The Citadel stormed back from 17 down in the second quarter and then survived a late two-point conversion pass in a 28-26 victory over Southern Conference-leading Samford in its annual Homecoming game at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday.
The Citadel (3-6, 3-4 SoCon) handed Samford (6-3, 4-1) its first conference loss but not before Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin drove the visiting Bulldogs 91 yards in four minutes which resulted in an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jauan Davis to pull them within two with 1:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Samford attempted an onside kick which hit off one of its own players before going the required 10 yards, giving the ball back to The Citadel. Ben Dupreerushed for a first down, and the homestanding Bulldogs were able to run out the clock and earn its first win over Samford since 2010.
The Bulldogs trailed 17-0 when Darien Robinson scored the first of his career-high three rushing touchdowns, giving The Citadel its first points of the game on a three-yard plunge with 36 seconds remaining in the first half.
The momentum gained from the late first half score carried into the third quarter as The Citadel used a 10-play, 75-yard opening drive which resulted in Robinson's second touchdown of the game from nine yards out to cut the deficit to three.
On that drive, The Citadel converted a 4th-and-11 from its own 36 when punterEric Goins took the long snap and ran 27 yards out of punt formation to move the chains. The Citadel converted on four-of-five fourth downs on the day and has now been successful on 17-of-27 on the year.
Samford's ensuing drive was stalled early when Mark Thomas blindsided Summerlin resulting in the ball popping in the air and landing in the hands of freshman linebacker Tevin Floyd. The turnover was the Bulldogs' second of the game after Nick Willis picked off a tipped pass from the Samford quarterback in the first quarter.
The Citadel took over at the Samford 28 and used six rushing plays to get down to the eight from where Vinny Miller powered into the end zone to put the Bulldogs ahead for the first time at 21-17 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
Miller finished with a career-high 95 yards on the ground, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
A 54-yard pass from Summerlin to Kelsey Pope, who finished with 10 catches for 133 yards, moved Samford to The Citadel 14. Two incomplete passes and a rush for no gain brought up a 3rd-and-10. The young duo of Floyd and Thomas found their way into the backfield again and teamed up for a sack resulting in a 12-yard-loss.
A 44-yard successful field goal by Samford kicker Warren Handrahan cut the home team's lead to 21-20 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Another steady 11-play, 75-yard drive spanning 4:45 resulted in Robinson's third rushing touchdown of the game when he busted through the middle and shed three Samford tacklers to find the end zone from 29 yards out to give The Citadel a 28-20 lead at the 12:27 mark of the final period.
Robinson's three scores move the senior B-back into a tie for ninth place all-time on The Citadel's rushing touchdown list with 22. He carried the ball 13 times for 83 yards on Saturday and now has 2,735 for his career, 57 behind Andrew Johnson for fourth place in program history.
Robinson also recorded a career-high eight receptions for 36 yards as the Bulldogs implemented the shovel pass into their offense.
Dupree added another 18 carries for 90 yards to the Bulldogs' 338-yard rushing performance and moved into seventh place all-time on The Citadel rushing chart with 2,435 yards.
Robinson and Dupree have now accounted for 5,170 yards and 52 rushing touchdowns in their four years as Bulldogs.
Willis and Samford's Trey Wesley had 10 tackles apiece to lead all defenders. Thomas' 1.5 sacks on the day gives the sophomore nine for his career, while Justin Oxendine posted his second of the season and third of his career.
The Bulldogs controlled the ball for 35:42 and converted 22 first downs to Samford's 17.
Samford built an early first half lead when a double reverse from the wildcat formation resulted in the ball in quarterback Summerlin's hands. After taking the pitch, Summerlin was able to connect with Chris Cephus for a 22-yard touchdown reception for the first of three scores for the visiting Bulldogs in the first half.
Summerlin finished the game 29-of-39 passing with 288 yards and two touchdowns.
Handrahan knocked through his first of two field goals in the middle of the second quarter before Fabian Truss, who left the game in the second quarter with an injury, improved Samford's lead to 17-0 with 3:41 left in the first half before The Citadel began its comeback. Truss led Samford on the ground with 58 rushing yards before departing.
The Citadel closed out its Southern Conference home slate with the win over Samford and will complete league play next weekend when it treks to Elon, N.C., to take on the Phoenix in a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.