SoCon Weekend Recap
By Southern Pigskin Staff
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The 2012 regular season has come to an end in the SoCon.
It is a sad day, and one that came all too quickly: the end of the 2012 regular season. That is the problem with football season, and part of what makes it so great – the season is gone in a blur. You will be missed, 2012 season. Thanks for the memories.
Well, enough of the memorial service. Let’s take one last look at the weekend that was in the SoCon.
Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0
The good news is it is over. The Catamounts tried their best against one of the best programs in all of football, but looked outmatched from kickoff. The Tide were able to move the ball at will against Western, scoring on six of their first seven possessions, and freshman Troy Mitchell looked out of place against Alabama’s vaunted defense. Luckily, Western came out relatively unscarred (at least physically), and is close to half-a-million dollars richer for it.
The stats do not look all that pretty for the Catamounts. They totaled just 163 yards of offense, most of which came in the second half when Eddie Sullivan took over under center. Sullivan and Mitchell combined to finish 8-of-20 for 93 yards passing and 34 yards rushing. The backbreaker came late in the first half with the Catamounts in Tide territory and close to scoring position. They tried a trick play that went horribly wrong, as Mitchell’s throwback to Sullivan went wide and was scooped up by the Alabama defense and returned for a touchdown, making the score 42-0. Michael Johnson led the team with three catches and freshman Sertonuse Harris led the defense with a game-high eight tackles.
It was a rough first season for Coach Mark Speir, but no one said it would be easy. It’s time for him to work some magic with the recruits and bring more talent to Cullowhee.
The Citadel 42, Furman 20
With a possible bid hanging in the balance, the Bulldogs gave their old rivals a shellacking in the Dungeon, much to the delight of Georgia Southern and its fans. With the Bulldogs’ win, the Eagles earned the conference’s automatic bid to the playoffs. Back Van Dyke Jones led the way for The Citadel with 74 yards and three touchdowns on just eight carries, as Furman was handed its worst loss in the series since 1974.
The Bulldogs put up 309 rushing yards Saturday (compared to Furman’s 298 total yards), as Jones, Ben Dupree and Darien Robinson combined for 222 rushing yards and four touchdowns. With his effort, Robinson became the first Citadel back with 1,000 yards since Tory Cooper in 2007. Dupree and Miller even combined for 65 yards passing, with Dupree adding a touchdown and an interception that came on the Bulldogs’ first play of the game. Freshman linebacker James Riley continued his stellar play, leading the team with 12 tackles – his third time leading the team in that category in four games since his redshirt was taken off following injuries to Carl Robinson and Rah Muhammad. One could say the game changed midway through the third quarter, when The Citadel lined up to with a 21-20 lead. Punter Cass Couey then faked a punt and ran 18 yards for a first down. The Bulldogs went on to score a touchdown on the drive and never looked back.
Though the scoreboard says differently, Furman was in the game for a while, at least until the aforementioned fake punt. Backs Jerodis Williams and Hank McCloud combined for 195 yards and two touchdowns against The Citadel’s tough defense, which looked anything but at times Saturday. Freshman Reese Hannon dealt with injuries, which led Dakota Derrick to see some playing time. Neither quarterback fared well, though, as they combined to go 13-of-27 for 102 yards and two interceptions. Mitch McGrath and Greg Worthy led the defensive effort for the Paladins with 10 and nine tackles, respectively, and kicker Ray Early finished 2-2 on field goals (including a 52 yarder).
Chattanooga 24, Elon 17
It was a record-setting day in Chattanooga, as the Mocs put together their third winning season in four years, the first time they have accomplished that feat since 1984-1987, taking down a feisty Phoenix squad in their 2012 finale.
Freshman Jacob Huesman finished with 234 passing yards, 137 rushing yards and three total touchdowns as he set the Chattanooga freshman record for passing yards in a season (1,712), while tying freshman records for rushing touchdowns (seven) and passing touchdowns (13). Defensive lineman Davis Tull added 2.5 sacks, giving himself school records for sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (19) in a season. He led the conference in both categories. Not to be overshadowed, Terrell Robinson added 124 yards and two touchdowns on just four catches, with both touchdowns coming in the decisive third quarter. Wes Dothard added nine tackles for the defense, while Kadeem Wise tacked on seven of his own.
