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SoCon Weekend Recap

By Southern Pigskin Staff
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Georgia Southern appears to have finally cemented itself as the top team in the SoCon.

Eight weeks into the 2012 SoCon season, things are really beginning to take shape in the conference battle and in the race for playoff positioning. The Eagles have established themselves on top, with Wofford not far behind, and don’t look now, but the Chattanooga Mocs are currently third in the standings. It was another high-scoring Saturday filled with touchdowns, controversial calls and ridiculous performances. So, to sum it up, it was just another fall Saturday in the Southern Conference.

Elon 42, Western Carolina 31

In a battle of two teams desperately searching for anything to turn their season around, it was the Phoenix that came out on top thanks to some great play from quarterback Thomas Wilson and receiver Aaron Mellette. Wilson finished 20-of-28 passing for 378 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception, while Mellette had five catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns, which moved him past former Citadel great Andre Roberts into second place the SoCon’s career receiving touchdown list and into third place on the conference’s career receiving yards list.

The Phoenix’s dominating first half was enough for them to withstand a second-half Catamount rally, as they were able to seemingly do whatever they wanted against the Western defense early on. For my Madden-playing readers out there, think of playing a defense on "Pro", and you will have an idea what it was like in the first two quarters for the Phoenix.

While quarterback Eddie Sullivan saw much of the playing time early on for Western Carolina, it was the introduction of Troy Mitchell at quarterback that seemed to spark the team. After struggling for two quarters, Mitchell took over and led Western to 18 second half points, finishing with 175 passing yards, 78 rushing yards and two passing TDs. Spearman Robinson also had a career game, catching nine balls for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Next week, Elon hosts Furman, while the Catamounts host hated rival Appalachian State.

No. 9/8 Wofford 38, No. 11/13 Appalachian State 28

You may recall reading in this week’s SoCon Weekend Primer that I said the winner of this game would be determined by which App State defense showed up - the defense that was torched by The Citadel or the white-hot shutdown defense of recent weeks. Unfortunately for App, the former showed up on Saturday.

The Terriers have firmly established themselves in second place in the conference, ready to pounce should Georgia Southern falter.

The Terriers totaled 393 rushing yards, 123 of which came from Eric Breitenstein. It was his 26th career 100+ yard rushing game, breaking the school record set by Shawn Graves. He is also just 315 yards behind Graves for the school’s career rushing record. Not to be forgotten, quarterback Brian Kass finished with 38 passing yards, 71 rushing yards and a rushing TD, and Michael Weimer stepped up with 77 rushing yards of his own.

The back-breaking play of the game came early in the fourth quarter, when Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Jackson was sacked and fumbled. Terrier defensive lineman Tarek Odom scooped up the loose ball and returned it 40 yards for the touchdown and a 38-28 lead, which would be the final score. ASU fans have argued that the play should have been ruled an incomplete forward pass.

The Mountaineer offense was not at their peak on Saturday, as the Wofford defense held them under 400 total yards for the first time this season. Jackson finished with 257 passing yards and one pick on 29-of-46 passing, along with 32 rushing yards, a touchdown and the controversial fumble. Running back Steven Miller added 68 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Receiver Tony Washington finished with 75 yards on seven catches and had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that gave ASU a 28-24 lead. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the Terriers’ big plays ultimately did them in.

ASU hopes to bounce back against rival Western Carolina in the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug, while the Terriers go home to face off against The Citadel.

No. 3 Georgia Southern 38, Furman 17

The Eagles had a tough test on Saturday, traveling to face a hot team in Furman. The Eagles were on a high as well, coming off of a big win over Wofford. Furman was in the game early in the third quarter, but Jonathan Bryant scored on a 42-yard run to extend the Eagles' lead to 24-10. Later in the quarter, the key play of the game came from the Eagles defense, when defensive end Dion DeBose recovered a fumble and returned it 44 yards, which led to a four-yard touchdown run by Dominique Swope.

As expected, Georgia Southern made a living on the ground. They had a solid day in the air as well, however, accounting for over 150 passing yards. The somewhat balanced attack threw Furman's defense off their game and forced them to play less defenders in the box, which opened up the running game for the Eagles. The Paladins defense was phenomenal through the first half, only allowing Georgia Southern to score three points. Swope again had a good performance with two touchdowns on 14 attempts. The player that impressed most for Georgia Southern was Jerick McKinnon, who was 3-of-5 for 119 yards and a touchdown through the air. McKinnon is a nightmare for defensive coordinators, as his dul-threat capabilities make the option attack of Georgia Southern much more deadly.

On the other side of the ball, Georgia Southern continues to be a physical and tough defense. The Eagles limited Furman quarterback Reese Hannon to 184 yards passing and no touchdowns. The Paladins offense did have some good performances, though, as Jerodis Williams had 98 yards rushing and one touchdown.

The Paladins shocked a lot of pundits by hanging around with Georgia Southern for as long as they did. We saw that Georgia Southern has holes in that vaunted defense, but they continue to win and move up the rankings.

Georgia Southern is on the road again next week at Chattanooga, while Furman travels to take on Elon.

Chattanooga 20, Samford 13

On paper, this matchup appeared to be one of the more interesting games of this past Saturday. The Bulldogs came into Chattanooga with an impressive 5-2 record, while the Mocs had a .500 record at 3-3 overall. The game started out very sloppy for both teams, with missed tackles and blown assignments galore. Luckily, the level of play picked up in the second and third quarters. The key play of the game came in the third quarter, when Jacob Huesman found Marquis Green for a 16-yard touchdown pass, giving Chattanooga a 20-3 lead and momentum.

Samford did not lay down, though, as they rallied to score ten points in the fourth. It was not enough, however, as Chattanooga went on to win the game by a final of 20-13. The stats were as even as you will find in any game around the country. Chattanooga had 250 total yards of offense, while Samford had 259. The Mocs had 179 passing yards, while Samford had 190. Chattanooga had 71 yards rushing, while Samford had 69. The game came down to which defense would break. In the middle quarters, Samford's defense did collapse, allowing 20 points, which proved to be too much for the Bulldogs to bounce back from.

Jacob Huesman yet again had a great game for the Mocs with over 240 total yards and two touchdowns. The numbers for Huesman impress, but his will to win takes his game to the next level. On the other side of the ball, Wes Dothard had a team high 11 tackles, and Davis Tull had two sacks in the game. The all-around team performance is what we have been waiting for from the Mocs, and it showed up in a big way with a key conference win for Chattanooga.

"It wasn't pretty. I thought the way we played the game defensively went really well. Any time you can get a win against a really good football team it is great," said head coach Rob Huesman.

Next week Chattanooga faces Georgia Southern at home. Samford faces Wofford.


The SoCon Weekend Recap is put together by Southern Pigskin writers Russell Varner and David England.