Archive for November, 2015

Citadel football built for playoffs, Mike Houston says

November 23, 2015
The 'Dogs react to being selected for the playoffs,

The ‘Dogs react to being selected for the playoffs,

Jeff Hartsell
Nov 22 2015

Mike Houston led his Lenoir-Rhyne football team to the Division II playoffs a couple of times, including a run to the national championship game in 2013. He knows what a playoff-ready team looks like, and says he has one at The Citadel. This team is built for a postseason run,” said Houston, whose 8-3 Bulldogs will open the 24-team FCS playoffs at Coastal Carolina at 2 p.m. Saturday. “We’re a sturdy, hard-nosed defense and a very physical, downhill running game that is difficult to get ready for in a week’s time. “We have the potential to make a run in the postseason. But we’ve got to focus on the game ahead of us.”

Fresh off a 23-22 upset of South Carolina on Saturday, the Bulldogs earned their first FCS playoff berth since 1992 during Sunday’s selection show on ESPNU. If they can beat Coastal Carolina (9-2), the Bulldogs are in line for a rematch with Charleston Southern (9-2), which earned a No. 8 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The victory over USC serves as a confidence boost as The Citadel heads into the playoffs for the fourth time in school history. “Looking at that game, I feel like we can take on anybody and play as hard as we can,” said senior linebacker James Riley. “Doing what we did last week — being prepared, playing fearless — who can stop us?” Houston’s first game at The Citadel was against Coastal Carolina last year, a 31-16 loss that kicked off a 5-7 debut season. The Bulldogs have grown a lot since that game, Riley said. “We’re a lot different,” he said. “You think about last year’s team, in Coach Houston’s first year, we didn’t really understand the program and his vision. We bought in, but we didn’t really understand it. This year, we understand it, so it’s a totally different team.”

Coastal Carolina, ranked as high as No. 1 in FCS this season, lost to Big South foes Charleston Southern and Liberty to spoil its shot at the one of the eight national seeds and a first-round bye. Summerville High School graduate De’Angleo Henderson leads the Chanticleers with 1,245 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. “We would have loved to have had a bye, but we didn’t take care of business the other night (against Liberty),” said Chanticleers coach Joe Moglia. “But we’re at the point now where it’s the playoffs and every game matters. It’s our job to make sure we’re ready to go on Saturday.”

With Citadel cadets out for Thanksgiving break, the football team will have the barracks mostly to themselves this week. They will practice on Thanksgiving morning, then enjoy a “feast” with teammates, coaches and families that afternoon. “If you are practicing on Thanksgiving in the FCS or Division II level, you’ve had a special season,” Houston said.

Riley said he and his teammates don’t mind staying on campus during Thanksgiving week. “I’m tired of going home for Thanksgiving; I’ve done that for three years,” he said. “I’m ready to stay here, practice with my teamamtes and enjoy it as long as I can.”

Tickets for The Citadel’s game at Coastal Carolina are $15 and can be purchased at 843-953-3647 or at


Citadel’s upset of USC should lock up playoff bid

November 23, 2015


By: Jeff Hartsell post&
November 21, 2015

Any doubt about The Citadel’s chances of landing an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs were cleared up Saturday afternoon. At least, that’s the way Bulldogs coach Mike Houston saw it in a delirious locker room after a 23-22 upset of South Carolina. “Welcome to the 2015 national playoffs!” Houston shouted to his cheering players. The 8-3 Bulldogs will learn their playoff fate Sunday morning, as the FCS selection committee announces the field at 11 a.m. on ESPNU. Big South Conference champion Charleston Southern already is assured of a playoff berth, but will learn if it is one of eight national seeds that will earn a first-round bye.

Before Saturday, The Citadel’s case already included a share of the Southern Conference championship, a 6-1 league record and losses only to FBS Georgia Southern, Big South champion Charleston Southern and SoCon co-champ Chattanooga. The Bulldogs’ resume now includes a win over an SEC team, The Citadel’s first over an FCS squad since wins over Arkansas and Army in 1992. That year also is the last time the Bulldogs won a SoCon title and earned a playoff bid.

