SoCon Weekend Primer
By Southern Pigskin Staff
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
A huge non-conference contest between App State and Montana highlights week two in the SoCon.
Week One has been inspected, dissected and talked to death, and now we can move onto something even better – Week Two. It is nice to not have to wait months for another football game, I’ll just throw that out there.
This week’s slate of SoCon games is highlighted by one big early conference matchup and three out-of-conference games (including one that maybe has a small amount of hype and excitement surrounding it). Let’s get to it, starting with…
No. 3 Georgia Southern (1-0) at The Citadel (1-0), 6 p.m.
Two weeks, two big early conference matchups. Conference favorite Georgia Southern gets its first test of the season against a revitalized Citadel squad ready to make a statement. If history is any indication, this game will be one to watch – the last six matchups between these two teams have been decided by a grand total of 13 points.
The Eagles are coming off a 58-0 shellacking of the Jacksonville Dolphins, a game that saw them gain 557 yards of offense, none of which came through the passing game. QB Eyazi Youyoute and running back Dominique Swope paced the attack, rushing for 164 and 104 yards, respectively, and each finding the end zone three times. They did turn the ball over four times, though– two interceptions and two lost fumbles – something Coach Monken surely was not pleased with. It would be shocking if they turned the ball over that much again.
Speaking of turnovers, last week against Charleston Southern was a tale of two halves for the Bulldogs. In the first half, they had six fumbles. The game was tied 14-14 at halftime. In the second half, they had zero turnovers. The Citadel outscored the Buccaneers 35-0 in that half. Guess what the key to victory was?
As such, the winner of this game will be decided by the defense – whichever team’s defense can step up and force a few turnovers will be the team that comes out on top Saturday. Key players for the game? Defensive linemen Brent Russell and Chris Billingslea. No pressure, guys, but your teams need you.
No. 3 Georgia Southern 21, The Citadel 14
No. 12 Montana (1-0) at No. 11 Appalachian State (0-1), 6:30 p.m.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the early front-runner for the 2012 FCS Game of the Year award. Two of the most storied programs in the Football Championship Subdivision meet for the first time since their playoff semifinal classic three years ago. Fans of not just App and Montana, but across the nation, have had September 8 circled on their calendar for months now. All we can do now is hope that the game can live up to the hype.
The Mountaineers come into this game beaten up and wounded from last week’s 35-13 loss to East Carolina. App lost two key contributors in the game – DB Doug Middleton (out for the season) and RB Rod Chisholm (out for 4-6 weeks) – to broken bones, putting a major test on Appalachian State’s depth. The App State offense looked great at times (as shown by their 419 yards of offense, led by QB Jamal Jackson’s 334 total yards and WR Tony Washington’s 102 receiving yards), and pedestrian other times (as shown by their three turnovers and 4-15 third down conversion rate). They will have to be great at all times against a defense that gave up just 233 yards and nine first downs against South Dakota a week ago.
The Grizzlies’ offense looked just as good as their defense too. QB Trent McKinney had only six incompletions, as he finished 26-32 for 214 yards, to go along with two touchdowns and one pick. But the real stars were fullback Dan Moore and running back Peter Nguyen, who combined to rush for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Needless to say, LB Jeremy Kimbrough will have his hands full all day Saturday as he and the remainder of the Mountaineer defense try to contain the Montana attack.
While I sadly do not think this game will match the 2009 semifinal classic, it should still be a very entertaining game and a great showcase for the FCS programs – even more so for the fans in Boone when their Mountaineers get some long overdue revenge.
No. 11 Appalachian State 35, No. 12 Montana 31
Chattanooga (0-1) at No. 24 Jacksonville State (0-1), 7 p.m.
The Mocs have a chance to send a major message early in the season, as they take on the Gamecocks for the third-consecutive year. The teams have split the previous two meetings and come into Saturday’s contest a little short-handed.
Last year’s Co-Freshman of the Year, Terrell Robinson, quit the team following their 34-13 loss to South Florida. There’s little doubt that it had something to do with the newly-implemented two quarterback system between Robinson and Jacob Huesman, who, as it turns out, is the coach’s son. Except now, he is back on the team. In what capacity, we're not sure. But it does sound like Huesman will be making the start on Saturday.
Jacksonville State is dealing with some off-the-field issues of its own, as Georgia transfer and star RB Washaun Ealey was suspended from the team after being arrested Wednesday on drug possession charges. He was caught after university officers searched his apartment at 7:24 a.m. following a noise complaint. What exactly are you doing at 7:24 on a Wednesday morning that would warrant a noise complaint is beyond me, but I digress.
Both teams need a victory badly to keep their playoff hopes alive. And no, it is apparently never too early to start worrying about playoff hopes. The Mocs and Gamecocks are coming off of big losses to FBS schools (Chattanooga to USF, JSU to Arkansas) and need to make a statement. We will see which team can best ignore the off-the-field craziness and come out on top. If Chattanooga can get their offense rolling like they did at points last year, they should be able to get the crucial OOC win. If not, it may be another long day down south.
