Four Teams From South Region Earn Playoff Spots
Playoff expansion proves to be fruitful for the Big South Conference and Southern Conference as four teams from the south advance to the NCAA's championship tournament
By Myron Hosea
CSN South Columnist
The expansion of the FCS playoffs proved fruitful for the Southern and Big South conferences as four teams from the two leagues earned spots in the 2010 bracket.
Of course, this year's postseason represents a historic moment for the Big South Conference — the league's first automatic qualifier to the playoffs. The SoCon, meanwhile, finally gets a third team into the postseason, something the league has missed for some time.
On the Big South side, Coastal Carolina remains the only program in the conference to make the FCS playoffs.
The Chanticleers earned an at-large berth in the 2006 edition, losing at eventual national champion Appalachian State in the first round. No other Big South program had managed that prior to this year's automatic qualification.
Coastal Carolina earned the Big South's first automatic spot on the strength of four straight wins and an audacious final weekend.
The Chanticleers needed their own win and a Liberty victory along with Stony Brook giving up a ton of points, all of which happened.
Those three teams wound up tied atop the Big South with 5-1 records, meaning the team with fewest points allowed in conference games would get the bid.
Despite holding a 38-point advantage heading into the weekend in that category, Stony Brook surrendered 54 points in losing to Liberty, while Coastal Carolina held Charleston Southern to just three points.
So Coastal Carolina, which gave up just seven, three and three points in three of its final six games, made the cut.
Coastal Carolina (6-5), which has the fewest wins among the 20 teams in the playoffs, will host Western Illinois (7-4).
While Appalachian State was losing to Florida, Wofford rolled to a surprisingly easy 45-14 home win over Chattanooga, earning the Terriers a co-championship in the SoCon with the Mountaineers.
Appalachian State earned the SoCon bid because it beat Wofford, 43-13, a week early at home.
Georgia Southern, which rallied late in the game to defeat Furman, finished with seven wins and returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Chattanooga came close, but losing to Wofford ended its hopes.
Georgia Southern drew a Nov. 27 game, playing at home versus South Carolina State (9-2).
Wofford and Appalachian State received byes for Saturday.
On Dec. 4, the Mountaineers — the top seed for the playoffs — will host the winner of the Coastal Carolina-Western Illinois game.
Wofford also will play on Dec. 4, traveling to Jacksonville State (9-2).
Here's a quick preview of the two games featuring Big South and Southern Conference teams this Saturday.
Western Illinois (7-4) at Coastal Carolina (6-5), 1 p.m.
The Chanticleers donít offer a high-ranked offense or defense, but they have learned how to win during the second half of the season. They won their last four games and six of the last eight. CCU's only conference loss was to Stony Brook.
Coastal Carolina ranks no higher than 30th in rushing, passing or total offense, but it has shown a knack for scoring. The Chanticleers rank 13th nationally in scoring, averaging 33 points a game.
Coastal Carolina may need that scoring knack Saturday.
The Leathernecks are sixth nationally in scoring at 35.6 points a game. Western Illinois is second in total offense (484 yards a game), eighth in passing (285) and 19th in rushing (199.45).
Part of Coastal Carolina's scoring has come from its defense.
In their finishing kick, the Chanticleers returned three interceptions for touchdowns. They also returned a punt for a score against Charleston Southern.
The defense will need to produce scoring opportunities for the Chanticleer offense.
Coastal also would benefit from senior quarterback Zach MacDowall continuing his great play.
In the four-game winning streak, he threw 11 touchdown passes while running for four more. He rushed for eight scores and threw for 20 more on the season, finishing with 2,340 yards passing and 307 rushing (second on the team).
Western Illinois senior quarterback Matt Barr ranked second in the FCS in pass efficiency and averaged 317 yards of total offense a game.
Defensively, the Leathernecks turn to senior linebacker Kyle Glazier who is third in the nation with 12.45 tackles per game.
South Carolina State (9-2) at Georgia Southern (7-4), 2 p.m.
The Eagles have one of the longest records of involvement and success in the playoffs. They just haven't been involved for a while, missing out the last four seasons before breaking through this year.
Like Coastal Carolina (the Eagles beat them in Conway this year, by the way), Georgia Southern charged in to the playoffs with a late-season winning streak. Three straight wins and four out of five lifted the Eagles over the hump.
