Who: Furman (1-2, 0-1) at The Citadel (1-3, 1-1)
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: Johnson Hagood Stadium
Radio: WQNT 1450-AM
Citadel quarterback Ben Dupree issued a withering self-critique after the Bulldogs’ 21-10 loss to Wofford three weeks ago.
“I played like a sophomore,” Dupree said after he rushed for just 18 yards and the Bulldogs’ offense produced only a field goal against the Terriers.
“We didn’t put up any touchdowns,” he said. “That tells you all you need to know right there.”
The senior from Harrisburg, Pa., has played much more like an upperclassman the last two games, helping The Citadel’s triple-option offense get on track as the 1-3 Bulldogs enter the heart of their Southern Conference schedule starting Saturday against Furman (1-2).
Dupree was named SoCon offensive player of the week after rushing for 149 yards and five touchdowns and throwing a TD pass in last week’s 59-58 loss at Old Dominion. That came on the heels of his 126-yard, two-TD performance in a 28-21 win at Western Carolina.
Over the last two games, Dupree has rushed for 275 yards and seven touchdowns, pushing him to third in the SoCon with 96.2 yards per game.
With backup Aaron Miller sidelined by a sore foot, Dupree has played the whole way the last two games, carrying 52 times.
“After the Wofford game, Ben made a point of saying, ‘That’s not going to happen again,’” coach Kevin Higgins said. “He said, ‘I’m going to play like I’m capable of playing, however many reps I get.’ And he’s been able to do that so far.”
The Citadel’s offensive woes in opening losses to Charleston Southern and Wofford were hardly the sole responsibility of the quarterbacks. A “back to basics” move after the Wofford game, focusing more on the triple-option, has simplified assignments for the offensive line, slotbacks and receivers.
Fullback Darien Robinson ran for 227 yards and two scores against ODU, and the Bulldogs are now averaging 31.2 points (third in the SoCon) and 310.8 rushing yards (second).
“The first thing to know about Ben is that he’s such a competitor,” Robinson said of the 5-9, 185-pounder. “Basketball, the weight room, even grades, he competes no matter what. We were all upset after the Wofford game, and he made it a point to get back to his play-making.”
Dupree even hit a couple of deep passes against ODU, an element of the option offense that had been missing through three games. He threw a 52-yarder to slotback Vinny Miller and a 23-yard TD pass to slotbback Jake Stenson that gave The Citadel a chance to win with 1:39 left, completing 5 of 8 passes for 113 yards.
“The neat thing about Ben is that I’ve never heard him make an excuse for his play,” Higgins said. “He’s always so honest in his evaluation of what he did or didn’t do. You can always critique him, and he’s always trying to get better. He’s as hard on himself as anybody.”
Dupree’s 52 carries the last two games are the most he’s ever had over a two-game span at The Citadel. Miller, who had played in 21 straight games before missing the last two, should be available for Furman on Saturday.
“We went into the game last week thinking we’d get Aaron on the field, give Ben a rest,” Higgins said. “But the offense was doing so well, it didn’t make sense to put Ben on the sideline. This week, the plan is to get Aaron in the game. But if the offense is moving the ball every series, you stay with what you are doing. There are eight games left, and Ben takes a lot of hits, so there’s a lot of football games left.”
And Dupree is determined to play them all like a senior.