Gamecock fans didn't think this season could get any worse. They were wrong.
In what is usually South Carolina's squash match against a much weaker in state rival, The Citadel ran past the Gamecocks in Williams-Brice Stadium for a 23-22 victory. It is The Citadel's first victory against South Carolina in 25 years.
"23 years ago didn't help us today." Citadel coach Mike Houston said after the game. "But I've got a tough bunch of kids that believe in each other. They believe in doing the right things on and off the field. They played their guts out today."
Entering the game, The Citadel was 7-40-3 lifetime against South Carolina, with their last victory coming in 1990. This meeting, however, came at a perfect time for the Bulldogs. They won the Southern Conference for the first time since 1992 this year, and South Carolina is in the middle of a disastrous season, which has included losing head coach Steve Spurrier to retirement and winning only one conference game all season. Still, the Gamecocks were heavy favorites against their FCS in-state foes.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but the offense failed to produce anything for two quarters after that. The Gamecocks took the lead heading into the fourth quarter, and with the Bulldog offense struggling, South Carolina looked to be safe from a disaster. The Citadel's Tyler Renew, however, broke off a 56 yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to give the Bulldogs the lead, a lead they would protect.
The Citadel ran the triple option and barely challenged South Carolina in the air. Quarterback Dominique Allen only threw three passes all game, and completed two of them for 37 yards. The Bulldogs, however, had plenty of success on the ground. As a team, The Citadel ran 61 times for 350 yards, with Renew accounting for 174 yards and two touchdowns on his own. South Carolina, on the other hand, was unable to find any success on the ground, picking up only 72 yards in the run game. South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth did the best he could, completing 28 of 43 passes for 367 yards and a touchdown, but it would not be enough.
When asked what the win meant to The Citadel, Coach Houston was quick to change his focus to his next goal.
"It means we're in the Playoffs."
The Citadel will attempt to win their first ever NCAA FCS Championship.
South Carolina, now 3-8, will see their season end next week, as they take on the number one team in the country, the Clemson Tigers. Clemson is South Carolina's biggest rival, and the Tigers will be looking for their first win in Columbia since 2007.