The Citadel has put in a bid to host a first-round game, bidding more than the first-round minimum of $30,000 required by the NCAA. No matter where the Bulldogs play, they’re unlikely to see an atmosphere quite like Saturday’s at USC. “I don’t think we’ll see a more intimidating one,” Houston said. “We talked about that after our loss last week at Chattanooga. I thought we played well after we got going, but we had a little bit of trouble with the stage there early.

“I told our guys, with what we want to do with this program, we’ve got to get used to playing on the big stage. We looked at last week as great preparation for this week.”
Charleston Southern, 9-2 after Saturday’s loss at Alabama, has had its first playoff bid locked up for weeks. The Buccaneers, ranked No. 8 in the FCS coaches poll, should be in line for a top eight seed. That would give the Bucs a bye until the second round, set for Dec. 5.

Coastal Carolina, ranked No. 4 this week, likely fell out of the national seed picture with a 24-21 loss to Liberty that dropped the Chanticleers to 9-2 overall and 4-2 in the Big South. If so, Coastal Carolina and The Citadel would seem a likely first-round matchup for Nov. 28.

USC falls to The Citadel, 23-22

November 23, 2015


by: Willie T. Smith, III
November 21, 2015

OLUMBIA – After what has happened this season, many may have thought things couldn’t get any worse for South Carolina. Saturday afternoon, they did. A 56-yard touchdown run by The Citadel back Tyler Renew, followed by a strong defensive stand, earned the Bulldogs 23-22 victory in Williams-Brice Stadium. In a season of disappointing performances, this loss was by far the worse. I certainly am disappointed with the effort all the way around, from penalties to the offense and the defense throughout the entire game,” said USC Interim Head Coach Shawn Elliott. “It is my responsibility to have our football team ready to play.

“(The Citadel) was not just coming to play, they were coming to win.” South Carolina fell to 3-8. With top-ranked Clemson the only game remaining on the schedule, the team was left with little to hold onto in a season that can only be termed a disaster. It also left the question if the Gamecocks have any fight left.

The Citadel (8-3), the Southern Conference co-champions under coach Mike Houston, bewildered the Gamecocks with its powerful triple-option running game. “I think this is a testament to what kind of kids I have the opportunity to coach,” said Houston. “They’ve been phenomenal all year…There’s no quit in that team. They are a very tough, hard-nosed physical football team that I would take against anybody.” Before Carolina knew what hit it, the Gamecocks found themselves down 14-3 before the first quarter ended. The Bulldogs rushed for 134 yards during that span, as the USC defense appeared clueless as to how to stop it. South Carolina appeared to figure things out in the second period, giving the inconsistent offense time to figure things out. USC managed to move the ball, but was unable to penetrate the end zone. Despite out-gaining the Bulldogs 230-193 in the first two quarters, USC went into the locker room trailing 14-9 as it had only three Elliott Fry field goals to its ledger.

It took everything the Gamecocks had to try to defeat The Citadel, however, which probably isn’t what they wanted heading into a game against their rival Clemson. A 48-yard Eric Goins field goal, the ninth longest in team history and the longest against a FBS opponent, gave The Citadel a 17-16 lead with a little over 10 minute remaining in the fourth quarter. South Carolina countered when quarterback Perry Orth hit Pharoh Cooper for a 41-yard score. Orth had his best statistical game as a Gamecock, completing 28 of 43 passes for 367 yards and a touchdown. Cooper was equally impressive, catching 11 passes for 191 yards and a score.

The Bulldogs didn’t flinch after USC took the lead, however, as Renew scampered 56 yards for his second touchdown of the game. That has to be a highlight for the former Ben Lippen performer who used to sell peanuts in the stadium. He finished with 174 yards on 23 carries.
“To come in here, in a stadium where he sold peanuts when he was in high school watching the Gamecocks play, and to run for 174 yards and two touchdowns and beat them, what a special day for him,” said Houston.

