Links of interest:
Normally, I don’t post a game review if I wasn’t in attendance, but as the Bulldogs are entering their bye week, I decided to make a quick post about the victory over Gardner-Webb anyway.
Once the game was over, my initial reaction was as follows: “Phewwwwwwwwwwwwww.”
The Citadel rushed for 419 yards (averaging 6.3 yards per carry), was 9 for 18 on third-down conversions, 2 for 3 on fourth-down conversions, had an edge in time of possession of over three minutes, only committed two offensive penalties…and yet, at times the offense seemed to really struggle. Why?
Well, only completing one pass (in seven attempts) was one reason. So was one of the two aforementioned penalties, a 15-yarder that took the Bulldogs from 1st-and-goal on the 2-yard line to 1st-and-goal on the 17 — followed immediately by a lost fumble.
The Citadel also was not quite as efficient on first down as it would like to be. The Bulldogs ran 31 first down plays (30 runs, 1 pass). On 13 of those plays, The Citadel gained three yards or less. It’s hard to consistently pick up first downs when faced with 2nd-and-long or 3rd-and-long (the Bulldogs had nine of those), especially when the passing game isn’t in sync.
Sure, the final number says The Citadel converted third downs at a 50% clip, but they weren’t consistently picked up throughout the game. Three of the nine conversions came on the game-winning TD drive, and another was a 33-yard scramble on 3rd-and-18 by Dominique Allen that set up the Bulldogs’ second touchdown.
The Citadel had eleven possessions in the contest. There was a five-possession sequence (last drive of the first half, all four drives of the third quarter) in which the Bulldogs ran only 20 offensive plays from scrimmage for a total of 61 yards.
That highlights just how big DeAndre Schoultz’s punt return really was. His TD scamper came after those five possessions, and basically wiped out the advantage Gardner-Webb had built up in the third quarter.
On the other hand, for a third game in a row the offense came through when it had to score. This time, it was a 10-play, 72-yard drive that decided the game, with Allen’s 41-yard run on 3rd-and-7 the key play.
The defense’s performance during the game was a bit uneven. Gardner-Webb was held to a third-down conversion rate of 35.7%, which is excellent. However, the Bulldogs allowed four scoring drives of 61 yards or more, including one for 91 yards on the possession that immediately followed Schoultz’s punt return.
The Citadel did not force a turnover, and 57 minutes into the contest had not recorded a sack. Those last three minutes, though…
Gardner-Webb’s final six plays on offense:
- Five-yard loss on a sack by Jonathan King
- Two-yard run, with Dee Delaney and company stopping the action right there
- Ten-yard loss on a sack by Noah Dawkins
- Incomplete pass
- Incomplete pass
- Nine-yard loss on a sack by Kevin Graham
That’s how you finish.
– Quick note: Kailik Williams has made 26 tackles in the last two games. He is starting, finishing, and doing a whole lot in between.
The Citadel has won three games by a combined 13 points. The Bulldogs trailed with less than three minutes to play in all three of them.
While it is more than fair to suggest that The Citadel must get better on both sides of the ball if it plans on adding to the win total, there is definitely something to be said for having the mental fortitude (and physical endurance) to come through when the game is on the line. Being in those situations will probably be beneficial down the road, too.
The Bulldogs haven’t been at their best so far this season, but they’ve been tough enough to win all three of their games anyway. That inner resolve is perhaps best exemplified by senior linebacker Dondray Copeland:
On Friday morning, Dondray Copeland was at his mother’s bedside as she died at the way-too-young age of 48.
On Saturday night, Copeland took the field with his Citadel teammates and played a major role in the Bulldogs’ 31-24 win at Gardner-Webb before 6,850 fans at Spangler Stadium.
Copeland had seven tackles in the game, tied for second-most on the team.
The Bulldogs now get a well-deserved bye week. The Citadel’s next game is at Western Carolina on October 1.
I’m also taking a week off — well, more like ten days off. My preview of the WCU game will probably be of the abbreviated variety (not necessarily a bad thing), and it won’t be posted until a week from Thursday, or maybe the following Friday morning.
(Hey, at least I scheduled my break for the bye week.)