Brent Thompson's postgame sermon to his Citadel players must have been a fiery one, based on his remarks to reporters after Saturday's 28-17 loss to rival Furman before 8,574 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
The coach's patience was thin after the Bulldogs' eighth loss in 10 games dropped them to 2-5 overall and 2-4 in the Southern Conference. The Citadel is 0-3 at home this season and has not won a home game in a calendar year.
"I'm tired of it," said Thompson, whose 2016 Citadel team won a SoCon title. "I'm over it. I'm tired of standing up here saying we're in every single ball game, we're just not winning. I'm tired of losing."
The Bulldogs trailed Furman (3-4, 3-2) just 21-17 in the final minutes before Citadel quarterback Jordan Black was stripped of the ball. Paladins linebacker Donavan Perryman returned the fumble 20 yards for the clinching TD.
Making his first start in place of the injured Harris Roberts, Furman third-string quarterback JeMar Lincoln ran for three touchdowns and hit 9 of 12 passes for 140 yards. Citadel QB Black, who is Robert's cousin, ran for a TD and passed for another, a 91-yard bomb to Raleigh Webb.
The Citadel has lost four games by 22 points this season, an average of 5.5 points per loss.
"I'm tired of standing here with the same old excuses every single day," said Thompson, now 17-13 in three seasons after a 10-0 start at The Citadel. "We need to find a way to win them, and that's my job. We've got to believe we can win them in the end. We've got to make some plays."
What went right
Confronted again with Furman defensive coordinator Chad Staggs — who is now 6-0 against The Citadel with the Paladins and Charleston Southern — Thompson had the Bulldogs come out throwing.
The Citadel's first four plays were passes, and Black ended up 8 of 16 for 161 yards, including the 91-yarder to Webb, the longest pass play in school history. That gave the Bulldogs a 17-14 lead with 6:46 left in the third.
"I knew we had to make some big plays in the pass game, and we did make a couple," said Thompson. "But you know what, that's not enough."
The Citadel's defense held Furman to 3.4 yards per carry, sacked the QB three times and had 12 tackles for loss, three by linebacker Willie Eubanks and three by tackle Joseph Randolph II.
And on special teams, Jacob Godek made a 44-yard field goal (he's 7 of 8 this season), and Matthew Campbell put two punts down inside the Furman 1-yard line.
What went wrong
Once again, The Citadel could not find the key to solving a Staggs-led defense. The Bulldogs failed to score at least 20 points for the first time this season, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry for 157 rushing yards against Furman's 3-4 front.
The Citadel turned the ball over twice, both times on Black fumbles. The Bulldogs' defense sacked Furman freshman QB Hamp Sisson twice to force a punt in the third quarter after the first fumble. But Furman bandit end Adrian Hope stripped Black of the ball, leading to Perryman's clinching TD with 2:04 to play.
Summerville High School product Cam Burnette caught four passes for 71 yards for Furman. His 44-yard catch on a post route set up Lincoln's second TD, a 1-yard plunge for a 14-10 lead in the second quarter. And Burnette's sliding fingertip grab of a 13-yard pass led to a 4-yard Lincoln TD and a 21-17 lead with 9:12 left.
Down 21-17, The Citadel backed Furman up to its own half-yard line when the Bulldogs' Cole Owens saved a Matthew Campbell punt from going into the end zone; Ronald Peterkin downed it inside the 1 with 6:23 left.
A three-and-out there, and The Citadel likely gets the ball back at midfield with about five minutes to go.
But the Bulldogs let Furman out of the hole, as Kealand Dirks ran for 16 yards to the 20, and the Paladins ran 3:37 off the clock before giving the ball back.
"I'm probably most proud of that, coming out from the half-yard line," said Furman coach Clay Hendrix. "We banged out a couple of first downs, and that was huge. We got a good punt off and let our defense finish them off."
The Citadel is at Western Carolina next week; with five losses on the books and FBS No. 1 Alabama one of four games left, the Bulldogs are virtually assured of a second straight losing season.
"We're just tired of getting so close and not being able to finish these games we've been in," Black said. "We've got to make sure we pay attention to details. The margin for victory is so slim."
• Eubanks had 13 tackles and Noah Dawkins added 11 for The Citadel ... Converted QB Ryan McCarthy caught his first passes as a receiver, finishing with three catches for 27 yards ... Slotback Grant Drakeford was injured in the second quarter and did not return.
• Inducted into The Citadel's Athletics Hall of Fame at halftime were All-American wrestler Odie Delaney, former quarterback Gene Brown, former baseball pitcher Brian Rogers, former basketball standout Cameron Wells and former school president Lt. Gen. Bud Watts. The Hall of Fame now has 200 members.