It was a great year for The Citadel’s football program. It was also a long year.
That was my main takeaway from the Bulldogs’ loss last Saturday, which looked a lot like a physically and/or mentally tired team hitting the proverbial wall. It wasn’t just the turnovers, but the procedure penalties, that seemed to indicate the team (at least on the offensive side of the ball) may have run out of gas.
It is easy to understand, especially when you think back to the previous eight weeks. The first of those eight games was a home game versus Wofford, a matchup the Bulldogs had probably targeted since the officiating debacle in Spartanburg last season. Of the next seven games, five were on the road. Three of those road matchups were conference games (almost by definition tough contests), and the other two were against an SEC team (South Carolina) and a first-round FCS playoff game (Coastal Carolina).
The two home games during that stretch weren’t gimmes, either. The contest against Mercer came down to a two-point conversion attempt.
Meanwhile, while the score may not reflect it, the battle for the coveted Silver Shako was a hard-hitting affair. You may recall Dominique Allen didn’t finish that game, and he wasn’t the only Bulldog to suffer a few bruises that day.
It was a very taxing two-month run of football. I got worn out just watching the team play; I can’t imagine what the players (and coaches) had to go through.
While it was a disappointing way for the season to end, that will soon be forgotten (if it hasn’t been forgotten already). Instead, the 2015 football season will have plenty of pleasant memories.
This season, The Citadel:
- beat its two traditional rivals (Furman and VMI), both by 21 points
- defeated Wofford to break an annoying streak against the Terriers (though only a couple of SoCon officials thought the Bulldogs didn’t beat Wofford the year before)
- won a share of the Southern Conference title (the first league crown in football, shared or otherwise, since 1992, and only the third in school history)
- won a road playoff game
- won at South Carolina, a victory that will always be remembered (and savored) by multiple generations of Bulldog fans
- won 9 games, second-most in school annals
Not bad, not bad at all…
Where does the 2015 team rank when compared to other Bulldog teams of the past? This is a topic of interest in some quarters.
One thing I don’t want to do is compare “modern” teams to those squads that played before The Citadel joined the Southern Conference. While it’s fun to look back on the exploits of the 1916 and 1926 teams (or that undefeated 1906 squad), I’m not really sure how to evaluate them.
However, I do want to note that Harry O’Brien’s 1916 team was 6-1-1, including back-to-back wins over Clemson and South Carolina to close out the season. You can bet The Citadel’s alumni were happy after that campaign.
The Evening Post, after the win over South Carolina that year:
Supporters of the military college eleven have a right to glory in the 1916 team’s record…the Bulldogs have earned the right to the state football crown, and to a place among the best teams in the South Atlantic states. Surely The Citadel could ask for no more glorious season than one which included in its list of vanquished elevens Clemson and Carolina.
That 1916 team did go about things a little differently than Mike Houston’s charges:
The Citadel has justly won renown in state football for its forward passing
I’ll give that squad the nod as the best Bulldog team of the pre-SoCon era.
As for the 2015 team, I think it’s fair to say that only one Bulldog team of the past has a clearly superior résumé; that would be the 1992 squad.
That leaves the following teams (all of which won 7+ games) in the mix for 2nd place:
I narrowed it down to 1960, 1961, and 2015, though there is something to be said for 1959 (8-2), not to mention the very entertaining 1971 (8-3) and 1988 (8-4) teams.
1960: won the Tangerine Bowl; 2nd in the SoCon; 8-2-1 overall, including the often-referenced 0-0 game versus Florida State
1961: won the SoCon; 7-3 overall, including wins over both Furman and VMI (the latter a road victory to clinch the league title)
2015: shared the SoCon title; 9-4 overall, including wins over both Furman and VMI; also beat South Carolina; one postseason victory
A few days ago, when I was asked where I would rank the 2015 team, I answered “4th, with an argument for 3rd”. The more I think about it, though, I tend to believe the correct answer is “possibly 2nd”.
Reasonable minds can disagree. It’s a fun thing to talk about, particularly during the winter months.
I’ve mentioned it before, but this year’s senior class was 8-0 in “celebration” games (Parents’ Day/Homecoming). As far as I know, in the modern history of Parents’ Day/Homecoming events, it is the first time a group of seniors can make that claim.
Best of luck to those seniors in their future endeavors, and thanks to them and the other players (and the coaches) for a great year.
Can’t wait ’til the 2016 season.