Furman 21, The Citadel 10
CHARLESTON, S.C.—Dominic Roberto rushed for a season-high 133 yards and a pair of third quarter touchdowns, as Furman held off The Citadel, 21-10, in the 102nd renewal of the SoCon's oldest rivalry Saturday afternoon at Johnson-Hagood Stadium.
With the win, the Paladins improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in SoCon play, while the Bulldogs fell to 1-4 overall and 1-2 in league action.
Dominic Roberto had his best game of the season, finishing the afternoon with 133 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. His two scoring runs helped the Paladins take a 21-3 lead in the third quarter over the Bulldogs.
The Paladins saw Tyler Huff return under center after being hurt in the opening half against Charleston Southern a couple of weeks ago, playing every snap of the game, connecting on 13-of-18 for 110 yards with a pair of INTs. Huff's favorite target was Ryan Miller, who had four catches for 17 yards, while Joshua Harris caught three passes for 34 yards.
Furman completed the day with a slight edge in total offense, out-gaining the Bulldogs 280-276. The Paladins did most of their damage on the ground in the second half and ended up out-rushing the Bulldogs 170-107.
Ahmad Green led the Bulldogs offense and connected on 13-of-26 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. However, the Bulldogs were held to just 107 rushing yards on 41 attempts, averaging just 2.6 yards-per-carry. Green also led the Bulldogs in rushing, finishing the day with 54 yards on 14 attempts while Sam Llewellyn rushed for 32 yards on 8 attempts.
Green's favorite target was Ricky Conway, who hauled in six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, while Christian Hilton hauled in a pair of passes for 40 yards. Paladin's CB Travis Blackshear had this to say on the challenges of facing The Citadel's option offense:
"The fun of playing this type of team is you have to be disciplined. You’ve got to be very disciplined as a defense as a whole especially on the defensive side…You have to read your keys and it’s big on you doing your one-eleven because everybody on defense has a responsibility because if one person jump out of his gap or a corner turns his eyes to the wrong spot they get a big play and everybody on our defense…a majority of us did our one-eleven today…we gave up some big plays, but that is college football and that’s going to happen."
The Paladin defense was led in the contest by linebacker Braden Gilby, who finished the contest with 12 tackles, 3.0 TFL and one sack. Strong safety Kam Brinson had six tackles, a fumble recovery and a pair of pass breakups, and was one of three Paladin defenders with six tackles, as free safety Hugh Ryan and linebacker Bryce McCormick also added six tackles apiece.
All-conference cornerback Travis Blackshear, who changed the direction of the football game with a forced fumble early in the third quarter, also added four tackles and a tackle-for-loss.
"It was a big spark in the game…a big point in the game…it gave us momentum and we they were getting the ball coming out of the half so our main goal was to get the ball back for the offense and luckily I was able to go through my keys and I was able to make a play and get the ball back to the offense and shortly after that we were able to get a touchdown." — Travis Blackshear
The Citadel got a team-high 10 tackles from defensive lineman Carson Hatchett, while both Dominick Poole and Destin Mack picked off passes for the Bulldogs.
Furman opened the game with an impressive drive, as Huff led the Paladins on a 70-yard, 11-play drive, which culminated with a 3-yard touchdown run from Devin Abrams to give the Paladins a 7-0 lead with 10:18 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Citadel had the ball inside Furman territory on its opening two possessions of the game—one on a 34-yard pitch-and-catch from quarterback Ahmad Green-to-wideout Christian Hilton, however, the Paladins held on a 4th-and-1 play, as Kam Brinson came up and made the stick on Green, who called his own number on a quarterback keeper.
The next Citadel series inside Paladin territory was set up the next time by a Dominic Poole interception and returned to the Furman 40, however, the Paladins stood strong again on fourth down—this time on a 4th-and-4 play after the turnover—as the Paladin defense broke through the line and stopped Green for a loss.
