CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- Winless going into Saturday's game, The
Citadel apparently responded to a pep talk from former linebacker
Marc Buoniconti and held off Chattanooga 24-21 to get its first
victory of the season.
Quarterback Duran Lawson passed for 324 yards and two touchdowns
for The Citadel, (1-3, 1-0 Southern Conference). Tailback Eldra
Buckley ran for 153 yards and a touchdown, his eighth straight
100-yard performance, for Chattanooga (2-3, 1-1).
"Today I feel like more of a whole man," said Buoniconti, the
former Citadel linebacker who was left paralyzed from the shoulders
down after making a tackle against East Tennessee State back in
Buoniconti was on campus on Friday to celebrate his 40th
birthday. He received a class of 1988 Citadel ring, spoke to
members of the football team and saw his jersey retired.
On Saturday, he addressed the crowd of 12,757 from the
blue-and-white checkered end zone at halftime, surrounded by family
and friends. Citadel President John Rosa and athletic director Les
Robinson held a frame with Buoniconti's No. 59 jersey behind him.
"I am proud to be finally able to say 'I wear the ring,' "
Buoniconti said to loud cheers from the crowd.
The Citadel, which churned out 418 yards in total offense, led
24-7 at halftime. But then, after a scoreless third quarter, had to
hold off a furious rally by Chattanooga.
The game wasn't decided until a 39-yard field goal attempt by
Chattanooga's Esteban Lopez sailed wide left with 31 seconds left.
Buoniconti, who was 19 when he was injured, spent a year in the
hospital and later filed a negligence suit against the state
military college. The school and trainer reached an $800,000
settlement during a 1988 trial.
Years of estrangement between Buoniconti and the school
But the relationship thawed last spring when Buoniconti attended
the college's Corps Day and the school's Board of Visitors voted to
retire his jersey.
Buoniconti and his father, former Miami Dolphins All-Pro Nick
Buoniconti, have raised almost $200 million for The Miami Project
to Cure Paralysis.