A season of lows for the South Carolina Gamecocks reached its lowest point today. The Citadel Bulldogs, the last FCS team to beat the Gamecocks, repeated their feat from 25 years ago and came away with a stunning 23-22 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium that ended in probably one of the most gut-wrenching ways imaginable for the home team. The Bulldogs, the #25 team in FCS and the Southern Conference co-champion end their season at 8-3 and await the selection committee's decision to find out if they will advance to the 16-team playoff.
The Citadel's triple-option offense gave the Gamecocks fits to start the game. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-9 halftime lead as they found the end zone on their first two drives, a 59-yard carry by Cam Jackson on their second play of the game and a seven-yard run by Tyler Renew helped in part by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by T.J. Holloman. The Gamecocks' defense, though, looked like they would start to figure things out a little as the game went on after being gashed on the ground throughout much of the first half; however, their offense couldn't manage anything beyond three field goals despite some decent yardage plays and a few red zone trips.
The second half saw things somewhat come together for the Gamecocks. Brandon Wilds punched it in from a yard out, helped by a big 47-yard catch by Pharoh Cooper, to give Carolina a 16-14 lead with 6:22 left in the 3rd. After the Bulldogs jumped back ahead 17-16 after an Eric Goins 48-yard field goal with 10:26 to go in regulation, Perry Orth responded with another big pass to Cooper - this one for 41 yards - to give South Carolina a 22-17 lead with 8:40 left despite the ensuing two-point try failing.
However, the Gamecocks' defense, which had been relatively stout despite a rough start, let them down on the ensuing drive. The Citadel's Renew broke off a 56-yard scoring run with just over six minutes left, his second TD of the afternoon and the Bulldogs' second rushing score of over 50 yards, to give The Citadel a 23-22 lead before their two-point conversion attempt failed. On the Gamecocks' ensuing drive, they advanced to the Citadel 46, but a fourth-and-1 attempt by David Williams was snuffed out and the Bulldogs took over on downs. The Gamecocks did force a punt with 1:20 left to go to get the ball back at their own two-yard line, but on 4th and 7, an apparent 93-yard go-ahead-touchdown was called back on an illegal shift. The Bulldogs forced the turnover on downs after a short pass to Wilds came well short of the first down, and they ran out the clock to celebrate one of their biggest wins in a quarter-century.
The Gamecocks fall to 3-8 on the season and brace themselves for Clemson, the #1 team in the College Football Playoff standings.