Following Renew’s final score it appeared Carolina had picked up the miraculous potential winning score. Orth completed what appeared to be a 95-yard touchdown pass to Cooper with 42 seconds remaining. USC was called for an illegal procedure penalty, however, that nullified it. “I saw the throw,” said Elliott. “I saw the catch. I saw the run for touchdown. I didn’t even know they had thrown a flag, to tell you the truth, until someone grabbed my shoulder.”

They know they have shocked the NCAA/SEC world!

They know they have shocked the NCAA/SEC world!

Despite the disappointing loss, Elliott and his coaching staff has to find a way to get his team out of the doldrums and ready to play a Clemson team that enters this year’s rivalry game undefeated.“It was a total disappointment. It was my responsibility to have our team ready to play,” said Elliott. “I just spoke with our football team really briefly after that game and there were a lot of disappointed faces out there.
“It was a tough day. It was a tough day on all of us, and it will be a tough night.”

USC fans were in shock.

USC fans were in shock.

State’s first military aviator &(Citadel Grad) was buried in Simpsonville

November 13, 2015
Lt. Col. Willis Class of 1908

Lt. Col. Willis Class of 1908

By: Scott Keeler

Photos by: MYKAL McELDOWNEY/Greenville News staff)

November 11, 2015
(Blog editor’s note: Lt. Col. Willis was the 1st honor graduate of The Citadel class of 1908)

Like every Veterans Day, there will be U.S. flags flying at cemeteries today to honor those who served in the military. Each year in Simpsonville (SC) prior to Veterans Day, the local VFW Post 1845 installs flags at Simpsonville City Cemetery, Cannon Memorial Cemetery and Graceland East Memorial Park. But one flag at the historic City Cemetery flies next to a tombstone that is shining a bit brighter than usual this year.

It’s the tombstone of World War I veteran Robert Henry Willis Jr., and it’s recently received some upkeep from Bill Skroch, an 86-year old veteran who was born years after Willis passed away. After six years of research, Skroch says the 125-mile drive from his Sumter home to Willis’ resting place was well worth it. Skroch’s research has shown him that Willis is the first military aviator in South Carolina history.

“This guy was one of the first 25 guys to ever wear what’s officially called an aviation badge,” Skroch said. “Everybody says ‘he’s got wings,’ not ‘hey, he’s got an aviation badge.” Skroch said the badges were issued in 1913 and were a reward for those who survived flying school. In those early days of aviation, Skroch said, many did not. “They only made 25 because the guy in charge of the whole operation said, ‘hell, we’re never going to have more than 25 airplanes anyway,'” Skroch said.

Like most, Simpsonville Judge Leslie Sharff was unaware of Willis’ story but marveled at the work of the early aviators. Sharff, who’s the senior vice commander of Simpsonville VFW Post 1845, earned a Purple Heart as a combat medic with an Infantry unit in Vietnam. “That (flying) must have taken a lot of guts,” Sharff said. “There weren’t any parachutes back then. “Can you imagine trying to throw a small bomb about the size of a mortar round out while you’re flying a plane?”

Skroch’s research all started after he looking for a project to do as part of his work with a group of retired military pilots out of Shaw Air Force Base, where Skroch retired. In that first project he learned that one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famous group of African-American military pilots who served in World War II, hailed from Sumter. After writing a narrative about the first black military pilot from South Carolina, Skroch was determined to find the first military pilot of any race from South Carolina.

