As former Citadel All-American fullback Tyler Renew watched from the stands Saturday, his replacement had his best day of the season.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Rainey, a converted quarterback forced by injury into playing fullback, ran for a career-best 125 yards on 16 carries during The Citadel's 21-3 win over VMI at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
It was the first 100-yard performance for a Citadel back in a Southern Conference game this season.
"We worked hard all week and saw a lot of things go our way today," said Rainey, a 6-0, 205-pounder from Acworth, Ga. "It felt good to finally have a breakthrough."
Rainey was a QB at The Citadel until fullback Evan McField, the heir apparent to Renew, tore his ACL late in spring practice.
Rainey was switched to fullback, and had run for 275 yards in the first seven games, averaging 3.4 yards per carry and 39.4 per game.
Against VMI, he was at his best late in the game, breaking off runs of 28 and 23 yards in the fourth quarter. Backup fullback Lorenzo Ward popped a 45-yard TD for the clinching TD.
"In Brandon, you are talking about a young man who never played the position before," coach Brent Thompson said. "He and Lorenzo have done a nice job filling in. But it's a little difficult when you are trying to replace a guy like Tyler, who played fullback for four years and had an opportunity in the NFL."
Spanning the field
Citadel safety Aron Spann III has been a football magnet the last two weeks, with three interceptions in two games.
The 6-2, 205-pound junior from Dorman High School now has a SoCon-best five interceptions. His end-zone pick clinched last week's 20-14 win at Chattanooga, and he made a nice break on the ball to pick off another ball against VMI.
Spann had six tackles and also recovered a fumble on Saturday.
"It's been phenomenal to watch," Thompson said. "We knew what kind of player he was when we recruited him, and he's had to play behind some good players. I've seen it in practice and in the spring. It's tough to get him out of position, and he mades good tackles out there."
• Citadel cornerback Ben Roberts was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game in the second half. He'll miss the first half of next week's game at Western Carolina unless the call is overturned during the week.
• Citadel safety Kailik Williams, the 2016 SoCon defensive player of the year, sat out Saturday's game with a sore hamstring. He was replaced by sophomore Khafari Buffalo, who had six tackles.
• Linebackers Noah Dawkins and Myles Pierce led the defense with nine tackles each. Dawkins had three tackles for loss and Pierce two. The Bulldogs had five sacks, two by Israel Battle and one each by Ken Allen and A.J. Stokes. Dawkins and Russell Hubbs split a sack.