How is it that a team that went 4-7 in 2011, with just two Southern Conference wins, can not only win its first two league games this season but beat Georgia Southern and Appalachian State back to back?
That's what The Citadel (3-1, 2-0 SoCon) did and this weekend the No. 15-ranked Bulldogs are looking for their first 3-0 SoCon start since 1992. They will try for that third win Saturday night at Johnson Hagood Stadium against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (1-3, 0-1).
The simple answer to the Bulldogs' fast start is that they're better, Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.
"They're doing a great job with their offense, they know what they want to do and after the third year in [the triple option] I think they have better athletes than I've seen in a long time at The Citadel," Huesman said.
The Citadel's SoCon wins last season were its 28-27 come-from-behind victory at UTC, rallying from 27-0 down, and a 36-7 thumping of Western Carolina. Bulldogs coach Kevin Higgins said the win over the Mocs last season had a lasting effect.
"It confirmed in the hearts of all of our players that if you do get down that you can still keep battling and still find a way to win," he said. "I think that was somewhat of a turning point early last year that was important to us."
While the Bulldogs finished 4-7, five of their losses were by 10 points or less, including a seven-point loss to ASU and a 14-12 loss at Georgia Southern. The Citadel finished third in the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing last season (286.6 ypg), fifth in net punting (38.22 ypg) and 36th in total defense (343.8 ypg).
This season, the Bulldogs are fifth nationally in rushing (327.2), 34th in total offense (406.0) and seventh in pass defense (135.7).
"What you get on them is what you earn," Mocs offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said.
Huesman also noted the improvement in The Citadel's passing game. While not prolific, it has been effective. The Bulldogs completed 34 passes for 354 yards last season. Already in 2012 they have 16 completions for 315.
Ben Dupree is The Citadel's primary running quarterback (87.5 ypg) and Aaron Miller is the more frequent passer (12-for-19 for 230 yards; one interception).
Mocs left tackle Brandon Morgan suffered a left shoulder injury against ASU and did not practice Wednesday. He is questionable for Saturday, Huesman said. ... UTC's defense did more hitting than normal Wednesday. It was a must, Huesman said, as the defense prepares for the triple option.