College Sports

Citadel loses a 'dogfight'

CHARLESTON - As Jason Vitaris' 29-yard field goal sailed through the uprights behind him, Citadel defensive tackle Terrence Reese pounded the grass in frustration.

His No. 99 jersey soaked in sweat, Reese tried to get to his feet before he crumpled back to the turf. His legs no longer functioning properly, his face a mask of pain, Reese had to be helped to the locker room by offensive line coach Kevin Olecki.

Reese and his teammates left everything they had on the field at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday afternoon. They executed the game plan, played the best defense they ever have against Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards and even got a few breaks.

None of it was enough.

Edwards, the Mountaineers' senior All-American, broke Citadel hearts one last time with a 74-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes to force overtime, and Vitaris' kick in OT lifted the 10th-ranked Mountaineers to a 30-27 victory before 14,238 fans.

"We were in a dogfight," said Edwards, who hit 22 of 29 passes for 327 yards and the tying touchdown to Brian Quick, and ran for two scores. "We were lucky we made one more play than them."

Appalachian State, winner of two FCS national titles and three Southern Conference crowns with Edwards, improved to 2-2 overall and 2-0 in the SoCon. The Bulldogs (2-2, 0-1) lost a game in which they had leads of 10-0 early and 27-20 late.

"It's tough," senior receiver Andre Roberts said outside a quiet locker room. "We played the way we wanted to play, we got the game into the fourth quarter and still ended up with a loss. Just knowing we had a chance to beat those guys, it's really tough."

Said quarterback Bart Blanchard: "This one really does hurt. We were so close, and in years past they've always beaten us by 20 or 30 points. We knew if we were going to do something, this was the year to do it."

A week after Blanchard threw six touchdown passes in a win over Presbyterian, Appalachian State piled up four sacks and pressured The Citadel's quarterback into hitting 11 of 20 passes for 117 yards and one score. Roberts caught six balls for just 47 yards, but freshman running back Van Dyke Jones ripped off a 69-yard TD run that gave The Citadel a 20-17 lead early in the final period.

None of the Bulldogs hurt worse than kicker Sam Keeler, who made field goals of 50 and 45 yards early, only to have a 53-yarder blocked by Quick at the end of regulation, and to yank a 37-yarder right in OT.

"The one in overtime was a good hit, a solid hit," said Keeler, his eyes rimmed with red. "I just pulled it right. It was well within my range, and there's no excuse for it."