It’s been a memorable couple of weeks for Citadel backup quarterback Brian Murdaugh.
Three years ago, the former Colleton Prep standout was a walk-on, buried deep on The Citadel’s depth chart.
Then last week, the 6-0, 215-pound redshirt sophomore came off the bench to help lead the Bulldogs to a stunning 27-24 overtime win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta after starter Brandon Rainey went down with a knee injury.
A week later, Murdaugh made his first start in a Bulldogs uniform, leading No. 25 Citadel (2-2) past crosstown rival Charleston, 22-13, Saturday night before a crowd 9,626 at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
Murdaugh didn’t do it all by himself — he had plenty of help from the Bulldogs' defense, which came up with a huge goal-line stand late in the game — but he made just enough plays for the Bulldogs when it mattered most.
“This is a night I’ll never forget,” Murdaugh said. “It’s a dream come true for me, coming from a small high school where not a lot of guys get to play college football. It means a lot to me. To be able to say I finally did it, I’ll remember this one forever.”
Murdaugh finished with 76 rushing yards on 20 attempts and threw for 81 yards, including a 54-yard scoring strike to Raleigh Webb that gave the Bulldogs a 14-6 advantage midway through the third quarter.
“I have to hand it to Brian Murdaugh, this is Brian’s win,” said Citadel coach Brent Thompson. “He gutted through this one. He did exactly what we needed him to do. You never know when your time will come, and Brian stepped up."
The Citadel place kicker Jacob Godek rebounded from a poor sophomore season with a break-out year in 2018. Last week, Godek booted a 37-yard field in overtime as the Bulldogs upset Georgia Tech.
With Rainey spending most of the week getting treatment from the Bulldogs' training staff, Murdaugh figured he’d get on the field against the Buccaneers.
“I took some extra reps in practice. You hate to see a guy like Brandon Rainey go down,” Murdaugh said. “Early in the week, coaches told me that I needed to be ready to go if Brandon couldn’t go, so that’s the way I prepared.”
Late in the week, it became apparent that Rainey wasn’t going to be able to play.
“We were holding out hope, but by Thursday we knew that Brian was probably going to have to go for us,” Thompson said. “Brandon was close. It was a little touch and go. If push came to shove, he probably could have played, but I don’t know if that would have been worth it.”
The Bucs (0-4) came into the game with the worst rushing defense in FCS, while The Citadel was ranked in the top-10 in rushing offense. It appeared to be a mismatch on paper.
Charleston Southern’s defense kept the Bulldogs' option offense in check for most of the game. The Citadel managed just 278 yards of total offense, including 197 on the ground. The Bulldogs had been averaging more than 260 rushing per game going into Saturday’s game.
“I think our guys came out and played their butts off, I’m really proud of my team,” said Charleston Southern coach Autry Denson. “Our defense played lights out. They lined up and accepted the challenge. I cannot be upset with my team. To me, we made enough plays to win the game.”
After a sloppy first half, the Bulldogs' offense finally found some rhythm starting with Murdaugh’s 54-yard TD pass to Webb to give the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead.
“That’s a play we have in the game plan every week and it’s a good one for us,” Murdaugh said. “Raleigh was able to get a couple of steps on him and I was able to get him the ball and I think it really sparked us and got us going in the second half.”
Citadel running back Remus Bulmer scored his TD to give The Citadel a 20-6 advantage with 2:18 left in the third quarter.
But the Bucs came storming back behind quarterback Jack Chambers, who came off the bench to replace true freshman Ross Malmgren. Malmgren was making his first collegiate start.
Chalmers’ 27-yard TD pass to Garris Schwarting cut the gap to 20-13 with 10:41 to play.
After bad snap that led to a Citadel safety, Chambers led the Bucs down to the Citadel 1-yard line with under three minutes remaining. But Charleston Southern failed to score on four attempts, including a stop on fourth down when Ronnie Harris was caught behind the line by Willie Eubanks III.
“Defense played a heck of a ball game,” Thompson said. “Anytime you have four shots from the 1-yard line and you don’t get it in. I think that’s the turning point in the game.”
The game got a little chippy with personal fouls by both teams in the second half, and the postgame handshake between the two coaches seemed to be tense.
“It was very brief,” Thompson said. “I’m glad we got the win. Anytime you get a win over your rival, it’s a good win. It’s a good rivalry game.”