SoCon Weekend Recap
By David England
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Wofford clinched a share of the SoCon title with a dramatic overtime win against Chattanooga on Saturday,
Week 11 in the SoCon ended without a major upset or an expected winner losing in a thriller. This past week was a normal Saturday in the SoCon, but one game in particular stood out above the rest. All three ranked teams that played were victorious, and one team made a significant statement with their win.
#14 Wofford 16, Chattanooga 13 (OT)
Chattanooga traveled to Gibbs Stadium to take on the Wofford Terriers in what was probably its toughest test of the '12 season. As we have seen all season long, though, the Mocs came to play with a chip on their shoulder and put up a fight. The game was a defensive battle, as scoring came at a high premium. Only ten points were scored in regulation play, and neither team reached the 350 yard mark on offense. This game was SoCon football at its finest, and all 8,000-plus fans in Gibbs Stadium got their money's worth.
As the first overtime started, both teams were winded and worn out from the physical style of play. Chattanooga was held to a field goal on their first possession in overtime. Wofford got the ball and capitalized on the missed opportunity by the Mocs, as Eric Breitenstein had a two-yard touchdown run to win the game for the Terriers by a final score of 16-13.
The key to the game was Wofford's ability to run the ball and keep Chattanooga off the field. Wofford out-gained the Mocs by 112 yards on the ground, led Breitenstein's 133 yards on 28 attempts. Wofford played almost flawless football and did not turn the ball over, but it took everything the Terriers had to defeat a stingy Chattanooga team.
The Mocs got a stellar performance out of freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman, who torched the Terriers defense through the air, but could not get his team into the end zone. Huesman looked sharp on Saturday, going 22-31 for 229 yards on the evening. He also added 90 yards on the ground.
In the end, the lack of the run game cost Chattanooga, and Wofford improved to 8-2 on the year. Chattanooga fell to an even 5-5 on the season.
Wofford travels to Columbia, SC to take on the nationally ranked FBS South Carolina Gamecocks, and Chattanooga returns home to play Elon this Saturday.
#9 Georgia Southern 69, Howard 26
The Georgia Southern Eagles came out and put on an offensive show in front of 18,000-plus fans in Paulson Stadium. If there were any possibility of an upset, the Eagles put those to rest early. By halftime, everyone knew Georgia Southern was too much for Howard. In the first quarter, Georgia Southern had three long touchdown runs yards, jumping out to a 21-0 lead with just under 5:00 left in the quarter. The scoring did not slow down, as the ninth-ranked team in the nation went on to put up 69 points in the game.
The stats were unbelievable, as Georgia Southern had over 500 yards of total offense, with 529 coming on the ground. What is more astonishing is that Howard led in time of possession and had more first downs than the Eagles. Howard was not far off the pace, as they totaled over 400 yards of offense with a balanced attack.
For the Eagles, the player of the game was Jerick McKinnon, who had 207 yards rushing on 16 attempts and found paydirt three times on the ground. Through the air, McKinnon connected twice with his receivers for touchdowns. The performance was the best of McKinnon's career.
The Eagles improved to 8-2 and, with the win, guaranteed a share of the SoCon crown. With the loss, Howard falls to 6-4 on the year.
Georgia Southern travels west next week to take on the Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges. Kickoff is set for 1:30.
Samford 26, Elon 15
The 2012 season has been a shockingly good one for the Samford Bulldogs, who came into the game on Saturday with a 6-3 record. The Bulldogs showed up knowing Elon was no easy test, however, and it was proven on Saturday.
Samford got out to a 20-0 lead in the third quarter. The play of the game came with 4:32 left in the third when Fabian Truss ran 75 yards for a touchdown that propelled the Bulldogs to victory. Elon finally got on the board early in the fourth quarter when Aaron Mellette caught a four-yard touchdown pass to draw the Phoenix within 13 points. But on the next possession, Samford scored a touchdown and put the game out of reach for the Phoenix, who would score another touchdown late in the quarter.
Samford out-gained Elon by over 100 yards and won the game on the ground. The Bulldogs were led by Fabian Truss, who had 219 yards on 34 carries and two touchdowns. As I have said, the SoCon is won on the ground, and Samford out-gained Elon in that category by over 200 yards.
It was not all Samford in the game, though, as Thomas Wilson for Elon had over 200 yards passing and a touchdown. The offense for the Phoenix showed up too late, and just did not have enough fire-power to beat Samford. Samford controlled the clock for more than seven minutes more than Elon.
With the win Samford improves to 7-3 overall and 5-3 in SoCon play. Elon falls to 3-7 overall and 1-6 in SoCon play.Samford plays Kentucky next week, while Elon travels to Chattanooga to take on the Mocs.
The Citadel 27, VMI 24
The battle for the Silver Shako Trophy was a great one in the 33rd edition of the Military Classic of the South. The Citadel came into the game as a heavy favorite, but the Bulldogs would soon have a game on their hands. Late in the fourth quarter, The Citadel had a 10 point lead and appeared to be on its way to a victory. But with 3:03 left, VMI scored on a four-yard touchdown to draw within three points. The Keydets would attempt an onside kick that was recovered by The Citadel, but VMI still had three timeouts, and the Bulldogs would have to get a first down to keep the ball out of VMI's hands. The Citadel converted the third down by two yards and sealed the three point victory to retain the Silver Shako Trophy.
The Citadel established a dominant running game early and out-gained VMI on the ground by over 150 yards. The key to The Citadel's victory was time of possession. The Citadel had the ball for 15 minutes longer than VMI, and, with limited possessions, VMI did not have the playmakers to pull out the victory. The Citadel won via a collective team effort, with three players carrying the ball ten or more times. Both teams turned the ball over once and it was a physical game throughout.
With the win The Citadel improves to 6-4. VMI falls to 2-8 on the year. The Citadel is on the road next week to play Furman. Kickoff is set for 1:30.
#12 Appalachian State 33, Furman 28
On paper, this matchup did not look great for the Paladins. But as we have seen many times in the SoCon, you cannot go purely by stats in this conference. Appalachian State came into the game with a lot of confidence after beating Georgia Southern, and it appeared the Mountaineers would run away with the game. There are very few games when Appalachian State's player of the game is the kicker, but it happened that way on Saturday. Sam Martin had four field goal attempts against Furman, and made all them. The 12 points scored by Martin were enough to lift the Mountaineers to their eighth victory of the season.
The stats would indicate App. State blew out the Paladins. The Mountaineers had over 450 yards of total offense to Furman's 300. App. State had over 100 yards more of passing, and over 50 more yards rushing. The key for App. State on offense was Steven Miller's performance on the ground, as he accumulated over 170 yards and had a touchdown. With the ground game firing on all cylinders, it opened up the passing game, where Jamal Jackson took advantage going 32-46 for 332 yards and a touchdown. The Mountaineers got exceptional performances out of Andrew Peacock and Sean Price at wide receiver as well.
While it was not the prettiest win we have ever seen from Appalachian State, the Mountaineers earned a share of the SoCon title with the win.
Appalachian State is off next week, while Furman hosts The Citadel.