By Myron Hosea
CSN So South Columnist
College Sporting News
As usual, most of the opening weekend games involved inter-division pairings. They were primarily FBS versus FCS, and for the most part there are few things to take away from those contests (though Stony Brook forcing UTEP to go to overtime was interesting). The five FCS-versus-FCS games represented the intriguing part of the weekend for me.
Wofford’s last-minute 35-28 win at Presbyterian College – the game I saw this weekend – proved to be an exciting first-week contest. Coastal Carolina evened the score for the Big South against the SoCon later in the day by defeating Furman 30-23 in another game featuring South Carolina teams. Georgia Southern started well on what many think will be a conference championship season by winning the first SoCon game of 2011, a 31-17 victory at Samford. The Citadel certainly looked improved over 2010, knocking off a solid Jacksonville team 31-9 in Charleston. VMI dropped a close one to Delaware State 24-21.
In the aforementioned Stony Brook game, UTEP had to rally to win at home over the Seawolves 31-24 in overtime. Elsewhere in the Big South, the Ron Dickerson, Jr., era at Gardner-Webb began with a 34-17 home victory over Brevard. Liberty fell at North Carolina State 43-21. Central Florida thrashed Charleston Southern 62-0.
The four other SoCon teams ventured into FBS territory and did not fare well. Virginia Tech took advantage of some Appalachian State miscues and rolled 66-13. New Big 10 member Nebraska thumped Chattanooga 40-7. In a matchup of teams with first-year head coaches, Vanderbilt defeated Elon 45-14. And last Thursday, Western Carolina went to Atlanta and gave up a ton of points early en route to a 63-21 loss to Georgia Tech.
This game seemed fairly easy to predict. You had an experienced Wofford team coming off a SoCon co-championship and 10-win season. They were traveling the short distance from Spartanburg, SC, to Clinton, SC, to face a still-developing Presbyterian College team that has won just twice the past two seasons. And when Wofford went up 28-7 midway through the third quarter, it seemed to be done.
The Blue Hose used a pass interference call late in the third, however, to get back in the game. PC head coach Harold Nichols had indicated during the week he would use both senior quarterback Brandon Miley and sophomore Ryan Singer in the game, and he did. Singer entered in the third quarter and following the penalty, kept the drive going for a touchdown that cut the Terriers’ lead in half.
PC continued to take control and scored twice in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 28-28 with 5:32 to go in the game. After the teams traded punts, Wofford finally got its offense back on the rails. Donovan Johnson ran 20 yards, and Eric Breitenstein went for 25. Then quarterback Mitch Allen hit Jeff Ashley for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds left in the game for the game-winner.
The Terriers did their usual damage on the ground, rushing for 352 yards. In addition to the wingbone formation, Wofford showed the Pistol with Breitenstein behind Allen or Breitenstein and Johnson both behind him. That was a wrinkle different from last season – finding formations for the two runners to be on the field at the same time. In 2010, Johnson tended to back up Breitenstein. It seemed to work. Breitenstein rushed for 107 yards, Johnson for 91.
Wofford also used the passing game effectively, throwing three touchdown passes. Allen threw scoring tosses to Ashley and Andrew Young (50 yards). Halfback Lavadrick Farrar added a 44-yard touchdown pass to Ashley.
Singer threw for 121 yards in his quarter-and-a-half of work. Miley threw for 88.
The mix of early season games across divisions continues into Week Two.
The SoCon features its second conference game of the season. Furman (0-1) will try to capture the first win for new coach Bruce Fowler when it goes back to the South Carolina coast. The Citadel (1-0) will welcome their long-time rival Paladins to Charleston. It’s one of the earliest times in a season that the two teams have played.
There are four other contests between FCS teams. Liberty (0-1) will host Robert Morris, a team that upset the Flames a year ago. VMI (0-1) gets a visit from William & Mary. In the SoCon, Appalachian State (0-1) plays North Carolina A&T at home while Jacksonville State visits Chattanooga (0-1).
Four teams in the So South region square off with FBS schools. Stony Brook (0-1) plays its second FBS team in as many weeks. At least the Seawolves don’t have to travel as far, going just to upstate New York to play Buffalo. Gardner-Webb (1-0) plays at Ohio. Charleston Southern (0-1) continues its three-week round of playing Sunshine State teams as it goes to Florida State. Wofford (1-0) has another close-by road game, this time at Clemson.
A half-dozen of the teams will play at home against teams from lower divisions. In the Big South, Catawba visits Coastal Carolina (1-0) while Presbyterian College (0-1) hosts North Greenville. In the SoCon, Elon (0-1) welcomes Concord, Tusculum goes to Georgia Southern (1-0), Samford (0-1) hosts Stillman, and Mars Hill travels to Western Carolina (0-1).