No, that’s not the outcome of an all-star soccer match between conferences. It’s the tally of Big South football teams versus MAC teams Saturday. Liberty beat Ball State 27-23, and Gardner-Webb turned some extra-point magic into a 38-37 overtime triumph over Ball State.
Of course, Akron and Ball State aren’t going to be confused with Alabama and Boise State. On a day peppered with FCS teams taking down FBS squads, however, these victories boost the profiles of Gardner-Webb and Liberty as well as the Big South.
Throughout the afternoon, Gardner-Webb hung close to the Zips and managed to hold them scoreless from 2:36 left in the third quarter through regulation. The Zips did miss a 34-yard field goal as time expired, but the Bulldog defense made a key play with 2:46 left in the game. Dami Teniola forced a fumble at the Bulldog four, and Bryce Nixon recovered to end a scoring threat.
Wide receiver James Perry III’s two touchdowns brought the Bulldogs to a tie. He caught a four-yard scoring pass from quarterback Chandler Browning in the third quarter and then snared Browning’s 13-yard touchdown pass in the fourth.
Akron got the ball first in overtime and posted a touchdown. Nixon exerted his presence again, however, blocking the point-after try and giving the Bulldogs a shot at victory.
Freshman runningback Juanne Blount got the touchdown on a four-yard run to tie the game at 37-37. Placekicker Ryan Gates booted the winning point.
In Liberty’s game, quarterback Mike Brown showed why he was named Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 276 yards and two scores, though he did suffer three interceptions. He added 97 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Brown and wide receiver Chris Summers put the Flames on the board first, capping a long drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass in the opening period. Summers enjoyed his second 100-yard receiving night to begin the season. He grabbed 11 passes for 146 yards and two scores.
The Flames captured the lead with a 74-yard, nine-play drive. Brown scored on a one-yard run with 4:55 left. A try for two failed, and Liberty led 27-23.
The Cardinals came back down field, but Liberty’s defense made a big play. Asa Chapman forced a fumble on a sack, and Mike Connolly recovered at the Liberty 26 with 38 seconds to go to seal the victory.
A So South Contest
The lone match of Big South versus SoCon teams took place in Charleston as Wofford stayed unblemished in 13 games against Charleston Southern with a 34-23 victory. The Bucs struck first on A. J. Toscano’s six-yard pass to Deon Lee. The game see-sawed from there. Charleston Southern took a 23-20 lead with 10:28 to go on DeMarcus Moon’s one-yard run. Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein scored on runs of one and three yards in the final six minutes to lift the Terriers to the win. Breitenstein ran for 97 yards, and Mike Rucker added 94 yards – 76 on a touchdown run. Toscano passed for 229 yards. Gerald Stevenson ran five times, caught five passes, completed his one pass attempt for a 27-yard touchdown pass, and returned a punt and two kickoffs.
Around the SoCon
Tantalizing its fans with visions of past glory, Furman took control in the second half to whip Colgate 45-15. The Paladins rushed for 377 yards, the most since 2005, in getting the win. Bobby Lamb started Chris Forcier at quarterback. He played mostly in the first and fourth quarters, and ripped off an 85-yard touchdown run in the fourth. Cody Worley took the reins in the second quarter and spurred a strong third quarter. Furman’s defense showed improvement as well. Even though Colgate’s Nate Eachus got his 100 yards rushing (28 carries, 134 yards, one touchdown), the Paladins held the Raiders to 260 yards total offense. In the first quarter, with the game still close, Nathan Wade intercepted at the Furman 10 and then recovered a fumble in the end zone that teammate Pete Sanders forced.
Samford picked up a big win on the road by defeating Southland Conference member Northwestern State 19-7. Bulldogs runningback Chris Evans got back in rhythm with 109 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Quarterback Dustin Taliaferro threw for 180 yards and rushed for 54 more. Six of those completions went to Quin Roberson for 124 yards. Samford’s defense did well, too. Northwestern State’s first nine possessions ended in punts. Of the last seven, three ended in interceptions, one on a punt, and one on the end of the game.
