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The Citadel off to best start since 1992
Eagles face Bullodgs on homecoming
The Citadel's Tory Cooper celebrates as he runs into the end zone to win the game in overtime against Furman on Saturday, Oct. 13 in Charleston, S.C. The Citadel won 54-51. - photo by Associated Press
    The Citadel’s high-scoring offense has gotten a lot of attention this season, perhaps overshadowing the improvements made by the Bulldogs defensively. They currently allow the fewest yards in the Southern Conference (321.9) after finishing fifth in the league in total defense a year ago.
    The progress is largely attributed to the play of upperclassman, particularly a trio of seniors — middle linebacker Willie Rowell, defensive end Trevar Broughton and free safety Josh Lawson.
    “Those three guys are the mainstay of our defense,” Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said Tuesday. “We found a couple of other guys to plug in. We haven’t been dominating anybody, that’s for sure. But we’ve just been hanging in there and finding a way to get it done most of the time.”
    The Bulldogs are currently gearing up for Saturday’s trip to Georgia Southern (5-2, 2-2) where they’ll face the league’s best offense. At 5-2, The Citadel has already tied its win total from a year ago when it finished 5-6 and 4-3 in the SoCon. The Bulldogs (3-1 SoCon) are currently in a three-way tie with Wofford and Elon for first place in the league. Higgins said his players have matured a little bit and also gotten bigger and stronger physically.
    “Obviously I think we’ve progressed a little bit as a program,” he said. “We still have so many challenging games to play starting with Georgia Southern, then App State and Elon. We’ve got a tough road ahead of us in terms of getting any more wins at this point in time. So we’re just battling, trying to see if we can’t find a way to get the sixth one which would give us a winning season. That in itself will be a challenge.”
No playoff talk at Elon

    Elon’s surprisingly atop the SoCon with wins over Wofford and Georgia Southern, so surely there’s some playoff talk around the North Carolina campus, right?
    No, said second-year coach Pete Lembo.
    “You don’t have that discussion because we haven’t earned it yet,” he said. “We’ve got some older players that didn’t have a lot of success early in their careers, and we’ve got a bunch of young guys that are still spring chickens and still figuring out how to get lined up. So it’s really, really important that we stay focused day to day, game to game, and understand that we are still very much a work in progress.”
    Teams around the SoCon were grateful for the Phoenix’s upset victory last week over the Terriers, who were previously the only unbeaten team in league play. Elon (5-2, 3-1) pulled it off by getting an early lead and taking advantage of four Wofford turnovers. Freshman phenom Scott Riddle continues to impress and hit 41 of 51 attempts (no interceptions) for 343 yards.
    “It was a heck of a football game,” Lembo said. “He’s very mature for a true freshman, and hopefully some of his best football is still ahead of him.”
    Elon, which hosts Chattanooga (2-5, 2-2) this weekend, is currently gunning for its first winning record since a 7-4 mark in 2000.
    “That’s a huge step forward for this program considering where it’s been the last several years,” Lembo said.
‘Don’t play Jayson Foster’
    Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore blamed poor tackling for his team’s loss to Georgia Southern last week. So what’s he going to do to fix the problem?
    “Don’t play Jayson Foster,” Moore quipped Tuesday. “(It was) poor scheduling. Go look at every game (GSU) has played. Everybody’s had a problem tackling him. It’s a cat-and-mouse game, and we didn’t do a very good job of keeping him contained.”
    The Mountaineers (5-2, 1-2) never rebounded from GSU’s lightening-fast start, which included two quick touchdowns and a 21-7 lead with more than five minutes to play in the first quarter.
    “When (the Eagles) got off the bus, they looked up there and they had 14 points,” Moore said. “We typically don’t start off like that and we did. We did everything we could to win it, and we came up three points short. We just couldn’t pull it off.”
    Appalachian State and Furman (3-4, 1-2) meet Saturday in Greenville, S.C., and the loser will likely be knocked out of the title race as both teams already have two conference losses.
    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.