In the full disclosure mode, I have to admit that I didn’t make it to a game. My daughter got married this weekend, which I guess would be one of the few reasons I would bypass the opportunity to attend a FCS game. Thanks to the technology of the Internet and satellite TV, however, I did see a good bit of the Presbyterian College-Wake Forest game Thursday night, the first quarter and a half of Liberty vs. St. Francis, and much of the exciting Appalachian State win over Chattanooga. So I guess you could say my first weekend mirrored Furman’s – an open date. Anyway, it’s still good to comment on the weekend’s action.
As we all know, outcomes of first games don’t always provide accurate conclusions about a team’s fortunes. Teams are playing up a level or a team from Division II or NAIA. Judgments must be made carefully. That’s why it’s great to see a conference match up early like the one in Chattanooga Saturday when the Mocs pushed Appalachian State to the edge before the Mountaineers hung on for a 42-41 victory and a successful start to the 2010 season. The defending SoCon champs have the early lead in the clubhouse while the University of Tennessee Chattanooga demonstrated there’s been quick improvement in the Mocs program.
The quarterbacks stood out for me. DeAndre Presley demonstrated he can make plays and, most importantly, bring the Mountaineers back from a big deficit on the road. He threw for 340 yards and accounted for five touchdowns. Chattanooga’s B. J. Coleman matched Presley’s passing yards and hit three touchdowns through the air. Appalachian State remains one of the teams to be chased down in the league while Chattanooga will have a say in the final standings. If the Mocs are to break into the top three, they have little margin for error the rest of the way.
Of the six other SoCon teams in action Sept. 4, only two posted victories. Georgia Southern returned to the option offense that helped make the program famous and pounded Savannah State 48-3. Six Eagles ran for touchdowns as the team rolled up 431 rushing yards, led by true freshman Robert Brown’s 122 yards. … The Citadel also broke out its new option offense in style, ripping Chowan 56-14. Backup quarterback Matt Thompson threw for 127 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 70 yards and a touchdown. Like Georgia Southern, 11 Citadel players ran the ball. The Bulldogs scored 42 points in the second quarter. They notched two touchdowns on interception returns and returned a blocked field-goal attempt for a touchdown.
Everyone else played up a level and got smacked around a bit for their trouble. Wofford hung in the longest, trailing Ohio 17-10 with eight minutes left in the third before losing 33-10. Turnovers hurt Wofford again. A Terrier fumble on a punt return resulted in a Bobcat touchdown, and a fumble on a kickoff return led to another Ohio score. Wofford racked up 220 yards on the ground, but 103 of them came in the first quarter. … Elon fared pretty well in its visit to Duke but dropped a 41-27 decision. The Phoenix outscored the Blue Devils 21-17 in the second half. Quarterback Scott Riddle threw for 281 yards and a score and ran for another. Sean Jeffcoat, being counted on to step up with the departure of Terrell Hudgins, caught six passes for 111 yards. … Thirty-five second-quarter points helped Florida State overwhelm Samford 59-6. Samford quarterback Dustin Taliaferro completed 22 passes, but they covered just 174 yards. Placekicker Cameron Yaw accounted for all of the Bulldog points with field goals of 32 and 41 yards. … On the opening possession, Western Carolina went 87 yards in 10 plays, taking a 7-0 lead on North Carolina State. The Wolfpack scored the last 48 points though. After that first 87, the Catamounts produced just 102 yards more. Western Carolina runningback Michael Johnson ran 77 yards on 16 carries.
Big South Games
The seven teams of the Big South Conference went 4-3 in the first week. All three losses came via road trips to FBS teams. Preseason favorite Liberty started slow against St. Francis, surrendering a touchdown on the opponent’s first possession. Once it got rolling, though, the Flames whipped the visitors 52-7. Quarterback Mike Brown threw for 338 yards and touchdowns of 75, 49, 40 and 20 yards. Chris Summers (129), Pat Kelly (115) and B. J. Hayes (110) all topped the century mark in receiving yards. … A year ago, VMI accumulated 769 yards passing. The new-look Keydets amassed 304 yards through the air in blitzing Lock Haven 48-6. Three quarterbacks accounted for that yardage on 20 of 41 passing with no interceptions. … Gardner-Webb turned to freshman runningback Juanne Blount for some offensive spark in its 28-14 win over nearby Brevard. Blount rushed 18 times for 134 yards and a touchdown. He went 58 yards on his first carry. Linebacker Jeffrey Williams returned to form with 18 total tackles and an interception. The Bulldogs possessed the football for just 18:58 but generated 28 points. … Charleston Southern spotted North Greenville a 9-0 advantage but rallied to win 41-31. Bucs quarterback A. J. Toscano hit 17 of 26 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns.
Stony Brook traveled all the way to Tampa to face a FBS opponent for the first time. It won’t look good in the record books as South Florida pounded the Seawolves 59-14. Stony Brook got 72 yards rushing from Miguel Maysonet and 54 from Edwin Gowins, but the Bulls picked off Seawolves quarterback Michael Coulter four times. … Presbyterian College wide receiver Michael Ruff grabbed four passes for 122 yards, including one of the big trick plays of the season, already. That wasn’t enough to prevent Wake Forest from rolling over the Blue Hose 53-13. … Coastal Carolina trailed West Virginia just 10-0 at halftime and that was after the Chanticleers tossed an interception deep in Mountaineer territory. Coastal Carolina missed two field goals in the third quarter, and West Virginia pulled away for a 31-0 win. The Chanticleers generated just 186 yards of total offense.
This Week’s Games on Sept. 11
The Big South vs. SoCon
Wofford (0-1) at Charleston Southern (1-0), 1:30 p.m.
