Citadel football built for playoffs, Mike Houston says

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


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