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Smothering Defense Propels Campbell past The Citadel 29-10

The Camels defense proved to be too much for the Bulldogs and their triple option attack.

Campbell v Georgia Southern Photo by Chris Thelen/Getty Images

This offseason Campbell head coach Mike Minter said he felt as though this might be the best team he’s had and, if the season opener against The Citadel was any indication, he’s probably right. They may have lost six consecutive games to close out 2021 but on Thursday night, the Camels looked like an entirely different team. It certainly helped that standout quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams was back from injury but across the board the Campbell offense was lethal, effective and ... most notably ... fast.

On their first drive of the night, it only took Minter’s team six plays to find the end zone. Quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams guided the offense smoothly through the Bulldogs defense, covering 74 yards in just over two minutes and found receiver Ezeriah Anderson in the end zone for the first touchdown.

The Citadel, despite falling behind 14-3 early, utilized their triple-option attack heavily in the opening half. Wofford transfer Peyton Derrick got the nod at QB and used his legs significantly more than his arm. By halftime the Bulldogs had only run one pass play but had rushed for 143 yards.

Campbell’s defense was the epitome of bend-but-don’t-break. On a fourth and short midway through the second quarter, defensive lineman Josh Johnson buried Derrick behind the line of scrimmage and gave possession back to the humming offense. The Citadel had controlled the ball for nearly 17 minutes by this point but only had three points to show for it.

Williams again led a quick scoring drive that tacked on three more before the half. 30 minutes in, Campbell’s fast-paced offense was outdueling the Bulldogs’ methodical, bruising ground game.

The Citadel got the ball to start the second half but fumbled and Campbell’s defense capitalized. The Camels added another field goal and extended their lead to 20-3.

Even when the Bulldogs finally thought they got a break off a muffed punt, Derrick’s second pass of the night was intercepted by Jonathan Jones and yet another drive was killed by the Camels smothering defense. Kicker Caleb Dowden connected on his third field goal shortly after.

What was a frustrating night only got worse for The Citadel in the fourth when an untimely kick-catch interference gave the Camels excellent field position. Two plays later, last season’s leading tackler Wilson Hendricks was carted off with an injury. The wind had been completely been taken out of the Bulldogs and they were never able to recover as Campbell coasted out to the 29-10 victory.

Williams looked good in his first game back after last year’s injury. He threw for 175 yards and a touchdown. Running back Bryant Barr led the Camels with 107 rushing yards and a score. Minter also has to be pleased with his defense. The unit forced two turnovers and held the Bulldogs to 222 total yards.

It was a chippy game all around but The Citadel were bit by its own frustrations the most. In total, they were penalized nine times for 83 yards with several of those flags coming for personal fouls. Derrick ended the night with a passing touchdown on just three completions. He carried the ball 10 times for 38 yards. The Bulldogs leading rusher was Cooper Wallace who toted it 10 times for 53 yards.

Campbell will travel to Williamsburg, VA next weekend to take on William & Mary while The Citadel returns home to face East Tennessee State in an early-season SoCon duel.