CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Citadel defense held VMI to only a field goal on their opening drive to carry the Bulldogs to a 21-3 victory over their rival on homecoming Saturday afternoon at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
The Bulldogs maintained control of The Silver Shako trophy with an 11th consecutive win in the series.
The Citadel (5-3, 3-3 SoCon) scored on its opening possession and did not trail again on the day. VMI (0-9, 0-6) pulled out all the stops with a number of trick plays early, but despite missed opportunities and a steady rain in the second half, the Bulldogs kept their intensity level high throughout the afternoon and celebrated the win afterward over their longtime rivals.
"We prepared hard and we made the Shako very important," Citadel head coach Brent Thompson said following the win. "This (win) right here is the reason we did that. You see these players celebrating the victory and enjoying the victory. Our seniors go out with never having lost the Shako. It is a tremendous trophy with a tremendous effort today."
The Bulldogs rushed for a SoCon season best 407 yards. Running back Brandon Rainey became the first Bulldog to go over the century mark in SoCon play with 125 yards rushing. Quarterback Dom Allen added 80 yards on the ground. Grant Drakeford and Lorenzo Ward both added long touchdown runs. The red zone, including four missed field goals, continued to be a challenge for the Bulldogs and kept the game close until a 45-yard touchdown run by Ward in the closing minutes.
"We have to make some more field goals, our red zone offense has to be a little better," Thompson added. "We aren't putting enough points on the board. We had a couple opportunities to catch the ball in the end zone. We're going to have to capitalize better in the coming weeks."
One Bulldog making the most of opportunities is junior safety Aron Spann III. He had his fifth interception, which leads the SoCon, to turn back a VMI drive in the third. He finished with six tackles. The Bulldogs had 11 tackles for loss as a team and held VMI to 219 total yards. Linebacker Noah Dawkins added nine tackles and three TFLs. Senior Myles Pierce added nine stops and two TFLs.
VMI grabbed a quick 3-0 lead on a 37-yard field goal from Grant Clemons to cap a 10-play, 56-yard drive to open the game. A hook-and-ladder on the opening play gave the Keydets some early momentum on the drive.
The Bulldogs needed only three play to take the lead for good. Drakeford took a pitch from quarterback Dom Allen and rolled 71 yards up the right sideline for the Bulldogs opening touchdown, grabbing a 7-3 lead. The run was the longest of Drakeford's career and The Citadel's longest in SoCon play this season.
The Citadel added to its lead in the final moments of the first quarter. Allen's 1-yard touchdown lurch pushed the lead to 14-3 on a short drive following a shanked punt by the Keydets.
Two missed field goal kept the Bulldogs from extending their lead. Kicker Jacob Godek pushed a 35-yard field goal attempt to open the second half after the Bulldogs drove 56 yards to inside the VMI 20. Allen had a 27-yard run on the drive.
The teams traded punts, turnovers, and missed field goals over the down the stretch until Ward broke loose as the Bulldogs were trying to put the game away in the closing minutes.
The Citadel harassed VMI quarterback Duncan Hodges into 22-of-36 with an interception for 147 yards. The Bulldogs finished with 59 carries for 407 yards.
The Citadel hosts its final home game of the 2017 season next Saturday when the Bulldogs host Western Carolina. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.