The Citadel Bulldogs stun the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in a 27-24 overtime thriller. It’s the Bulldogs first win against the Yellow Jackets after ten straight losses.
During pregame, a group of Citadel players stood at midfield in an orderly circle as Georgia Tech receivers danced around to warm up. It’s a familiar image. The big Power 5 conference school has better athletes, facilities, and boosters. Their players are confident and assured.
The smaller school, in contrast, typically knows what’s coming. To even have a chance, they’ll need to play their best. Even then, odds are they’ll lose. In this case, the odds were heavily in favor of Citadel losing. But this wasn’t a typical early-season clash between a Power 5 school and an FCS opponent. The Citadel’s disciplined approach lead them to victory over a Georgia Tech team struggling to forge a new identity.
The two sides started the game on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Bulldogs fumbled their first snap, but quarterback Brandon Rainey recovered. Two plays later they punted from their own 25.
The Yellow Jacket’s first play from scrimmage was a 28-yard connection from Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback Lucas Johnson to Sophomore Wideout Malachi Carter. Despite the hot start, the drive didn’t result in points.
The Bulldogs then went on to seize control of the game and would not relinquish it for the rest of the day. They imposed their will on the Yellow Jackets defense with a crisp Triple Option. Each Citadel scoring drive in regulation was longer than 4 minutes.
If any team should be prepared for the physical and mental fatigue of facing the triple option, it should be Georgia Tech. However, they had no answers for the Citadel attack.
The Bulldogs drew first blood when Rainey completed a 30-yard pass to his Junior Receiver Raleigh Webb.
After a good PAT, Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback Tobias Oliver returned the kickoff for the Yellow Jackets. He would rattle off a 44-yard return to give his squad great field position.
Oliver was a bright spot for Tech supporters today as his athleticism and grit led him to 188 all-purpose yards. He is now the eighth quarterback in Georgia Tech history to reach 1,000 career rushing yards. He completed the feat in just 15 games.
The Jackets would finally break through and score on a 4 yard Jordan Mason rush to make it 7-6 with 12:49 left in the second quarter. The star running back would finish with 78 yards from scrimmage.
Penalties would become the story of the first half for the Jackets. Georgia Tech would commit 5 penalties for 55 yards, a couple of these being unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that would extend Citadel drives.
The Yellow Jackets looked like a team in disarray. “The transition we’ve gone through is no doubt monumental,” said Head Coach Geoff Collins in his remarks after the loss. The program still has a long way to go before they achieve the stability they had with Paul Johnson at the helm.
The game settled into a rhythm with the teams trading scores throughout the second and third quarters. Tobias Oliver gained more playtime than his counterpart at QB, Johnson, and led the Jackets to multiple scoring drives.
The Bulldogs continued to squeeze the Jackets defense and capitalize containment mistakes by the Tech Defensive Ends.
Wide Receiver Jalen Camp was almost the hero for the Jackets comeback in the 4th quarter. Down 21-14, Oliver completed a pass to Camp, who had gotten free from Bulldogs cornerback Lane Botkin. The completion went for 29 yards and gave the Jackets the momentum. Three plays later, Camp made the block on the outside that sprung Mason for the game-tying 25-yard touchdown.
The Citadel would then go on to have yet another methodical drive of 5:50 resulting in the go-ahead field goal to put them up 24-21 with 1:51 to play.
A good two-minute drill by Johnson and the Tech offense would find them at the Citadel 40 yard line with less than a minute to play.
The Jackets had a chance to win the game with a touchdown and seemingly did so. Tobias Oliver broke away from the Bulldogs to score what the crowd thought was the game-winning touchdown only for it to be called off. Head Coach Collins used a timeout just before the ball was snapped.
Tech would settle for a field goal and go to overtime where they would start on offense and immediately go three and out. After a missed field goal, the Citadel would take over.
The Bulldogs, at this point, just needed to take care of the ball. They clinched victory on a 37-yard field goal.
The Jackets will now go into a bye week where they seek to regroup after this tough loss. “Every single part of this program has to improve,” said Collins. They’ll look to get back on track as the Citadel looks to turn this historic win into momentum for the games to come.
All photos by William Curtis