Tyler Renew stood in front of the Corps of Cadets on Saturday night, listening to The Citadel's alma mater for the last time as a Bulldogs' football player.
“It hurts,” The Citadel's senior fullback sighed after his final game.
A 17-3 loss to Wofford before 10,366 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday night was a painful end to a special season for The Citadel. The Bulldogs won 10 games and a second straight Southern Conference championship, earning a No. 6 seed and first-round bye in the FCS playoffs.
None of that mattered to the upset-minded Terriers, who rode backup quarterback Joe Newman – a freshman and the fourth Wofford QB to play this season – to the FCS quarterfinals.
Newman's 36-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter provided the winning points, and cornerback Devin Watson – cousin to Clemson star Deshaun Watson – sealed the win with a 64-yard interception return for a TD with 30 seconds left.
The 10-3 Terriers advance to face Youngstown State, a 40-24 winner over No. 3 Jacksonville State. That Youngstown State would have come to The Citadel (10-2) for a quarterfinal game next week only added to Bulldog pain.
“It's hard, it's rough,” said Citadel quarterback Dominique Allen, who hit 11 of 22 passes for 120 yards, but was picked off twice. “We had a great season, and Wofford played a tough game last week and came out with a lot of motivation. It's rough, because you don't see these things coming at you when you have such a successful season.”
The Terriers felt they should have won a 24-21, overtime loss to The Citadel in October. Wofford and 70-year-old coach Mike Ayers have won six straight since then, including a 15-14 victory over Charleston Southern in the playoffs' first round.
“As soon as we saw the draw, we knew it'd be a tough game,” said Citadel coach Brent Thompson. “They certainly had a lot of motivation, but we had the time off. I thought we'd be a little fresher and play a little faster, and we did. We just didn't convert enough in the red zone.”
Kicker Cody Clark, so clutch all season, missed three of four field-goal tries, including a 25-yarder at the end of the half and a 35-yarder that would have cut Wofford's lead to 10-6 with 4:28 left in the game.
“I wish I had an answer,” said Clark, who missed five of his last six kicks as a Bulldog. “Some days those 4-foot putts look like 40-foot putts. I hate it, because I thought the season boiled down to three kicks, and if those three kicks are good, maybe the result is different.”
The Citadel blew other chances. A false start on the Wofford 1-yard line on the Bulldogs' first drive led to a 24-yard Clark field goal and a 3-0 lead that held up until midway through the third quarter.
The Bulldogs reached the Wofford 8 at the end of the half, but two Allen passes to Jorian Jordan fell incomplete, and Clark yanked a 25-yard field goal.
Down 10-3 late in the game, The Citadel had second-and-goal at the Wofford 8 before a false start and an incomplete pass. Thompson elected to try a field goal there, but after another false start, Clark banged a 35-yarder off the right upright.
“I was trying to extend the game,” Thompson said, “trying to win the game outright. Our defense was playing well. I thought we'd convert the kick, pin them deep and try to get field position. I didn't think twice about that, I thought that was the right call to try to win the game.”
Once the pain from this game recedes, the 2016 Bulldogs will be able to consider their legacy, which places them right there with the 1992 team that went 11-2 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“You fight with these guys for a long time, especially these seniors,” said Renew, who ran for 76 yards to end the season with 1,096 yards. “These coaches have been phenomenal, the best I've had in my career. They push you every day and never let you settle.
“If we're not the best Citadel team ever,” Renew said, “we're right there with the top one.”
•Citadel cornerback Dee Delaney picked off two passes and now has six this season and 13 for his career, tied for second all-time.
• Senior linebacker Tevin Floyd made 12 tackles and ends his career with 295 stops, third in Citadel history.