SoCon Weekend Recap
By Russell V.
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The Citadel pulled off a huge SoCon upset for a second consecutive week.
Wow! That’s the best word to describe this past weekend's slate of games in the SoCon. No offense to all of the other games, but one stood out above the others, one that shook the entire Southern Conference and FCS community. This weekend was highlighted by high-scoring affairs everywhere you turned. Then again, would you expect much less?
Elon 48, West Virginia State 14
The Phoenix came out and played some inspired football against the Yellow Jackets, though their minds could have easily been elsewhere. Less than 24 hours before kickoff, Coach Jason Swepson was checked into a hospital with chest pains. He has recovered and is doing fine now, just like his football teams seems to have recovered from their Week One shellacking at the hands of North Carolina. Thomas Wilson threw four touchdowns and zero interceptions, Aaron Mellette looked like his old self again (nine catches, 129 yards, two TDs) and the Phoenix racked up 301 rushing yards, 110 of which came from freshman back Thuc Phan. Elon held the ball from 37 minutes and had 571 yards of offense. All seems to be well, but they will get a true test next weekend when they travel to Statesboro to face Georgia Southern.
Clemson 41, Furman 7
Unfortunately, this game went about as well as most FCS vs.FBS game go: FBS team takes early lead, FCS team makes comeback to make it respectable at halftime, FBS team runs away in the second half. The Tigers, ranked No. 11 in the FBS, just had too much talent for the Paladins to contain, as they gave up 498 yards on defense. The back-breaker was Clemson’s first two touchdowns, which were scored on drives that took up a grand total of 2:53. The loss puts Furman at 0-3 for the first time since 1979, but not all is bad for the Paladins. Filling in for injured starter Dakota Derrick, freshman QB Reese Hannon played admirably, completing 19-of-29 passes for 235 yards with one touchdown and one interception, numbers good enough to draw praise from Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. On top of that, RB Jerodis Williams gained 87 yards on the ground, while receiver Ryan Culbreath tied a career-high with six catches for 69 yards. Next up for the Paladins is a trip to Presbyterian.
No. 23/21 The Citadel 52, No. 7/8 Appalachian State 28
Even as I look at the score now, I see it, but I still don’t believe it. It was definitely not a one-week wonder – the Citadel Bulldogs are legit. A week removed from their upset of Georgia Southern, The Citadel came into Boone and dominated the Mountaineers from start to finish. They scored 38 unanswered points to start the game, and never looked back on their way to their first 3-0 start since 1992. The Bulldogs totaled 618 yards of offense – 463 on the ground, led by Ben Dupree’s 180 yards and two touchdowns. Not to be forgotten, Darien Robinson and Rickey Anderson added 113 and 102 yards, respectively, and a touchdown apiece. Oh, and then there was Carson Smith, who had seven tackles, an interception and a blocked punt in the victory. It was amazing how the Bulldogs were able to do whatever they want, whenever they wanted against the Mountaineers’ vaunted defense. Steven Miller had one of the best games of his career, finishing with 167 yards and three rushing touchdowns, but the Mountaineers just could not make plays when it mattered most. They will try to right the ship next week at Chattanooga, while the first place Bulldogs travel north to visit North Carolina State.
Samford 44, Gardner-Webb 23
Don’t look now, but the ‘other’ Bulldogs are putting together a solid season of their own. With their blowout victory over Gardner-Webb, Samford is now 3-0 and tied for second in the conference standings (yes, it is only three weeks in, but whatever). And who led the charge for the Bulldogs? Who else but RB Fabian Truss, who finished the day with 84 yards on 11 carries and four TDs (three rushing, one kickoff), which ties a school record held by seven different players. Surprisingly, the defense wasn’t as strong as you would normally expect from a Samford team as they gave up nearly 450 yards of offense, but they held when it mattered most, even picking off a two-point conversion attempt late in the game and returning it for two points of their own. Jaquiski Tartt and Darion Sutton led the defense with 11 tackles apiece and the Bulldogs forced two turnovers. Samford plays their second of three-straight road games this weekend when they stay in the Carolinas to face off against Western Carolina.
No. 9 Wofford 49, Western Carolina 20
Meanwhile, down in Spartanburg, the Terriers nearly had a record-setting evening of their own as they totaled 590 yards on the ground – just a few yards off of the school record. Eric Breitenstein, Michael Weimer and Donovan Johnson each ran for over 100 yards and combined for six touchdowns. They were key to Wofford’s 35 unanswered points that blew a 7-7 tie wide open and turned it into a blowout. 15 different Terriers carried the ball as the team averaged 8.6 yards a rush. On the other side, while Western’s run defense struggled, their passing offense showed new signs of life. Eddie Sullivan completed 28 of 37 passing for 302 yards, finding targets like Spearman Robinson (nine catches, 91 yards), Jacoby Mitchell (eight catches, 87 yards) and Karnorris Benson (three catches, 83) all night. It is not all bad news for the Catamounts, but their defense still needs a lot of work. Western will host Samford next weekend while Wofford enjoys a bye week.