CITADEL NOTES: McCladdie comes up big against Elons Mellette
The game plan had been in place since last summer.
That’s when Citadel coach Kevin Higgins first told cornerback Brandon McCladdie that the job of covering Elon’s All-America receiver, Aaron Mellette, would be his.
“He mentioned it to me over the summer,” McCladdie said after Saturday’s 38-24 win over Elon. “He said, ‘I don’t know if you are up to the challenge, but you might be up against an All-America receiver.’”
McCladdie, a 6-1, 190-pound junior from Martinez, Ga., was up to the challenge. He tracked Mellette to whichever side the 6-4, 220-pounder went to, with help over the top from Citadel safeties.
The plan limited Mellette to nine catches for 102 yards and no touchdowns, and McCladdie picked off a deep ball aimed at Mellette.
Mellette’s numbers against The Citadel sound pretty good, until you consider that he’s averaged 8.6 catches for 126 yards per game this season, with 15 touchdowns in eight games. Saturday’s game was only the second in which Mellette failed to score this season.
Mellette had caught at least two TD passes in each of Elon’s previous six games, and in his last three games had 32 catches for 585 yards and eight touchdowns.
“He is very fundamentally sound and does a lot of things well,” McCladdie said. “He’s very strong and gets off the press, and uses his body well. I just tried to play my technique and stay with it, and realize that he is going to get his eventually.”
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1992
Members of The Citadel’s 1992 SoCon championship team were honored at halftime, among them quarterback Jack Douglas and fullback Everette Sands, now an assistant coach at South Carolina. That Citadel team, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, went 11-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“That whole season, it was just crazy,” said Lester Smith, who was an All-America safety on that team. “It wasn’t like we had a bunch of stars or anything like that. We worked so well together.
“It’s incredible to see these guys again,” said Smith, who lives in Michigan with his wife and daughter and works for Ford Motor Co. “Some of them I haven’t seen since 20 years ago. To see them all and see how well they are doing, it’s a great feeling.”
Torrance Forney was a cornerback and captain on that team. He now lives in Charlotte and works as a contractor and underwriter.
“It’s great to see what The Citadel has done with the stadium,” he said. “We look at it like, ‘This is the house we built.’ It really is nice.”
The presence of the 1992 team was not lost on the current Bulldogs.
“It meant a lot to play well in front of those guys,” said quarterback Ben Dupree. “They want to see how we’re going to finish the season, and we showed them what we are capable of.”
Elon coach Jason Swepson blamed himself for some poor clock management at the end of the first half. He called a timeout with 33 seconds left, just before Elon’s Adam Shreiner missed a 44-yard field goal.
That gave The Citadel the ball at its own 27 with 27 seconds left, enough time for the Bulldogs to score on a 51-yard pass from Aaron Miller to Matt Thompson at the buzzer. The first TD pass of Miller’s career turned a 17-6 lead into a 24-6 halftime edge for The Citadel.
“We called a timeout before the field goal with 33 seconds left in the half,” Swepson said. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at that point. I was thinking about going for it because I knew it was right on the edge of Adam Shreiner’s range. We decided to go for the field goal, missed it and we left some time on the clock going into the half. It was bad time management and that was a big swing.”
Swepson will feel even worse when he hears that Citadel coach Kevin Higgins considered just taking a knee with 27 seconds left to run out the clock. He decided to run one play to see what happened, and Miller took a QB draw for 25 yards.
“After that,” Higgins said, “you have to take a shot.”
• Freshman linebacker James Riley, un-redshirted a week ago, has led the Bulldogs in tackles two weeks in a row. He made 11 tackles with one tackle for loss and half a sack against Elon.
• Cornerback Sadath Jean-Pierrre had 10 tackles and recovered a fumble to snuff Elon’s final drive. Linebacker Carson Smith also had 10 tackles, and Akeem Garnett forced a fumble. Mitchell Jeter and Derek Douglas also had sacks, and Mark Thomas split one with Riley.
• Darien Robinson’s six 100-yard games this season are the most for a Citadel back since Nememiah Broughton had six in 2002. Robinson is now No. 13 on the Bulldogs’ career rushing chart with 1,841 yards.