Searches around archives in the state came up empty. Then Skroch got a break at a military museum in Washington, D.C. “I met this lady, whose grandfather was a World War I pilot. She turned me on to a book that told about these first 25 guys,” Skroch said. Willis’ name was in there. “When I saw that, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.” After getting a name, Skroch thought his research would get easier, but it did not. According to Skroch, all of Willis’ records were burned during a 1973 fire at a repository in St. Louis. Skroch said he was able to contact distant relatives of Willis, but they didn’t know much about him either. “The repository gave me some clues about alternate places to find some pieces of information, but you’re never going to find everything,” Skroch said. “So it took about six years to get enough to write a narrative about the guy.

Under Gen. John J. Pershing, Willis served in the Philippines, and in Mexico where he helped search for Pancho Villa, and in France during World War I. Willis began flight training at Signal Corps Aviation School in San Diego in July of 1913. On Dec. 26, 1913, he and 24 others earned their Military Aviator Certificate and Badge. “In early 1914, he was awarded the ‘expert’ aviator certificate by the Aero Club of America,” Skroch wrote in the narrative. “It was reported by the San Diego Union that Willis set a world speed record by flying 140 miles in 132 minutes.”

Willis’ life ended tragically on Sept. 13, 1918, when he accidently shot himself while working on a malfunction with his gun. He died six days after his 32nd birthday and less than two months before the end of World War I.

On Aug. 17, 1920, Pershing wrote a letter to the Willis’ home farm in Simpsonville.
“I first knew this young officer as a member of the small group of aviators on duty with the American Punitive Expedition in Mexico, where I had ample opportunity to observe his work,” Pershing wrote. “Being imbued with the ideals of a true soldier, his service was in keeping with the high standards of our army, and I was pleased to have him as a member of the flying corps in France. “Colonel Willis was a man of pleasing personality and an officer in whose ability I had the greatest confidence, and I was deeply grieved to learn of his untimely death.”

After discovering that Willis could possibly be buried in Simpsonville, Skroch contacted the Simpsonville VFW and told members of the work he was doing. He got someone from the VFW to go find Willis’ grave, take a picture of it and send it back to him. Skroch noticed that Willis’ tombstone had not been well maintained over the years, so he came to clean it. He’s planning on a return trip to the grave with an engraver to tell more of Willis’ story.


“His gravestone just had his name, his rank, his branch of service, the day he was born and the day he died,” Skroch said. “That was it. “That poor guy deserves more than that.”

Gen. Pershing's letter

Gen. Pershing’s letter

for more information on Lt. Col. Willis go to:

The Citadel is better than a hollow SoCon co-championship title

November 12, 2015
Coach Houston sets the pace for the Bulldogs.  photo by P. Zoeller

Coach Houston sets the pace for the Bulldogs.
photo by P. Zoeller

By Gene Sapakoff, Columnist
Nov 11 2015

There are no co-championship celebrations in pro sports without an accompanying pass to the playoffs. Imagine the NFC East runner-up unfurling a banner after missing the playoffs but finishing tied for first place with a team it went 0-2 against during the regular season. That wouldn’t work in Dallas, New York or Washington. Such a move gets the banner booed out of Philadelphia faster than an imperfect Santa Claus.

Even in famously polite Charleston, a co-championship might be hard to explain a few generations from now. “Hey, granddaddy, what’s that co-championship sign mean?”
“That’s when we finished tied with Chattanooga for first place back in ’15.”
“I didn’t know you were on a playoff team.”
“I wasn’t.”

Officially and ridiculously, the Southern Conference, like most college leagues, recognizes co-champions even when one co-champ loses the head-to-head matchup with the other or doesn’t get the automatic postseason bid. But The Citadel’s co-champion football status earned last week is hollow and not worthy of a banner if the Bulldogs (7-2 overall and 6-0 in the SoCon) don’t win at Chattanooga (7-2, 5-1) on Saturday to seize the SoCon’s pass to the FCS playoffs.

Fortunately, The Citadel is good enough to make this a moot point. Chattanooga, which received 29 of 30 first-place votes in the SoCon preseason media poll, is about to find out that the team picked to finish seventh in an eight-team league is way ahead of schedule in Mike Houston’s second year as head coach.

