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CSN So South: Big Wins and Close Losses Headline Opening Weekend
By Myron Hosea, CSN So South Columnist
Whether your team won or lost in week one, it’s great to have football back. In week one, several FCS teams played well against FBS teams, again demonstrating the viability and excitement of the FCS brand of football.
Appalachian State and Samford nearly knocked off Conference USA teams. Liberty lost in West Virginia, but it indicated it will still be a force in the Big South. Furman won the lone SoCon-Big South matchup of the week, and Georgia Southern notched a good opening victory over a FCS opponent.
All in all, there’s a lot to talk about in the 15 So South games. Let’s get to it.
Spotlight of the Week
Week one offered a few good choices for this feature, and I’ll go with Georgia Southern’s triumph over Albany. The Eagles countered every blow from the defending Northeast Conference champs before delivering their own knockout with a late field goal for a 29-26 victory.
Players of the Week
Big South: Offense – Liberty wide receiver Mike Brown; Defense – VMI linebacker Eric Church; Special Teams – Gardner-Webb placekicker Ryan Gates; Freshman – Gardner-Webb defensive tackle Matthew Goods
Southern: Offense – Furman quarterback Jordan Sorrells; Defense – Citadel defensive back Joseph Boateng; Special Teams – Elon punt returner Lance Camp; Freshman – Georgia Southern wide receiver Jamere Valentine
Week One (Sept. 3 and 5) Review
Balanced Paladins Put Away Blue Hose in Season Opener
Entering the season opener, Furman head coach Bobby Lamb wasn’t sure what to expect from his young defense or from the new Presbyterian College offense. By halftime, he had seen that young defense show a bit of grit in a tough spot.
In a game largely dominated by Furman’s offense, that Paladin defense made a big statement late in the first half. The Paladins jumped to a 17-0 lead before PC got on the board, cutting the lead to 17-7. Furman went three and out, and the Blue Hose went to work, finding themselves with a third and goal inside the Furman one, threatening to trim the lead to three. The Paladin defense stood up to two runs, the second just inches from the goal line.
“The thing that was tough on our defense was that we had no tape on them,” Lamb said about trying to prepare for a PC team led by new head coach Harold Nichols. “It was a great test for our defense.”
With the defense having passed that goal-line test, the Furman offense proceeded to march 99 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown with 28 seconds left in the half. Instead of possibly being up by only three, the Paladins led by 17 at intermission. PC would cut the lead to 10 early in the third, but the Paladins kept control.
One reason they kept control was the way quarterback Jordan Sorrells directed the offense. Sorrells completed 24 of 30 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. On the 99-yard drive, he completed seven of nine passes to five receivers for 76 yards. He also showed some newfound running prowess, ripping off a 46-yard run and scoring on a nine-yard keeper.
“I thought it was a great team win for us,” Sorrells said. “We played pretty well in a lot of different areas of the game. The defense really played well and had some great fourth-down stops.”
Sorrells said it’s good to have more weapons on offense this year. “That’s a great feeling for a quarterback. We’ve got playmakers all over the field. That’s something we’ve been looking forward to.” Indeed, eight players caught passes and six ran the ball, and that was without all-conference tight end Chris Truss getting a reception and all-conference runningback Mike Brown sidelined with an ankle injury.
Among those making catches was wide receiver R. J. Webb, who missed much of the last two seasons with injuries. He snared a 15-yard scoring pass from Sorrells in the second quarter.
PC, meanwhile, showed its own determination by continuing to strike at that young Furman defense. Quarterback Brandon Miley completed 18 of 34 passes for 237 yards and no interceptions. He found Patrick McCoy on a crossing pattern for PC’s first score and threw a 50-yard bomb to Matt Quinn for a score in the third quarter.
The Blue Hose also pounded on Furman from the ground, generating 140 yards, led by Trandon Dendy’s 85 yards and Lance Byrd’s 54.
PC, however, had trouble converting on key downs. Besides the stop at the goal line, PC turned the ball over on downs in Furman territory two other times and missed a field goal.
Nichols said he told his team there would be “about four or five plays during the course of a game that are going to determine the outcome, and we weren’t that far off. When those four or five plays presented themselves we really weren’t able to capitalize, and they did.”
Both teams have a lot of youth that will have to mature quickly. Six players on Furman’s starting defense are sophomores or freshmen, and the Paladins have nine freshmen on the defensive two-deep. PC has 15 freshmen on its entire two-deep.
