Citadel football ‘ticked off’ heading into final game at VMI

Coach Houston prowls the sidelines during the disappointing lose to Samford.

Coach Houston prowls the sidelines during the disappointing loss to Samford.

By: Jeff Hartsell postandcourier.com
Nov 18 2014

By Tuesday, the heartbreak of The Citadel’s 20-17 loss to Samford on Senior Day last week had hardened into something else. “We’ve moved on from feeling sorry for ourselves to more of a ticked off, mad as fire attitude,” coach Mike Houston said at his weekly news conference Tuesday.

For the Bulldogs, that’s not a bad way to be heading into the final game of the season, the battle for the coveted Silver Shako in the Military Classic of the South on Saturday at rival VMI. The Citadel (4-7, 2-4 Southern Conference) has beaten VMI (2-9, 1-5) seven straight times and has held the Silver Shako, the trophy that goes to the winner of the game, since 2003. Keeping the Silver Shako in Seignious Hall would ease some of the pain of Saturday’s loss to Samford, when the Bulldogs also lost their chance at a .500 overall record and winning mark in the SoCon.

“I’ve had some tough losses in my career, but that one was right up there with the toughest,” said Houston, whose team outgained Samford by 419 yards to 360, and held the ball for 37:42 of the game’s 60 minutes. “That’s because of the way our players went out and executed our game plan in all three phases. I could not be more proud of the effort and intensity and the way they did what we asked them to do. They outplayed an extremely talented team in Samford.

“The way we played Saturday is the way we want to play as a program – solid in the kicking game, played well on defense all day long, and on offense we controlled the line of scrimmage and drove the ball well. At the point of contact, we were extremely physical with a much bigger opponent. All that made it a very tough loss.”

It might take a similar effort to win at VMI, despite the Keydets’ struggles this season and The Citadel’s dominance in the rivalry in recent years. The Bulldogs have beaten VMI by an average of 18.9 points during the current seven-game win streak. VMI, led by former South Carolina coach Sparky Woods, has the top passer in the SoCon in redshirt freshman quarterback Al Cobb, averaging 234 yards per game. Cobb, a 6-3, 190-pounder from Pulaski, Tenn., has hit 242 of 395 passes (61.2 percent) for 2,575 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Six VMI receivers have at least 21 catches, led by sophomore Aaron Sanders with 51 catches for 736 yards and three TDs. The Keydets are averaging 37 points per game at home. VMI dominated Furman in a 31-15 win two weeks ago, and lost by 42-27 at Western Carolina last week.

The Citadel has played six games this season decided by seven points or fewer, going 3-3 in those games. A win Saturday at VMI would lend credence to Houston’s belief that the Bulldogs are better than their 4-7 record indicates. “When you look at where we started in our first game against Coastal Carolina to the kind of team we are now, I don’t think there’s any coach in the league who would really want to play us,” he said. “This group of seniors and this team deserves to go out with a big win.”

Notes:

Citadel quarterback Aaron Miller has 1.042 rushing yards, 52 yards behind SoCon leader Alex Lakes of Mercer (1,094) heading into the final game. Miller needs 110 rushing yards at VMI to match Jack Douglas’ 1991 Citadel record for rushing yards by a QB (1,152). A total of 159 passing yards at VMI would make Miller the first Citadel QB to run and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season.

Citadel statistics show that offensive linemen Isaiah Pinson, Kyle Weaver and Sam Frye have played all 834 of the Bulldogs’ offensive snaps this season .

The Citadel’s average of 342.6 rushing yards per game is on track to be the second-best in school history, behind the mark of 382 yards per game in 1994.

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