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This pass was just out-of-reach for The Citadel's Josh LeBlanc against Wofford at Johnson Hagood Stadium Saturday. Wade Spees/Staff Oct. 14, 2017

Three straight losses have derailed The Citadel's hopes for three straight Southern Conference football championships.

But the Bulldogs' still have hopes, however faint, for a third straight FCS playoff bid.

"That goal is still out there," coach Brent Thompson said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "We're still driven by that, we're still motivated by that."

At 3-3 overall and 1-3 in the Southern Conference after last week's 20-16 loss to No. 5 Wofford, The Citadel's margin of error to make the 24-team playoffs is down to zero.

The Bulldogs would have to win their next four games, starting Saturday at Chattanooga, in order to have a shot at sneaking into the playoff field with a 7-4 record (assuming a loss at Clemson in the regular-season finale). It would be the sixth playoff appearance in Citadel history.

"You look at last year, there were quite a few 7-4 teams in the field, including Samford," Thompson pointed out.

Last year's playoff field included five teams with 7-4 records, including a Samford team that lost by 15-14 to unranked ETSU in its final regular-season game. Charleston Southern also made the field with a 7-3 mark, and Illinois State got in at 6-5 with a win at Northwestern of the Big Ten, and a four-game losing streak.

The Citadel begins the second half of its SoCon slate with games that appear winnable — at Chattanooga (1-6, 1-3) and at home against VMI (0-7, 0-4). But the last two league games are against surging Western Carolina (5-2, 3-1) and Furman (4-3, 3-1).

Chattanooga, with new coach Tom Arth taking over for Russ Huesman, has beaten only VMI, 63-7, and is coming off a 30-10 loss to Mercer. With injuries to Alejandro Bennifield and Nick Tiano, the Mocs are down to true freshman quarterback Cole Copeland, who hit 22 of 39 passes for 206 yards with one interception against Mercer.

In league play, Chattanooga ranks eighth in total offense (285 yards per game) and last in rushing (62 ypg).

The Citadel held Wofford to 99 rushing yards last Saturday, the first time since 2005 that the Terriers failed to crack the 100-yard mark. The Bulldogs carried a 16-14 lead into the final minutes before Wofford scored the winning TD with 1:10 left.

"A fairly typical Wofford-Citadel game for the last three or four times we've played them," Thompson said. "When you play a team that mirrors yourself, that's what you get, a defensive struggle."

The Citadel's offense has scored 14 points in each of the last three games, and the Bulldogs are averaging 18.8 points in SoCon play, eighth in the league.


• The Citadel's streak of 26 straight weeks in the FCS national polls ended this week, as the Bulldogs, No. 22 last week, fell out of the FCS coaches and media polls. The Bulldogs' streak dated back to Nov. 2, 2015. Samford now has the longest streak in the SoCon at 16 weeks.

• Wofford's 219 passing yards against The Citadel last week were the Terriers' most as a Division I team (since 1996).

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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