CSN So South Columnist
Thus far, the 2010 season has been good for Appalachian State football. By the time most of the Southern Conference teams completed one league game, Appalachian State already owned a 2-0 conference record.
The Mountaineers, looking to tie a SoCon record with their sixth consecutive title, are now 3-0 heading into the second half of the season.
With a home game against The Citadel and a road game at Western Carolina up next, ASU figures to be 5-0 when it reaches the homestretch of the league schedule.
That closing finish features Furman at home, at Georgia Southern and Wofford at home. Clearly, Appalachian State is the favorite for the league title.
From there, the second half of the season looks more confusing, but very exciting. Wofford has the edge on the others by having not lost thus far.
UT-Chattanooga has the advantage of two wins already, but the Mocs play Georgia Southern, Furman and Elon in the next three weeks. Keep in mind, Chattanooga was just a couple of points from being in the spot Appalachian State currently is.
Furman and Georgia Southern have pivotal road games this weekend that could be the key to their playoff hopes.
Both teams still have to play Appalachian State, so they can afford no slips. Samford is in much the same boat and really needs to beat Furman to stay in the discussion.
The wild card after one-half of the season is Elon. Picked by some to win the league and by almost everyone else to finish second, the Phoenix find themselves down the ladder at 1-2 in SoCon play.
The open date couldn't have come at a much better time, giving Elon the opportunity to refocus. The Phoenix's hopes for a conference title are probably done, but a second-place finish isn't impossible.
The four losses make a playoff berth dicey. Elon cannot lose again to have hope. That will be tough facing a schedule that includes Wofford and Furman at home and a road trip to Chattanooga.
Elon also has another problem for playoff eligibility. The NCAA Division I football committee has recommendations in their playoff manual that state that teams with less than seven Division I wins are in peril of not being selected for the playoffs.
The lone non-conference victory for Elon came against Division II Shaw, meaning the most Division I wins the Phoenix can finish with is six.
It should be a fun second half and the next three weeks should provide clarity to the race. By the end of the month, we will know which November games will decide the top spots and the SoCon's playoff participants.
Review of Games of Oct. 9
Liberty scored in only the second and fourth quarters but posted 16 and 28 points in those frames to defeat Charleston Southern 44-20 in the Big South opener for both teams.
It should be no surprise that Flames quarterback Mike Brown led the way with 403 total yards, three touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns. Defensive back Chris Mayo led the Liberty defense with six tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles.
Charleston Southern's offense stumbled in the second half, losing three fumbles and throwing an interception. Gerald Stevenson did contribute a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Bucs cornerback Charles James turned in a strong performance with seven solos and 10 total tackles. He also intercepted three passes and broke up four others.
Stony Brook opened defense of its Big South crown with a 27-9 victory over VMI. Five players did the bulk of the yardage work for the Seawolves. Running backs Miguel Maysonet and Brock Jackolski did most of the running. Maysonet ran 21 times for 99 yards while Jackolski carried it 17 times for 91 yards and a score.
Quarterback Michael Coulter was efficient, completing 14-of-19 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown. Nine of those completions and the score went to Jordan Gush (115 yards) while Matt Brevi (79 yards) caught the other five.
The Keydets mustered only eight yards rushing and 184 yards passing. Eighty of those passing yards came on Eric Kordenbrockís touchdown pass to Mario Scott, who caught seven passes for 107 yards. VMI suffered three turnovers, including a fumble that Stony Brook linebacker Rich Vitale recovered for a touchdown.
Coastal Carolina (1-4, 0-0), Gardner-Webb (2-3, 0-0), and Presbyterian College (0-5, 0-1) had the week off.
Keon Williams scored on a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs and B. J. Coleman passed for two more as Chattanooga defeated The Citadel 28-10.
The Bulldogs overcame a 14-0 deficit with a field goal and Terrell Dallasí touchdown run to make the score 14-10 at the half. Dallas led The Citadel offense with 67 yards rushing on 16 carries.
In the second half, the Mocs defense forced a trio of three-and-outs by the Bulldogs and made takeaways on the other two Citadel possessions. Ryan Consiglio paced UTC with 14 total tackles.
Furman rolled to a 42-7 halftime lead and blasted visiting Howard 56-14. The Paladins, who pulled several starters after halftime, produced 289 rushing yards and 153 passing yards.
Backup quarterback Dakota Derrick became the third signal-caller to see action for Furman this season (three more would play in this game after Derrick) and led the team in rushing Saturday with 92 yards and two touchdowns.
Middle linebackers Kadarron Anderson and Rick Furman led the Paladin defense with 12 and nine total tackles each.
In the showdown of the top two preseason picks in the SoCon, Elon and Appalachian State scored five times apiece. The Mountaineers scored five touchdowns, though, while the Phoenix produced four touchdowns and a field goal.
Once Appalachian State took a 10-point lead in the second quarter — on Cedric Bakerís 36-yard touchdown dash and DeAndre Presley's 53-yard jaunt — the Mountaineers never trailed again.
Not that the Phoenix didn't try to overtake Appalachian State. Scott Riddle (31-of-43, 394 yards) threw four touchdowns, three of them to Aaron Mellette (nine receptions, 127 yards).
