Citadel football coach Brent Thompson admitted Tuesday to a little trouble sleeping since Saturday's game against East Tennessee State.
That will happen when your team loses by 26-23 despite allowing one offensive touchdown and outgaining the opponent by 167 yards.
In particular, Thompson said he was "haunted" by a third-quarter drive that ended in an interception thrown by quarterback Jordan Black when the Bulldogs were trailing by 16-9 and driving for what might have been a tying touchdown.
"The one that probably haunts me the most is the interception when we were just about in the red zone," Thompson said at his weekly news conference. "We'd been running the football fairly well and wanted to take a shot at the end zone.
"We may have pressed a little bit too much. We had a shot at the end zone and just didn't get the right ball fit in there to the right spot at that time."
The Bulldogs had run the ball 10 straight times to move from their own 10-yard line to the ETSU 23. On first down, Black dropped back to pass and saw tight end Attorney Gallman flash open across the middle. Black's pass was lofted a bit too much, and backside safety Tyree Robinson picked it off at the 7.
"We had them on the ropes a little bit, and we let them off the hook," said Thompson, whose team fell to 1-4 overall and 1-3 in the Southern Conference heading into this week's game at VMI (0-6, 0-5).
"When you have somebody on the ropes like that, you need to continue to apply pressure," he said. "When you don't do that, that's what causes me not to sleep at night."
Thompson did not lose sleep, however, over two fourth-down calls that did not work out for The Citadel in the first half.
Ahead 6-0 early, The Citadel went for it on fourth-and-1 at its own 45. Black and fullback Lorenzo Ward could not connect on the handoff and fumbled. Later, on fourth-and-1 at The Citadel 46, Ward was stopped for no gain.
The Citadel defense held ETSU two field goals on both occasions, tying the game at 6-6.
"We've been going for those all year long, and that's just something we are going to do," said Thompson, whose team is now 18 of 28 on fourth down. "... You've got to believe when you are going to get it, and certainly they did a good job defending it."
Black hit 15 of 23 passes for 188 yards, with two interceptions, and Raleigh Webb caught eight balls for 116 yards as The Citadel outgained ETSU by 391 to 224.
The loss to ETSU — now alone in first place in the SoCon at 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the league — means The Citadel has lost seven of its last eight games dating to last season. Three of the losses this year are to ranked teams, three by a total of 11 points and all four to teams with a combined record of 17-8.
"I know our record is certainly not where anybody associated with The Citadel wants it to be," said Thompson, now 16-12 with the Bulldogs after a 10-0 start in 2016. "But I will say this, the effort is there. I do think we have a good team and the makings of a great team.
"It's just a matter of time until we break through. We are doing a lot of really good things out there. In the ETSU game, I thought we played great on defense and times we played really well on offense. Unfortunately, we're still not doing all the little things correctly to win football games. But I do see a light at the end of the tunnel, and things that we can build on and get better from."
• Thompson said freshmen from The Citadel's Corps of Cadets will be bused to VMI for the game ... Linebacker Jordan Williams is out for the year after suffering an upper-body injury against ETSU, Thompson said ... Slotback Rod Johnson missed the ETSU game and should return this week ... Receiver Curt Nixon has missed the last two games and is doubtful this week, Thompson said.