NEXT GAMEWho: The Citadel (6-4, 4-3) at Furman (3-7, 2-5)When: 1:30 p.m. SaturdayWhere: Paladin Stadium, GreenvilleTV: ESPN3.com
Derek Douglas had never been part of a football team with a winning record — until this year.
“Even in high school, we only had about two wins a year,” said Douglas, a redshirt junior defensive tackle at The Citadel.
Even so, Douglas said he was surprised at the satisfaction he felt after the Bulldogs clinched a winning record with last week’s 27-24 victory at VMI.
The win gave The Citadel a 6-4 record heading into Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game at rival Furman, the Bulldogs’ second winning mark in eight seasons under coach Kevin Higgins, and their fourth since 1993.
The milestone means a lot to Citadel players. Only sixth-year senior Rickey Anderson was on the team the last time The Citadel won more than it lost, with a 7-4 mark in 2007.
“It felt a lot better than I thought it would,” said Douglas, who returned a fumble 21 yards for a score against VMI and was named Southern Conference defensive player of the week. “Before the game, I was kind of like, ‘Yay, a winning season.’
“Now that it’s secured, it means a lot. But my big thing is that we have a winning record in conference play.”
The Bulldogs can secure a seventh win and a 5-3 record in the SoCon by beating Furman (3-7, 2-5). The Bulldogs have won as many as seven games only once since 1993, and have not won five games in league play since 1992, when The Citadel went 11-2 overall and 6-1 in the league to win the SoCon title.
All of that marks meaningful progress for a program that has averaged four wins a year since 1993, and is in its third season running the triple-option offense.
“The more success you have, the more players are able to buy into what you are doing,” said Higgins, who is now 37-51 at The Citadel. “Guys tend to work harder, there’s more enthusiasm and more emotion, whether it’s from the fans or internally. We coach to win games and develop guys, and the more wins you get, the more satisfying it is.”
Victories by Wofford over Chattanooga and Appalachian State over Furman last weekend did no favors for the Bulldogs’ slim hopes for a bid to the 20-team FCS playoffs.
Those results left Wofford, App State and Georgia Southern each with a share of the SoCon title at 6-2. A Citadel victory over Furman gives the league’s automatic bid to Georgia Southern; a Furman win means App State gets the automatic bid.
In either case, the other two co-champs are sure to receive at-large berths, leaving The Citadel and Samford (7-3, 5-3, at Kentucky this week) hoping that the SoCon can land four bids. A Citadel win and a Samford loss would leave the Bulldogs fourth in line for a bid.
“The only thing we can control is our game against Furman,” Higgins said. “Let’s do everything we can to win this game, and if we do that there’s a chance that we can continue playing.”
Douglas had four tackles, including two sacks, and a forced fumble in addition to his 21-yard fumble recovery for a TD. … Saturday’s game will be shown online at ESPN3.com.