‘Pretty special things’
The Bulldogs have won five games in a row since a Sept. 26 loss to Charleston Southern. They lead all FCS teams with 33 rushing touchdowns. They lead the SoCon in scoring offense and are third in scoring defense.

The Citadel is second in the SoCon in turnover margin and has a hot kicker, Eric Goins, who went 5-for-5 in field goal attempts in last week’s 35-14 victory over VMI. Dominque Allen has 11 rushing touchdowns, most of any FCS quarterback.

But just because this is the first 6-0 SoCon record in program history, no one is satisfied.
“We’ve had a great season with two losses to two very good teams, Georgia Southern and Charleston Southern,” Allen said. “But it would be really disappointing for us to lose to Chattanooga but still have a banner. You can’t really celebrate if you’re not going to the playoffs.”

Houston isn’t about to apologize for the co-champion thing. “Whatever we achieve at the end of the year, we’ll be excited about,” he said. “We’ve achieved some pretty special things.” But the coach didn’t book the Citadel Beach House this week for a team party, either. “Right now, all of our focus is 100 percent on Chattanooga,” Houston said. “Certainly, this carries a little more weight with an automatic bid at stake.”

Gamecock talk, or not
Of course, The Citadel can lose at Chattanooga but still make the playoffs as an at-large entry. That might require celebrating the 25th anniversary of the “Hell froze over” 1990 upset at South Carolina with a victory over the Gamecocks in the regular-season finale next week (current Sagarin computer ratings has South Carolina as an 18-point favorite in that game).

You know football things are going well at The Military College of South Carolina when there is scant buzz about next week in Columbia because of this week in Chattanooga. While Citadel players are new to big games in November, the Bulldogs will benefit from experience Houston and six of his assistant coaches gained in helping Lenoir-Rhyne get to the Division II playoffs three years in a row.

“The big thing in being in this situation before is that we understand that you have to be cautious with the players in that you don’t let them get outside of doing things that they normally do,” Houston said. “Sometimes they can put so much pressure on themselves, they can go out and do things that they don’t usually do.”

The usual thing for Citadel players this season is a win almost every Saturday. It’s a habit likely to keep the SoCon from having to commission a 2015 co-championship football banner.

Former Citadel star Andre Roberts nominated for NFL’s Salute to Service award

November 12, 2015
Andre Roberts has a special affinity for military personnel and their families

Andre Roberts has a special affinity for military personnel and their families

By Jeff Hartsell
Nov 11 2015

The son of two U.S. Army members, Andre Roberts was born in Alaska and moved to Texas and South Carolina as his mom and dad were transferred from base to base. He even spent a year with his grandparents in the Virgin Islands while his parents served in Korea. And when Roberts starred as an All-American receiver at The Citadel from 2006-09, his connection to the military was cemented.

“It’s awesome,” Roberts said during a news conference Wednesday. “I get a chance to work with military kids and their families and to meet a lot of veterans and their wives, and that’s a blessing for me.”

Roberts, in his sixth season in the NFL, is known for his salute touchdown celebration, and each summer runs summer camps for military children. He’s hosted five military camps, including one at Joint Base Charleston in 2013.

“Since both my parents were in the Army, it was an easy avenue for me to get into, especially coming from The Citadel,” he said. “Being part of the military family, I understand what some of these kids have to go through, with moving and missing parents and stuff. I just want to be there to brighten their day, or if they want to talk to me about any of their situations.”

Roberts was among the players, coaches, personnel and alumni nominated by NFL teams who “demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.” Finalists for the Salute to Service Award, presented by, USAA will be announced in January, and the winner will be recognized at the fifth annual NFL Honors awards show in San Francisco on CBS on Feb. 6, the night before Super Bowl 50.

Citadel defense has gone from ‘embarrassing’ to ‘dominating’

November 11, 2015
The Bulldog defense has a new attitude this season.

The Bulldog defense has a new attitude this season.

