BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Once upon a time, The Citadel football team scored 52 points at FCS power Appalachian State, and beat two top 10 teams in a row.
That was just a month ago, but it seems like the stuff of fairy tales now. After a 38-7 loss at Samford on Saturday, The Citadel is reeling with three straight losses and wondering where it goes from here.
Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin passed for 320 yards and a touchdown as his team improved to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Southern Conference, still in the chase for a league title.
A hardy band of Citadel fans were among the 5,872 at cozy Seibert Stadium on an overcast afternoon, but there was no delirious post-game scene as at App State on Sept. 15.
All the high hopes engendered by The Citadel’s 3-0 start, which included wins over App State and Georgia Southern, have been dimmed by league losses to Chattanooga and Samford.
At 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the SoCon, The Citadel’s visions of championship rings and playoff berths must give way to finding a way to score a touchdown. The Citadel is ranked No. 22 in FCS, but will surely fall from the polls on Monday.
The triple-option offense that seemed so powerful in racking up 618 yards in the 52-28 win at App State has managed just two touchdowns in the last two games.
Fortunate to be down 14-0 at the half Saturday, The Citadel got a break early in the second half when defensive tackle Derek Douglas forced a fumble by Summerlin. Mitchell Jeter recovered at midfield, and one play later, Rickey Anderson took an option pitch and sprinted 55 yards for a touchdown. Anderson’s sixth TD of the season made it 14-7 with 10:37 left in the third quarter, and The Citadel seemed to be back in the game.
Not for long. The Citadel gave it right back when cornerback Brandon McCladdie slipped, leaving Samford receiver Riley Hawkins all alone for an 82-yard catch-and-run TD pass from Summerlin. Just like that, Samford’s lead was back to 21-7.
Samford tacked on a 33-yard field goal by Cameron Yaw and a 1-yard TD run from Stanley Robinson to make it 31-7.
With Samford’s “Bear” front – a nose guard and two tackles covering the center and two guards – shutting off the run game, The Citadel was forced to throw early, trying 12 passes in the first half.
One of those was an ill-advised throw by a scrambling Ben Dupree, back across his body to the middle of the field. That was picked off by Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt, who took it back 65 yards for a TD and a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Citadel defense kept the score there until late in the half, with Domonic Jones blocking a Samford field goal, his third block of the season and eighth of his career. Samford kicker Cameron Yaw also missed a 47-yard try.
But with The Citadel’s offense able to gain only five first downs in the first half, the defense wore down late. Samford, often snapping the ball with 20 seconds still left on the play clock, put together a 13-play, 92-yard drive, with Summerlin scoring from a yard out for a 14-0 lead with 2:02 left in the half.
The Citadel began the game without sophomore linebacker Carl Robinson, who tore an ACL last week and is out for the season. The defense lost another sophomore linebacker, Rah Muhammad, to an ankle injury in the second quarter.