No. 24 Jacksonville State 30, Chattanooga 17
Western Carolina (1-0) at Marshall (0-1), 7 p.m.
The Catamounts looked great in the debut of the Mark Speir era, dominating Mars Hill in their season-opening victory. Now, they get a test on a whole other level when they travel to visit the SoCon’s old friend, Marshall.
The Thundering Herd are coming off an embarrassing loss last week (they fell 69-34 to West Virginia) and will look for a nice bounce back against Western. Overshadowed in their loss was the play of QB Rakeem Cato, who finished with 413 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 38-54 passing. He will give the Cats a slightly tougher challenge than the Lions, who managed just 126 passing yards, did a week ago.
The Western running game could be the team’s best friend and best chance at an upset. Last week, Darrius Ramsey (120 rushing yards), Shaun Warren (72 yards) and Michael Johnson (69 yards, two touchdowns) were a big help to freshman QB Troy Mitchell in his debut. All three backs will need big games on Saturday if Western stands any chance at winning. Combine that with forcing a few turnovers and you have the recipe for an upset. Unfortunately, that is much easier said than done.
Marshall 45, Western Carolina 17
North Carolina Central (1-0) at Elon (0-1), 7 p.m.
It has been a long week for the Phoenix, coming off of their blowout 62-0 loss in Chapel Hill just under a week ago. Elon has not pushed the panic button just yet, but the Phoenix faithful will be slamming that button repeatedly if they do not see a strong performance from the team Saturday.
Against North Carolina, nothing seemed to work for Coach Swepson’s squad. Offensively, they never seem in sync. Defensively, they could not stop the Tar Heel attack. Their special teams play was marred by missed tackles. The good news is that that is all behind them now, and they have agreat chance to redeem themselves against a North Carolina Central squad that gave them a scare a year ago.
The Eagles are coming off a 54-31 victory against Fayetteville State that saw NCCU total 400+ yards of offense while forcing four turnovers. They were led by backs Arthur Goforth and Gary Douglas, who combined for 145 yards and two touchdowns on just twenty carries. QB Matt Goggans did not have a bad game either, finishing with 223 yards and a touchdown on 15-26 passing.
The Phoenix will expect bigger games from all of their players, particularly receiver Aaron Mellette. Blanketed all day by the UNC defenders, he finished with just two catches for nine yards – one of his worst performances in his career. It is safe to believe that he will have a slightly better game on Saturday, considering he torched these same Eagles for 237 yards and a touchdown on 16 catches last time these two teams met. If the Phoenix can get back to playing their style of football and cut back on the sloppy play, which they should be able to do, they will get back on the right track.
Elon 33, North Carolina Central 14
Coastal Carolina (1-0) at Furman (0-1), 5 p.m.
The Paladins trail the all-time series to Coastal 1-2. The last meeting between the two schools took place September 3rd of last season, when CCU won 30-23. Furman comes into the game with an 0-1 record after they lost last week to Samford 26-24 in conference play. Coastal is 1-0 after a win over North Carolina A&T.
Furman: Jerodis Williams (20 att, 98 yards, one TD), Mitch McGrath (10 tackles)
Coastal Carolina: Aramis Hillary (19-28, 274 yards, one TD), Dontavious Johnson (three interceptions)
Score Prediction: Coastal Carolina 34, Furman 21
West Alabama (1-0) at Samford (1-0), 7 p.m.
Samford got out to a hot start at home in Week one against conference opponent Furman, winning 24-21. Fabian Truss proved to be the key to the game as he carried the rock 19 times for 102 yards. Quarterback Andy Summerlin threw for over 200 yards in the contest. West Alabama comes in with one of the best running backs in FCS football in Matt Willis, who carried the ball 15 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener. Samford leads the all-time series 9-6-1 and won the last meeting 23-21.
Samford: Fabian Truss (19 att, 102 yards), Andy Summerlin (23-37, 216 yards, two TD's)
West Alabama: Matt Willis (15 att, 163 yards, two TD's), Ryan Jones (seven tackles)
Score Prediction: West Alabama 20, Samford 21
Lincoln (PA) (0-1) at No. 10 Wofford (1-0), 7 p.m.
Wofford had a convincing win in Week one, as they beat Gardner-Webb 34-13. In that game, Eric Breitenstein rushed for 219 yards on 20 carries, and found paydirt twice. He also moved into second place on the all-time Wofford rushing list with 3,914 yards. Breitenstein's performance was enough for him to take home the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week Award. Lincoln was not so fortunate, as they lost in Week one, but QB Doug Cook had a good game with over 300 yards passing.
Wofford: Eric Breitenstein (22 att, 219 yards, two TD's), Phillip LeGrande (two sacks)
Lincoln: Doug Cook (30-51, 345 yards, one TD), Shannon Burch (eight tackles)
Score Prediction: Lincoln 10, Wofford 37
The SoCon Primer is put together by Southern Pigskin SoCon writers Russell Varner and David England.