By Jeff Hartsell,
November 10, 2015

In one breath Saturday afternoon, Citadel coach Mike Houston used the words “embarrassing” and “dominating” to describe the Bulldogs’ defense. The first term applied to The Citadel’s defensive numbers last season. The second described the Bulldogs’ performance in Saturday’s 35-14 win over VMI, when The Citadel forced six turnovers and turned two of them into defensive touchdowns.

The difference between “embarrassing” and “dominating” is the difference in Citadel football in Houston’s second season, as the Bulldogs have gone from 5-7 overall and 3-4 in the Southern Conference in 2014 to 7-2 and 6-0 this season. The Citadel, ranked No. 20, already has clinched a share of the SoCon title, its first since 1992, and can grab an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs with a win Saturday at No. 9 Chattanooga.

“We were decent on offense last year, and embarrassing on defense last year,” Houston said after the VMI game. “That’s the biggest turnaround on our team, the improvement on that side of the ball.”

The numbers are stark.

The Citadel has gone from seventh in the SoCon in scoring defense last year (28.7 ppg) to third this season (19.8 ppg), and has seen similar improvement in total defense (442 yards per game to 325), rushing defense (195 ypg to 158) and pass defense (247 ypg to 166). The Bulldogs have intercepted more than five times as many passes (17) as they did last year (three) and have taken four of those picks back for touchdowns. They’ve forced twice as many turnovers (24) and made almost twice as many sacks (23) as they did last year.

The Bulldogs have held four of their last five opponents to less than 300 yards total offense, and have given up just five touchdown passes all season, ranking third in FCS. “They are so physical,” said Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman, whose team beat The Citadel, 34-14, last year. “They will beat you up in how they tackle. Their scheme is excellent, but the bottom line is they get you on the ground. “We’ve played good defense here at Chattanooga for a long time, and that’s been our philosophy, to be physical and get people on the ground when you are supposed to. But I think it’s the physicalness of their defense that’s so impressive.”

The key to the improvement, senior linebacker James Riley said, is simply having another year of experience in the system devised by Houston and defensive coordinator Maurice Drayton. “The big difference is in speed and the understanding of the defense,” said Riley, who leads the Bulldogs with 70 tackles. “We’re making plays, forcing turnovers. That’s been a key factor in how we are playing.”

Veterans such as Riley and junior linebacker Tevin Floyd (65 tackles), senior tackle Mitchell Jeter (11 tackles for loss, eight sacks) and junior safety Malik Diggs (60 tackles) have led the way. In the secondary, grad-student transfer cornerback Mariel Cooper steadied a unit that struggled last year, and sophomore corner Dee Delaney emerged as a star with five interceptions.

A crop of younger players also has emerged. Sophomore safety Kailik Williams is third on the team with 64 tackles, and redshirt freshman Quinlan Washington had a breakout game at bandit linebacker against VMI. He intercepted two passes, taking one back 72 yards for a touchdown, and forced a crucial turnover with a strip-sack on a blitz, and forms a formidable tandem at bandit along with junior Dondray Copeland.

It’s a unit that has the attention of Chattanooga’s Huesman. Last year, his son, Mocs quarterback Jacob Huesman, ran for 81 yards and a touchdown, and hit 11 of 17 passes for 163 yards and two more scores in the Mocs’ win.

“They are mean,” Huesman said of the Bulldogs. “There’s no question, there are some mean dudes running around on that side of the ball.”

Who We, The Citadel & VMI, Are

November 10, 2015


By: Michael Patrick Westlund ’82 On a Citadel FB site.

