Southern Conference's Greatest Rivalries: Furman vs. Citadel

John Hooper@soconjohn22Correspondent IIMay 3, 2012

Photo Courtesy Grace Beahm (Charleston Post and Courier)
Photo Courtesy Grace Beahm (Charleston Post and Courier)

Furman and The Citadel have been hating each other on the Southern Conference gridiron for a long time, as the two Palmetto State institutions are the only charter football members of the Southern Conference.

The Citadel and Furman have met 91 times previously, with the Paladins holding 57-31-3 all-time series edge, and there have been plenty of memorable meetings between the two Palmetto State schools.

The Paladins and Bulldogs rivalry has much to do with the contrast of both schools—The Citadel being a disciplined military education that prepares a man for the world and to be a leader through service, while Furman’s stringent academic standards challenge good minds to be great ones. They are both vastly different and both offer a quality education, but both fanbases view each other in a condescending manner.

For Citadel fans, Furman is usually viewed as the school full of students that wear Polo, drive BMWs and is only for students who have family members who are members of the bourgeoisie.

Furman fans view Citadel cadets as “bellhops,” mostly due to their uniforms resembling that of your upscale hotel porter. They also have the condescending view of Citadel cadets as being “West Point rejects” or members of a lesser military institution than those of the other major service academies, Army, Navy and Air Force.

Both stereotypes are vastly skewed, and both are quality institutions which offer outstanding educations in their own right, but the aforementioned stereotypes each fanbase holds for the other institution is what makes the rivalry what it is to this day.

Patrick Sprague Sets Furman all-time single receiving mark against the Bulldogs in 2007
Patrick Sprague Sets Furman all-time single receiving mark against the Bulldogs in 2007

For a long time, the Furman-Citadel rivalry was a significant part of rivalry week, as the Paladins and Bulldogs met on the final week of the college football season. However, after a nine-game winning streak from 1982-90, Citadel Athletics Director Walt Nadzak petitioned to have the game moved to the middle of October rather than at the end of the campaign.

Nadzak would win that petition and the game was moved to mid-October instead of the end of the season in 1993, and with that move, the rivalry lost a little of its luster.

However, the 2012 season will see the game moved back to the end of the campaign.

Greatest Moments In The Rivalry

There have been so many great moments in the rivalry, narrowing to just a few might be hard. Though Furman has dominated the series, The Citadel has had their moments over the years.  

Certainly the Bulldogs did enjoy some success at the beginning of the 1990s, as The Citadel claimed four-straight wins in the rivalry from 1991-94.

It was during the Bulldogs’ golden era that they enjoyed some of their most memorable moments in the series, with most Citadel fans holding the 1991 and ’92 wins over the Paladins in particularly high regard.

Led by quarterback Jack Douglas and fullback Everette Sands, the Bulldogs, led by legendary Citadel coach Charlie Taaffe, posted a 10-6 win in ’91 and a 20-14 win over the Paladins in a driving rainstorm in ’92.

It was the 1998 meeting between the two that saw the Bulldogs forge a comeback for the record books. It was October 17, 1998, and Paladin Stadium was especially alive with the home-side nearly fully purple and white on what was a beautiful, mid-October Saturday afternoon.

It looked as if it would be a near-perfect sequence of events on that particular homecoming Saturday, and after the Paladins jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, it looked like a homecoming win over the arch-rival Bulldogs would be a mere formality.

Former standout Furman wide receiver Des Kitchings was in high gear on that afternoon, scoring two of the Paladins three TDs in the contest—one of which came on 65-yard run on a reverse, and the other coming on a 52-yard pass from quarterback Justin Hill early in the second quarter, which gave the Paladins a 21-0 lead with 10:30 remaining in the half.

That is where the perfect Saturday for the Paladins would end, however, as the Bulldogs stormed back dominated the next 40 minutes of football. It was Citadel signal-caller Stanley Myers and running back Antonio Smith that did a large majority of the damage, as the duo would keep the Paladin defense off-balance the remainder of the game to help the Bulldogs to the 25-24 win.

Myers connected on an astounding 18-of-19 passes in the contest for 167 yards and a TD, while Smith rushed for 110 yards and a couple of TDs to help the Bulldogs rebound for the win. Myers completed 18-straight passes against the Paladin defense, setting a new Southern Conference standard for consecutive pass-completions in a single game. That record would later be shattered by Appalachian State’s Richie Williams, also against the Paladins, when he completed 28-consecutive throws against the Paladins in 2004.

Trailing 25-24, the Paladins had a chance to win the contest late in the fourth quarter, driving all the way to the Citadel 31, but Jason Wells’ potential game-winning field goal was blocked by Citadel cornerback Marcus Johnson and the Bulldogs were able to preserve the one-point, come-from-behind win.

The two have had a pair of overtime decisions in the recent past. Both the 2005 and ’07 meetings needed overtime to decide things between the two archrivals, and both were at The Citadel’s Johnson-Hagood Stadium.

