Balanced Rushing Attack Carries The Citadel Past Western Carolina
CHARLESTON, SC - Rickey Anderson scored from 11 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to spark a 21-point stanza, and four other Bulldogs also found the end zone to lift The Citadel to a 45-31 victory over Western Carolina on Parent's Day at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bulldogs, who head into their bye week with a record of 4-3 and 3-2 in the Southern Conference. Western Carolina (1-6, 0-5) suffered its sixth straight loss and 19th in a row in the SoCon despite having two runners with over 100 yards.
The win was the 35th for Kevin Higgins in eight seasons at The Citadel, moving him into sole possession of fifth place among the 23 men who have led the Bulldog football program. He had been tied for fifth with Tatum Gressette (1932-39).
Darien Robinson carried 24 times for 116 yards to eclipse the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season and in the process became the 20th player in Citadel history to rush for 1,500 career yards, finishing the day with 1,578. Ben Dupreeran for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns followed by Dalton Trevino with 59 andTerrance Martin with 45.
Anderson had 33 yards and went over the 1,000 mark in his career. The sixth-year senior has a total of 1,010 yards on the ground and scored his team-leading seventh touchdown of the year against Western Carolina. Anderson has at least one touchdown in five of The Citadel's seven games this season.
Darius Ramsey and Troy Mitchell had 118 and 117 yards, respectively, for the Catamounts, and Mitchell and Michael Vaughn both scored two touchdowns. The two teams combined for 676 rushing yards, including 378 for The Citadel and 298 for Western Carolina.
After Anderson put the Bulldogs in front, The Citadel defense forced a three-and-out and then embarked on an 84-yard drive that included 56 on the ground and a key offside penalty against Western Carolina on a fourth-and-one that put the ball at the Catamount 14. Two plays later, Robinson went in from six yards out to give The Citadel a 38-24 lead with 6:45 left.
Western Carolina would not go away easily, responding with a drive sparked by gains of 17 and 24 yards by Mitchell that culminated in his five-yard scoring run that pulled the Catamounts back within seven with still 4:40 remaining. But Dom Jones recovered an on-side kick, and the Bulldogs went on to score the clinching touchdown on a 13-yard run by VanDyke Jones at the 1:16 mark.
The teams combined to score on six of their seven first half possessions, leaving the game tied at 17 at intermission, before trading turnovers at the start of the third quarter. Brandon McCladdie picked off a Mitchell pass at the Western Carolina 48 and brought it back for an apparent touchdown, but The Citadel was called for an illegal block to return the ball to the Catamount 27.
Two plays later, Rock Williams stripped the ball from Dupree, leading to an 82-yard Western Carolina drive that ended when Vaughn scored on a 24-yard run to give the visitors a 24-17 lead.
Williams was the defensive star of the game, recording a career-high 24 tackles, the most ever by a Citadel opponent.
The Bulldogs bounced right back, marching 75 yards with reserve tailbacks Trevino and Martin highlighting the drive. Martin got it started with a 12-yard run and Trevino added rushes of 11 and 19 yards. Martin later ran for seven yards on fourth-and-four to keep the drive alive, setting up a one-yard scoring plunge byAaron Miller that tied it at 24 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
The Citadel defense started to assert itself after that, forcing two straight three-and-out sequences. Cam Mobley had a sack on the first drive following the Miller touchdown, and Chris Billingslea and Mark Thomas finished off Western Carolina with sacks on the final Catamount possession of the game.
Carson Smith led The Citadel with 11 tackles followed by Ian Thompson and Sadath Jean-Pierre with nine. Thompson was starting at linebacker in place of Carl Robinson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Chattanooga two weeks ago.
Akeem Garnett, a converted safety, made six tackles and broke up a pass while starting in place of linebacker Rah Muhammad, who was lost for the year a week ago when he broke an ankle against Samford.
Both teams churned out long scoring drives to start the game. The Citadel took almost eight minutes off the clock after receiving the opening kickoff and took a 7-0 lead when Dupree scored from the 10. The Catamounts answered right back with a 90-yard, seven-minute drive and evened the score on a four-yard run by Vaughn.
Dupree's second touchdown of the game, a 15-yard run, put the Bulldogs back in front 14-7 with 11:08 left in the second quarter before Western Carolina scored the next 10 points to take the lead for the first time. Richard Sigmon booted a 22-yard field goal before the Catamounts forced the only Citadel punt of the game to get the ball right back.
Western Carolina capitalized on its brief defensive success, going 67 yards and taking a 17-14 lead on a 12-yard run by Mitchell with 1:48 left before halftime. But that proved to be enough time for the Bulldogs, who used a 26-yard pass from Dupree to Trevino to help set up a 27-yard field goal by Thomas Warren as the first half clock expired.
The 45 points mark the most The Citadel has scored against Western Carolina in the 37-game series between the two teams. It was also 14 more points than the Bulldogs had scored during the three-game losing streak that came after opening the season 3-0 and reaching as high as No. 10 in the nation in The Sports Network poll.
The Bulldogs take next Saturday off and travel to Wofford on Oct. 27 for a game which will be shown on ESPN3. In that game The Citadel will be looking to knock off a nationally-ranked team for the third time this season after having defeated then No. 3 Georgia Southern 23-21 on Sept. 8 and then No. 8 Appalachian State 52-28 the following week.
Western Carolina stays on the road next Saturday for a contest at Elon.