Kent State 18, Coastal Carolina 0
This time it was closer than last year, but opening on the road against a FBS team still resulted in a loss for Coastal Carolina. Kent State dealt Coastal this loss, on Thursday.
Defensively, Coastal Carolina played well as the Golden Flashes failed to score offensive points in the first half. They led just 2-0 at the break thanks to a first-quarter safety (Kent State would have two safeties in the game). Coastal Carolina surrendered two short touchdown runs in the second half. Cornerback Josh Norman made six solo tackles and intercepted a pass. He blocked a Kent State field goal late in the first half that Dominique Davenport returned 64 yards, giving Coastal Carolina a shot at a last-second field goal that went wide left.
The Chanticleers managed just 185 yards in total offense in the loss. Quarterback Zach MacDowall threw for 107 yards, but the offense’s longest run from scrimmage covered nine yards and the longest pass play completion went for 19 yards.
Chattanooga 30, Glenville State 13
The Russ Huesman era at Chattanooga began successfully as the Mocs defeated Glenville State in the season opener at Finley Stadium.
New faces made an immediate impact for the new coach in this contest. Tennessee transfer B. J. Coleman, playing his first game as Chattanooga’s starting quarterback, threw for 258 yards and connected with Garrett Hughes for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Runningback Chris Awuah added 63 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Bo Dyer scored the other touchdown for the Mocs.
Glenville State did lead in yardage, 379-322, but the Mocs stopped it on downs three times and stopped two other possessions with takeaways.
Georgia Southern 29, Albany 26
Last season, Georgia Southern got familiar with the comeback and overtime. After rallying three times in the 2009 opener and with an overtime looming, the Eagles produced a 5:44 drive covering 57 yards before Adrian Mora booted a 44-yard field goal with 40 seconds left to defeat Albany.
Quarterback Lee Chapple threw touchdown passes of 36 and 26 yards to Jamere Valentine to pace an offense that generated 317 yards before a crowd of 18,118 at Paulson Stadium. The Eagles also scored on Laron Scott’s 15-yard interception return and Darrell Pasco’s return of an extra-point attempt that teammate Brent Russell blocked.
Georgia Southern fought to stop Albany’s rushing attack led by Andrew Smith and David McCarty, giving up 209 rushing yards. In the second half, the Eagles forced the Great Danes to punt three times and held them to two yards on four snaps following Mora’s winning field goal. Dion DuBose led the Eagles with 15 tackles.
East Carolina 29, Appalachian State 24
A second-half rally directed by a third-string quarterback fell short as Appalachian State lost its opener at East Carolina.
On the verge of being blown out in the first half, the Mountaineers recovered behind sophomore Travaris Cadet to score 17 fourth-quarter points and give the Pirates a scare. Following a safety with 7:29 to go in the third quarter, East Carolina led 29-7. From there, the Mountaineers made it a game.
Devon Moore’s one-yard run just over a minute into the final period started the comeback. The defense quickly forced a punt that Cadet returned 19 yards to the Pirates 38. Seven plays later, Cadet ran it in from the one, cutting the score to 29-21.
Cornerback Cortez Gilbert ended an East Carolina drive with an interception that he returned 16 yards to the Appalachian 49. That led to Jason Vitaris’s 43-yard field goal that made the scored 29-24 with 3:24 remaining. The Mountaineers got the ball one more time, but a sack of Cadet helped the Pirates prevent a full comeback.
In just more than one quarter of play, Cadet rushed 15 times for 35 yards and completed seven of nine passes for 55 yards. He returned two punts for 43 yards.
Florida 62, Charleston Southern 3
This game went pretty well according to script as the defending FBS champion Florida Gators rolled to a home triumph over Charleston Southern.
The Bucs, getting exposure and a payday, gave it a go and did produce 323 yards of offense against the vaunted Gator defense. Their lone score came when John Paglia kicked a 38-yard field goal with 5:37 left in the second quarter.
Florida showed its big-play ability with an 85-yard kickoff return for a score following that Charleston Southern field goal and a 76-yard run by Chris Rainey. Bucs quarterbacks A. J. Toscano and Andrew Trudnowski combined to complete 28 of 49 passes for 228 yards and one interception. Alex Neal caught seven of those passes while Kwame Krakue and Antwan Ivey each grabbed six.
North Carolina 40, The Citadel 6
After holding North Carolina scoreless in the first quarter, The Citadel fell to a swell of 23 second-quarter points as the Tar Heels rolled to victory.
