BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Dominique Allen's 1-yard run with 2:51 left in the game proved to be the decisive blow as 15th-ranked The Citadel rallied and held on for a 31-24 win over Gardner-Webb Saturday night.
"We did what we needed to do tonight to give ourselves a chance to win, but we had too many missed assignments and missed opportunities down there late," said head coach Carroll McCray. "We have a lot of want to and good intentions, but none of that matters if you don't produce. Our kids are hurting. You have a physical game like that where you go up, then they take the lead and you go back up – then lose it in the end – it hurts a little more.
"The Citadel is consistent in their approach. They don't make many mistakes and they take advantage of mistakes when you make them. It's one of the reasons they were a second round [NCAA Playoff] team last year. They stick to the game plan and their scheme and they have play makers on both sides of the ball."
Gardner-Webb (1-2) took a 24-21 lead with 8:10 remaining on Tyrell Maxwell's 19-yard pass to Willie Jackson IV – capping an impressive, 15-play, 91-yard drive that chewed up 6:41 and forced The Citadel to rally late for the third week in a row.
Facing third down just inside Gardner-Webb territory at the 47, Allen slipped through the line and dashed 41 yards to the GWU six with less than four minutes on the clock. He scored three plays later and the visiting Bulldogs had a 28-24 lead.
The Runnin' Bulldogs ran into trouble on the ensuing drive, with Maxwell sacked twice to force a punt. GWU held The Citadel to a 45-yard field goal despite the short field, but used all three timeouts before taking over with 18 seconds left. Maxwell was sacked for a third time on the game's final play.
The Citadel ran for 419 yards on 61 carries, with Allen (108 yards, 14 carries, TD) and Reggie Williams (112 yards, 13 carries) going over 100 yards individually. The Citadel finished with 431 total yards on 73 plays, completing just 1-of-7 passes for 12 yards.
Blackmon's 39-yard touchdown run with 11:22 to play in the first capped a quick 86-yard scoring drive for Gardner-Webb to open the game. Lewis dashed 28 yards with 4:05 left in the third quarter to put Gardner-Webb up 17-14, but Deandre Schoultz turned the tide of the game as time expired in the third – taking a punt back 81 yards for a touchdown on the quarter's final play.
That set up the counter-punch touchdown drives for both teams in the final stages of the game.
Maxwell finished the game 10-of-20 for 134 yards and a score, but was limited to a season-low 43 yards on 13 carries – with the three late sacks effecting that yardage total. In addition to his rushing totals, Lewis caught a team-high four passes for 35 yards, with a long of 28 yards coming on Gardner-Webb's first drive as Maxwell found him after scrambling out of trouble.
Adonus Lee had a 47-yard catch, Jackson had his 19-yard touchdown and tight end Mike Estes tied the Big South Conference receptions record for his position with a 15-yard catch in the fourth quarter to spark Gardner-Webb's final touchdown drive.
Kailik Williams had a team-high 14 stops for The Citadel (seven solo).
Gardner-Webb turns its attention to FBS member Ohio next Saturday, as the Runnin' Bulldogs will visit Athens, Ohio for the third time since 2007. The Bobcats (1-2) gave No. 15 Tennessee fits on the road Saturday before falling 28-19 in Knoxville.
Kickoff is set for 2:00 pm in Athens, with the game set to air live on ESPN3 (WatchESPN.com).