The Paladins would hold the Bulldogs on their third possession of the game, holding the Bulldogs to a three-and-out, and after a heavy rush on The Citadel punter was only just avoided by James Platte, the Paladins got the ball back at midfield late in the opening quarter.
Late in the half, the Bulldogs drove deep inside Furman territory, however, after reaching the Paladin 5-yard line, the Paladin defense again did its job, holding Bulldogs to a 22-yard field goal from Colby Kintner 22-yard field goal, ending a scoreless drought of nearly 10 quarters and making it a 7-3 contest with 3:12 remaining in the opening half.
The Paladins drove inside The Citadel territory just before half, threatening to score for a fourth-straight game on their final possession of the half, however, for a second time on the afternoon, Huff was picked off by Destin Mack to thwart the scoring opportunity, and Furman went to the half leading the rivalry game 7-3.
In the second half, the Paladins would essentially put the game away in the third quarter, and it was the defense that gave the Paladin offense possession in great field position.
On the first third down of the second half, it looked like the Paladins were going to yield their first touchdown of the day after The Citadel quarterback Ahmad Green connected with Ricky Conway for a 29-yard gain on 3rd-and-8 to move the ball to out to the Bulldog 36 to bring The Citadel crowd to its feet and bring The Citadel cadet corps to its feet.
The first turnover caused by the 'Dins came courtesy of the preseason All-SoCon cornerback Blackshear, who delivered a big hit on Bulldogs A-back Cooper Wallace, and the ball was recovered by Furman defensive lineman Bryce Stanfield to set the Paladin offense at the 32. Blackshear had a couple of opportunities to pick up his first pass of the season and ninth of his career, however, his play against the run this season on the perimeter continues to be exceptional. Blackshear, of course, tied with The Citadel's Mack for the league lead with five INTs last season.
It didn't take long for the Paladin offense and Roberto to capitalize on The Citadel miscue. After picking six yards on the first play of the drive, Roberto gashed the Bulldog defense for 26 yards and a Paladin touchdown, and with Axel Lepvreau's PAT made it a 14-3 Paladin lead.
On The Citadel's next possession, the Paladin defense came up big again, Green completed a short pass to Wallace, with Kam Brinson coming up to make the stick and then the ball came free, and he pounced on the loose ball as well, giving the Paladins great field position once again at The Citadel 19.
It took Furman just two plays to find the end zone and take a 21-3 lead, and it was Roberto's number that was called twice, as Roberto gained 14 and 5 yards, with the latter of which producing his second scoring run in 95 seconds to give the Paladins the 18-point lead with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter.
After back-to-back three and outs by the Bulldogs and Paladins, The Citadel got the football back with 5:43 remaining in the third. It would end up seeing The Citadel snap an 11-quarter drought without scoring a touchdown, as Green avoided being sacked twice as he dropped back to pass, and then scrambled towards the Furman sideline before tossing a perfect 26-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to Conway on a 3rd-and-9 play to make it a 21-10 game following Kintner's PAT.
That would turn out to be the final points of the contest, as the Furman defense would do the rest shutting the door in the fourth quarter, not allowing the Bulldogs to cross midfield in the final quarter, and the Paladins held The Citadel on two more fourth down plays, as the Paladins totaled four stops on the decisive down in Saturday's win.
With their second-straight win over the Bulldogs, Furman improved to 62-37-3 overall in the rivalry. Furman's head coach has this to say on the significance of the rivalry:
"This is 29 of these (games against Citadel) for me and they've all seemed to be hard. I knew this one would be too. I'm just really proud of our team and how we prepared. Man, we played really well defensively if you take away some of those third down completions I would've rather been better at. It's always good to come here and get a win." — Clay Hendrix
Next Opponent for Both Teams
The Paladins will return home next Saturday to take on Western Carolina (3-3, 1-2 SoCon), with kickoff for that contest slated for 2 p.m. EST. The Citadel will be on the road at Wofford (0-6, 0-3 SoCon) next Saturday, with kickoff slated for 1:30 p.m. EST.