The Citadel did it again.
The Football Championship Subdivision Bulldogs sent South Carolina’s season from bad to much, much worse with a 23-22 victory in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday. It’s the first time the Gamecocks have lost to a lower division team since 1990, when The Citadel won 38-35. It’s the first time an SEC team has lost to an FCS team since Florida fell to Georgia Southern in 2013.
“I think this is a testament to what kind of kids I have the opportunity to coach,” Bulldogs head coach Mike Houston said. “You just beat an SEC East team at home, so I don’t know that they get any bigger than this for an FCS school.”
Former Ben Lippen standout Tyler Renew went 56 yards up the middle with 6:07 left in the game to put the Bulldogs ahead 23-22. Renew led The Citadel with 174 yards on 23 carries.
The Gamecocks have lost two of the past three in this series dating back to The Citadel’s 1990 victory.
“They outcoached us, they outplayed us, they outclassed us,” said interim coach Shawn Elliott, who fell to 1-4 since replacing Steve Spurrier. “Everything.”
South Carolina took a lead on a 41-yard pass from Perry Orth to Pharoh Cooper with 8:40 left in the game. The Gamecocks ran a trick play pass to offensive tackle Brandon Shell on the two-point conversion attempt, but Shell was stopped well short of the goal line, leaving South Carolina with a 22-17 lead.
The Gamecocks trailed 14-9 at halftime. They have trailed at halftime in 10 of 11 games this year and were tied at the half in the other. South Carolina took its first lead of the game on a 1-yard run from Brandon Wilds with 6:22 left in the third quarter. The extra point put South Carolina up 16-14.
The Citadel took a 17-16 lead with 10:26 left in the game on a 48-yard field goal from Eric Goins. It was a career long for Goins, and the ninth-longest made field goal in school history.
The Gamecocks trailed 23-22 but looked like they were in good shape facing a third-and-3 from The Citadel 48-yard line with five minutes left, but back-to-back runs up the middle by David Williams failed to convert the 3 yards, and the Gamecocks turned the ball over on downs. South Carolina started freshman Zack Bailey at left guard in place of injured Mike Matulis. “The bottom line is we didn’t get them blocked,” Elliott said.
Star of the game: Cooper injured his foot in the first quarter and clearly wasn’t 100 percent through most of the game, but it didn’t stop him from piling up 11 catches for a season-high 191 yards. It was the ninth game of Cooper’s career in which he’s had more than 100 yards receiving.
Play of the game: It appeared, for a moment, that South Carolina had taken the lead on a 94-yard touchdown pass to Cooper with 39 seconds left in the game. The play was called back because of a false start penalty on the Gamecocks. The officials ruled that not all 11 men on offense were set before the snap. The whistle blew as the ball was snapped and some players stopped playing, said Orth, adding that several South Carolina players thought the Bulldogs were called for offsides.
Stat of the game: Thirty-nine percent of The Citadel’s total yards (149 of 387) came on three plays – Renew’s 56-yard scoring run, a 59-yard touchdown run by Cam Jackson on the second play of the game and a 34-yard reception by Alex Glover. The Bulldogs averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 61 total carries but that average drops to 4.0 yards per carry without the two long runs.
Too many penalties: The Gamecocks were flagged for six penalties worth 48 yards in the first half alone. Hayden Hurst was called for a personal foul on the game’s opening kickoff, and a personal foul on T.J. Holloman gave the Bulldogs a first down on their second touchdown drive of the game. In the second half, South Carolina was flagged one time for 6 yards. It was the penalty that negated Cooper’s 94-yard touchdown catch in the final minute of the game.
Skai Moore sidelined: The Gamecocks leading tackler this season played sparingly after missing most of the team’s practices this week because of a death in his family. “He didn’t have as many reps against this specific kind of offense,” defensive co-coordinator Jon Hoke said. “I thought the guys that went in and played (in Moore’s place, mostly Bryson Allen-Williams), played fine.”
Slim crowd: The announced paid attendance Saturday was 77,241, but the actual attendance looked short of that. It was the second-lowest home attendance of the season. The announced crowd for the Vanderbilt game was 75,159. The crowd split for next week’s rivalry game against Clemson will be very interesting.
Who: Clemson at South Carolina
When: Nov. 28 (Noon)
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: ESPN or ESPN2