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The Citadel Clutch in Clinching Win

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The Bulldogs just won their eighth consecutive game decided by seven points or less.

We have done a couple of those on the road, but to be at home and do something like that was pretty special.
~Brent Thompson

Saturday stood as yet another test for The Citadel, with nationally-ranked Samford bringing one of the nation's most dynamic offenses to Charleston. The end result, a 37-34 overtime victory, was a familiar one for the Bulldogs. For the second straight year, The Citadel, now unbeaten at 9-0, claimed the Southern Conference championship and clinched a spot in the FCS Playoffs. Perhaps most remarkably, the Bulldogs also won their eighth consecutive game decided by seven points or less.

The streak is one that dates back to last fall, though The Citadel's poise in close games has been a defining theme this season. Opening with two straight conference contests, the Bulldogs began the year with three one-score victories; The Citadel took the lead against Mercer, Furman and Gardner-Webb, all with just over two minutes remaining, and held on to win in each respective outing. Later, a critical interception return for a touchdown by Kailik Williams forced overtime at Wofford, with kicker Cody Clark proving true in extra play.

Over the weekend, The Citadel rallied from ten down late in the fourth quarter against the visiting Bulldogs. Tyler Renew, who rushed a staggering 45 times for 290 yards and three touchdowns, brought The Citadel to within three on his final score. Clark kicked the game into free football at the end of the regulation, then was the difference, in overtime, once again. The Bulldogs scored 20 second half points in the comeback, with Clark converting a game-winner for the Citadel for the second time in three weeks.    

In a showdown that had over 900 yards of total offense, it was Brent Thompson's Bulldogs finding a way to win, just as they have done all season. 

"We have done a couple of those on the road, but to be at home and do something like that was pretty special," he added.

The Citadel has now claimed the SoCon crown and will advance to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in program history. This is a golden era for the Citadel blue and white, a gray line leading the Bulldogs into the postseason. Moving forward, The Citadel will next compete against rival VMI in the Military Classic of the South in Lexington; a tenth-straight win the series would result in the school's first-ever 10-0 start. 

As one of just two remaining unbeatens in the FCS, the Bulldogs boast a resume as impressive as any. Discipline, focus and persistence have been key for The Citadel, traits that do not change, even when the scoreboard does. There is a trust in the process and a confidence in the leadership, a belief that is palpable late in games. Though the Bulldogs are on a record-setting pace, they are following a very deliberate plan.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports