Charleston Southern offered up a respectable level of resistance against a ranked FCS team for the second week in a row but had to settle for a moral victory again.
The Citadel, coming off an overtime win in Atlanta over Georgia Tech a week earlier, fended off the Bucs’ upset bid on Saturday, winning 22-13 in front of nearly 10,000 people in Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday.
Citadel (2-2) has won the rival game two straight years since CSU won four in a row. The squads have met 12 times since 2002 and the Bulldogs lead all-time 7-5.
The Buccaneers dropped to 0-4 for the first time since 2011 in their first season under Autry Denson but the last couple outings CSU put up a fight.
“I’m proud of the team in that locker room,” Denson said. “They played hard, but some things just didn’t go our way. I felt like we made enough plays to come out of here with a win.”
Denson’s team outgained Citadel 380-278 but a few missed opportunities and mistakes kept the night from becoming what it could have been.
The Bucs had No. 15 North Carolina A&T on the ropes in the second half Sept. 14 before falling 27-21 and were in position of an upset in the second half against Citadel.
Bucs kicker Alex Usry made a 35-yard field goal on the last play of the first half and was successful on a 48-yarder early in the third to pull the Bucs within 7-6.
They were in Citadel territory on their next drive but failed to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Bulldogs 41 when linebacker Willie Eubanks broke up a pass to receiver Garris Schwarting.
Citadel quarterback Brian Murdaugh rolled out three plays later and connected with Raleigh Webb for a 54-yard touchdown to hand the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead with 6:03 remaining in the third. Webb, who scored for the fourth straight game, made the grab inside the 35 and raced untouched down the home sideline.
Eubanks gave the Bulldogs more traction with an interception of Bucs quarterback Ross Malmgren at the CSU 30. He returned it to the Bucs 24 and Bulldogs running back Remus Bulmer capped a seven-play drive with his second touchdown, a 1-yarder with 2:18 left in the third that made it 20-6.
The Buccaneers continued to battle, though.
One possession after Usry was wide left on a 34-yard field goal, Jack Chambers’ 27-yard touchdown pass to Schwarting with 10:41 left pulled the Bucs within 20-13.
Citadel moved the chains once on its ensuing drive but had to punt from its own 37. Bulldogs punter Matt Campbell took a great deal of the momentum away when he uncorked a 62-yarder to CSU’s 1.
On the next play, Chambers couldn’t handle a snap and it went out the back of the end zone for a safety, putting Citadel up 22-13 with 8:44 left.
CSU had another crack at the end zone late, driving 78 yards to Citadel’s 1 on Chambers’ 33-yard run with under three minutes left, however the Bulldogs denied CSU four straight times and ran out the final 1:24.
“You’ve got four shots from the one and you don’t get it in. That was the turning point in the game,” Citadel coach Brent Thompson said. “Certainly they had an opportunity.”
Malmgren, making his first CSU start, was 10 of 26 for 112 yards. Chambers, who had started the first three games, came off the bench in the second half and was 4 of 8 for 92 yards and ran eight times for 94 yards. Ronnie Harris added 93 rushing yards for the Bucs and receiver Kameron Brown made six grabs for 118 yards.
It was also Murdaugh’s first start for The Citadel. He played for injured starter Brandon Rainey and ran for 76 yards and passed for 81 yards. Bulmer chipped in 38 yards.
Citadel is at Samford on Saturday at 3 p.m., while Charleston Southern is off until Oct. 5 when it hosts Savannah State for homecoming in its last non-conference game.