It's interesting that the Eaglesí return to the playoffs coincides with the return to the triple option offense so intertwined to the program's history of playoffs and championships.
Jeff Monken, a former Georgia Southern assistant, returned to Statesboro from Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw came with him and produced 13 rushing touchdowns despite missing time with injuries.
Georgia Southern's rushing attack performed well, finishing fifth in the FCS with 250 yards a game. Freshman fullback Robert Brown added a spark late in the season and led the team with 645 yards on the ground.
The Eagles drew one of the toughest opponents in the field.
South Carolina State won nine games. The Bulldogs have lost at Appalachian State in each of the past two playoffs, giving the Mountaineers all they could handle.
Georgia Southern faces a tough task if it hopes to get past the visiting Bulldogs.
Defense likely will be the story of this contest. Georgia Southern is 10th in total defense (292 yards a game) and scoring defense (18 points per game). It also is 19th against the pass (166) and 28th in stopping the rush (125).
South Carolina State is even better — ranked best in the nation, as a matter of fact. The Bulldogs lead the nation in rush defense (70), pass defense (126) and total defense (197). They give up just 13 points a game, second-best in FCS.
These two squads don't rely on just the offense to score.
South Carolina State scored twice on interception returns and once on a fumble return. The Eagles returned one pick for a score and two fumbles for touchdowns. The Bulldogs added four touchdowns on punt returns.
When the Bulldogs go to the air, they will need to be mindful of Georgia Southern defensive back Laron Scott, who has intercepted six passes.
Lamb's long association with Furman ends
One day before his Paladin football team would take the field for its last game of the 2010 season, head coach Bobby Lamb announced the contest with Georgia Southern would be his last with the program.
His association of almost 30 years that began as a quarterback — he guided the 1985 Furman team to the Division 1-AA championship game — and continued as an assistant and then head coach ended in a sad manner.
Georgia Southern, the school that beat the Paladins in that 1985 game, rallied for 15 points in the final three minutes Saturday to defeat Furman 32-28.
While the Eagles clinched their first playoff spot since 2005, the Paladins left the field with a losing record for the only time in Lamb's tenure as head coach.
This writer always found Lamb to have lots of class and was always accommodating to our questions no matter the outcome of the game. Hopefully, he will find his way back to the game somewhere in some capacity.
Furman now begins the process of finding a new leader for a football program that has a history of success through the last four decades but hasn't made the playoffs the last four seasons.
This will be an important hire for new university president Dr. Rod Smolla and athletics director Dr. Gary Clark.
Furman's program needs to do some catching up to its SoCon and southeast brethren, and the new coach will have to be front and center of those efforts. The Paladin fan base is loyal, but it also is interested in Furman once again being in contention for first place in the conference, not third or fourth.
There likely are several possible candidates, including some inside the Furman family, if you will.
One name that continues to jump out in local chatter and local media is former Furman quarterback Billy Napier, currently the offensive coordinator at nearby Clemson University.
Media reports indicate Clemson has given permission for Furman to talk with Napier next week once Clemson's regular season has ended this Saturday against South Carolina.
The 2010 Final Conference Standings
Here is a quick rundown on the season for each team in the Big South and the Southern conferences.
Big South Conference
Team Big South Record Overall Record
Coastal Carolina 5-1 6-5
Four wins in a row lifted Chants to Big South's first AQ bid.
Liberty 5-1 8-3
Eight wins once again were not enough to get Flames an at-large bid.
Stony Brook 5-1 6-5
Seawolves came close; earned second-straight co-Big South championship.
Gardner-Webb 2-4 4-7
Injuries and inconsistencies led to Bulldogs' worst outcome in years.
Virginia Military Institute 2-4 3-8
Keydets spent season getting used to a new offense.
Charleston Southern 1-5 3-8
Six straight losses in the middle of the season doomed Bucs.
Presbyterian College 1-5 2-9
Blue Hose finally ended the two-year losing streak.
Team SoCon Record Overall Record
Appalachian State 7-1 9-2
Mountaineers win yet another SoCon championship.
Wofford 7-1 9-2
Terriers bounced back really well from down year in 2009.
Georgia Southern 5-3 7-4
Return to option offense and tough defense equaled return to playoffs.
Chattanooga 5-3 6-5
Three losses came to top-10 teams, two of them by a total of five points.
Elon 5-3 6-5
Phoenix won last four, but it wasnít enough for return to the playoffs.
