This Citadel football team has experienced the thrill of a 3-0 start and a No. 10 national ranking. The Bulldogs also have suffered through a three-game losing skid and a quick drop from the national polls.
After all that, The Citadel finds itself in a decent spot after today’s 45-31 win over Western Carolina before a Parents Day crowd of 12,578 at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
Heading into a much-needed open date, the Bulldogs are 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the Southern Conference, with the goals of a winning record and even an FCS playoff berth still in play.
The Citadel won’t play again until an Oct. 27 game at Wofford, and closes the season with a homecoming game against Elon and road games at VMI and Furman.
Bulldogs quarterback Ben Dupree ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns, and fullback Darien Robinson added 116 yards and a score.
The Citadel’s defense, weakened by the loss of starting linebackers Carl Robinson (knee) and Rah Muhammad (broken leg), managed to slow Western Carolina (1-6, 0-5) just enough to extend the Catamounts’ losing streak to 19 games in SoCon play.
Tied at 24-24 in the third quarter and needing a spark, The Citadel got one from a freshman when running back Vinny Miller lit up the crowd with a big hit on a WCU kickoff return. Defensive tackle Cam Mobley followed up with a third-down sack to force the Catamounts’ first punt.
The Bulldogs turned that into a 44-yard TD drive, Rickey Anderson going over from 11 yards out for a 31-24 lead that The Citadel would not surrender. The Bulldogs took a 38-24 lead on Darien Robinson’s 6-yard TD run with 6:07 left.
WCU came right back to cut the lead to 38-31 on Troy Mitchell’s 5-yard TD run with 4:37 left. But the Bulldogs recovered an onside kick and sealed it at 45-31 on a 13-yard TD run by Van Dyke Jones.
It was 17-17 early in the second half when The Citadel’s defense finally came up with a big play, as cornerback Brandon McCladdie picked off a Mitchell pass. But the Bulldogs gave the ball right back when WCU linebacker Rock Williams made a nifty play of his own, stripping the ball from Dupree.
The Catamounts turned that into an 82-yard drive and a 25-yard TD run by Michael Vaughn for a 24-17 lead at 8:51 of the third quarter.
The Citadel answsered behind backup QB Aaron Miller, who led a 12-play, 75-yard drive. His 1-yard TD plunge tied the game at 24-24 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
Neither team could stop the other in a first half that ended in a 17-17 tie. WCU scored on all three of its possessions, with Michael Vaughn and Mitchell running for touchdowns and Richard Sigmon booting a 22-yard field goal.
The Citadel, meanwhile, was forced to punt only once in the first half, getting touchdowns on runs of 10 and 15 yards by Dupree. Dupree’s 26-yard pass to Dalton Trevino set up a 27-yard field goal by Thomas Warren as time ran out to forge the 17-17 tie at intermission.
Led by 83 yards from running back Darius Ramsey and 65 by QB Mitchell, WCU racked up 187 rushing yards and 14 first downs in the first half, averaging a robust 6.0 yards per play. Dupree ran for 66 yards and fullback Darien Robinson added 50 as the Bulldogs totaled 174 rushing yards, 13 first downs and 5.7 yards per play in the first 30 minutes.