The first of four meetings between teams in the two conferences covered in this column occurs in Charleston when Charleston Southern gets to host Wofford (they were scheduled to play a couple of years ago, but a hurricane threat moved it to Spartanburg). The Buccaneers not only appreciate the home game, they are looking for the first win in the series after dropping the other 12. Charleston Southern has not fared well in these early season games against the Terriers, so it’s an opportunity for the Bucs to see how far the program has come. With its SoCon opener three weeks away, Wofford needs to put numbers under the “W” column the next two weeks.
The FBS Games
Gardner-Webb (1-0) at Akron (0-1), Noon
The Runnin’ Bulldogs encounter the Zips for the first time on the gridiron in one of two Big South-Mid American Conference contests. Akron lost its opener to Syracuse 29-3, but it will be favored against Gardner-Webb. This isn’t the Bulldogs’ first trip to the MAC, but it would be their first win. They’ll have to play mighty well for that.
Georgia Southern (1-0) at Navy (0-1), 3:30 p.m.
New Eagles coach Jeff Monken returns to Annapolis where he served as assistant coach under Paul Johnson along with current Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. Given that the Midshipmen are likely anxious to take out the frustrations of the close loss to Maryland, this will be a difficult visit. This game should finish early with so many running plays keeping the clock moving.
Presbyterian College (0-1) at Clemson (1-0), 3:30 p.m.
It’s an easy drive between Clinton and Clemson, so it’s no wonder the schools have played football 40 times. They just haven’t played since 1957. The Tigers have dominated the series (32-3-5) and should dominate this one. The Blue Hose continue their brutal two-week tour of the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division.
Liberty (1-0) at Ball State (1-0), 7 p.m.
Ball State is coming off a 27-10 victory over Southeast Missouri as it welcomes its second FCS team to town. They’ll have to deal with the high-scoring Flames offense. This is a game I find intriguing. Liberty could have a good showing in its Midwest road trip.
The Citadel (1-0) at Arizona (1-0), 10 p.m.
The Bulldogs not only go from one side of the country to the other but also from one extreme to another of opponent. The Citadel easily dispatched a lowly Division II team in week one, but it travels to play an up-and-coming Pac 10 team in Arizona. The Bulldogs new offense could cause the Wildcats issues, but this one appears to be a tall order for them.
The FCS Games
Colgate (1-0) at Furman (0-0), 2 p.m.
Furman finally gets to hit someone else after having its open date in week one. These guys from Colgate will hit back as the Paladins expect a physical game from the run-oriented Raiders. The Paladins are breaking in a new quarterback and seeking significant improvement on defense. They should learn a lot about the progress in those areas in what should be one of the best FCS games of the weekend. Furman won the only other meeting between the teams, a 42-21 decision at Colgate in 2008.
Jacksonville (1-0) at Appalachian State (1-0, 1-0 in SoCon), 3:30 p.m.
The nonscholarship Dolphins – who opened with a 35-25 win at Old Dominion – visit the Rock for the second time and probably won’t fare any better than last time. The Mountaineers demonstrated they still have some magic left by surviving the trip to Chattanooga. Which means that even with some sluggishness in the home opener, they should dispatch Jacksonville easily.
Samford (0-1) at Northwestern State (0-1), 6 p.m.
Samford faces a big challenge to avoid an 0-2 start as it goes west to play Northwestern State. Like the Bulldogs, the Demons gave up big points (losing 65-21 to Air Force), so both squads will be anxious to restart the season on a better note. Can Samford get its offense moving and can the defense rebound? It will be tough, but the Bulldogs could use this one. This is the first meeting of these squads.
Coastal Carolina (0-1) at Towson (0-1), 7 p.m.
Both teams had disappointing outcomes in their openers and so will be primed to get things going against a FCS opponent. The Chanticleers dropped a close one at Towson last year, and they could use a big win on the road to establish momentum in a rugged early seasons schedule.
UT-Chattanooga (0-1, 0-1 in SoCon) at Jacksonville State (1-0), 7 p.m.
The Mocs nearly upset Appalachian State and now get to visit the current hot name in college football – Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks upset Ole Miss in OT last week. Will Chattanooga find the Gamecocks confident and ready to whip the world or still sky high and ripe to be upset themselves?
VMI (1-0) at William & Mary (0-1), 7 p.m.
Giving up two late scores to blow a fourth-quarter lead in a key conference game will not make William & Mary hospitable guests when the Keydets arrive in Williamsburg. VMI looked good in its opener, but it hasn’t had much success against the Tribe in a long time. It will be a good gauge of any progress in the VMI program.
The Lower Division Games
American International (0-1) at Stony Brook (0-1), 6 p.m.
The Seawolves return home from the rough trip to Florida looking for their initial win of the season. Getting it here would even the series with AI, which leads 2-1. The Division II Yellow Jackets lost their season opener 20-11 to C. W. Post. Stony Brook should have an opportunity to flex its muscles a bit before the schedule toughens again the next two weeks.
Tusculum (2-0) at Western Carolina (0-1), 6 p.m.
Like others, the Catamounts will be hitting the reset button on the season after getting ripped in Raleigh. The Pioneers roll in 2-0 with wins over Charleston (WV) and Findlay, but Western Carolina intends to be a much more difficult out. The home opener should be a better setting for the Catamounts to generate good vibes for the rest of the season. Western Carolina leads the series 4-0-1.
Shaw (1-0) at Elon (0-1), 7 p.m.
While Elon was losing at Duke, the Bears were rolling over Virginia Union 57-27. They’ll face a completely different challenge when they meet up with the Phoenix in the home opener at Elon. The Phoenix offense and defense should spread their wings in this one.