Second-Half Surge Sends #22 Citadel Football Past Princeton In 2008 Opener
Trailing 17-7 at halftime, The Citadel used a blocked punt returned for a touchdown to ignite a 20-0 run that sent the Bulldogs to their second win of the season. A long punt return from Bulldog All-America receiver Andre Roberts, who scored twice in the win, also helped the home team during the decisive third quarter.
Princeton, which dealt with a raucous crowd of 13,120 at Johnson Hagood Stadium, did show several positive signs as it draws closer to the Ivy League season. The offense gained 358 yards, including 206 in the air, and Jordan Culbreath rushed for a game-high 74 yards and a touchdown. Senior quarterback Brian Anderson completed 20-of-41 passes, including two touchdowns, and threw his only interception in desperation time.
Sophomore Trey Peacock matched his entire 2007 total with six catches for 43 yards, while both Matt Zimmerman and Adam Berry scored touchdowns.
Sophomore inside linebacker Steven Cody made his first start count, recording 11 tackles, including five solo stops. Tri-captain Matt Koch had seven tackles, while junior Wilson Cates had six tackles and an interception. Senior Collin McCarthy added five tackles and a sack on The Citadel’s first offensive play of the game.
Princeton opened the game with a successful 11-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal by Connor Louden. Anderson took the first play of the drive 26 yards up the middle of the field, and Culbreath followed with an impressive nine-yard run. The team converted on a pair of third downs, including one on a tough catch by Trey Peacock, and Louden split the uprights to give Princeton a 3-0 lead.
The game would stay 3-0 through the end of the first quarter, but Princeton moved it to a 10-0 lead on its first drive of the second quarter. Following a pair of Culbreath runs, Anderson followed a lead block from freshman Jonathan Meyers and went 18 yards up the middle of the field. A wideout screen to Peacock got Princeton to the 2, and Culbreath took an option pitch off the left side of the line for the touchdown.
The Citadel cut the deficit to three points by driving 66 yards for the touchdown. Roberts, who not gotten on track before the drive, made two big plays on the drive. He took a reverse run 11 yards for a first down and caught an 11-yard post pattern for a touchdown. Citadel quarterback Bart Blanchard, a cool customer amidst a strong Princeton rush, added a long run of his own.
Looking to score again before halftime, Pete Ploszek took the kickoff and, after 15 yards, handed it to Meko McCray. A track standout in the sprints, McCray nearly broke it and was tackled at the 50. After a first down, Thanheiser took an end around into The Citadel red zone, and after getting inside the 10, Anderson hit Zimmerman for the touchdown. Zimmerman, whose blocking in the first half (along with the offensive line) was a key to the offensive success, threw a quick block, rolled off and caught a pass in the flat. He was hit short of the goal-line but powered himself in for the score.
Special teams provided The Citadel with a big break early in the second half. Mel Capers, who had 16 blocked kicks in high school, came off the right side of the line and blocked Ryan Coyle’s punt to open the second half. Reggie Rice picked it up and sprinted 25 yards for the touchdown. That followed a defensive stand for the Bulldogs, and it inspired the defense to another stop, which included a 10-yard sack of Anderson.
The third phase for The Citadel also got going, as the offense marched 68 yards to take its first lead of the day. Blanchard’s 35-yard pass to Joshua Haney, the first real miscommunication for the Tiger secondary, got The Citadel down to the 10 yard line, and on third down, Blanchard faked a quarterback draw and flipped a lob to tight end Taylor Cornett, who did a nice job getting his feet inbounds before falling out the back of the end zone.
The Princeton defense did a bend-but-don’t-break on The Citadel’s next possession, which kept the Bulldogs from extending the lead to more than a touchdown. Princeton got some much-needed pressure on Blanchard when The Citadel got to the 12 yard line, and Sam Keeler moved the lead to 24-17 with less than one minute remaining in the third quarter.
Special teams got Princeton again after The Citadel forced a 3 and out. This time, Coyle blasted his longest punt of the day, and Roberts returned it even further. The speedy receiver went down the middle of the field, cut right and returned it 54 yards. It looked like an inevitable touchdown, but Coyle did a heck of a job using the sideline to cut off room and ultimately force Roberts out. Asheton Jordan did the job himself, going off the left side of the line for the 5-yard touchdown. The extra point failed, and The Citadel led 30-17.
Roberts added a six-yard touchdown reception with 5:51 remaining, while Princeton posted its only score of the second half with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to Berry with 41 seconds remaining. Princeton grabbed the ensuing onsides kick, but a deep pass by Anderson was picked off to end the game.
Princeton will make its home debut when it takes on Patriot League power Lehigh. The game will begin at 6 p.m. on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.