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The Citadel in top 25 for first time in four years - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

The Citadel back in top 25 for first time in four years

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CHARLESTON, SC -

On the heels of its dramatic 23-21 victory over then third-ranked Georgia Southern, The Citadel has entered the Top 25 in both The Sports Network and FCS Coaches polls.

The Bulldogs, off to their first 2-0 start since 2007, are No. 21 in The Sports Network poll and are ranked 23rd by the coaches. This marks the first time The Citadel has been in either national poll since spending seven weeks among the nation's elite in 2008, reaching as high as No. 12 that season.

This is the second season in which The Citadel has been ranked in eight years under head coach Kevin Higgins. In addition to their run in 2008, the Bulldogs made a brief appearance at No. 25 in 2007. Prior to that, The Citadel had not been ranked since spending two weeks in the polls during the 1993 campaign.

The win over Georgia Southern was the first time The Citadel had knocked off a Top 10 opponent since a 23-20 overtime win over East Tennessee State in 1997, and the Eagles represented the highest-ranked victim since a 20-3 victory over No. 1 Marshall in 1988.

The highest ranking in Citadel history came in its historic 1992 Southern Conference championship season when the Bulldogs spent four weeks as the No. 1 team in the country, finishing the regular season in that spot before losing to Youngstown State in the second round of the Division I-AA playoffs.

The Citadel will look to make it two ranked victims in a row this week when it travels to Boone, N.C., to face Appalachian State. The Mountaineers moved up to No. 8 in The Sports Network poll and No. 7 in the coaches poll after evening their record at 1-1 with a 35-27 win over Montana on Saturday. Appalachian State's loss is to FBS foe East Carolina.

The Bulldogs have lost 17 of their past 18 in the series against the Mountaineers, including the past eight, and will be looking to win in Boone for the first time since a 25-0 victory in 1992. The only win since then was a 24-21 triumph in Charleston in 2003.

The last time The Citadel was involved in a game in which both teams were in the Top 25 came in 2008 when the No. 24 Bulldogs lost to No. 19 Furman 34-20. The Citadel fell out of the rankings after that loss and did not appear again until this week.

The Southern Conference has four teams in the Top 25 this week. In addition to The Citadel and Appalachian State, Wofford and Georgia Southern also made the cut. The Terriers (2-0) are ninth in both polls while the Eagles (1-1) remained several spots ahead of the Bulldogs, coming in at No. 11 in The Sports Network poll and No. 10 in the coaches poll.

Senior kicker Thomas Warren, sophomore linebacker Rah Muhammad and senior punter Cass Couey were named as recipients of Southern Conference and national awards two days after helping The Citadel defeat Georgia Southern 23-21 at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

In addition to the three players, Kevin Higgins was honored as the Southern Pigskin coach of the week after leading the Bulldogs to the win over the third-ranked Eagles and a berth in the Top 25 for the first time in four years.

Nationally, Warren was named the special teams player of the week by The Sports Network while Muhammad picked up the defensive player of the week nod from College Sports Madness and the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA).

Warren was also named the SoCon special teams player of the week by the conference office and Southern Pigskin. Muhammad added a weekly conference award from Southern Pigskin and was joined by Warren and Couey on the CFPA conference honor roll.

Warren was selected after kicking three field goals against the Eagles, including the game-winning 37-yarder with 35 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bishop England graduate added field goals of 42 yards in the second quarter that gave The Citadel a 17-14 lead at halftime and 39 yards late in the third that pushed the Bulldog advantage to six.

He added a pair of PATs in the first quarter as The Citadel built a 14-0 lead, giving him a total of 11 points on the night. Warren became the first Bulldog to make three field goals in a game since Mike Adams did so against Western Carolina in 2007.

Muhammad, a graduate of Gadsden City (Ala.) High School, was all over the field on Saturday, recording 16 tackles, one tackle for loss and a forced fumble to spearhead a defensive effort that held the powerful Georgia Southern attack in check for most of the night. Thirteen of his tackles were solo stops

Couey helped the Bulldogs win the field position battle with an average of 47.2 yards on four punts, including a 66-yarder that fell two yards shy of his career high. A graduate of Freedom High School in Tampa, Fla., Couey pinned Georgia Southern at its seven on his first punt of the game, leading to an Eagle fumble and a Bulldog touchdown for an early 7-0 lead.

Couey, who has been The Citadel's punter the past four years, increased his career average to 40.7, tied with Kenny Caldwell for second in school history and trailing only Greg Davis (42.1).

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