It was Furman that fell behind 21-7 in the ’05 contest, and the Paladins had plenty of ground to make up when starting signal-caller Ingle Martin exited the lineup with cramps in the third quarter in the sweltering Charleston October heat.

Backup signal-caller Renaldo Gray would come into the contest, and his versatility as a run-pass threat would save the fifth-ranked Paladins, as Furman would score 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to force overtime, eventually winning a triple overtime thriller, 39-31.

The Paladins had only 226 yards of total offense through the first three quarters, as their offense was stymied. However, after Gray came into the game, the Paladin offense found another gear and generated 235 yards the remainder of the game in getting the thrilling win.

In 2007, it was the Duran Lawson show, as the Bulldogs rolled up a school-record 641 yards en route to a 54-51 overtime win over the Paladins on another warm afternoon in the Port City.

The 641 yards gained by the Bulldogs were not only a Citadel record for single-game total offense, it was also the most yards ever given up by a Paladin defense, eclipsing the previous record surrendered by a Furman defense, which was 640 yards to Georgia Southern in the 1985 national championship game.

Lawson set a single-game Citadel record for total offense, accounting for 486 total offensive yards (386 passing, 100 rushing) of the 641 yards gained by the Bulldogs offense on the afternoon.

Not lost in the loss for the Paladins was the performance by wideout Patrick Sprague, who had a record-breaking afternoon for a Furman receiver. Sprague caught nine passes for 238 yards and three scores, setting the school record for receiving yards in a single game.

In stark contrast to the ‘05 and ’07 meetings, the ’03 meeting  in Charleston was one that was a much more defensively slanted contest, with the Bulldogs taking a narrow 10-9 win, benefiting mostly from late-game Paladin miscues.

Furman rebounded from a 10-0 halftime deficit, getting a 29-yard field goal from Danny Marshall late in the third quarter and the Paladins finally found the end zone via Furman backup quarterback Josh Stepp, who scampered in from three yards out to make the score 10-9. However, a bad exchange on the extra-point attempt forced the Paladins into a botched PAT.

Furman was then forced into an onside kick to try and get the ball back, but The Citadel recovered and was able to run all but 12 seconds off the game clock. The Paladins eventually got the ball back with only 12 seconds remaining at their own 16, but could not get within Marshall’s field-goal range and time ran out, with the Bulldogs holding on for the 10-9 win.

One of the memories that will forever live in the minds of Furman fans will be the 1978 meeting between the two schools—a matchup that would ultimately end up deciding the Southern Conference title—with Furman getting a 17-13 win over the Bulldogs to claim the crown.

Furman needed a goal-line stand on a Citadel drive late in the fourth quarter, as the Paladins kept talented Citadel running back Stump Mitchell out of the Sirrine Stadium on a fourth-and-goal, allowing Furman to claim the first of its league-standard 12 Southern Conference crowns. The Paladins went on to finish 8-3 in 1979.

With Furman having no hopes of reaching the postseason in 1987, the one game that meant something to Paladin nation was the regular-season finale at Citadel’s Johnson-Hagood Stadium, and this game alone would play a huge role in establishing momentum for Furman’s lone national championship season in 1988.

The Paladins entered the contest with a 6-4 record, while the Bulldogs came into the matchup with a 4-6 overall mark. The Paladins handed the Bulldogs one of their worst beatings inside the friendly confines, rolling up a school record 676 yards en route to a 58-13 win.

Furman denied the Bulldogs a shot at the league title in 1988 (30-13) and in 1990 (30-17), with the 1990 contest between the two rivals being before the third-largest crowd (18,190) in Paladin Stadium history.

The two met in what was another tough, hard-fought game in Charleston last season, with the Paladins getting a 16-6 win over the Bulldogs in Charleston. The win proved to be another milestone moment for the Furman football program, as it was Bruce Fowler’s first win as a head coach and first win at the helm of his alma mater. It was Paladin field-goal kicker Chas Short, a smash-mouth ground-attack and a gritty performance by the Furman defense, which aided the Paladins to the 10-point victory.

Short connected on three field goals, including a 46-yarder with under three minutes to play, to give the Paladins a double-digit advantage and allowing them to leave Charleston with an all-important win in their Southern Conference opener in tow.

Jerodis Williams powered the Furman offensive efforts, and helped Furman control the ball and the clock against The Citadel’s ball-control, flexbone offense. All Williams did was eclipse the century mark for the Paladins for the second-straight game, finishing the contest with a 122-yard rushing effort, which came on 28 rush attempts. Furman’s defense held The Citadel in check, limiting the Bulldogs to just 301 yards of total offense.

With the game set to return to the end of the season this fall, it will be interesting to see what is on the line when the two meet at the end of the season for first time in two decades. Who knows, it could once again be a playoff spot, or perhaps a Southern Conference title. Time will tell, but both teams will be improved this fall and dark horses for the SoCon crown.  


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.