I attended homecoming at my alma mater, The Citadel, today and we were victorious over our rivals, VMI. It was a hard fought game and much closer than the scoreboard reflected with the Citadel winning 35 to 14

Ok, so now you expect me to gloat and say all those sports clichés about whipping your rival. I won’t because of what occurred at the conclusion of the game. The two teams met and shook hands and hugged each other knowing for some this was the last time they would play at Johnson Hagood Stadium and also against their rivals from VMI. It was a time for joy at being 6 and 0 for the first time ever in the history of the school for the football team under second year coach, Mike Houston. The Corps of Cadets and the Alumni, myself included, were joyous over a great win and the last play being an intercepted pass from the VMI quarterback and run back for a touchdown with just 5 seconds on the clock. However, it was also a moment of reflection thinking of classmates gone too soon, brother and sister alumni in danger overseas serving in the armed forces and your days as a cadet so many years ago. It doesn’t get much better than that but it does, but as Paul Harvey used to say and now for the rest of the story.

The two teams joined together at midfield and the Silver Shako was exchanged by the President of VMI who gave it to President, Lt. General Rosa, Coach Houston, The Bulldogs Team Captain, and the Cadet Regimental Commander. It was a true display of class and sportsmanship at its finest. But it gets better, the two teams and the audience, were treated to the alma mater of VMI first and then the alma mater of The Citadel played by the respective school bands. As I stood next to my old classmate Cox, whom I have not seen since graduation in 1982, and we along with the other Alumni and the Corps of Cadets began “Oh Citadel, we sing thy fame” I began to mist up and realize how special and blessed I was to be part of that family, The Long Grey Line. The chorus of the assembled voices was awe inspiring and something special not seen often enough in our troubled country.

Today showed me that future is secure as long as these two fine institutions, VMI and The Citadel, continue to produce men and women forged in their foundry of leadership through shared sacrifice, dedication to country and god and whose lives serve as an example for others to follow. I love all of you my Citadel Brothers and Sisters and thank you for letting me be a member of your family.

November 10, 2015
The 'Dogs celebrate retainin the Silver Shako for another year.

The ‘Dogs celebrate retainin the Silver Shako for another year.

Fellow Bulldogs,

I am so proud to be the coach of this team! The sacrifices they have made and the dedication we have experienced from them has been amazing, and the guys were rewarded for their buy-in on Saturday night when they officially cemented their names in the record books as 2015 Southern Conference champions.

Now, there is still work to be done, and this week’s game at Chattanooga is being approached by us as Championship Week. While we have clinched at least a share of the conference championship, the winner of Saturday’s game will earn the Southern Conference’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Our program has not been in the playoffs since 1992, which was the last time we won a conference title, and our team is focused on changing that this year.

I have been involved in a number of championship games, and I’ve told the team that this week has to be the same as every other week that got us in this position. We have to continue to focus on our responsibilities each day to prepare for the most important game of the season – the one we have this week. That approach allowed us to be 6-0 in the conference, and we have to keep that mindset to get to 7-0. It’s fun to talk about the playoffs, but we have to take care of our business this week to guarantee ourselves a spot in the 24-team bracket.

Our team gave great effort in last week’s Homecoming win over VMI that kept the Silver Shako in Charleston. They showed a tremendous amount of resiliency, toughness and togetherness during the game. That, and our fantastic crowd of nearly 15,000 fans, allowed us to overcome mistakes and some adversity to win the only stat that matters – the final score. We knew we were going to get VMI’s best shot, and they came ready for a fight even without their starting quarterback.

Our defense dominated statistically, forcing six turnovers, scoring two touchdowns and holding VMI to only 212 yards of total offense. Our offense produced another good game statistically but we didn’t convert on third downs like we have been, and we weren’t able to convert drives into touchdowns when we got into the red zone. Eric Goins was automatic Saturday, breaking the school’s single-game field goals record with five and points scored by kicking with 17. He has developed consistency and leg strength this year, and our comfort level with him adds another valuable weapon to our team.

Chattanooga was the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Southern Conference, with only one first-place vote going to another team in both the coaches and media preseason polls. You know my opinion of polls at this point, but Russ Huesman has a strong team led by fifth-year senior quarterback and preseason Offensive Player of the Year Jacob Huesman. They also lead the SoCon in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and passing defense. The Mocs have won two straight conference titles and no doubt will be motivated to stretch that to three in their final home game of the year. This will be another challenge for us, but we are embracing the opportunity.