Furman 3-5 5-6
Bobby Lamb era at Furman ended with his first losing season as head coach.
Samford 2-6 4-7
Bulldogs played tough, losing three games by a total of 13 points.
The Citadel 1-7 3-8
New offense and inexperienced players added up to difficult season.
Western Carolina 1-7 2-9
Catamounts still looking for more playmakers and depth.
Big South Awards
Offensive Player of the Year: Mike Brown, QB, R-Jr, Liberty
Defensive Player of the Year: Andrae Jacobs, LB, So, Coastal Carolina
Freshman of the Year: Preston Pemasa, DL, Fr, Gardner-Webb
Coach of the Year: David Bennett, Coastal Carolina
Scholar Athlete of the Year: Michael Coulter, QB, Jr, Stony Brook
First Team Offense
QB: Mike Brown, R-Jr, Liberty
RB: Miguel Maysonet, So, Stony Brook
RB: Brock Jackolski, Jr, Stony Brook
WR: Chris Summers, R-Jr, Liberty
WR: James Perry III, R-Jr, Gardner-Webb
TE: David Duran, R-Jr, Coastal Carolina
OL: Paul Fenaroli, Sr, Stony Brook
OL: Alex Stadler, R-Sr, Liberty
OL: Corey OíDaniel, Sr, Gardner-Webb
OL: Justin Vargas, R-Sr, Liberty
OL: Brian Crew, Sr, Stony Brook
First Team Defense
DL: Preston Pemasa, Fr, Gardner-Webb
DL: Terry Adams, R-Sr, Liberty
DL: Josh Wine, Sr, VMI
DL: Asa Chapman, Jr, Liberty
LB: Andrae Jacobs, So, Coastal Carolina
LB: A. J. Gross, R-Jr, VMI
LB: Kyle OíDonnell, R-Sr, Liberty
LB: Chris Patrick, R-Sr, Charleston Southern
DB: Arin West, Sr, Stony Brook
DB: Josh Norman, Jr, Coastal Carolina
DB: Charles James, R-So, Charleston Southern
DB: Dominique Davenport, R-Sr, Coastal Carolina
First Team Specialists
PK: Matt Bevins, Jr, Liberty
P: Mike Larsson, Jr, Liberty
LS: Daniel Bonifas, R-Sr, Coastal Carolina
KR: Gerald Stevenson, Sr, Charleston Southern
PR: Michael Rainey-Wiles, Sr, VMI
Southern Conference Coaches All-Conference
Offensive Player of the Year ñ DeAndre Presley, QB, Jr, Appalachian State
Defensive Player of the Year ñ Ameet Pall, DL, Jr, Wofford
Freshman of the Year ñ Kadeem Wise, DB, Chattanooga
Jacobs Blocking ñ Pat Illig, OL, Sr, Wofford
Coach of the Year ñ Jerry Moore, Appalachian State
First Team Offense
QB: DeAndre Presley, Jr, Appalachian State
QB: Scott Riddle, Sr, Elon
RB: Chris Evans, Sr, Samford
FB: Eric Breitenstein, Jr, Wofford
OL: Daniel Kilgore, Sr, Appalachian State
OL: Rodney Austin, Jr, Elon
OL: Brett Moore, Jr, Georgia Southern
OL: Chris Harr, Sr, Chattanooga
OL: Pat Illig, Sr, Wofford
TE: Garrett Hughes, Sr, Chattanooga
WR: Aaron Mellette, So, Elon
WR: Adam Mims, Sr, Furman
First Team Defense
DL ñ Jabari Fletcher, Sr, Appalachian State
DL: Erik Clanton, Sr, The Citadel
DL: Brent Russell, So, Georgia Southern
DL: Ameet Pall, Jr, Wofford
LB: D. J. Smith, Sr, Appalachian State
LB: Kadarron Anderson, Jr, Furman
LB: Bryce Smith, Sr, Samford
DB: Mark LeGree, Sr, Appalachian State
DB: Ryan Steed, Jr, Furman
DB: Laron Scott, Jr, Georgia Southern
DB: Buster Skrine, Sr, Chattanooga
First Team Specialists
PK: Jason Vitaris, Sr, Appalachian State
P: Charlie Edwards, Jr, Georgia Southern
RS: Laron Scott, Jr, Georgia Southern