By Myron Hosea
CSN So South Columnist
College Sporting News
One of the high school football regions I help cover for a local newspaper has six teams, four of which came through the first half of the season winless against non-region competition. Only one of them had a winning record. All of which meant basically nothing toward their winning the region. The final five games – all within the region – will have the final say on the region champion.
It’s much the same for the teams of the Big South Conference, who launch the 2011 league slate this weekend. In the first five weeks of the season, the seven teams went a combined 8-22 against opponents large and small. All of which means little toward their winning the Big South – and the automatic playoff spot that goes with that title.
Only Coastal Carolina at 3-1 came through the first half of the season with a winning record. I still think the Chanticleers along with Liberty and Stony Brook are the three best teams in the Big South, and one of them will win the league crown. At this first weekend of conference play, however, everyone has a chance.
Stony Brook and Coastal Carolina will be favored Saturday when they open at home against Presbyterian College and VMI respectively. The Seawolves, however, do begin Kyle Essington’s time as the team’s starting quarterback. Third-year starter Michael Coulter will have knee surgery that will end his season and career at Stony Brook.
One of the more interesting games of the weekend could be Liberty ’s visit to Gardner-Webb. If the Runnin’ Bulldogs are to challenge for the Big South crown under first-year head coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., they will need to pull the upset and beat the Flames for the first time since 2006. This will be the first time Gardner-Webb has started its Big South schedule at home.
A GREAT WEEKEND OF GAMES
Two of the teams considered as challengers for the Southern Conference title lost this past Saturday. One of them lost to one of the other challengers. The other blew a big lead and fell victim to an upset.
Chattanooga held a 27-0 advantage in the third quarter against The Citadel and its run-based offense. No problem, apparently. The Bulldogs scored the game’s final 28 points to beat the Mocs 28-27. Quarterback Ben Dupree got the rally started with a pair of touchdowns, the first of which followed an interception. Rod Harland returned a blocked punt 40 yards for a touchdown. Darien Robinson’s 3-yard run pulled The Citadel even, and placekicker Ryan Sellers nailed his fourth extra point to put the Bulldogs in front. Davis Boyle intercepted B. J. Coleman to finish the game.
Wofford played ball control in front of its 9th-largest home crowd at Gibbs Stadium to defeat Appalachian State 28-14, ending a three-game losing streak to the Mountaineers. In losing those three games, the Terriers had surrendered 157 points, but Saturday they limited Appalachian State to two scores and 247 total yards. Behind its 388 rushing yards, Wofford held the ball for more than 38 minutes. Eric Breitenstein rushed for 173 yards. Mountaineer wide receiver Brian Quick, who had 17 receptions and seven touchdowns in the previous three games with Wofford, was held to two catches for 15 yards.
The two biggest power sources of Furman’s offense remained hot Saturday in the Paladins’ 47-21 win at Western Carolina. Quarterback Chris Forcier completed 14 of 17 passes for 269 yards. He followed his seven-touchdown-pass day a week earlier with four more scoring passes. Meanwhile, running back Jerodis Williams, the conference’s leading rusher, churned out 175 yards on 28 carries. George Richardson gave the Catamounts brief hope by returning the second half kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to cut Furman’s lead to 20-7.
Two SoCon teams won games by the score of 41-14. Georgia Southern spotted Elon seven points before posting the next 24 en route to its 41-14 victory. Robert Brown rushed for 116 yards and Jaybo Shaw threw for 110 and three touchdowns. Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette continued his torrid pace of receiving with nine catches for 104 yards and a score. Samford turned in the other 41-14 performance in beating Gardner-Webb in a non-conference game. Samford quarterback Dustin Taliaferro threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns while wide receiver Kelsey Pope snared six passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. Gardner-Webb running back Kenny Little rushed for 162 yards and a score on 27 attempts. Linebacker Marty Patterson paced the Gardner-Webb defense with 13 tackles.
In addition to Gardner-Webb, only two other Big South teams were in action Saturday. Liberty blasted Kentucky Wesleyan 57-0 while Charleston Southern fell to Wesley College 32-20. Backup quarterbacks Tyler Brennan and Brian Hudson shared signal-calling duties for Liberty and combined for 187 yards passing. Flames running back SirChauncey Holloway scored four times while rushing for 126 yards. In the Bucs loss, Charleston Southern quarterback Malcolm Dixon ran for 71 yards and passed for 178.
GAMES OF OCT. 8, 2011
Big South Conference
Liberty (2-3) at Gardner-Webb (1-3), 4:00 p.m.
Liberty has won its last four games against Gardner-Webb. Running back Kenny Little of Gardner-Webb has moved up to second in the league in rushing, averaging 102 yards a game.
Presbyterian College (1-3) at Stony Brook (1-3), 6:00 p.m.
Of its 14 touchdowns this season, PC has scored two on blocked punt returns, one on an interception return, and one on a blocked field goal return. In its few years in the league, Stony Brook has fashioned an 8-1 Big South record at home.
VMI (0-4) at Coastal Carolina (1-3), 7:00 p.m.
VMI quarterback Eric Kordenbrock has tossed three touchdown passes in his last two games, equaling his total for 2010. Coastal Carolina is 3-1 for the first time since 2005.
Charleston Southern (0-5) has the week off.
Wofford (3-1/2-0) at The Citadel (2-2/1-2), 1:00 p.m.
Wofford has three of the SoCon’s top 10 rushers: Eric Breitenstein (2nd at 117 yards per game), Donovan Johnson (4th at 99), and Mitch Allen (9th at 69.5). The Citadel leads the SoCon in scoring defense at 17.5 points per game.
Samford (2-2/0-2) at Furman (3-1/2-0), 1:30 p.m.
Samford is making its second trip to the Upstate region of South Carolina in three weeks. Furman quarterback Chris Forcier has thrown 11 touchdown passes the past two games.
Elon (3-2/1-1) at Western Carolina (1-3/0-2), 3:00 p.m.
Elon quarterback Thomas Wilson ranks 12th in FCS in total offense at 282 yards per game. Western Carolina ’s new Pistol offense has improved its numbers to 3rd in SoCon in total offense (421 yards per game) and 5th in scoring offense (28.5 points per game).
Chattanooga (2-3/0-2) at Georgia Southern (4-0/3-0), 3:00 p.m.
Chattanooga is first in the SoCon and 6th nationally in total defense, allowing 275 yards per game. Georgia Southern is number one in FCS in scoring offense at 46.5 points per game.
Appalachian State (3-2/1-1) has the week off.