GREENVILLE -- The Citadel may or may not make the 20-team FCS playoff field that will be announced Sunday. Even after a 42-20 win over Furman today, the Bulldogs are a long shot.
But on a cool afternoon at Paladin Stadium, that didn’t matter much. The Bulldogs had plenty of other reasons to celebrate. Behind three Van Dyke Jones touchdowns and one of the gutsiest calls of coach Kevin Higgins’ tenure, The Citadel snapped a two-game skid against its fiercest rival and secured records of 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the Southern Conference.
It’s just the second time since 1992 that the Bulldogs have won as many as seven games, and their fourth-place finish in the SoCon is their best since they were third in 2007.
And as the FCS selection committee announces its picks, it will have to at least consider the Bulldogs’ victories over SoCon co-champs Georgia Southern and Appalachian State.
Furman finished its second losing season in three years at 3-8 overall and 2-6 in the SoCon.
The Citadel opened up a 28-20 lead late in the third quarter after freshman tackle Mitchel Jeter starred in a goal-line stand.
Jeter made a tackle on 1st-and-goal from the 6, then sacked quarterback Dakota Derrick for a 13-yard loss on third down, forcing a 37-yard field goal by Ray Early and protecting the Bulldogs’ lead at 21-20.
Then came Higgins’ brave move. Punter Cass Couey sprinted 18 yards with a fake punt -- on 4th and 4 from the Bulldogs’ own 31 - to key a 75-yard TD drive for the Bulldogs. Slotback Dalton Trevino scored from 17 yards out for a 28-20 lead with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
Dupree, who threw an interception on the game’s first play, iced the win with two improbable throws in the fourth quarter. On third-and-18, he whistled a 23-yard pass to slotback Terrance Martin, who got his toes down just inside the sideline.
After a personal foul on Furman safety Nathan Wade, Dupree scrambled on first down, and drew up just short of the line of scrimmage. He lofted a pass to a wide-open Domonic Jones on the left sideline, and Jones ran in for a 28-yard TD and a 35-20 lead with 11:03 left in the game.
Van Dyke Jones’ third TD, from seven yards out, made it 41-20 with 2:49 left.
On the game’s opening play, Dupree left his pass behind a wide-open Domonic Jones on a slant route, and Furman’s Reggie Thomas picked it off, setting up a 1-yard TD run by Williams.
It took The Citadel all of 18 seconds to counter. Keith Gamble took the kickoff back 75 yards, and Van Dyke Jones went 25 yards for the tying TD at 10:49 of the first quarter.
Two plays later, Citadel defensive end Chris Billingslea, who had two first-half sacks, tipped a Hannon pass that freshman safety Nick Willis intercepted. On the next play, Dupree went 45 yards untouched for a TD, and The Citadel’s second TD in less than two minutes made it 14-7.
Furman made it four touchdowns in less than nine minutes as backup tailback Hank McCloud went for 42 yards and then 8 for a TD, tying it up at 14-14 with 6:53 left in the first quarter.
Ray Early’s 52-yard field goal, the longest against The Citadel in 28 years, gave Furman a 17-14 lead. But Citadel defensive end Bay Amrhein forced a fumble recovered by safety Austin Boyle, Furman’s third turnover of the half. That set up Jones’ second TD, a 14-yard scamper, to give The Citadel a 21-17 lead at the half.