Citadel’s Houston: Bulldogs ‘changed the culture’

Citadel’s Vinny Miller is tackled by Charleston Southern’s Corbin Jackson during their FCS playoff game Saturday at Charleston Southern. Paul Zoeller/Staff

No matter where The Citadel football team or coach Mike Houston goes from here, it’s not likely Houston will forget the 2015 Bulldogs.

Houston’s second Citadel team was picked to finish seventh in the Southern Conference and wound up as co-champions, with a first league title and FCS playoff berth since 1992.

That historic season came to a disappointing end Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs, with a 14-6 loss at Charleston Southern.

“It’s a group that really cared about each other and invested a lot,” said Houston, whose team finished at 9-4 with a win over FBS South Carolina. “So this one is going to hurt a little bit.

“But our kids bought in and believed in us this year, and that was the difference. Last year there was still some doubt, but this year there was not and I appreciate so much the older kids buying in the way they did. They’ve really changed the culture here in two years.”

The Citadel turned the ball over six times against CSU, five times on fumbles and once on a Dominique Allen interception. Allen also lost a fumble when CSU linebacker Solomon Brown stole the ball from him on a strip-sack.

Those turnovers are six reasons the Bulldogs failed to score a touchdown against an FCS foe for the first time since a 16-6 loss at Furman in 2011.

“We made critical mistakes,” said Allen. “You are not going to win a game making mistakes like that, especially in such a crucial game for us.”

Houston credited CSU’s defense and coordinator Chad Staggs, pointing out that the Bucs’ spread option is not that different than The Citadel’s triple option.

“Some teams don’t like having to play downhill, physical, down-after-down football,” Houston said. “But Chad does a great job with his kids — they are tough, physical, disciplined, just like us. And they do a great job against this style of offense.”

— With no future games scheduled with Charleston Southern, the series stands tied at 5-5, with CSU winning the last four.

— Citadel kicker Eric Goins made 2 of 3 field goals Saturday to break the school record for field goals in a season. He’s got 16 this season, topping the previous record of 14. He’s also tied for second in career field goals with 25.

— Linebacker James Riley had 12 tackles and is tied for fifth in career tackles with 260. Joe Crochet had seven tackles and forced a fumble, and Malik Diggs made the Bulldogs’ 20th interception of the season.