yard drive that took four plays, ending in a 5-yard touchdown run by Adam Hearns to make it 24-13 with 12:24 to play in the fourth quarter.
After trading three-and-out possessions, Sam Martin was then stripped on third down and the ball was recovered by WCU's Charles Johnson. The Bulldog defense would force another Catamount punt, but the offense could not convert as Thompson's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Mitchell Bell and WCU was able to run out the clock.
The Citadel totaled 304 yards on 75 plays, 198 of which were on the ground. Sam Martin went 4-for-7 with 58 yards through the air, while Dallas totaled 96 yards on the ground with a touchdown. Demetrius Jackson led the defense with seven tackles. Western Carolina racked up 273 yards on 50 plays. Pechloff went 10-for-19 with 154 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while Harris had 75 rushing yards. Hearns led the Catamount defense with 12 tackles, three tackles for a loss.
The Bulldogs returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 9 as they host Chattanooga at 2 p.m. for a Southern Conference match-up.
Courtesy: Citadel Athletics