CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern’s Cameron Mitchell kicked a 29-yard field goal with six minutes left, and The Citadel failed to convert a fourth down from the Buccaneer 44 with 53 seconds remaining as CSU handed the Bulldogs a 32-29 defeat in the season opener at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday evening.
After falling behind 16-0 to open the game, CSU took advantage of the first of two muffed punts to score with six seconds left in the first half to pull within two. Overall, the Buccaneers scored 32 of the final 45 points to hand the Bulldogs just their second loss to the crosstown rival in seven all-time meetings and their first defeat in a home opener since a 38-35 double overtime loss to the Bucs back in 2006.
The Bulldogs rushed for 293 yards with senior quarterback Ben Dupree accounting for 92 including a four-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs a 22-21 lead late in the third quarter. The rushing score was Dupree’s 19th of his career, which is good for 11th in program history.
Darien Robinson entered the contest needing 31 rushing yards to become just the 11th Bulldog in school history to rush for over 2,000 yards and accomplished the feat, rushing for 55 yards on seven carries.
Aaron Miller handled a majority of the snaps behind center, gaining 74 yards and a touchdown on the ground and another 59 through the air. The touchdown was Miller’s 11th of his career and gave the Bulldogs a 9-0 lead late in the first quarter. Terrance Martin added an eight-yard scoring run with five minutes left in the opening half to make it 16-0 before CSU staged its comeback.
Carl Robinson paced the Bulldog defense, collecting 14 tackles, while Cam Mobley added pressure up front with five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring in 2013 with two points after a 39-yard quick kick from quarterback Miller pinned the Bucs back on their own seven. The Citadel defense pushed the Bucs back to the three, including a quarterback hurry by Mark Thomas in the end zone, to force a CSU punt. A high snap over the head of the punter resulted in The Citadel’s first safety since Sept. 18, 2010 against Presbyterian.
The Citadel kept the momentum going in the first quarter as Robinson took the first play of a late first quarter drive for a 36-yard scamper, putting him over the 2,000-yard mark. Two plays later, Miller made it a nine-point lead with his touchdown.
The Citadel defense played stout, holding the CSU offense to just three yards after 15 minutes, and built its lead to 16-0 when Martin capped an 11-play, 91-yard drive that spanned 5:39.
A breakdown in the Bulldog secondary gave the Bucs their first score on a 64-yard pass from Malcolm Dixon to Kevin Glears with 2:52 left in the half. CSU was stopped on its next drive, but a punt bounced off the chest of Vinny Miller and into the hands of CSU’s Malcolm Jackson with just 12 seconds remaining in the half, leading to a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dixon to Donte Sumpter, cutting The Citadel lead to 16-14 heading into the half.
It was a tale of two halves for the Bulldog defense, who allowed just eight yards on the ground during the first 30 minutes. The Bucs came out in the second half and established a steady run game to collect 131 second half rushing yards, including 98 yards on 22 carried from Christian Reyes.
The teams exchanged third quarter touchdowns to tilt the score in each other’s advantage. Zach Frazier gave the Bucs a 21-16 lead with 10:45 left in the third on a two-yard rush before Dupree collected a four-yard touchdown run that helped his team regain the lead at 22-21 after a missed two-point conversion try.
Just before the close of the third quarter, Frazier gave his team a seven-point lead at 29-22 on an 11-yard touchdown run, which was followed by a successful two-point conversion.
Aaron Miller took over the offense and led the Bulldogs down the field with big rushes of 10 and 27 yards, and the drive was capped by a four-yard touchdown run by Vinny Miller to even the game at 29 with 11:30 remaining.
CSU answered right back with a five-minute drive of its own, resulting in the game-winning field goal by Mitchell.
Two failed fourth down attempts by the Bulldogs on consecutive drives at the end of the game, including an incomplete pass from Aaron Miller to Dalton Trevino in the final minute, closed out The Citadel defeat.
The Citadel remains home next Saturday for its Southern Conference opener against No. 8 Wofford at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3. Charleston Southern hosts Shorter in its home opener on Saturday.