The Citadel entered Saturday’s game at South Carolina wondering whether or not it would earn a spot in next week’s FCS Playoffs. While they wait for that announcement on Sunday morning, the Bulldogs will be celebrating a 23-22 victory over South Carolina in front of a less-than-capacity crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium. A dubious false start call wiped off what would have been a 94-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Pharoh Cooper in the final minute. Brandon Wilds was stopped short of the sticks after making a catch on the ensuing fourth-down play, and The Citadel secured the win.

What it means: South Carolina (3-8) suffered the same fate it did in 1990 when the Bulldogs captured a 38-35 win. The loss certainly means the end of interim coach Shawn Elliott’s chances of earning the full-time job in Columbia and probably serves as the new low-water mark for what has been a highly disappointing season.

What I liked: G.A. Mangus did a nice job of mixing run and pass on the day, and quarterback Perry Orth looked very comfortable at the controls of the offense. Orth had his first career 300-yard passing day, going 28-for-43 for 367 yards and a touchdown.

What I didn’t like: The zombie-like start from South Carolina. The Citadel scored on its second play from scrimmage and had a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. It was a flat, listless start of the game for the Gamecocks, which ultimately led to a halftime deficit — as they’ve faced in every other game this fall. Also, the South Carolina running game didn’t find as much success against an FCS school as one might expect. Seventy-two yards on 25 carries against an FCS school is just not good enough. The Citadel absolutely gashed the Gamecocks on the ground, piling up 352 yards and 3 touchdowns on 60 carries.

Who’s the man: Pharoh Cooper was his usual outstanding self (11 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown), and tight end Jerrell Adams gets a nod here, too. He hauled in 6 passes for 105 yards, providing a nice inside compliment for Cooper’s work on the outside. On defense, Gerald Dixon had plenty to do from his defensive end position. The senior recorded a season-high 13 tackles on the day.

Key plays:

  • Citadel fullback and Columbia native Tyler Renew busted free through the middle of the Gamecocks defense for a 56-yard touchdown run, putting the visitors back on top, 23-22 with 6:07 left. Renew was the heart of the Bulldogs offense, rushing for 174 yards and 2 TDs.
  • South Carolina’s David Williams was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 from The Citadel 46 with around four minutes left in the game. It was the first of two failed fourth-down tries for South Carolina in the final five minutes.

What’s next: South Carolina closes the season against Clemson next weekend. The Citadel will hope and wait for a FCS at-large playoff bid during Sunday’s selection show.