Appalachian State and UT-Chattanooga got the jump-start on the Southern Conference schedule in week one. Losing game one makes UTCís visit to Western Carolina ó a team fresh off an upset victory ó important. The upstart Mocs need to avoid an 0-2 start to maintain its shot at an upper-echelon finish. The Catamounts have an opportunity for much sought-after momentum.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, can stay ahead of the pack with a victory at Samford. The Bulldogs, looking for a shot at the playoffs, would love an upset here.
Furman and The Citadel know this yearís version of the old in-state rivalry is for much more than bragging rights. The winner will find itself in the conference race.
Georgia Southern won the first seven times it played Elon. The Phoenix have won the last three, coinciding with their rise to the top of the SoCon. The Eagles want to get back there. They could start such a trek with an upset of Elon.
In the Big South, Liberty and Gardner-Webb had big road games against nonconference FCS teams on the docket before last week. After being upset in FCS games Saturday, those games are even bigger. Can the Flames pull off another upset, this time at James Madison? And how will the Bulldogs fare way out in Texas against Sam Houston State?
We knew Coastal Carolinaís early schedule would be tough. And it has been. The Chanticleers face Delaware State at home Saturday and are intent on avoiding an 0-4 beginning. With Richmond up next, the Delaware State game is a must win.
Following its narrow loss to Brown, Stony Brook has a must win of its own, but it wonít be easy to beat UMass.
Presbyterian College really doesnít want to count how long itís been since it won a football game. North Greenville, the opponent in this weekís home opener, isnít the same level of foes that have started Presbyterian Collegeís season at 0-3. Could this game end the string?
VMI and Charleston Southern take on FBS teams this weekend. The Keydets donít have far to go as they venture to Charlottesville to play Virginia. The Bucs, meanwhile, leave the mainland to face Hawaii.
After this weekend, weíll have lots to mull over regarding the early stages of the SoCon race. This weekend also should show which teams in the Big South will have momentum heading into the conference slate.
SO SOUTH GAMES ź
Four big plays ó two on offense and two on defense ó spurred Western Carolina to a 28-14 upset win at nearby rival Gardner-Webb. The defense returned a fumble 45 yards for the first touchdown, and new starting quarterback Zac Brindise connected with Marquel Pittman on a 78-yard touchdown pass to lift the Catamounts to a 14-0 halftime lead. Bulldogs quarterback John Rock ran for a touchdown and passed for another to get Gardner-Webb within seven twice. Western Carolinaís Adam Hearns ó playing his third position at the school ó returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown, and Michael Johnson ran 60 yards for another to keep the Catamounts up by two scores. Western Carolina defensive back Torez Jones picked off four passes. The Bulldogs ran 94 offensive plays, but six turnovers held them back. ... Georgia Southern built a 17-point lead in the third quarter, but Coastal Carolina rallied to narrow the Eaglesí lead to three points. The Eagles scored twice in the final three minutes, however, to post a 43-26 victory. Kyle Oehlbeck returned a fumble eight yards for a touchdown with 2:46 to go, and quarterback Jaybo Shaw added a one-yard scoring run with 29 seconds left to clinch the win. Chanticleer quarterback Zach MacDowall threw three second-half touchdown passes to bring Coastal Carolina back. ... Runningback Terrell Dallas rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns to pace The Citadelís 359-yard rushing effort in a 26-14 triumph over Presbyterian College. With the scored tied at 7-7 after one quarter, Bulldogs runningback Van Dyke Jones ran 17 yards for a score, and Dallas went 80 a short time later for his second. Trandon Dendy led the Blue Hose with 103 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Presbyterian College suffered three interceptions, however, and The Citadel turned two of them into 10 points.
Last Thursday night, Samford rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit to Division II Newberry, fell behind again, went up by 10, and held on for a 38-35 victory. Dustin Taliaferroís 40-yard touchdown pass to Bill Kottas with 4:26 to go in the game provided what turned out to be the winning points as the Wolves from South Carolina posted one more touchdown. Chris Evans rushed for 114 yards on 22 carries for the Bulldogs while Taliaferro and Connor Lowery combined for 234 yards passing. Taliaferro tossed three touchdown passes. Darion Suttonís 24-yard return of a blocked punt with 9:11 left put Samford ahead 31-28. ... This one didnít slip away. UT-Chattanooga once again held a second-half lead ó this time as much as 26 points ó and it persevered to beat Eastern Kentucky 42-24. A trio of outstanding offensive performances led the Mocs. Quarterback B. J. Coleman threw for 375 yards and four touchdown passes. Joel Bradford grabbed 11 receptions for 254 yards and a touchdown. Runningback Errol Wynn ran for 122 yards and touchdown. ... Games between Elon and Richmond are pretty good contests. The teams went to overtime Saturday, where the Spiders won 27-21. Richmond blocked Adam Shreinerís 37-yard field goal attempt in overtime before scoring the winning touchdown. Despite the loss, Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette reached a number even Terrell Hudgins didnít: He caught a record 18 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. ... Appalachian State made quick work of North Carolina Central, rolling to a 24-0 lead en route to a 44-16 victory. Travaris Cadet rushed for 149 yards on just eight carries. Quarterbacks DeAndre Presley and Jamal Jackson combined for 196 yards through the air. Tory Sanders and D. J. Smith, meanwhile, posted 10 tackles each. ... Wofford scored on each of its six first-half possessions to roll past Union (Ky.) 45-10. Fullback Eric Breitenstein, who missed most of 2009 with an injury, scored on runs of 60 and 68 yards. Quarterback Mitch Allen and wide receiver Brenton Bersin combined for touchdown passes of 30 and 31 yards. ... Furman played at South Carolina and gave the Gamecocks a pretty good game. USC prevailed, of course, 38-19. The Paladins rallied a bit in the second half. True freshman Shawn Boone intercepted a pass and returned it three yards for one touchdown. Runningback Tersoo Uhaa threw a pass to wide receiver Adam Mims that turned into a 72-yard touchdown. Mims finished with 10 receptions for 202 yards. Furman did lose one of its two quarterbacks ó Chris Forcier ó to injury.