Riddle's last scoring pass went to Sean Jeffcoat (eight catches, 102 yards) to cut the margin to three. Appalachian State ran out the final 3:44 to take the victory.
Mountaineer linebacker D. J. Smith made 14 total tackles while his Elon counterpart, Brandon Wood, finished with 13 total tackles.
Samford scored 24 second-quarter points en route to a 38-7 victory over Western Carolina.
Bulldogs running back Chris Evans ran for 131 yards and three touchdowns. He now has 4,019 career rushing yards. Connor Lowery hit Jacobi Rodriguez for a 75-yard touchdown pass.
The Catamounts threw four interceptions, one of which Jamael Lett returned 59 yards for a touchdown. Michael Johnson ran for 117 yards on 14 carries for Western Carolina.
Wofford and Georgia Southern have developed the exciting habit of playing down to the wire, and the 2010 edition of this game fell right in line in Statesboro, Ga.
Wofford went up 14-0 early before the Eagles scored the next 12 points. The teams traded scores until Georgia Southern scored back-to-back to take a 31-27 lead in the fourth quarter.
Darreion Robinson (116 yards rushing on seven carries) darted 78 yards for the second of those scores. Terrier fullback Eric Breitenstein raced five yards for a touchdown with 5:52 left in the game to account for the winning points.
Wofford turned the ball over on downs near midfield with 1:37 remaining, but a seven-yard loss and a six-yard sack kept the Eagles from threatening. In this battle of rushing attacks, Wofford ran for 302 yards, Georgia Southern for 243.
Preview of Oct. 16 Games
BIG SOUTH GAMES
Stony Brook (2-3, 1-0) at Lafayette (0-5), 1 p.m.
Though not a conference game, Stony Brook's game with Lafayette is important. And don't get too hung up on Lafayetteís winless record.
The Leopards lost their first three games by a total of 12 points (one of them in overtime). A road win would mean a lot for the Seawolves and would give them a .500 mark heading into the finishing kick in the conference.
Gardner-Webb (2-3, 0-0) at Charleston Southern (2-3, 0-1), 1:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs and the Bucs play close games, and this year's game should be another tight contest. Both teams need a win if they are to challenge for the Big South crown. You would think that the week off would help Gardner-Webb because Charleston Southern had to play at Liberty last week. Then again, the Bucs do have their backs to the wall with that one loss and quarterback A. J. Toscano got hurt at Liberty.
Liberty (4-2, 1-0) at VMI (1-1, 2-3), 1:30 p.m.
The Flames still have the habit of keeping the scoreboard in motion, and they likely will again this week. Liberty is 16th nationally in scoring offense while VMI is 75th in scoring defense. The Keydets will have to find a way to defend the multiple threats of quarterback Mike Brown and the rest of the Flames offense.
Coastal Carolina (1-4, 0-0) at Presbyterian College (0-5, 0-1), 2 p.m.
So maybe the week off advantage doesn't apply to either team in this one since the Chanticleers and the Blue Hose took last Saturday off. PC could use an advantage of some type right now as it tries to break the ultralong losing streak. Coastal Carolina, meanwhile, knows this is the beginning of an opportunity to return to the top of the league. This is the first of six straight Big South games for the Chanticleers.
Western Carolina (2-4, 1-2) at Wofford (4-1, 2-0), 1:30 p.m.
The Terriers are positioning themselves for a run at the SoCon title by knocking off two big rivals to start the conference slate. This game could be a trap game, but Wofford should be able to avoid one at home. The Catamounts will need to find a formula on offense to match the Terriers scoring ability. Wofford leads the series 20-12.
Furman (3-2, 1-1) at Samford (3-3, 1-2), 2 p.m.
The last two games in this series have ended with the Paladins blocking a kick on the game's final play to protect a lead and garner a win. It doesn't seem likely that will happen again, but it should be a close game. The Bulldogs and the Paladins will go at this one at full tilt, knowing how vital the game is. The loser likely drops out of the race. Furman holds the edge in the series, 7-5.
The Citadel (2-4, 0-3) at Appalachian State (5-0, 3-0), 6 p.m.
Last year, the Bulldogs took Appalachian State to overtime before losing. That was at home. This one will be at the Rock, and the Mountaineers are on a roll. Appalachian State has done pretty well against the run this year, which, of course, is how The Citadel makes its offensive living. The Bulldogs will have to run the ball and control the clock to keep that high-scoring Appalachian State offense (40 points a game) on the sidelines. The Mountaineers have dominated the series, leading 27-11.
Georgia Southern (3-2, 1-1) at UT-Chattanooga (3-2, 2-1), 6 p.m.
This might be the key match up of the weekend. Both teams appear to be on upward trends and are still in position to challenge for a top-level spot. Look for how well the Mocs defense — which allows only 119 yards rushing a game — does against the Eagles' option offense that runs for more than 267 yards a game. Conversely, can Georgia Southern stop the Chattanooga passing attack? Georgia Southern has won 20 of the 23 games in this series.
Elon (2-4, 1-2) has an open date.