RALEIGH — In the big picture, The Citadel’s 52-14 loss at North Carolina State on Saturday night will have little impact on the Bulldogs’ suddenly elevated goals for this football season.
The Citadel will bring home a guarantee check for $375,000 and get on with the business of trying to win a Southern Conference championship. The 3-1 Bulldogs already have knocked off two SoCon preseason favorites in Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, and can go to 3-0 in the league with a win over Chattanooga on Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
But that was little consolation to the dejected Bulldogs, who hoped to put on a much better show for a sell-out crowd of 55,145 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“It hurts,” said fullback Darien Robinson, who ran for 102 yards and a touchdown. “We didn’t come out here to just give this a shot and then say, ‘We’re here for the SoCon.’ We came to win this game, and to win the SoCon.”
The Citadel, ranked No. 10 among FCS teams, fell to 0-28 against teams from the ACC, and got another reminder of the advantages squads such as N.C. State (3-1) hold over teams from the Football Championship Subdivision. The Citadel has not beaten a Bowl Subdivision team since 1992, which is the last time the Bulldogs won a SoCon title.
“Very disappointed,” Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said. “I thought we’d play a much better game in all three phases. I told our guys, we have to learn from this game and get better at it. We’ve got a new season starting next week.
“Our guys are competitors. We wanted to play hard and win the football game, and we just got out-executed by a very good team.”
The Wolfpack shredded The Citadel’s defense with big plays, reeling off plays of 44, 43 and 73 yards while sprinting to a 42-7 halftime lead.
A fourth-team tailback, freshman Shadrack Thornton, ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns in his first college game. Quarterback Mike Glennon hit 19 of 24 passes for 233 yards and a TD, and ran for two more scores. Rashard Smith took a punt return back 73 yards for a TD.
But it was at the line of scrimmage that N.C. State’s advantage truly told. The Wolfpack’s offensive line, averaging 6-4 and 314 pounds, helped Thornton average 6.9 yards per carry. Not even the return of All-SoCon defensive tackle Derek Douglas, out since spring practice with a knee injury, could slow the Wolfpack.
“That was our big concern, their offensive line,” Higgins said. “They have four seniors who are big and physical, and we were not able to slow down their run game.”
On defense, a pair of sophomore tackles, Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill, helped N.C. State neutralize a Citadel option that piled up 618 yards against App State. Citadel quarterback Ben Dupree, who ran for 180 yards and two scores in that game, was held to one yard on eight carries.
“It was a great day for our defense,” said N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien. “You have to give our defensive staff and players a lot of credit. We had a blown assignment on their long run, but other than that, we did good defensively tonight.”
Robinson’s 65-yard TD jaunt in the second quarter tied the score at 7, but that didn’t last long. Citadel turnovers on two straight possessions helped N.C. State break the game wide open.
After Bulldogs slotback Van Dyke Jones mishandled a pitchout at his own 24, Glennon found Bryan Underwood on a crossing route. Underwood picked up a block, split two defenders and vaulted into the end zone for a TD and a 21-7 lead.
On the Bulldogs’ next series, N.C. State All-America cornerback David Amerson lived up to his hype. Greg Adams got a step on Amerson, and Aaron Miller’s deep ball was perfectly thrown. But Amerson, a 6-3, 194-pound junior, climbed up over the 5-9 Adams and picked off the pass, his 16th career interception, which tied the N.C. State record.
Glennon converted that turnover into a 2-yard TD run and a 28-7 lead. Glennon was pushed into the end zone by his teammates for a 1-yard score as the half ended to make it 42-7.
The Citadel used an N.C. State fumble to score in the third quarter, with Rah Muhammad recovering a wayward lateral at the Pack 28. Freshman slotback Vinny Miller scored from 15 yards out to cut the margin to 42-14.