By Myron Hosea, CSN So South Columnist
Among all of the games featuring SoCon and Big South teams last week, three stood out not only for their impact but also for their fourth-quarter fireworks.
OK, so Wofford, the rushing team, beat Elon, the passing team, by throwing a 41-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds. Just what you would expect, right?
Elon did pass the ball around in the second half to erase a 21-0 Terrier advantage before Wofford made its game-winning play.
The victory keeps Wofford on the trail of league-leading Appalachian State while pushing Elon further away from a return to the playoffs.
Chattanooga appeared down and out, headed for yet another loss to Furman when the fourth quarter began. The Mocs, however, used two Furman turnovers and B.J. Coleman's passing to score four touchdowns and win 36-28.
The game set back Furman's attempt to return to the playoffs but keeps alive Chattanooga's amazing recovery from years of dismal results.
Presbyterian College and Gardner-Webb played seesaw Saturday until the Blue Hose got the final lead change for a 26-24 victory.
The win ended a 20-game, two-year losing streak. It also gave PC's Harold Nichols his first career head coaching victory. Can you spell relief?
Glancing at the league standings, the SoCon breaks into three sections. The top section includes Appalachian State at 5-0, Wofford at 4-0, and Chattanooga at 4-1.
These teams have the best control of their destiny. The Mountaineers have already survived Chattanooga, and their game in Boone with Wofford on Nov. 13 is beginning to loom large.
Section two features Furman and Georgia Southern. The teams are 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference.
The Paladins and the Eagles still have the opportunity for winning SoCon records but getting into section one will require help. Both already have lost to Wofford and Chattanooga. They are Appalachian State's next two opponents (Furman, then Georgia Southern). Those are must wins now for the Paladins and the Eagles.
Section three contains everyone else. Samford and Elon still have a shot at a winning conference record. Samfordís next three opponents are all above them in the standings. Elon still has to go to Chattanooga and play Furman.
Over in the Big South, it's still a little early, but it appears to once again be a showdown between Liberty and Stony Brook for the title. They are 2-0 in the league and headed for a decisive game in the season's final week.
VMI also has two victories, but the Keydets have lost two games as well. Gardner-Webb and Coastal Carolina can still make a move, but that could be just one of them after they meet this weekend.
Review of Games of Oct. 23
Big South Conference
Presbyterian 26, Gardner-Webb 24
Cam Miller kicked a 31-yard field goal with 2:24 to go to end a long drought for Presbyterian College. The Blue Hose edged Gardner-Webb 26-24, breaking a 20-game losing streak.
The lead changed hands seven times, and the Bulldogs had gone ahead four minutes earlier on Ryan Gatesí 21-yard field goal. Defensive back Justin Bethel, who as a freshman figured prominently in PCís last win two years ago, sealed the victory with an interception at the 1:05 mark.
The Blue Hose sacked Gardner-Webb quarterback John Rock nine times. Bulldog runningback Patrick Hall rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
VMI 34, Charleston Southern 16
VMI broke open a close game with 17 fourth-quarter points to earn a 34-16 conference road win over Charleston Southern. Keydets runningback Chaz Jones ran for 51 yards and three touchdowns.
The VMI defense contributed to the victory with four interceptions, one of which Greg Walker returned 58 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker A. J. Gross was in on 17 tackles and picked off a pass.
Gerald Stevenson caught seven passes for 129 yards and a score while his Bucs teammate Deon Lee snared six passes for 112 yards.
Stony Brook 38, Coastal Carolina 28
Stony Brook jumped to a 31-0 first-half lead, then held off a Coastal Carolina rally to win 38-28. Miguel Maysonet ran for 197 yards and three touchdowns for the Seawolves.
Chanticleers quarterbacks Zach MacDowall and Aramis Hillary threw for 103 and 100 yards, respectively, but Coastal Carolina had trouble getting a rhythm going. Four possessions ended in turnovers while twice more the Chants were stopped on downs.
Liberty (5-2/2-0) had an open date.
Wofford 28, Elon 21
Run-oriented Wofford beat Elon with the pass. Devin Reed went up between two defenders while falling back to catch a 41-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Allen for the winning points in a 28-21 victory.
That score came with nine seconds left. The Terriers rolled to a 21-0 lead on two first-half touchdown runs by Eric Breitenstein (152 yards rushing) and Mike Ruckerís 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half.
Phoenix quarterback Scott Riddle threw three touchdowns in the second half to tie the game. Sean Jeffcoat (eight catches), Lance Camp (seven) and Aaron Mellette (six) combined to catch two-thirds of Riddle's completions.
Linebacker Mike Niam, who recently returned from a long-term injury, led Woffordís defense with 13 total tackles.
Chattanooga 36, Furman 28
Chattanooga not only rallied from an 18-point deficit to Furman, it did so by scoring 26 points within a five-minute stretch of the fourth quarter for a key 36-28 win.
It ended a 15-game losing streak for the Mocs to Furman. Mocs quarterback B. J. Coleman overcame four interceptions to throw for 432 yards. Joel Bradford was his top target, catching 15 passes for 274 yards.
Chattanooga ran 102 plays to Furmanís 54 and outgained the Paladins 568 to 227. Furman cornerback Ryan Steed returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown, his second interception return for a score in as many weeks.
Georgia Southern 20, The Citadel 0
Georgia Southern converted turnovers into points to defeat The Citadel 20-0. It was the Eagles' first shutout since 2003.
Four Bulldog fumbles led to all of Georgia Southernís points. When starting quarterback Jaybo Shaw went out with an injury, freshman Jerick McKinnon came on to run 35 times for 182 and a touchdown.
The Bulldogs lost four fumbles and three interceptions and managed just 113 yards on the ground. The teams combined for this passing stat: three completions in 12 attempts for 47 yards.
Appalachian 37, Western Carolina 14
A 20-0 first quarter launched Appalachian State to a 37-14 victory over Western Carolina, keeping the Old Mountain Jug in Boone.
Mountaineers quarterback DeAndre Presley rushed for three touchdowns and 87 yards. He added 185 yards through the air. Deja Alexander caught nine passes for Western Carolina while Catamounts quarterback Zac Brindise threw for 261 yards.
Samford (3-4/1-3) had an open date.
Preview of Games of Oct. 30
Big South Conference
VMI (3-4/2-2) at Army (4-3), Noon
The military school in Virginia travels north to face the U. S. Military Academy. The Keydets have played the Black Knights a couple of times, and on this trip they will find a much-improved Army team. VMI is playing better (having surpassed last yearís win total), but it will need to be close to perfect to have an opportunity at West Point. Army leads the series 2-0.
Coastal Carolina (2-5/1-1) at Gardner-Webb (3-4/1-1), 1:30 p.m.
Both teams come off difficult and disappointing home losses that seriously damaged their hopes for a title chase. With just four conference games remaining, including this one, the loser will be in a tough spot. Coastal Carolina leads the series 6-1.
Liberty (5-2/2-0) at Presbyterian College (1-6/1-2), 1:30 p.m.
Two years ago this weekend, Presbyterian College upset a highly ranked Liberty team, a defeat that likely played a role in the Flames missing out on an at-large playoff berth. It also was the last time the Blue Hose won until last week. While PC has more confidence than the team has had in some time, Liberty has had a week to prepare. The Flames are first in the league in scoring offense and scoring defense while the Blue Hose are last in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense. PC leads the series 4-3.
Charleston Southern (2-5/0-3) at Stony Brook (3-4/2-0), 3 p.m.
The Buccaneers make the long trip north trying to get out of an 0-3 conference tailspin. They havenít had to deal with that since 2003. They play a Seawolves team in good position for defending its 2009 Big South title. The Seawolves likely wonít forget how Charleston Southern upset them last season. Stony Brook features the top two runningbacks in the league (187 yards per game), who face a Bucs rush defense ranked fifth in the conference (175 per game). The series is tied 1-1.
The Citadel (2-6/0-5) at Wofford (6-1/4-0), 1:30 p.m.
These Palmetto state rivals lean on the option ground game, but The Citadel is just learning what Wofford does at a top level. The Bulldogs saw last week that putting the ball on the ground leads to bad things, and they canít turn the ball over against the Terriers. It will be interesting to see if these teams top the 12 pass attempts the Bulldogs and Georgia Southern combined to throw last week. Donít blink, fans. This one could go quickly. The Citadel leads the series 40-21-1.
Elon (2-5/1-3) at Chattanooga (5-2/4-1), 2 p.m.
The Phoenix and the Mocs are headed in opposite directions. A top-level finish is pretty much out the door for Elon, but it can still push for third with a late run that has to begin with this one. Chattanooga, meanwhile, smells its best finish in years and knows beating Elon is key to that end. The current top two active career SoCon leaders in passing yardage (Elonís Scott Riddle is one, Chattanoogaís B. J. Coleman is two) will square off at Finley Stadium. Elon leads the series 5-2.
Samford (3-4/1-3) at Georgia Southern (4-3/2-2), 2 p.m.
The Eagles still have hope for a top three finish, but every game counts. Theyíll host a Samford team that has won the last two meetings in this series. Expect a tough, low-scoring game. Georgia Southern leads the series 3-2.
Furman (4-3/2-2) at Appalachian State (7-0/5-0), 3:30 p.m.
The question for this game had been whether the Paladins could finally rid themselves of this block theyíve developed with Appalachian State. They have lost five in a row to the Mountaineers and the last seven at Boone. Now you add the question of Furmanís psyche after blowing an 18-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss that severely dented the Paladinsí playoff hopes. Appalachian State is averaging 479 yards of total offense each game, which is 106 more than Furman gives up per contest. Furman leads the series 21-16-3.
Western Carolina (2-6/1-4) has an open date.