Southern Conference Football 2014: Recap Part 1 of 2

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Citadel QB Aaron Miller Finished With 1,080 Rushing Yards, Which Was Second Most In The League And Most By A Bulldog Player Since 1998

The Citadel was beginning a new era of its own in 2014, as the Bulldogs were under the direction of a new head coach, in Mike Houston, who took the head coaching job after former Bulldog head coach Kevin Higgins left after nine seasons to join Dave Clawson’s staff as an offensive assistant at Wake Forest following the 2013 season.

Higgins had some success as the Bulldogs’ head coach, claiming two seven-win seasons, and some high-profile wins, including a pair of victories over Top 10 foes Georgia Southern and Appalachian State in recent seasons, as well as coaching one of the best wideouts in Southern Conference history, in cadet Andre Roberts.

But the Bulldogs were never quite able to get over the hump. The Bulldogs came closest to getting back to the elite status among its SoCon brethren it enjoyed during the Charlie Taafe era in 2007, as the Bulldogs suffered a setback late in the season, when quarterback Duran Lawson went down with a season-ending injury in a loss to Georgia Southern.

In 2012, the Bulldogs defeated Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Furman in the same season for the first time since 2003, but did not do enough to sway the FCS playoff committee, as the Bulldogs were left out of the postseason with a 7-4 mark.

Houston certainly had the background the Bulldogs were looking for, which is a background coaching the triple option. The Bulldogs had gone away from the offense which had made them so successful under Taafe after Don Powers stepped down following the 2000 season, and with his departure, The Citadel went away from the triple-option under the direction of Ellis Johnson (2001-2002) and John Zernhelt (2003-04), and wouldn’t return to a version of that option until Higgins’ sixth season as The Citadel’s head coach in 2010.

The 2014 season was supposed to be a rebuilding season for The Citadel, but despite one of the toughest schedules in the nation and being picked to finish sixth in the SoCon at the preseason media outing in Spartanburg in late July, the Bulldogs would exceed those expectations by one position in the final standings, finishing fifth in the league’s final standings, posting a 5-7 overall record and a 3-4 mark in Southern Conference play.

It was easy to see why Houston had been so successful at Division II Lenoir Rhyne, as the Bears were the national runner-up in Division II in 2013. Houston had a new man under center, in senior Aaron Miller, who replaced Ben Dupree under center, who had graduated. Miller had split time with Dupree the previous two seasons in the Bulldogs’ triple option offense.

In 2014, Miller would turn in one of the best seasons in school history by a quarterback, finishing the campaign with 1,080 rushing yards, which is tied for the 10th best rushing performance in the history of The Citadel football program, including the third-best for a quarterback.

He was the leader of a Citadel offense which finished the season with 4,166 rushing yards on the season, averaging 347.2 YPG and ranked second nationally. The 347.2 YPG average ranked as the second-best rushing offense in the rich tradition of Citadel football.

The Bulldogs finished the season as the league’s most dynamic offense, averaging 427.0 YPG, as The Citadel was the offensive statistical champion of the Southern Conference for just the second time in program history, and the first time since 1971, when the Bulldogs averaged 457.3 YPG.

Stay tuned in the coming days for part II of the 2014 Southern Conference Season Recap.Included will be the recaps for The Citadel, Furman, Mercer and VMI, as well as notes, both the coaches and media all-conference teams, my all-league teams and a brief look ahead to what could play out in the league in 2015.

This will be the final helping of Southern Conference football reading until recruiting, so be sure to save this to your computer and stay tuned for SaturdayBlitz for the second helping of this in-depth recap of the 2014 football season in the SoCon, which was indeed a new era for the league.

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