The Citadel falls short in second half comeback at Wofford
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The Citadel cut a 17-point halftime deficit down to three at the outset of the fourth quarter but could not convert any of its final three possessions into points and dropped a 24-21 decision to Wofford at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg.
The defeat drops the Bulldogs to 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the Southern Conference while the Terriers improved to 7-1 and 5-1 in the SoCon. Wofford entered the game ranked No. 7 in the nation by The Sports Network and No. 8 in the FCS Coaches poll.
The Bulldogs were attempting to add Wofford to previous Top 10 victims Georgia Southern and Appalachian State this season and snap a 13-game losing streak to the Terriers.
The Citadel pulled within three points on a touchdown run by VanDyke Jones on the first play of the fourth quarter before punting on its next two possessions. The Bulldogs had one final opportunity to pull out the win when they took over at their own 32 with 2:28 remaining in the game.
Aaron Miller connected with Dom Jones for 13 yards on the first play of the drive, but three subsequent passes gained only one yard, and when a fourth down pass from Miller to Dom sailed out of bounds, The Citadel's fate was sealed.
Wofford ran off 24 unanswered points after The Citadel took a quick 7-0 lead, and a 42-yard field goal by Kasey Redfern as the first half clock expired gave the Terriers a seemingly comfortable 24-7 lead at intermission. Wofford then drove to the Bulldog 34 at the start of the third quarter before James Riley stopped national player of the year candidate Eric Breitenstein short of the sticks on a fourth down run.
Riley, a true freshman, was seeing his first college action and came up big with a game-high 12 tackles including 2 1/2 for losses and one sack. The Citadel coaching staff had planned on redshirting Riley, but season-ending injuries to starting linebackers Carl Robinson and Rah Muhammad as well as reserve Yemi Oyengule forced Riley into the lineup and he started on Saturday.
After Wofford turned the ball over on downs, the Bulldogs went 67 yards on just four plays with Darien Robinson exploding through the line en route to a 44-yard touchdown run that cut the Wofford lead to 24-14 with 8:49 left in the third quarter. The touchdown was Robinson's fifth of the season and fourth of at least 44 yards.
Robinson finished the day with 85 yards on nine carries and moved into 16th place in school history with 1,663 yards. Ben Dupree followed Robinson with 72 yards and also completed 6 of 9 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown to Dom Jones in the first quarter.
Wofford's drive following the Robinson touchdown reached The Citadel 34 before the Bulldogs held and took over at their own 9 following a punt. Dupree was the star of the show as The Citadel marched 91 yards to another touchdown, completing an 18-yard pass to Jones and adding a 24-yard run to move the ball into Terrier territory.
A 15-yard run by the junior quarterback got the Bulldogs to the eight, and VanDyke Jones capped 91-yard drive with a five-yard run that made it 24-21 with six seconds expired in the fourth quarter.
The Citadel held Wofford to only 38 yards and forced punts on three straight possessions. But the Terrier defense proved just as tough, with a pair of Cass Couey punts preceding the final drive that stalled at The Citadel 36.
Wofford rushed for 283 yards, 125 below its season average, and had 326 yards of total offense, almost 140 shy of its mark coming into the game. The Citadel limited the Terriers to 89 rushing yards and 110 in total offense while shutting them out over the final 30 minutes.
Breitenstein, who entered the game ranked third in the nation with an average of 159.7 yards per game, was held to 110 yards and an average of only 4.8 per carry by the Bulldog defense. He did score a pair of touchdowns, however, including an eight-yard run that knotted the score at 7 following the Dupree-to-Jones 26-yard touchdown on The Citadel's first drive of the game.
Jones finished the game with four receptions for 58 yards. Freshman reserve wide receiver Brandon Eakins had his first career catch, a 13-yard grab on The Citadel's opening scoring drive.
A 13-yard touchdown run by Will Gay gave Wofford its first lead with 1:53 left in the first quarter, and it remained a seven-point game when Citadel kicker Thomas Warren pushed a 40-yard field goal attempt off to the left.
Breitenstein added his second score on a four-yard run at the 57 second mark of the second quarter to make it 21-7, and Bay Amrhein fumbled a short kickoff to give Wofford the ball right back at the Bulldog 37. A 13-yard pass from Brian Kass to Will Irwin put the Terriers in field goal range, and Redfern made the fumble costly when his 42-yard try just snuck over the crossbar.
Chris Billingslea followed Riley with nine tackles and Carson Smith finished with seven. Stephon Shelton, Blake Wylie and James Zotto paced Wofford with six stops each.
The Citadel returns to Johnson Hagood Stadium for its annual Homecoming contest next Saturday against Elon. Kickoff for the final home game of the season is at 2 p.m. Wofford is at Samford for a 3 p.m. contest.