The Citadel keeps on winning in SoCon football

Citadel's Tyler Renew, left celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Dominique Allen during the first half of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

It appears that The Citadel football mojo hasn't gone anywhere.

A team that continued to find ways to win during an undefeated 2016 Southern Conference run is off to a similar start this season.

The Bulldogs rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to beat East Tennessee State 31-25 on Sept. 17 in Johnson City. After a week off, the eighth-ranked Bulldogs visit No. 23 Samford (2-2, 0-1), which is coming off a late loss to Western Carolina last week.

Samford led by 10 points with six minutes to go in last season's meeting in Charleston, S.C., only to see the home team rally to force overtime, make a defensive stop and kick a field goal for a 37-34 win.

During his Tuesday news conference, The Citadel coach Brett Thompson spoke of things that happened in the first half of the ETSU game that "weren't typical of us." Yet the result was the same as it had been the previous nine conference games and 16 of the last 17, with his team finding a way to win.

"We did things we can't usually do and win football games, but I'm proud of how we played in the second half and how our defense played in the first," Thompson said. "That's very typical of how we play and have won football games - hang in defensively and be able to grind out and control the ball and the clock on offense."

The Bulldogs lead the league in both rushing offense (380 yards per game) and rushing defense (70.7 yards allowed). They also rank first in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and pass efficiency defense.

The Samford attack they'll be facing has struggled some - by its standards. Those Bulldogs have averaged 404.8 yards in four games and 31.2 points, down slightly from the 2016 averages of 446.2 yards and 35.1 points. Samford coach Chris Hatcher said the offense "just isn't quite clicking."

Samford earlier played Kennesaw State, which runs an offense similar to The Citadel's, in its season opener. Samford struggled in that game before pulling out a 28-23 win, and Kennesaw rushed 61 times for 293 yards.

"Any time you get reps at something you don't see very often, it's going to do nothing but benefit you," Hatcher said. "So that game was a good measuring stick for us, but we'll have to get ready because The Citadel runs it as well as anybody."

Hendrix, Arth get first victories

Both Furman's Clay Hendrix and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Tom Arth got their first head coaching wins at their respective schools in convincing fashion last Saturday, with impressivei road victories. Arth's Mocs beat up on Virginia Military Institute 63-7; Furman pasted Colgate 45-14.

For Hendrix, it was his first career head coaching victory.

"It feels great," he said afterward. "I couldn't be prouder of the kids. They came out, played well. I don't know if our defense could have played any better against a really productive, hard-to-defend offense. They set the tone.

"Our offense did a good job of capitalizing."

Ayers gets 200th coaching victory

Mike Ayers earned his 200th coaching victory at Wofford as the Terriers defeated Gardner-Webb 27-24.

For his career, he has 211 victories, with the first 11 coming at East Tennessee State. He left there prior to the 1988 season and has enjoyed tons of success at the Spartanburg, S.C., school, with seven playoff appearances.

"I'm just a piece of the puzzle," Ayers told this week. "I've been very blessed and very fortunate. Any accomplishment that has occurred for me in football is just because I've been fortunate enough to have my name on the door that says 'Head Coach.' All the assistants, all the players, all the fans, all the administration, that's how something like 200 wins comes about. When you think about it, that clears the picture. It's about all of us."

Players of the week

Western Carolina's Tyrie Adams and Keion Crossen and ETSU's JJ Jerman were named players of the week.

Adams accounted for 464 yards of total offense - 312 through the air and 152 on the ground - and two touchdowns in the Catamounts' 38-34 win over previously 17th-ranked Samford. Crossen had eight tackles and two pass breakups, including one on the final play of the game, a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, to give WCU its first win over a ranked opponent since 2006.

Jerman made both of his extra points and kicked two field goals, including a career-long 49-yarder, in the Bucs' 26-23 overtime victory over Mercer.

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.