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Citadel Notes: Defense shuts down Mocs' run game in second half

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 21 The Citadel at Chattanooga

CHATTANOOGA, TN - The Citadel's Ja'Lon Williams pressures Chattanooga quarterback Cole Copeland during the Bulldogs' 20-14 win on Saturday. (Photo by Frank Mattia/Icon Sportswire)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Chattanooga entered Saturday's game against The Citadel with the reputation of a team unable to run the football.

The Mocs had averaged just 56.9 rushing yards while losing six of their first seven games, last in the Southern Conference.

But the Bulldogs' defense helped Chattanooga mend that reputation in the first half, allowing running back Darrell Bridges to gain 124 yards on just 11 carries, including a 61-yard touchdown sprint and a 1-yard TD flip.

With his team trailing 14-7 at the half, Citadel defensive coordinator Blake Harrell went to work.

"We just made a few adjustments at halftime," he said. "We stayed in our base quarters coverage and said, if they throw it, they throw it. We need to quit protecting those guys (in the secondary) and let them play."

Bridges managed only 25 yards in the second half as Chattanooga finished with 143 rushing yards, its second-best figure this season.

"We were trying to protect (the secondary) a little bit and keep them out of some man situations," Harrell said. "We got popped on a long run, and besides that we had some sloppy tackling we've got to go back and focus on."

The Citadel got after freshman quarterback Cole Copeland, forcing three interceptions — two by Aron Spann and one by Ben Roberts. Linebacker Noah Dawkins had the Bulldogs' lone sack, but was credited with three pressures.

Linebacker Myles Pierce had eight tackles and a tackle for loss.

"We wanted to get some pressure on him, forced him to make some bad throws and maybe throw the ball to us a little bit," Harrell said. "That certainly helps."

Williams hurt

Citadel safety Kailik Williams, the SoCon defensive player of the year last season, went out in the first half with a lower leg injury and did not return.

Williams fell to the turf after leaping to break up a pass. He finished with five tackles.

"He's probably day to day," coach Brent Thompson said. "I haven't heard the exact severity of it, but it's kind of a lower leg deal. We'll take a look and see where he's at. Hopefully, he'll be able to play against VMI next week."

Spread offense

Twenty points is hardly an offensive explosion, but The Citadel's offense did put up its best rushing numbers since a 48-7 win at Presbyterian on Sept. 9.

The Bulldogs ran for 405 yards (they had 435) at PC, spreading the ball around with five rushers totaling at least 43 yards. Slotback Grant Drakeford had 97 yards, QB Dominique Allen 88, slotbacks Cam Jackson and Rod Johnson 74 and 58, and receiver Raleigh Webb went for 43 yards on a reverse.

"That's the first time we've done that since game one or two," Allen said. "It felt great to see 400 (yards) on the board today. We haven't been able to do that lately.

"It's good for the young guys. We finally come out here and get a win and it shows we can win with these guys against a good SoCon opponent. The older guys have been there and done that, but it's good for our younger guys to see that."

Extra Points

• Explosive plays have been far and few between for the Bulldogs this season, but they got some Saturday with runs of 54, 45, 43 and 32 yards.

• Next week's foe, VMI, lost to Western Carolina by 26-7 to fall to 0-8 overall and 0-5 in the SoCon.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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