Sept. 14, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Sophomores Darius Ramsey and Troy Mitchell combined to rush for 208 yards with Ramsey finding the end zone twice in Saturday afternoon's home and Southern Conference opener, but The Citadel held off Western Carolina, 28-21, in front of 9,345 fans at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
The Citadel (1-2, 1-1 SoCon) cashed in three methodical scoring drives of eight-or-more plays including a season-long 19-play marathon march to open the game, and also converted a special teams miscue into seven points en route to its third-straight victory over the Catamounts, relegating WCU to its 13th-straight loss overall. Quarterback Ben Dupree recorded two rushing scores in the win for the Bulldogs.
Ramsey, who made his season debut after missing the first two weeks with a nagging foot injury suffered during preseason practice, rushed 20 times for 102 yards, while Mitchell amassed 106 yards on 17 carries. The Catamount quarterback also completed 16 of his 22 pass attempts for 136 yards and the second scoring strike of the year to junior Karnorris Benson.
The Citadel set the tone early on Saturday, driving 75 yards in a grueling 19 plays to take a lead it would never relinquish. Bulldog quarterback Ben Dupree capped the nine-minute, 15-second drive with a one-yard plunge.
On the ensuing possession, the Catamount offense was forced to punt after five offensive plays, gaining one first down on a six-yard rush by Ramsey. The snap to punter Clark Sechrest was off-target with the Bulldog pressure reaching Sechrest before the Cornelius, N.C., native could put toe to leather. As he was being tackled, the ball popped up into the air where Tevin Floyd grabbed the ball and rumbled the remaining eight yards into the end zone to give the Bulldogs a two-score, 14-0, lead.
The Citadel got a second big play on special teams to end the first quarter, setting up their third touchdown of the day. With the Catamount defense poised to get off the field on a fourth and eight situation, Bulldog punter Eric Goins fumbled the low snap. However, with WCU in return formation, the Herndon, Va., specialist recovered and rushed to his left towards his sideline. The Catamounts recovered to stop Goins, but not before he had gotten close to the first down marker. A subsequent late-hit personal foul tacked on 15 yards to add insult tin injury on the play.
Following the miscue, The Citadel again found pay dirt on Dupree's second rushing score of the game just two plays into the second frame staking the visitors to a 21-0 lead it would carry into the halftime locker room. The Bulldogs did try and tack on a field goal just before intermission, but Caleb Hawkins swatted the would-be triple to end the half.
Rejuvenated after the break, Western Carolina (0-3, 0-1 SoCon) orchestrated an impressive offensive drive of its own to open the second half. Mitchell guided a 10-play, 71-yard drive sparked by the first career reception by freshman Willie Police, a 23-yard pitch-and-catch. Ramsey rushed for 30 yards on the drive, finishing it off with a one-yard surge to put WCU on the home scoreboard, 21-7.
The Cadets answered, though, marching 78 yards in a matching 10-play drive to reclaim the three-TD advantage, 28-7, as Devan Robbins broke free on the right sideline for a 15-yard scoring romp.
Not to be outdone, Mitchell spurred a follow-up scoring drive with a 53-yard rush on the first play of a 75-yard drive that took just four plays. Ramsey came back with a 16-yard rush for consecutive double-digit rushing plays before Mitchell found Benson in the left corner of the end zone to make it 28-14.
WCU's lone takeaway of the afternoon set-up its second score. With pressure up the middle by the Catamount pass rush, Dupree's pass was batted into the air by sophomore John McBeth and floated into the arms of senior Andre Whitmire for the interception - the third by the WCU defense this season.
After the takeaway, Mitchell and the offense drove 62 yards in 12 plays which included seven rushes by Ramsey who polished off the drive with a five-yard scoring run to close the deficit back to seven, 28-21. The Waco, N.C., native took a late pitch from Mitchell to finish the run.
Back within a score late in the fourth quarter, the WCU defense stiffened to force a three-and-out, giving the ball back to the offense with a chance to pull even. However, an intentional grounding penalty put WCU in a difficult fourth-and-long situation. On fourth down, Mitchell scrambled from the pocket after his initial progression, keeping the play alive with his feet. His offering deflected off his intended receiver, Benson, and was intercepted by The Citadel's Julian Baxter inside the final three minutes. The visitors were able to run out the clock to preserve the victory.
Four WCU defenders recorded double-digit tackles led by a career-high tying 16 stops by Sertonuse Harris and 12 from linebacker Courtland Carson. Redshirt senior defensive tackle Andre Shishkin set a career-high with 10 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss along the interior with linebacker Christon Gill also tallying 10 on the day.
Whitmire came away with the only turnover for the Purple & Gold, though freshman Trey Morgan forced a fumble in the losing effort.
Western Carolina remains at home next weekend as it hosts the Mars Hill Lions at Whitmire Stadium / Waters Field in the annual Family Weekend game. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 pm.