With 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Appalachian State led Jacksonville just 17-14. The Mountaineers sped away from there with four unanswered touchdowns for a 45-14 victory. The first three of those came on drives of 88, 82, and 83 yards as Appalachian generated 292 yards rushing and 328 passing. DeAndre Presley threw for 285 and ran for 101. Brian Quick caught six passes for 132 yards and three scores.
In its home opener, Elon senior quarterback Scott Riddle became the SoCon’s most prolific passer with 244 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-26 win over Shaw. He hit 21 of his 24 pass attempts. The Phoenix took command early with 14 points in the first quarter and 28 more in the second. Running backs Brandon Newsome and A. J. Harris rushed for two touchdowns each and 77 and 70 yards respectively. Wide receiver Aaron Mellette caught nine passes for 120 yards and two scores.
You really would have expected more offense from this game, but Georgia Southern held Navy to just 109 yards and a touchdown rushing and only 193 overall. Problem was, the Eagles mustered only 73 rushing and 36 passing in dropping a 13-7 decision to the Midshipmen.
If you’re doing a poll on the best 0-2 teams out there, Chattanooga would get plenty of votes. A week after nearly knocking off Appalachian State, the Mocs went on the road and almost defeated Jacksonville State, the team that gained notoriety for upsetting Ole Miss. Unfortunately, the 21-17 loss to the Gamecocks involved surrendering a double-digit advantage in the final period for a second game. After going up 17-0 in the third, the Mocs next four possessions resulted in a fumble, a punt, a turnover on downs, and another fumble. Meanwhile, Jacksonville State produced three touchdowns in its next four possessions.
Western Carolina gave up a ton of yards and points to Division II Tusculum in the Catamounts’ home opener, losing 54-30. Backup quarterback Zac Brindise did post some good numbers, completing 23 of 39 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns. Jacoby Mitchell caught eight passes for 116 yards and a score while Josh Cockrell snared four passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Tusculum returned Catamount fumbles 90 and 60 yards for touchdowns.
The Citadel traveled the greatest distance it ever had to play a Pac-10 opponent for the first time. It didn’t go well as Arizona downed the Bulldogs 52-6. The Citadel completed only three passes for 21 yards. Runningback Terrell Dallas led what offense the Bulldogs generated with 53 yards rushing. Citadel punter Cass Couey averaged 42 yards on seven punts, hitting one for 53 yards and dropping two inside the 20.
Around the Big South
Two runningbacks rolled up big numbers Saturday as Stony Brook cruised past American International 31-14. Brock Jackolski ran 15 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns while Miguel Maysonet added 20 carries for 158 yards and a score. The Seawolves defense pretty much locked up American International. Defensive back Arin West led the way with seven solo tackles.
Coastal Carolina dropped another heartbreaker, going five overtimes before falling at Towson, 47-45. The Chanticleers matched Towson’s touchdown in the fifth overtime, but the pass for two failed. Three Coastal Carolina players topped 50 yards rushing Eric O’Neal 69 yards, Zach MacDowall 57, and Richard Gause 56 – and accounted for five touchdowns. O’Neal also caught six passes.
Presbyterian College and VMI got overwhelmed Saturday.
The Blue Hose dropped a 58-21 decision to in-state and FBS foe Clemson. Michael Ruff scored two more touchdowns on passes from Brandon Miley and Myron Gary, who led the team with 53 yards rushing.
The Keydets, meanwhile, absorbed a 45-0 loss to in-state rival Williams & Mary. The Tribe intercepted five passes, following three of them with touchdowns. Gabe Itoka led the VMI offense with 85 yards rushing on 21 carries.
The Games of Sept. 16-18
SoCon vs. Big South
Georgia Southern (1-1) at Coastal Carolina (0-2), 6 p.m.
These teams could have traveled to Maryland together last week when the Eagles played in Annapolis and the Chants visited Towson. Both lost close games, so the teams will be itching for a win, especially winless Coastal Carolina. Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina played an exciting game a few years back on the coast (the Eagles won 42-34). This one might not produce the same amount of yards and points, but it should be a fun one to watch. Georgia Southern leads the series 2-0.
Western Carolina (0-2) at Gardner-Webb (2-0), 6 p.m.
