The Bucs had won four straight games ahead of their match-up against The Citadel Bulldogs and earned a No. 23 FCS ranking in the process.
Their success is in large part thanks to the Bucs’ stout defensive line and continuous improvement in the secondary game by game.
In the first quarter, The Citadel scored first with under 12 minutes remaining on a two-yard touchdown to give them a 6-0 lead following a failed two-point conversion.
The Bucs’ running game that had been so good in their winning streak struggled in the first quarter. The Bucs did get on the board with under three minutes in the first quarter when JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tennessee) converted a 46-yard field goal to bring the Bucs deficit to just three points.
Starting with the ball early at the start of the second quarter, Jerman converted on a 40-yard field goal with under 13 minutes to go in the second quarter to tie the game 6-6.
The Citadel responded with a field goal of their own to take a three-point lead with nine minutes left in the second quarter. The Bucs defense had a “bend but do not break” mentality with a hope that the offense would soon pick up.
However, the offense struggled throughout the first half eventually tying it up on a 31-yard field goal to make the game 9-11.
“Coming out and having that long drive to start the second half was huge not only for the offense but, the whole team,” said head coach Randy Sanders.
In the third quarter the Bucs found a spark as quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tennessee) connected with Kobe Kelley (Knoxville, Tennessee) on a 12-yard touchdown to give the Bucs a 16-9 lead with under eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Bucs’ defense was able to shut out The Citadel in the third quarter to go into the fourth quarter with a lead.
“The great thing I took from Saturday is I did not see as many guys in the second half or once we got a lead looking at the clock,” said Sanders. “You don’t win games trying to run the clock out.”
However, with under nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter, with fourth and goal at the one-yard line the Bulldogs were able to convert on a one-yard touchdown to tie the game at 16 even.
The Bucs responded with a 36-yard field goal to reclaim the lead going ahead of The Citadel 19-16. For the Bucs, they needed to make a big play and looked no further than Tyree Robinson (Gainsville, Georgia) as he scored on a pick-six to give the Bucs a 26-16 lead with under two minutes remaining in the game.
Despite scoring a touchdown with less than a minute to play, The Citadel did not have enough time to attempt a comeback. The Bucs won 26-23 and push their win streak to five games.
Next game, the Bucs travel to Wofford and the key thing Tremond Ferrell (Washington, Georgia) said the Bucs will look to do is “finish.”