South Carolina, The Citadel win season openers in dramatic fashion

MACON, Ga. – The 15th-ranked Citadel football team opened the 2016 season with a 24-23 win over Southern Conference foe Mercer on Thursday evening inside Five Star Stadium.

The Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 SoCon) wasted no time in the season opener as Tyler Renew took it 70 yards to the house on the second play of the game to give The Citadel a 7-0 lead after a successful PAT.

On the next drive, Mercer (0-1, 0-1 SoCon) took over on the 28-yard line and Kevin Graham promptly sacked the Bears’ John Russ and forced a fumble to then give the Bulldogs the ball back on the Mercer 21-yard line. It was the first forced fumble of the sophomore’s career. Five plays later, Cam Jackson found the end zone from eight yards out to make it a 14-0 Bulldog lead less than two minutes into the game.

With 7:44 left in the first quarter the Bears got on the board, kicking a 26-yard field goal to make it a 14-3 game. The Citadel answered on its next drive thanks to a 29-yard touchdown run by Reggie Williams with 5:46 left in the first quarter. The five-play, 75-yard drive gave the Bulldogs a 21-3 lead.

The last score of the quarter came with 3:08 left on a 38-yard Mercer touchdown run. The scoring through the first 15 minutes of play would end there with The Citadel boasting a 21-10 lead and 169 rushing yards.

The Bears added another field goal and touchdown in the second quarter to make it a 21-20 game heading into the half.

Mercer took its first lead of the game in the third quarter after an 11-play, 46-yard drive resulted in a 47-yard field goal to make it a 23-21 deficit for the Bulldogs with 10:10 remaining. That was the only score of the game for either team in the third quarter, keeping the score 23-21 heading into the fourth.

Neither team was able to get much of anything going in the fourth quarter until kicker Cody Clark was able to give the Bulldogs the lead and seal the win with 2:20 left in the game. The graduate student nailed a 35-yard field goal to give The Citadel a 24-23 win and Brent Thompson his first win as a head coach. Coach Thompson is the first head coach in The Citadel’s history to defeat a Southern Conference opponent on the road in his coaching debut.

Renew recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game in the last five games and finished tonight’s game with 146 yards on the ground. With the win, The Citadel improved to 57-12-3 in season openers against non-FBS competition and 58-48-3 overall in season-opening games.

The Bulldogs return to Charleston to host SoCon foe Furman on Sept. 10 for the 2016 home opener and Military Appreciation Game.

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