Absent for The Citadel's first five football games, Citadel sophomore Demetrius Jackson thought he had celebrated his return with a touchdown Saturday against Elon.

Jackson, a sophomore free safety, picked up a muffed punt by Elon and raced into the end zone in the second quarter, setting off a roar of delight at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

"I thought I had scored," Jackson said.

Alas, the ball was ruled down at the 9-yard line, where Jackson first touched it. The Citadel scored anyway, but a 27-23 loss to Elon took some of the shine off of Jackson's return.

"It was kind of rough at the end," Jackson said. "My body is not used to playing games, and I kind of cramped up out there."

Jackson, a 5-10, 190-pounder from Columbus, Ga., was slated to start at free safety this season before he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA's Clearinghouse because of an issue with his high school transcripts. He was forced to sit out the first five games, leaving freshmen Rod Harland and Demontrelle Smith to start in his place.

But Jackson was back in the lineup Saturday, finishing with five tackles and a lesson learned.

"If I had let that punt roll into the end zone and then picked it up," he said, "it would have been a touchdown."

Sideline scuffle

A mob scene broke out on the Elon sideline in the third quarter, as coach Pete Lembo and defensive end Brandon Ward had to be separated from each other.

Ward, a 6-6, 226-pound sophomore, was flagged for taunting with Elon trying to protect a 27-23 lead. The 15-yard penalty gave The Citadel a first down at its own 48, and Lembo got in Ward's face as the player came off the field.

Ward tried to get back at Lembo, and players and school officials had to intervene to keep the two apart. The scuffle continued for several minutes before Ward calmed down.

"He made a bad decision and I had to let him know about it," Lembo said. "Brandon is a fired-up guy on game day, and that's one of the reasons he does what he does at 220 pounds. And I love him for that. But he's got to make better decisions."

Ward came back in the game in the fourth quarter and sacked Citadel QB Bart Blanchard on the Bulldogs' next-to-last play.

Extra points

--Seven games into his sophomore season, Elon QB Scott Riddle became the school's career passing leader with 5,416 yards. He was 18 of 32 for 237 yards and two scores Saturday.

--Freshman running back Terrell Dallas got his first career start for The Citadel, running 11 times for 32 yards. He also caught five passes for 43 yards ... Freshman Asheton Jordan was the Bulldogs' leading rusher with 64 yards on 12 carries.

--Nose guard Terrence Reese recorded his first sack of the season ... Linebacker Jordon Gilmore came up big with 16 tackles, a forced fumble and two pass breakups ... Linebacker Mel Capers intercepted a pass, his first of the season and third of his career ... The Bulldogs played without running backs Cody Wilson (knee) and Rickey Anderson (knee), cornerback Ryan Jones (ankle) and linebacker Reggie Rice (knee).