Big South Games
Liberty got snared in a trap game. One week after knocking off Ball State, the Flames fell to Robert Morris 30-23 on a 12-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds remaining. Quarterback Mike Brown threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns, but Liberty could not punch in a go-ahead score late in the game. The Flames instead settled for Matt Bevins kicking a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 23-23 with 1:19 remaining. Robert Morris then drove for the winning points. ... Brown and Stony Brook once again played an exciting game as the Bears defeated the Seawolves 33-30 in double overtime. Their three meetings have resulted in a total margin of 14 points. In this one, Stony Brookís Wesley Skiffington missed a 49-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation. But he made one in the second overtime to give the Seawolves a brief lead before Brown scored the winning touchdown. Brock Jackolski rushed for 135 yards and two scores on 21 carries for the Seawolves while Matt Brevi caught nine passes for 157 and a score. Cedrick Moore intercepted three passes for Stony Brook and made 12 tackles. ... Charleston Southern, behind the passing of A. J. Toscano, defeated Mars Hill 28-14. Toscano completed 16 of 26 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns. Gerald Stevenson grabbed six passes for 198 yards while James Nunley added four receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
THE GAMES OF SEPT. 25
Southern Conference Games
The Citadel (2-1, 0-0) at Furman (1-1, 0-0), 2 p.m.
Itís week two of Furmanís Palmetto State Triad. A week after playing South Carolina and a week before visiting Wofford, the Paladins host The Citadel in one of the stateís oldest football rivalries. For The Citadel, it will be the 1,000th football game in school history. Both of these teams are itching to spring to the top levels of the conference this season, and what a way to begin that effort by knocking off your rival. The Paladins and the Bulldogs will come ready to play. This will be the 90th meeting between the schools. Furman leads 55-33-1.
Appalachian State (3-0, 1-0) at Samford (2-1, 0-0), 3 p.m.
The Mountaineers roll into Alabama with momentum behind them, which just makes the task more difficult for the Bulldogs. Samford would love to jump into the SoCon discussion by pulling off the big upset. The Bulldogs will have to find a way to slow down the high-powered Appalachian State offense thatís racking up more than 500 yards a game. The Mountaineers lead the series 3-1.
Elon (1-2, 0-0) at Georgia Southern (2-1, 0-0), 6 p.m.
The Eagles have played well enough to stir some hope in Statesboro, especially with the defense, which has been one of the best in the country thus far. The Phoenix will present a stout challenge to that defense with their mix of running and passing. Georgia Southern leads the series 7-3.
UT-Chattanooga (1-2, 0-1) at Western Carolina (1-2, 0-0), 6 p.m.
Coming off its upset of Gardner-Webb, Western Carolina has the opportunity to take a big step toward climbing out of the SoCon cellar, just as University of Tennessee-Chattanooga did last season. The Mocs can ill afford a loss and an 0-2 SoCon start to its season of promise. Count on them being motivated as they visit the western North Carolina mountains. UTC leads the series 20-16.
Wofford (2-1, 0-0) has an open date.
Big South Conference Games
North Greenville (1-3) at Presbyterian College (0-3), Noon
Presbyterian College has not won a football game since Nov. 1, 2008. Thatís a long time and a lot of games. The Division II Crusaders represent a good opportunity for the Blue Hose to break that string. Still, theyíll have to put together a solid outing on both sides of the ball to get that victory. Presbyterian College has won all four meetings in this series.
VMI (1-1) at Virginia (1-1), 1:30 p.m.
These teams have one of the longest-running series in college football, and they will play for the 82nd time Saturday. VMI has won only 23 times in the series (Virginia has won 55 times with three ties). Getting win No. 24 stands as a tall order for the Keydets.
Delaware State (0-2) at Coastal Carolina (0-3), 6 p.m.
This is the first time the Chanticleers have started a season 0-3, so they will be intent on getting the win over the Hornets. Itís really a must win for Coastal Carolina. The teams have split the two previous encounters.
Liberty (2-1) at James Madison (2-0), 6 p.m.
The Flames take on the famous Dukes, which upset Virginia Tech two weeks ago. Liberty could raise its own profile significantly if it can knock off James Madison. The Flames have the offense, but can their defense hold the line. Liberty last beat the Dukes in 1992 and trail James Madison 10-5 in the series.
Massachusetts (1-1) at Stony Brook (1-2), 6 p.m.
The Seawolves still seek a breakthrough nonconference win, and maybe they can find the Minutemen down after they nearly upset Michigan last week. That will be tough, but Stony Brook has the stout running game to get the job done. The Seawolves just have to find a way to tighten its defense. UMass leads the series 2-0.
Gardner-Webb (2-1) at Sam Houston State (0-2), 7 p.m.
Two years ago, Sam Houston State visited Gardner-Webb and, behind Rhett Bomar, blew out the Runniní Bulldogs 49-33. Bomar now resides on the New York Giants practice squad, but the home-standing Bearkats still pose a challenge to Gardner-Webb. Even after losing to Western Carolina last week, this would be a good win for the Bulldogs.
Charleston Southern (2-1) at Hawaiíi (1-2), 11:35 p.m.
The Buccaneers make their second trip to the 50th state in the past four seasons (they lost to Hawaiíi in 2007). Charleston Southern has an open date the next week, so they can enjoy the long trip and the island scenery and give it a full effort against the FBS squad. Weíll see what that might create.