Citadel falls to Chattanooga, 28-10
Serious underdogs heading into upset victories over Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, The Citadel played for the first time as a front-running favorite on Saturday night.
The results were not pretty.
Looking uptight and pressured, the 11th-ranked Bulldogs lost 28-10 to Chattanooga, disappointing a crowd of 13,878 at Johnson Hagood Stadium and blowing a chance to grab sole possession of first place in the Southern Conference.
“I told the team afterwards, I felt we were a little bit tight out there,” said coach Kevin Higgins, whose team is 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the SoCon. “It was almost as if guys were trying not to make mistakes instead of making big plays. We just never got going, never got those one or two big plays to get us going.”
The Bulldogs are tied for second place in the SoCon with Georgia Southern and Samford behind 2-0 Wofford, and face another key game next week at Samford, which lost 35-16 at Georgia Southern on Saturday. The Dogs will have to get a better handle on their emotions by then.
“There was a large portion of the team that was pretty tight,” said senior defensive tackle Derek Douglas. “We try to keep our minds focused and clear, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. Our mentality this week just wasn’t the same.”
Chattanooga (2-3, 1-1), on the other hand, had its focus sharpened by a sense of desperation after a 1-3 start. Coach Russ Huesman vowed this week to get his quarterbacks going, and they responded in fine style.
Backup QB Terrell Robinson ran for 97 yards and a touchdown and passed for another score, and starter Jacob Huesman — the coach’s son — hit 11 of 14 passes for 86 yards and a TD, and ran for 80 yards.
The pair combined for 343 of the Mocs’ 413 yards as Chattanooga scored its biggest road win over a ranked team since a 30-9 win at App State in 1983.
“I thought it worked out pretty good,” Russ Huesman said of his QB rotation. “We had two fresh guys out there who could run.”
Meanwhile, the same Citadel triple-option that produced 618 yards in a 52-28 win at App State two weeks ago was held to 357 yards and one TD by Chattanooga — which lost to App State 34-17 last week.
Fullback Darien Robinson ran for 132 yards on 12 carries, but 55 of those yards came on one run in the final minutes. QB Ben Dupree was held to 26 yards on 14 carries, and the Bulldogs turned the ball over twice — on a fumble and interception — and had a punt blocked.
“I thought we’d move the ball better against them,” Higgins said. “They changed up a little bit what they do on the perimeter with their ends, and their linebackers flowed over the top real well. We just couldn’t get in any rhythm.”
Down 21-3 in the third quarter, the Bulldogs cut the margin to 21-10 on backup QB Aaron Miller’s 32-yard TD run, sparking hopes of another miracle comeback against the Mocs.
But Chattanooga — which blew a 27-0 lead in a 28-27 loss to the Bulldogs last season — quickly squashed any such hope.
Jacob Huesman went right up the middle for a 36-yard gain. Running back Kendrix Huitt then hit a Citadel run blitz perfectly, going 29 yards for a TD and a 28-10 lead with 12:59 left.
The Citadel had a chance to step on the Mocs early, outgaining Chattanooga by 122-16 in the first quarter, with six first downs to one for the Mocs.
But the Bulldogs could turn those yards into only a 32-yard field goal by Thomas Warren, for a 3-0 lead at 9:29 of the first quarter.
The half turned the Mocs’ way when Terrell Robinson came in at QB in the second quarter. His 51-yard bomb to receiver Ron Moore set up Chattanooga’s first TD, a 13-yard pass to Moore from a scrambling Robinson.
Jacob Huesman capped an 82-yard drive with a 1-yard TD pass to Faysal Shafaat for a 14-3 lead just before the half. The Mocs extended the lead to 21-3 in the third quarter with a 13-play, 85-yard drive, their longest of the season. Robinson ran three yards for the TD, again avoiding tacklers in the backfield.