To read the texts and emails that have blown up Brent Thompson’s cell phone over the last 10 days, you’d think that The Citadel had beaten mighty Alabama.
“I’ve never been congratulated more for a 33-point loss in my life,” said Thompson, whose underdog Bulldogs stunned the college football world by battling the top-ranked Crimson Tide to a 10-10 halftime tie on Nov. 17.
That Alabama, which plays Georgia for the SEC championship on Saturday, eventually pulled away for a 50-17 victory hardly seemed to matter for the Bulldogs, an FCS squad that entered the game as 51½-point underdogs to the defending national champion.
Ten days later, and with the season finale against Charleston Southern set for Thursday night at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel is still measuring the aftershocks of the Bulldogs’ big day at Bryant Denny Stadium.
“A lot of people understand the magnitude of what we were able to do and how we were able to hang with them,” Thompson said. “I was very proud of our team … For 30 minutes, we made them play Citadel football.”
Many people took notice. The Citadel was a top trending topic on Twitter that day, and the school’s sports information department took full advantage. After Dante Smith ran for a 45-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7, @CitadelFootball trolled LSU and Mississippi State — shutout victims of Alabama — by tweeting “It isn’t that hard, guys.”
— The Citadel Football (@CitadelFootball) November 17, 2018
The tweet had 19,000 likes and 7,000 retweets as of Tuesday.
On Google, searches for “citadel” spiked on Nov. 17, rocketing from a Google Trends score of nine the day before the game to 100 on game day.
Among the top states asking “Where is The Citadel?” were Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, all prime recruiting areas for The Citadel.
That impact is already being felt with increased interest from prospects.
“The number of emails and messages we are getting is through the roof,” said assistant coach Colton Korn, who assists recruiting coordinator J.P. Gunter. “We’re hearing from players from Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, loading us up with emails.
“A lot of them are 2019 (recruits), but some are 2020 kids who want to play here. It’s cool the way everybody notices the brand now. Probably the same thing happened in the 1990s when The Citadel beat teams like South Carolina and Arkansas. We’ve got to do our best to ride that wave.”
At last count, The Citadel had about 15 verbal commitments for the 2019 recruiting class, with the early signing date set for Dec. 19 and the regular signing period starting on Feb. 6. So it might be awhile before the recruiting impact is felt.
“It puts us a little bit more on the radar,” Thompson said. “We’ve already been doing a heck of a job recruiting over the last five months or so, so it won’t change a lot in that regard. But it may reaffirm some of those guys that have been with us and have been to campus.
“It’s always a good thing for them to see us play on TV, and we’ve got a few more games like that scheduled in the future (Georgia Tech next season; Clemson in 2020 and 2024; Coastal Carolina in 2021; Georgia Southern in 2023; and Ole Miss in 2025.)
“Those are things you want recruits and prospects to be exposed to.”
• A ticket to the Charleston Southern-Citadel game will also get fans admission to an oyster roast to be held on the stadium’s rooftop terrace starting at 5:30 p.m. Oyster buckets will go for $10, with $5 chili and $5 beers also available.
Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC