By Myron Hosea
CSN South Columnist
Just as we had been thinking for about a month, the Southern Conference championship will be decided this Saturday in Boone when Appalachian State hosts Wofford.
We were thinking, though, both teams would be unbeaten in league games when they got there.
Georgia Southern knocked that thinking off kilter last week with a 21-14 overtime upset of the Mountaineers. Meanwhile, Wofford overcame an upset threat of its own in Birmingham, defeating Samford 10-3.
The Terriers roll into the Rock – where they experienced a nightmare on the mountain on a Halloween night two years ago – with a 6-0 SoCon mark, one-half game ahead of the Mountaineers who are 6-1.
The situation is simple: the winner wins the conference and the automatic bid to the expanded FCS playoffs.
It’s Appalachian State’s final conference game – the Mountaineers opened the season with a win at Chattanooga. If they win, they’ll have at least a tie in terms of record and will own the head-to-head versus the Terriers.
Wofford still has a home game with a tough Chattanooga team remaining on Nov. 20. Still, if the Terriers beat Appalachian State, they can lose to the Mocs and win a share of the conference title and the playoff auto-bid, thanks to Georgia Southern’s win last Saturday.
Saturday’s game in Boone pits two of the best teams around the FCS world.
Wofford leads the nation in rushing offense (326 yards per game) and is top 25 in scoring offense (31 points) and total offense (400).
The Terriers play a pretty good brand of defense, too. They lead the SoCon in scoring defense (17 points), rushing defense (127), pass defense (147), and total defense (274 – fifth nationally).
The Mountaineers aren’t too bad, either. They are fourth nationally and tops in the conference in scoring offense (36 points).
ASU's rush offense is 10th-best in the country (225), and the Mountaineers are sixth nationally in total offense (449).
Appalachian State’s defense doesn’t rank as high nationally as Wofford’s, but it’s solid and opportunistic. The Mountaineers are second in the league against the run (139), so it will be fun to watch them square off against Wofford’s option attack.
Each team brings exciting individual stars to the contest as well.
Appalachian State quarterback DeAndre Presley is seventh nationally in pass efficiency and eighth in total offense. He also is third in the SoCon in rushing.
Fullback Eric Breitenstein, ironically a prep football legend during his days at Boone's Watauga High School, has been a vital cog in Wofford’s success.
Breitenstein is the SoCon’s top rusher and ranks sixth-best in the country, averaging 167 yards a game. He also is tied for first in FCS in scoring at 11.33 per game.
There are plenty of good defensive playmakers, too, including linebacker D. J. Smith safety Mark LeGree and defensive end Jabari Fletcher of Appalachian State (all Buchanan Award candidates) and Wofford defensive end Amett Pall, the nation’s leader in sack per game (1.39).
Add all of that together, and you have a great game to watch Saturday afternoon.
Review of Games of November 6, 2010
Big South Conference
Liberty 40, Gardner-Webb 14
Liberty loved the way Danny Broggin started Saturday’s game with Gardner-Webb as he returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. The Flames went on to defeat the Runnin’ Bulldogs 40-14.
Gardner-Webb tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Browning to Jamal Patmon.
The Flames responded with 26 unanswered points.
Liberty quarterback Mike Brown ran for 77 yards and a touchdown and threw for 220 and two scores. Chris Summers registered both of the scoring passes among his seven catches for 119 yards.
Defensively, Liberty linebacker Kyle O’Donnell made 10 total tackles and one tackle for loss while his Gardner-Webb counterpart Devin Johnson made eight stops with a tackle for loss, a fumble forced, and a fumble recovered.
Stony Brook 37, Presbyterian 7
Stony Brook kept pace with Liberty by rolling to a 37-7 road win over Presbyterian College. Quarterback Michael Coulter tossed four touchdown passes for the Seawolves.
The Sea Wolves didn’t turn away from their stout running game as Miguel Maysonet ran 20 times for 135 yards and Brock Jackolski added 14 carries for 101 yards.
Stony Brook won in total yardage, too, 508 to 176.
Seth Moreland scored PC’s lone touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Ryan Singer.
Coastal Carolina 31, VMI 3
Coastal Carolina spotted VMI a 22-yard Jeff Sexton field goal before rolling to a 31-3 victory.
Chanticleer quarterback Zach MacDowall helped his team stay in the Big South race by completing 16 passes in a row en route to an 18-of-24 day for 254 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
He spread those completions around to 11 players.
Coastal Carolina outgained VMI 354 to 199. Keon Cunningham returned an interception 39 yards for the last Chanticleer touchdown of the day.
Kentucky 49, Charleston Southern 21
Charleston Southern posted three touchdowns in its road game at SEC team Kentucky, but that wasn’t nearly enough as the Wildcats won 49-21.
Freshman quarterback Malcolm Dixon turned in the offensive performance of the day for the Bucs, rushing for 96 yards on 19 carries while hitting seven of eight passes for 45 yards.
Charleston Southern hung around for much of the first half, tying the game at 7-7 in the opening period on Gerald Stevenson’s 12-yard run and pulling even at 14-14 in the second quarter when Andrew Trudnowski completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Deon Lee.
Georgia Southern 21, Appalachian State 14 (OT)
Georgia Southern spotted Appalachian State a 14-0 first quarter lead but then shut out the high-powered Mountaineers the rest of the way to win a 21-14 overtime thriller in Statesboro.
Freshman running back Robert Brown scored on a four-yard run on the Eagles’ overtime possession. Then, linebacker Darius Eubanks forced a fumble on the Appalachian State possession to seal the win.
Short touchdown runs by DeAndre Presley and Devon Moore gave Appalachian State its early lead.
Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw got the Eagles back in it with five seconds left in the first half on a one-yard touchdown run. Darreion Robinson tied the game at 14-14 with a two-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
Presley finished with 277 yards of total offense while Shaw produced 192 yards of total offense.
Wofford 10, Samford 3
The rushing attacks of Wofford and Samford butted heads in Birmingham Saturday, creating a defensive struggle locked at 3-3 in the third quarter.
Cameron Yaw gave the Bulldogs the lead with a 36-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
On the first series of the second half, Christian Reed’s 32-yard field goal tied the game.
Later in the third, Samford punter Bob Hooper averaged 44.7 yards a kick and dropped three inside the 20, including one at the two.
All that did, in the end, was position the Terriers for a dramatic drive. They went on a 98-yard, 12-play drive that didn’t end until 12:20 remained in the final period.
The last play came when quarterback Mitch Allen ran it in from the five for the game’s winning points. Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the season, running for 227 yards on 28 carries in this game.
Samford’s running back, Chris Evans, accounted for 106 of his team’s 107 yards on the ground, and became the all-time leading rushing the state of Alabama (he has 4,427 yards rushing).
Furman 31, Western Carolina 17
It looked bleak at halftime when Furman, with a sophomore quarterback starting for the first time, trailed Western Carolina 17-14.
That quarterback, Dakota Derrick, brought the Paladins back for a 31-17 victory. He threw for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added 71 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Jerry Williams ran 15 times for 87 yards while Tersoo Uhaa chipped in 62 yards on the ground and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).
Meanwhile, Furman’s defense clamped down as the Catamounts’ second-half possessions ended in three punts, a lost fumble, and a missed field goal.
Western Carolina’s Deja Alexander turned four receptions for 106 yards while Angelo Brown and Brandon Vaught registered 13 and 11 total tackles respectively.
Elon 27, The Citadel 16
Trying to save its season down the stretch, Elon fell behind The Citadel 10-7 and 16-14 before pulling out a 27-16 win.
Brandon Newsome (19 carries, 76 yards) scored on touchdown runs of five and two yards in the fourth quarter to led the Phoenix back.
The Bulldogs had taken their two leads on seven-yard touchdown runs by Christian Robinson and then Terrell Dallas.
Phoenix quarterback Thomas Wilson scored on a pair of one-yard touchdown runs and completed 15 of 21 passes for 145 yards.
Three Elon defenders – Brandon Wiggins, Blake Thompson, and Joshua Jones – posted double digits in total tackles as did The Citadel’s Tolu Akindele.
Auburn 62, Chattanooga 24
Chattanooga watched Auburn roll up lots of points early – 27 in the first quarter and 48 in the first half – as the Tigers defeated the Mocs 62-24.
Brian Sutherland provided some of the highlights for Chattanooga, returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and catching 10 passes for 97 yards. Mocs quarterback B. J. Coleman threw for 210 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-39 passes.
Preview of Games of November 13, 2010
Big South Conference
Liberty (7-2, 4-0) at Coastal Carolina (4-5, 3-1), 1 p.m.
When Coastal Carolina won three Big South titles from 2004 to 2006, it defeated Liberty each time. If the Chanticleers are to have a shot at this year’s title, they must beat the Flames Saturday.
It won’t be easy, but hosting the Flames helps. Liberty remains a dangerous team offensively, averaging 35 points a game, but Coastal can score, too (27 points per game). Liberty leads the series 4-3.
Gardner-Webb (3-6, 1-3) at Stony Brook (5-4, 4-0), 1 p.m.
Injuries and closes losses have made for a challenging season for the Bulldogs. It doesn’t help that they have to play Liberty and Stony Brook on the road on successive weekends. Last weekend, the Seawolves showed they still have a passing dimension to balance its strong running game. The fledgling series is tied 1-1.
Presbyterian College (1-8, 1-4) at Charleston Southern (2-7, 0-4), 1:30 p.m.
If you want to be cynical, you can call this a battle for last place in the Big South. It is an opportunity for both teams to salvage some positives to this season by closing strong.
Though they’ve just recently become Big South opponents, this will be the 18th meeting between these Palmetto State teams. PC leads the series 12-5, but the Blue Hose have not beaten the Bucs since 2005.
VMI (3-6, 2-3) at Old Dominion (6-3), 3:30 p.m.
The Keydets have a shot at a five-win season if they can capture the final two games. That won’t be easy, especially this week. The Monarchs have done well in the first two years of their program, and they defeated VMI last year.
Furman (5-4, 3-3) at Elon (4-5, 3-3), 1:30 p.m.
Both of these teams are fighting for a respectable finish. There’s still chatter about Furman having a playoff shot if it can sweep the last two games.
No easy task. Elon has put together a couple of wins, and the Phoenix can earn a winning record and a third-place finish with a season-ending sweep. Furman, which leads the series 10-3, had won eight in a row over Elon before the Phoenix won the last two.
Samford (4-5, 2-4) at Chattanooga (5-4, 4-2), 2 p.m.
Chattanooga still controls its shot at a top three finish. Samford has slipped to spoiler mode, though a winning record remains within reach. This should be a tough contest, and both teams have a lot of experience playing tough games this year. Chattanooga leads the series 23-9-3.
Georgia Southern (5-4, 3-3) at Western Carolina (2-7, 1-5), 3 p.m.
Okay, when it appears the Eagles have something going, they slip up (i.e. e., Samford two weeks ago). Then, they pull the big upset over Appalachian State. Georgia Southern has dominated this series – winning 18 out of the 20 games – but it would be wise to say, “You never know.”
Wofford (8-1/6-0) at Appalachian State (8-1/6-1), 3 p.m.
We’ve already said a lot about this match up. Winner wins the SoCon and punches a ticket to the playoffs is the bottom line. Appalachian State leads the series 16-10.
The Citadel (2-8/0-7) has an open date.