September 15, 2012

The Citadel Strikes Early and Often in Victory at Appalachian State

Boone, N.C. - On a near perfect day for football in Boone, N.C., The Citadel played near perfect football. 

The Bulldogs scored on their first five possessions, added a special teams touchdown and smothered the Appalachian State offense for most of the opening half en route to a 52-28 victory over the Mountaineers  before a stunned crowd of 24,137 at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

The Citadel entered the game as a nationally-ranked team for the first time in four years and will almost assuredly make a substantial climb in the polls after posting its second straight win over a Top 10 team. The Citadel edged then No. 3 Georgia Southern 23-21 last Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The Bulldogs, No. 21 in The Sports Network poll and No. 23 in the FCS Coaches poll going into the game, are 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Southern Conference for the first time since winning their second and most recent SoCon title in 1992. The Citadel last defeated two ranked teams in a season in 2003 and last knocked off two Top 10 teams in the same season in 1991.

Appalachian State dropped to 1-2 and 0-1 in the conference. The Mountaineers, ranked eighth by The Sports Network and seventh by the coaches, had won eight in a row over The Citadel and 17 of the last 18 while not losing to the Bulldogs in Boone since a 25-0 setback in 1992. The loss snapped an 18-game home winning streak for the Mountaineers and was their largest margin of defeat against an FCS opponent since a 54-7 loss to Georgia Southern in 2004.

The Bulldogs will look to continue their hot start next week when they play their only game of the season against an FBS opponent, visiting N.C. State in a 6 p.m. kickoff. The Citadel will be seeking its first victory against an opponent from the highest level since wins over Arkansas (10-3) and Army (15-14) in 1992.

The Citadel rolled up 618 yards of total offense against the Mountaineers, the most ever in a regulation game, surpassing the 610 gained against VMI in 1992. The total fell 23 shy of the record 641 established in an overtime win over Furman in 2007. Its 52 points are the most in a SoCon regulation game since putting up 58 against VMI in 1994.

The Bulldogs were never really threatened against their longtime nemesis, building a 31-0 lead midway through the first half and taking a 38-7 lead into the locker room. The Citadel blasted through the Mountaineer defense for scoring drives of 75, 97, 80, 73 and 75 yards the first five times it had the ball.

The halftime numbers were almost mind boggling. The Citadel gained 400 yards of total offense over the opening 30 minutes, including 291 on the ground and a surprising 109 through the air. Ben Dupree had 144 of his career-high 180 rushing yards in the first half, and scrambled 57 yards for a touchdown on the Bulldogs' second possession, one yard shy of his career-long run, to give the visitors a 14-0 lead.

Rickey Anderson had given The Citadel its first touchdown when he went in from four yards out just over four minutes into the first quarter. Anderson has scored in four straight games dating back to the South Carolina contest in the 2011 season finale and has found the end zone five times already this season.

He finished with a career-high 102 yards on only nine carries, an average of 11.3 per attempt, and increased his school career record for average yards per carry to a whopping 8.1

Darien Robinson contributed 113 yards and a touchdown to give the Bulldogs three ball carriers with more than 100 yards for the first time since Antonio Smith, Deon Jackson and Stanley Myers did so against VMI in 1998. The Citadel rolled up 463 yards on the ground, its second game this season with better than 400 rushing yards.

The passing attack shined as well, with Dupree and Aaron Miller combining to complete 4 of 6 passes for 155 yards. Three of the completions good for 123 yards went to quarterback-turned-wide receiver Matt Thompson, whose average of 41.0 yards per reception broke Phillip Florence's school record of 39.3 (3 catches for 118 yards) against Wofford in 1989.

Steven Miller led Appalachian State with 167 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and Jamal Jackson completed 23 of 32 passes for 164 yards but most of that output occurred after the game was in The Citadel's control.

Leading by two touchdowns, the Bulldogs forced a second Mountaineer punt and were immediately in position to score again when Miller hit Thompson for a 53-yard gain to the Appalachian State 27. Anderson gained 17 yards, and Miller plunged in from the one on the second play of the second quarter to give The Citadel a 21-0 lead.

The Bulldogs piled up an astonishing 248 yards on 20 offensive snaps in the first quarter, with Dupree rushing for 88 over the opening 15 minutes.

On The Citadel's next possession, a 24-yard pass from Dupree to Thompson and a 29-yard run by Anderson led to a 24-yard field goal by Thomas Warren and a 24-0 cushion. The special teams got into the act the next time the Mountaineers had the ball, with Domonic Jones blocking a Sam Martin punt and Carson Smith taking it eight yards to the end zone to give the Bulldogs a 31-0 lead with 6:16 left in the second quarter.

The block was the seventh of Jones' career including his sixth of a punt. He added a blocked field goal last week against Georgia Southern.

Miller got the Mountaineers on the board with a two-yard run, but The Citadel answered with 43 seconds left before the half when Dupree scored his second touchdown of the game and fourth of the season with a 46-yard run. Dupree's previous career high was 141 yards against Jacksonville in the 2011 opener.

The Citadel had one more chance to put points on the board when Smith picked off a pass and returned it 11 yards to the Mountaineer 34 with four seconds left in the half. The Bulldogs opted to try for a 51-yard field goal by Warren, but the attempt was short as the Citadel-dominated first half came to an end.

VanDyke Jones added a five-yard touchdown run and Robinson scored from 45 yards out in the third quarter, the latter score making it 52-14. Miller added a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter for Appalachian State to produce the final margin.

In addition to its decided advantage in yardage, the Bulldogs converted 11 of 14 third down conversions and held the ball for over 38 minutes.

Carl Robinson led The Citadel defensively with 13 tackles, his second straight game with double figure stops, and Sadath Jean-Pierre had a career-high 10. Robinson also recovered a fumble while freshman Mark Thomas made his second sack in as many weeks.