Our goal has always been to compete for Southern Conference championships. We have placed ourselves in that position, and I’m so happy for our team, fans and alumni. Saturday’s game kicks off at 2 p.m. and is available to stream on Thank you for your support throughout this season. We aren’t done yet!

Go Bulldogs,

Mike Houston

Mike Houston
Head Coach

Citadel Bulldogs are SoCon champs, with unfinished business

November 9, 2015

By:Jeff Hartsell
Nov 8 8:15 pm

Citadel wide receiver Brandon Eakins was on his way to the Coastal Carolina Fair with his girlfriend Saturday night. Bulldogs coach Mike Houston was at home, sitting with his wife on the edge of the bed. Alex Glover, James Riley and other players were in the locker room at Seignious Hall, unwinding after a 35-14 win over VMI.

They all were tracking the end of the Chattanooga-Mercer game on various devices. Word came in just before 7 p.m. Saturday that Mercer had pulled off a 17-14 upset of third-ranked Chattanooga, thereby clinching at least a share of the Southern Conference championship for The Citadel.

Some Bulldogs were quicker than others to grasp the implications of Chattanooga’s loss. “We definitely all looked up the rules,” said Glover, a senior wide receiver from Wando High School. SoCon rules state that teams tied atop the league with identical conference records will share the conference title. The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs (7-1, 6-0) can do no worse than a tie with No. 3 Chattanooga (7-2, 5-1). That means The Citadel already can claim its first conference title since 1992 and third in school history, no matter the result of Saturday’s game at Chattanooga.

That made for a fun night at the fair for Eakins and a happy scene in Seignious Hall on Saturday night. “I was looking at the phone on my way to the fair,” said Eakins, another senior receiver from Wando. “I was actually sitting in traffic when I saw the score. I wasn’t exactly 100 percent sure of what it meant, but I heard from my teammates after a while that it meant we won a share of the championship. That was great.” Said Riley: “It was intense, Everybody was joyful and smiling. All we knew was that the team we were tied with had lost, and we were No. 1 in the conference.”

A share of the championship is secured, but there still is unfinished business for the Bulldogs. A victory over Chattanooga would mean an outright SoCon title for the Bulldogs and an automatic bid to the 24-team FCS playoffs, which again would be The Citadel’s first since 1992. A loss to the Mocs means The Citadel would share the title and would need one of 14 at-large bids to make the playoffs. “We want to make a name for ourselves in Citadel history,” said Eakins. “There’s not many Citadel teams that have won the conference and gone undefeated in the conference. That would put us at a whole other level.”

The Bulldogs met as a team Sunday afternoon and practiced in a cold rain Sunday night to begin preparations for Chattanooga, but there wasn’t much championship talk and definitely no major celebration.

“The only thing we addressed is that we talked about the pink elephant in the room, the subject we’ve been ignoring for several weeks, and that’s the meaning of this game this week,” Houston said. “The big thing for them is that this game doesn’t count any differently than any SoCon game we’ve played this season. The things that it will take to win this game are no different than what it took to win (Saturday). “We’ve got to focus on just doing what we’ve been doing, and not trying to do more than we’ve been asking of each person.”

Starting quarterback Dominique Allen, who missed the second half of the VMI game after taking a hit to his left shoulder, was at practice Sunday night and should be ready to play, Houston said. The coach said slotback Cam Jackson, who was first to relieve Allen on Saturday before third-team QB Shon Belton took over, would get more snaps at QB this week, just in case.

“The VMI game was good for Shon, and probably good for everybody else, too,” Houston said. “We’ll probably give Cam a little more work this week, but I think you saw the time that (offensive coordinator) Brent Thompson has invested in Shon pay off against VMI.”