Sam Frye grabbed the trophy, lifted it over his head and let out a joyous whoop.
The streak was over.
“It’s awesome,” The Citadel’s senior offensive lineman said after the Bulldogs ended a 16-game losing streak against Wofford with a 39-12 victory Saturday. “Ever since I’ve been here, we haven’t been able to beat Wofford. Being able to take them down, finally, was incredible.”
It was probably news to the 10,428 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium that the winner of the Wofford-Citadel game gets a trophy, known as the Big Dog Trophy. That’s mostly because The Citadel had not defeated Wofford since 1998, when current Bulldogs were in kindergarten and defensive coordinator Maurice Drayton was a senior team captain at The Citadel.
That’s fitting, because Drayton’s defense deserves a lot of credit for Saturday’s win, which pushed the Bulldogs to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Southern Conference, tied for first place with Chattanooga (4-1, 2-0).
Averaging 289 yards rushing per game, the Terriers managed only 118 against The Citadel, an anemic 2.3 yards per carry. Wofford’s total of 12 points was its lowest against The Citadel since a 7-3 win over the Bulldogs in 1997.
“The bottom line is they smacked us,” said Wofford quarterback Evan Jacks, whose team dropped to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the league. “They absolutely smacked us.”
The smackdown extended to The Citadel’s offense, as sophomore quarterback Dominique Allen played the best game of his young career. Allen ran for 72 yards and two touchdowns, and hit 7 of 10 passes for 125 yards and another score. Fullback Tyler Renew, making his first start of the season, ran for 85 yards and a TD, and Reggie Williams added a 17-yard TD run.
It was a vast improvement over the Bulldogs’ 33-20 loss to Charleston Southern two weeks ago, when The Citadel ran for just 15 yards in the second half, getting outscored 27-3 after intermission.
“Offensively, we tried to simplify things so we could play fast,” said Citadel coach Mike Houston, whose team totaled 398 yards, including 273 rushing. “And I thought we played very, very fast up front, and that was a big difference.”
Houston said he also tried to keep his team from getting uptight about ending the skid against Wofford.
“I think they really wanted to win the CSU game, maybe wanted to win it so bad they were too uptight,” he said. “It’s always a balancing act between being too loose and too uptight. But they had a good week of practice, and I liked the way they carried themselves. I felt they would play free and loose, and they did.”
The defense, led by 11 tackles each from linebacker Tevin Floyd and safety Malik Diggs, set the tone early, forcing two Wofford punts to set up the Bulldogs’ first TD, a 1-yard run by Allen to cap a 39-yard drive.
Floyd sparked the next TD, belting Jacks to force a fumble recovered by Joe Crochet at the Terriers’ 24. Allen scored on the next play for a 14-0 lead after one quarter.
The Citadel asserted its authority with TD drives just before and after halftime. Williams scored from 17 yards out to cap a 69-yard drive for a 21-6 lead 56 seconds before the half. Then, the Bulldogs opened the second half with a back-breaking 16-play, 80-yard drive. Renew scored from 3 yards out and it was 28-6.
“That was awesome,” Renew said. “We had momentum at the half, and coaches told us we had to keep that going in the second half. We came out strong and set the tone.”
Allen threw a pair of 24-yard passes to Brandon Eakins, the second for a TD to answer a Wofford score and make it 36-12. And Allen’s 42-yard bomb to Cam Jackson set up a 23-yard field goal by Eric Goins for the final Citadel points.
Wofford coach Mike Ayers, who has wins over six different Citadel coaches in his 28 years with the Terriers, was left to ponder the end of the longest win streak for one SoCon school over another.
“We just weren’t ready,” he said. “Whether it was 16 years ago or today, they got the job done because they were the better football team.”