CHARLESTON, S.C. – The 5th-ranked Citadel football team punched its ticket to the FCS Playoffs with a 37-34 win over No. 20 Samford on Saturday afternoon in front of 15,015 fans inside of Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Bulldogs’ defense forced Samford to attempt a field goal on its only possession in overtime and the kick hit the upright to seal a Southern Conference championship for The Citadel.
Senior Tyler Renew rushed for a career-high 285 yards, one yard shy of The Citadel’s single-game record, and a career-high three touchdowns on a career-high 45 carries. His rushing yards total is the seventh-highest in a game in Southern Conference history.
The Bulldogs (9-0, 7-0 SoCon) struck first, taking a 7-0 lead with 4:23 left in the first quarter after Cam Jackson scored from eight yards out. Renew carried the load for the majority of the 15-play, 87-yard drive, carrying the ball 10 times for 48 yards.
Samford (6-3, 4-2 SoCon) answered on its next drive, moving quickly down the field before scampering in from 10 yards out to even the score at 7-7 with 1:53 left in the game. The score remained 7-7 until the 10-minute mark in the second quarter when Samford struck again, breaking free for a 57-yard touchdown run to make it a 14-7 game.
The back-and-forth affair continued on the Bulldogs’ next drive as Renew found a huge hole in the Samford defense and rushed 55 yards for the score to tie the game at 14-14. The run by Renew gave him 122 yards in the game with 8:18 remaining the second quarter.
Three minutes later Samford retook the lead, nailing a 51-yard field goal with 5:23 remaining in the half. The fellow Bulldogs tacked on another field goal, this time from 44-yards out, with 46 seconds remaining in the half to take a 20-14 lead into halftime.
Renew broke free for his second 50-plus-yard touchdown run with 6:26 left in the third quarter, pushing his total on the day to 220 rushing yards. The score and successful PAT put the Bulldogs on top 21-20. Cody Clark extended the Bulldogs’ lead in the fourth quarter, nailing a career-long 48-yard field goal to make it a 24-20 lead with 13:02 remaining in the game.
Samford regained the lead with 10:36 left in the game, connecting on a pass from 18 yards out to take a 27-24 lead and then scoring again four minutes later on a nine-yard pass to push the lead to 34-24 with 6:17 remaining in regulation.
On the Bulldogs’ next possession, Jackson took off for a 63-yard run, breaking multiple tackles before finally being brought down on the six-yard line. Two plays later, Renew punched it in from four yards out for his third touchdown of the day, making the score 34-31 with 4:24 remaining.
With three seconds remaining, Clark tied the game for the Bulldogs with a 34-yard field goal sending the game to overtime where the Bulldogs would have the first possession.
Clark continued to be reliable for the Bulldogs and on their first possession nailed a 34 yarder to give The Citadel a 37-34 lead. The three made field goals tied a single-game career high for Clark, who also made three against Western Kentucky in 2014 while at MTSU.
The Citadel’s defense then turned it up a notch for Samford’s lone possession during overtime, allowing just one complete pass for three yards and then forcing Samford to settle for a field goal. The kick got away cleanly but hit the upright and bounced back to clinch the win for the ‘Dogs.
The Citadel wraps up Southern Conference play next Saturday by traveling to VMI. Kickoff from Lexington, Virginia, is set for 1:30 p.m.