Southern Conference Welcomes First Full Weekend of League Games
Important ASU-UTC showdown highlights full slate of SoCon games, while the Big South plays out of conference
By Myron Hosea
College Sporting News
After a weekend in which two-thirds of the Southern Conference football teams were idle, all nine teams take the field this weekend.
Most of them are playing each other. This will be the SoCon's first full weekend of conference action, even though there have been two conference contests already.
Of the four conference games on the Sept. 24 docket, the Chattanooga at Appalachian State contest ranks as the headliner.
These teams played to the wire in the 2010 season opener in Chattanooga before the Mountaineers rallied to win.
The Mocs, who have beaten Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky the past two weeks, visit the Rock with an opportunity to determine how far the program has come in three seasons.
Appalachian State, which has picked up Jerry Moore's 200th and 201st wins as the Mountaineers' coach, will look to use its conference opener as the springboard to yet another league title.
These nationally ranked squads were listed among the SoCon's top four teams in the preseason, so this is one of the feature early-season games.
The game also includes two of the SoCon's top quarterbacks — DeAndre Presley of the Mountaineers and B. J. Coleman of the Mocs.
Both have top-flight receivers in Appalachian State's Brian Quick and Chattanooga's Joel Bradford.
Despite the offensive weapons, the outcome may come down to which team's defense has the best day.
Elsewhere in the SoCon this Saturday, Georgia Southern will try to remain the only unbeaten team in the conference and build on its season-opening SoCon win over Samford. The Eagles host Western Carolina.
That Samford team draws its second difficult conference game when it ventures to South Carolina to play Wofford.
The Terriers struggled some in the first-week win over Presbyterian College and then caused mighty struggles for Clemson before falling in Death Valley. This night game marks the home opener for Wofford.
The Citadel, which leads the SoCon in total defense and pass defense, will go on the road to face a high-flying Elon team.
The Phoenix have the conference's top passer — Thomas Wilson at 283 yards a game — and top receiver, Aaron Mellette at 12 receptions a game, though Elon scuffled to put away a rebuilding North Carolina Central program, 23-22, last week.
Furman is the lone conference team playing outside the league. The Paladins will have their home opener against nearby Big South rival Presbyterian College.
THE BIG SOUTH SCHEDULE
The Big South Conference boasts a few games of its own, though none of them are league games.
Liberty, coming off a final-play, 27-24 loss at home to James Madison, faces another challenge with a road game against another nationally ranked team in Lehigh.
At least the Flames go armed with the Big South's best offense and best total and scoring defense.
Another game to watch is Stony Brook's second home game in as many weeks. The Seawolves welcome Lafayette to Stony Brook Saturday evening after suffering a one-point loss to Brown, 21-20.
Coastal Carolina and VMI have away games as well. The Chanticleers go to North Carolina A&T while the Keydets play Akron.
Finally, Charleston Southern has completed its grueling three-week tour of Florida, having lost to Central Florida, Florida State, and Jacksonville. The Buccaneers will play at home as Norfolk State comes to Charleston. Gardner-Webb has the week off.
A pair of Big South teams took their opponents to the final whistle but came up short in tough losses.
Liberty missed an opportunity to knock off James Madison when the Dukes got a 40-yard field goal as time expired to win 27-24.
Stony Brook, meanwhile, lost a 21-20 decision when the Bears scored a touchdown and point after with 3:06 remaining in the game.
With 18,878 watching in Lynchburg, the Flames scored on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Mike Brown to Chris Summers to tie the game at 24-24 in the fourth quarter.
After swapping punts, James Madison drove 52 yards for the winning field goal.
Liberty may lament its missed opportunities. Two first-quarter field goal attempts went awry, and Liberty suffered an interception in James Madison territory early in the final period.
Interestingly, both teams had the ball twice in the third period, and all four possessions ended in touchdowns.
The Seawolves fell to 0-3 with the narrow loss to Ivy League member Brown.
The Bears followed a second-half Stony Brook fumble with a touchdown while the Seawolves turned a Brown fumble into a field goal.
After Brown took the lead, Stony Brook drove but had to reach for a 55-yard field goal, which failed.
Malcolm Dixon ran and passed for 247 yards and Teddy Allen rushed for 125, but that wasn't enough for Charleston Southern as it lost 37-30 at Jacksonville.
VMI dropped a second straight contest to an intra-state rival, falling 34-19 to Richmond. Two blocked punts that were turned into touchdowns broke open a close game.
Coastal Carolina, Gardner-Webb, and Presbyterian College all suffered heavy losses at FBS teams.
Wake Forest downed Gardner-Webb, 48-5. The Chanticleers fell 59-0 to Georgia. And PC traveled all the way to the west coast and lost to California, 63-12.
Only three SoCon teams saw action Sept. 17, and each of them won.
Chattanooga's Coleman passed for 277 yards and a touchdown as the Mocs won at Eastern Kentucky 23-14.
Elon beat North Carolina Central 23-22. Thomas Wilson hit Christian Dennis on a 27-yard touchdown pass with 4:46 remaining in the game for the winning points.
The Phoenix then held North Carolina Central on downs at the Elon 30 to preserve the win. Wilson threw for 416 yards while Aaron Mellette caught 16 passes.
Appalachian State rolled to another home non-conference win with a 41-6 drubbing of Savannah State.