TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Citadel slotback Dante Smith took the pitch from quarterback Brandon Rainey, beat Alabama cornerback Saivion Smith to the corner and saw nothing but the green grass of storied Bryant Denny Stadium in front of him.
"That was pretty exciting," Dante Smith allowed after the Bulldogs' 50-17 loss at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. "Yeah, it was pretty exciting."
Smith's low-key reaction aside, his 45-yard touchdown run — the longest allowed by Alabama since 2015 — was the moment the announced crowd of 101,681 at Bryant Denny Stadium realized that The Citadel was not just another cupcake on Nick Saban's FCS pastry shelf.
Smith's TD sprint tied the score at 7-7 in the first quarter and helped the Bulldogs to a 10-10 tie at halftime, a score that shook the Southland — at least for a few minutes.
The 5-10, 180-pound redshirt freshman from Porter-Gaud added a 44-yard TD in the second half on the same option pitch from Rainey and finished with 130 yards on nine carries. That's more yards than Louisville, Ole Miss, Missouri, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State ran for against Alabama.
Smith is the first running back to gain more than 130 yards against Alabama since Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott in 2015.
"At first, I was surprised because these guys (at Alabama) are so big," said Smith. "But when we started playing, they were just like us. They got recruited, we got recruited and we're on the same football field. So, we've got a job to do."
Smith had run for 127 yards and no touchdowns in the Bulldogs' first nine games this season, but has played more snaps in recent weeks after injuries to Rod Johnson and Grant Drakeford.
"Dante has had a great year for us," said coach Brent Thompson. "On those two plays, we had really great blocks on the perimeter, and for him to get those in from about 40 or 50 yards out was pretty big for us.
"It took a lot of effort to get it there, because Alabama is very fast and very quick. I thought it was a tremendous effort on his part."
For a half, it was a tremendous effort by all the Bulldogs, who had heard all week about how little chance they had against perhaps the best college football team ever.
"When you watch ESPN or you watch football in general, everybody talks about Alabama," Smith said. "That puts a chip on your shoulder, and you want to come out and do the best you can.
"We're not going to back down from anyone, so we'll come out and play and see what the results are."
• Jacob Godek's 48-yard field goal as time expired in the first half tied the game at 10-10, and highlighted a bounce-back season for the junior, who was 6 of 14 last season. He missed a 45-yarder after a false start penalty in the third quarter, but is 9 of 11 this year.
• Linebacker Russell Hubbs made a key play when he stripped Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy of the ball in the second quarter, Ronald Peterkin recovering. It was one of Alabama's two turnovers.