Bulldogs Pull Away from Furman to Keep Hopes Alive for NCAA Playoff Berth
Greenville, S.C. – VanDyke Jones scored three touchdowns, Ben Dupree ran for one and threw for another and Darien Robinson became the first Bulldog in five years to gain 1,000 rushing yards in a season, lifting The Citadel to a 42-20 win over archrival Furman on Saturday at Paladin Stadium.
The Citadel completed the regular season with a record of 7-4 and 5-3 in the Southern Conference, its first winning record in league play since going 4-3 in both 2006 and 2007. The Bulldogs earned just their second seven-win season since going 11-2 and winning the SoCon title in 1992 and finished the regular season with a three-game winning streak for the first time since 1997.
The NCAA playoff field of 20 will be announced Sunday at 1:30 on ESPNU. The Bulldogs are seeking their fourth tournament bid, having also qualified in 1988, 1990 and 1992.
Should it be the final game of the season, it ended on a high note for several Bulldog seniors who helped The Citadel snap a two-game losing streak to Furman and defeated the Paladins for only the fifth time in the past 18 years. The game was the 92nd between the two teams, the oldest rivalry in SoCon history.
Jones, one of those Bulldog seniors, rushed for a season-high 74 yards and his three touchdowns established a career best. He scored twice in the first half as The Citadel took a 21-17 lead into the locker room and put the finishing touches on the win with another score with 2:49 remaining in the game.
Robinson entered the game with 943 yards and had to wait until just over the six-minute mark to hit the 1,000 plateau. His 11-yard run put him over the magic number and made him the first Citadel running back to eclipse 1,000 since Tory Cooper did so in 2007.
Robinson gained 64 yards against the Paladins and has 1,007 on the year. He is the 13th different Citadel runner to achieve the feat and next year has an opportunity to join Jack Douglas as the only two players in school history to post two 1,000-yard seasons. Robinson also moved up into 11th place on the school career rushing list with 1,969 yards.
Dupree, who also enjoyed an outstanding 2012 season with 839 rushing yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns, led the Bulldogs with 84 against the Paladins and contributed his third scoring pass of the season when he hooked up with Dom Jones on a 28-yard score with 11:03 remaining in the game to give The Citadel a 35-20 lead.
Jones, a senior, caught all three of Dupree's touchdown passes this season and had five in his career.
The Bulldog defense was led by freshman James Riley, who had 12 tackles and led the team in that category in three of the four games he has played in since joining the lineup after season-ending injuries to linebackers Carl Robinson and Rah Muhammad. Bay Amrhein added nine tackles and Brandon McCladdie had eight.
Chris Billingslea, another Bulldog senior, had 2.5 sacks on the game and has a total of 13 in his career, placing him in a tie for sixth in school history since that statistic began being tracked in 1983. Billingslea led the team with 6.5 sacks on the year.
Jerodis Williams led all rushers with 103 yards for Furman followed by Hank McCloud with 92.
The Citadel took advantage of two turnovers and a long kickoff return by Keith Gamble to score its three first half touchdowns, including scoring runs by Jones and Dupree on consecutive first quarter plays.
Reggie Thomas picked off a Dupree pass on the opening play of the afternoon, leading to a one-yard touchdown run by Williams to give Furman a quick 7-0 lead. But Gamble took the ensuing kickoff 74 yards, the second-longest return of his career, to put the ball at the Paladin 25.
Jones took a pitch from Dupree and went the distance for his first touchdown of the game. On the first play of the next Furman series, Nick Willis picked off a Reese Hannon pass for his first career interception and returned it to the Paladin 45.
Again The Citadel scored on the first play following the Furman miscue when Dupree went off right guard and raced untouched to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead with still 9:51 left in the first quarter. The touchdown was Dupree's 18th career rushing score to move him into sole possession of 11th place in school history.
The offensive fireworks continued the next time the Paladins had the ball, with McCloud rushing for 56 of Furman's 66 yards on a drive that ended with his eight-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 14 at the 6:53 mark of the opening quarter.
After The Citadel was forced to punt, Chris Billingslea upped the pressure on Hannon, sacking him twice to stall a Furman drive and force a punt that the Paladins downed on the Bulldog two. The Citadel was unable to achieve a first down, and a 52-yard Cass Couey punt gave Furman the ball back at its 38.
The Paladins reached The Citadel 35 but a third down pass from Hannon to Gary Robinson was underthrown and broken up by Akeem Garnett. Ray Early came on to kick a 52-yard field goal with the wind that split the uprights with room to spare to put Furman back ahead 17-14 with 5:14 remaining before halftime.
The field goal is tied for the second longest in Furman history and the longest against The Citadel since Kirk Roach of Western Carolina nailed a 53-yarder in 1984.
The Bulldogs got a 25-yard run from Robinson on their next possession but were ultimately forced to punt. Again the defense created a scoring opportunity when Amrhein knocked the ball out of Robinson's hands and Austin Boyle recovered at the Furman 24 with 1:43 left on the clock.
Rickey Anderson ran for 10 yards to the 14, and Jones covered the rest of the distance to the end zone for his second score of the day to give the Bulldogs a 21-17 lead. Julian Baxter ended a last chance for first half points for the Paladins when he picked off backup quarterback Dakota Derrick at the Citadel 15 for the third forced turnover of the half for the Bulldog defense.
Early kicked a 37-yard field goal on Furman's first possession of the second half to make it 21-20, but the Paladins were unable to dent the scoreboard the rest of the way. An 18-yard run by Cass Couey on a fake punt led to a 17-yard touchdown run by Dalton Trevino, his first of the season, to make it 28-20 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
In addition to his fake, Couey punted three times for 133 yards and the senior's career average of 40.9 is the second highest in Citadel history.
Dupree connected with Terrance Martin on a 23-yard gain to convert a 3rd and 18 before eluding the Paladin pass rush and finding a wide open Dom Jones for the score that made it 35-20. The Bulldogs then took six minutes off the clock on the drive that produced the Robinson milestone run and VanDyke Jones' third touchdown.