The Phoenix once again fell just short of the victory, as they actually outgained the Mocs 378-364 and didn’t turn the ball over, usually a recipe for success for the team. Aaron Mellette ended his career with a nine-catch, 188-yard, one touchdown performance, while Thomas Wilson completed 23-of-32 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns while dealing with a bum shoulder. Tracy Coppedge gave Elon one of its best performances on the ground this season with 87 rushing yards. Defensively, Jonathan Spain had another strong game, totaling 10 tackles, while Chandler Wrightenbury added eight of his own.
South Carolina 24, Wofford 7
The SoCon showed out in this matchup and had South Carolina in a tight spot late into the fourth quarter. The game was a defensive battle, as the game was tied 7-7 heading into the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks pulled away in the last quarter and sealed the victory with a 31-yard fumble recovery by Akeem Auguste that gave South Carolina a 24-7 advantage with 7:33 remaining.
The stats were as close aa any we have seen this season, and had Wofford shown the ability to pass the ball, the Terriers could have played even better than expected. Wofford out-gained South Carolina on the ground by over 70 yards, and Eric Breitenstein had a game to remember with 125 yards and a score on the ground. The solid running game for Wofford opened up holes and wore down the South Carolina defense. The Terriers did have one big play through the air, with a 71 yard pass, but that was the only completed pass of the day.
South Carolina got an unforeseen performance out of running back Kenny Miles, who had over 120 yards on the ground. The running game forced Wofford to play aggressive defense, which opened up the passing game for South Carolina. Connor Shaw was 16-20 with 122 yards and one touchdown.
The bigger news for the Terriers is that they clinched a postseason berth and will face New Hampshire on December 1st.
Georgia 45, Georgia Southern 14
Georgia Southern came into the game against Georgia with nothing to lose, having clinched a share of the SoCon title. The Eagles knew this game meant nothing for their season, but they still played well through the first half. The Eagles faced one of the hottest teams in college football, and it showed, as the Bulldogs played a phenomenal game. Georgia found its stride through the air, as Aaron Murray had four touchdowns and exposed the weakness in the Eagles' defense. On the ground, though, Georgia Southern was on point, holding the "Gurshall" tandem under 100 yards.
Georgia Southern established a running game early, and it did not let up. They finished with over 300 yards rushing on the afternoon. As expected, Jerick McKinnon played well, going for over 100 yards on the ground, while averaging over five yards per carry. Dominique Swope was second on the team in rushing, with 92 yards and just over five yards per carry. The spread option offense for Georgia Southern worked very well, but the Eagles had little success through the air, and that proved to be the main reason why the Bulldogs pulled away.
The No. 3 team in the nation lived up to its ranking and played a great game. The Bulldogs were averaging over 11 yards per attempt in the passing game, and Aaron Murray was nearly flawless, finding his receivers in stride and fitting the ball into tight windows. Eight Georgia players had a reception, as Murray spread the ball around the field.
The Eagles did show how to slow down the highly touted Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combo known as "Gurshall". The duo was held to just 96 yards on 22 carries.
Georgia Southern earned the No. 5 overall seed in the FCS playoffs, and is set to play Central Arkansas on December 1st in Statesboro.
Kentucky 34, Samford 3
In what I expected to be the closest of the three SoCon vs SEC games, Kentucky dominated in every facet of the game. The Wildcats out-rushed the Bulldogs by 340 yards, and also dominated time of possession. Kentucky played its best game of the season and it showed on the field. There is one stat that summed up the game: Samford had -2 rushing yards. The defense for Kentucky played its best game as well, limiting Samford to just over 100 yards of total offense.
For the Bulldogs, it was an ugly game in every phase, but it was at its worst on the ground. Through the air, Andy Summerlin was 18 for 24 with 104 yards pass, but without the run game, Samford was forced into passing instead of a balanced attack. Fabian Truss was held to just 37 yards on 12 carries, and never got it going on the ground. The Bulldogs defense played very well in the passing game, but was torched on the ground, giving up 5.7 yards per carry.
Kentucky played a complete game and won handily. The Wildcats ran the ball 60 times and wore down the Bulldogs defense physically and mentally. Raymond Sanders led the Wildcats rushing attack with 123 yards and one touchdown, as the Wildcats had three players run the ball at least 15 times. Through the air, it was a different story for the Wildcats. Kentucky had only 113 yards passing, and Samford's defense played well limiting the big plays.
Samford's season ended in a loss, but the Bulldogs had a great season and showed the ability to play at a high level.
The SoCon Weekend Recap is put together by Southern Pigskin writers Russell Varner and David England.