Based on last week’s outcomes – Western Carolina lost at home to a team a division down while Gardner-Webb won on the road over a team a division up – this game appears to be soundly in the Bulldogs’ favor. I think that’s why they call them trap games. You can see how Gardner-Webb might be overconfident. You also can see how the Catamounts could be intent on turning things around by upsetting their neighbors. Seven points separated these teams a year ago when the Bulldogs won. The series is tied at 2-2.
Presbyterian College (0-2) at The Citadel (1-1), 7 p.m.
Both of these teams suffered a thumping on the road to FBS teams last week, which makes two in as many weeks for Presbyterian College. These Palmetto State schools are old competitors, having played 62 times. The Citadel has dominated with a 49-11-1 advantage. The Bulldogs should have the upper hand once again, but realistically, this is the Blue Hose’s first opportunity to play competitively.
The FCS Games
Liberty (2-0) at Robert Morris (1-1), Noon
The Flames are again among the best offenses in FCS. Expect Liberty to continue to add to its offensive numbers. This is the first meeting of the schools.
Stony Brook (1-1) at Brown (0-0), 12:30 p.m.
The Seawolves and the Bears have combined to create a pretty interesting and competitive new series. No reason for that not continue unless Brown has some first-game jitters. The series is tied 1-1.
Elon (1-1) at Richmond (0-1), 1 p.m.
A rematch of last year’s first-round playoff game, this should be one of the marquee matchups in the South this weekend. The Spiders should be well rested after an open week following a season-opening loss to Virginia. Richmond is breaking in new players in key roles, but it should be a tough out for the visiting Phoenix. The running game will be important for Elon to notch its first win against the Spiders after losing the previous three encounters between the programs.
North Carolina Central (1-1) at Appalachian State (2-0, 1-0), 3:30 p.m.
Appalachian State defeated North Carolina Central 55-21 last year in the only other meeting between the schools on the gridiron. The main question of this one will be whether the Mountaineers get rolling early.
Eastern Kentucky (0-2) at UT-Chattanooga (0-2, 0-1), 6 p.m.
The Mocs meet an Ohio Valley Conference team for the second week in a row. The Colonels have historically been one of the more competitive teams and likely will challenge Chattanooga. The Mocs are looking to close the deal after losing leads the last two weeks. Posting a win here would do a lot for the Mocs confidence before heading into the remainder of the SoCon schedule. Eastern Kentucky leads the series 2-1-1.
The FBS Games
Furman (1-0) at South Carolina (2-0), 7 p.m.
Three of the better rushing performances around Division I football last week came from players on these teams. Gamecock freshman Marcus Lattimore – who played high school football just a half-hour from Furman – might still be running against Georgia. The Paladins, meanwhile, produced two 100-yard performances last Saturday. Furman won’t run so easily against South Carolina. It will be interesting to see if the Paladins’ improved defense can stand up to Carolina’s new rushing attack and if their five backfield stars can produce points. South Carolina leads the series 26-20-1, but the teams have not played since 1982 when Furman won 28-23.
The Other Division Games
Mars Hill (2-1) at Charleston Southern (1-1), 1:30 p.m.
The past few years, Charleston Southern wouldn’t have played a home game by week three. Here the Bucs are this year, however, playing their third-straight home game to start the season. The Lions travel from the western North Carolina mountains to visit the historic city by the sea. They bring a strong running game and are quarterbacked by Clemson transfer Jon Richt, son of Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who threw five touchdown passes last Saturday. Mars Hill, by the way, defeated North Greenville on Aug. 28, the team Charleston Southern beat two weeks ago. Mars Hill has won both games in the series.
Union, KY (1-1) at Wofford (1-1), 7 p.m.
The Terriers welcome the NAIA Bulldogs to Spartanburg for the first football game between the schools. This should be a good opportunity for Wofford to hone the execution of its option offense and, heading into an off week, gear up for the SoCon grind.
Newberry (1-1) at Samford (1-1), 8 p.m., Sept. 16
Newberry has been one of the more solid DII programs the last few years, and this year the school has a nickname (Wolves) after two years going without following the NCAA crackdown on the “Indians” name. Samford finally gets a home game, and the Bulldogs should have an opportunity to get more players in the game following two tough road games. Samford leads the series 2-1-1.
Not Playing this Week
VMI (1-1) has an open date.