Citadel vs. UNC

Citadel running back Tyler Renew rushes against North Carolina on Saturday.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Tyler Renew took his seat at the press conference table, fielded a few questions on a blustery night in Chapel Hill, N.C. and then finally unleashed what everyone in the room was thinking.

“At times, having a season like this, you kind of forget what it’s like to lose,” the senior running back said following The Citadel’s 41-7 loss to North Carolina.

“Having this today, you make sure that you never lose again.”

Since September, when the Bulldogs opened the year with a nail biter of a victory over Mercer, Brent Thompson’s Citadel squad has been defined by school record after school record, win after win. To mark The Citadel’s most recent loss before Saturday night would have been to turn back the calendar 350 days to last December, when the Bulldogs fell to Charleston Southern in the FCS playoffs a season ago.

Thompson and Co. were hopeful the Bulldogs’ streak of dominance would continue at UNC, but now they’ll turn their attention toward the NCAA FCS playoffs and the selection show set to air 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

“I just told the players in (the locker room), we’ve got a long season left ahead of us,” Thompson said.

“We’re nowhere near playing the way we wanted to play out there today but we needed a day like that to remind us that if you don’t play well and you turn the ball over and you make a lot of mistakes, then you’re not gonna win very many football games that way.”

The theme from Thompson’s press conference was one that cited Citadel miscues and a lack of execution that UNC took advantage of.

Citadel kicker Cody Clark opened the game with a missed 25-yard field goal attempt in the Bulldogs’ opening drive, and by the end of the first quarter, UNC led 14-0 thanks to a pair of 19 and 72-yard touchdown passes from quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

By halftime, UNC had a comfortable 31-0 advantage behind another Trubisky touchdown pass, a Dominiquie Green 58-yard pick-six and a 23-yard field goal from kicker Nick Weiler. Citadel quarterback Dominique Allen’s interception was the first interception the Tar Heels recorded all season, making them the last team in the country to fulfill that stat.

As the second half wore on, UNC’s offense continued to come up with big plays in the form of long yardage, and senior tailback T.J. Logan opened the half with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“It definitely just shows how important doing the little things are. That’s what really killed us,” Allen said.

“We didn’t do the little things right today and it really showed. It’s gonna hurt you when you play a team like this because they’re gonna expose it and they definitely did.”

On Sunday morning, The Citadel will get some insight into what the bracket looks like for the upcoming playoffs when they gather and watch the selection show together.

While Thompson said the mood of the locker room was somber following the UNC loss, The Citadel is still in strong positioning as it turns the page and heads toward the postseason.

The owner of two straight Southern Conference titles, the Bulldogs are already guaranteed an automatic bid to the 24-team playoff and were ranked No. 6 in the committee’s preliminary poll earlier this week. Thompson and his Bulldogs are expected to earn a top-eight seed along with a first-round bye. The selection show will air at 11 a.m. on ESPNU.

“In the locker room just then, I walked around the guys and told them we’ve got plenty of more football left,” Allen said.

“This one game isn’t gonna dictate how we play the rest of the season.”

Reach Grace Raynor at 843-937-5591. Follow her on Twitter @gmraynor.

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