By Michael Southern
Special to Tidesports
For one incredible half Saturday afternoon, The Citadel Bulldogs seized the attention of the college football world when they had the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide re-evaluating the credibility of the Southern Conference.
Instead of being overwhelmed by an Alabama offensive barrage, The Citadel used its time-consuming option offense to write a first-half narrative that not even Pat Conroy could have scripted.
When Jacob Godek kicked a career-long, 48-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter, the Bulldogs found themselves in a 10-10 halftime tie with the unbeaten and heavily-favored Crimson Tide.
“That moment was one I’m never going to forget,” Godek admitted. “Just being able to kick against them was amazing.”
The unexpected turn of events had the nation changing television channels and perusing social media to see if the biggest upset in college football might be about to transpire.
“We were extremely excited first of all,” Citadel head coach Brent Thompson said. “The one thing I wanted to control was our excitement. We got over excited. I thought we were going to expend too much energy here in the locker room. So before we did that I calmed everybody down.”
Three years ago The Citadel ventured into Williams-Brice Stadium and stunned South Carolina 23-22, and with growing confidence after its early performance the Bulldogs hoped to extend the momentum into the second half.
But the unbeaten Crimson Tide responded in the third quarter with a 27-point outburst that transformed a tie game into a 50-17 second-half rout.
During the third-quarter onslaught, Tua Tagovailoa threw two touchdowns and ran for another, while linebacker Anfernee Jennings returned a Citadel fumble 18 yards for another score that sapped the energy from the upset-minded Bulldogs.
“We gave up the turnover for a touchdown,” Thompson said. “I think after that we kind of wilted away a little bit.”
For Citadel running back Lorenzo Ward, the opportunity to play in Bryant-Denny Stadium stirred even more emotions since his father played for the Crimson Tide in the late 1980s.
“Just growing up as a kid, I always wanted to be big like my dad and possibly go to The University of Alabama and play football here,” Ward said. “It was just a great moment for me to be able to play on the same field that he did just trying to make plays for my team. A lot of my friends asked me how I felt about it.
“My heart was beating so fast before the first snap. I was so excited. I was in the locker room pregame just jumping around about to bounce off the walls. I was ready to get out there and play.”