The Bulldogs managed just two field goals in the final quarter and 153 yards of offense. With an injury-riddled runningback corps, The Citadel mustered 30 yards on 20 rushes.
North Carolina’s three touchdowns in the second quarter came on quick drives of six, seven and three plays. The Tar Heels defense limited the Bulldogs’ all-American wide receiver Andre Roberts. Though he snared 10 passes, they produced just 30 yards with the longest covering six yards.
Elon 56, Davidson 0
Dominating in all phases, Elon opened the season with a thumping of Davidson.
The Phoenix went deep from the get-go as quarterback Scott Riddle hit Terrell Hudgins for 20 yards and then 55 to set up Jamal Shuman’s one-yard scoring run a few minutes into the game. Elon scored two touchdowns in each of the first two quarters and three more in the third. Riddle and Hudgins combined on touchdown passes of 9 and 29 yards, and Riddle connected with Jeremy Peterson and A. J. Harris on scoring passes as well. Lance Camp returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown.
Elon outgained Davidson 575 to 104. The Wildcats punted on every first-half possession except the one that ended with the start of halftime. The second half did not go much better. The Phoenix sacked Davidson quarterback Michael Blanchard six times.
West Virginia 33, Liberty 20
Despite dropping the season opener, Liberty showed it will remain a force in the Big South Conference.
The Flames withstood several Mountaineer offensive assaults, forcing West Virginia to settle for field goals on four occasions. Eventually, the Mountaineers proved a little too stout, pulling away for the triumph.
Early on, Liberty matched the Mountaineers score for score, working a 10-10 tie in the second quarter. With South Carolina transfer Tommy Beecher calling the signals and with Mike Brown on the wings, the Flames kept the West Virginia defense on the field for long stretches. The Mountaineers finally put some distance between the teams with a touchdown and two field goals in the last half of the second quarter.
The Flames drove 49 yards in the third quarter, setting up Matt Bevins’ 49-yard field goal that cut the West Virginia lead to 23-13 with 5:21 remaining in the period. The Mountaineers scored the next 10 points before Brown’s nine-yard touchdown run with 52 seconds to go in the game.
In his first start for Liberty, Beecher completed 22 of 33 passes for 210 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Gardner-Webb 58, Mars Hill 14
After spotting Mars Hill an early 7-0 lead, Gardner-Webb took over and defeated the Lions.
The Bulldogs didn’t get running until the second quarter when they scored 24 points. Quarterback Stan Doolittle hit Nick Melton on a 22-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring. Gardner-Webb displayed the balanced offense its needs to push for a Big South title. The ground game generated 244 yards while the passing attack finished with 282 yards.
Mars Hill scored its first touchdown on a 41-yard drive set up by an interception. The Lions could not muster a drive longer than 34 yards until its last scoring drive late in the game. The Gardner-Webb defense – with three interceptions and 10 quarterback hurries – held the Lions to 185 yards.
VMI 14, Robert Morris 13
That’s why they call ’em playmakers. VMI turned to one of its best playmakers – the preseason Big South Offensive Player of the Year Tim Maypray – for the key play of its season opener.
Maypray, the VMI quarterback, scored on a five-yard run with 1:27 to go to tie the game. Jeff Sexton’s point after kick served as the winning margin in a 14-13 victory over Robert Morris. Garrett Clawson also figured into that final margin as well when he blocked the Colonials point after with 6:22 remaining.
The teams played to a scoreless tie in the first half. VMI scored first on Emilio Calvin’s fumble recovery in the end zone early in the second half. Robert Morris scored the next two touchdowns before Maypray’s winner. That winner capped a 79-yard, 13-play drive that lasted almost five minutes.
Central Florida 28, Samford 24
A nine-yard touchdown pass with 10:53 to go in the game kept Central Florida from falling to upset-minded Samford as the Knights won in the season opener.
UCF’s 39-yard punt return led to Brett Hodges’ touchdown pass to Jamar Newsome for the game-winning points. Samford had two more possessions but could not put points on the board.
After a 7-7 halftime tie, the teams combined for 31 third-quarter points. Richie Fordham took a handoff from quarterback Dustin Taliaferro and then threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Riley Hawkins to give Samford a 14-13 lead. Ryan Anderson followed that less than a minute later with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 21-13 advantage.
Central Florida tied the scored later in the quarter, but Cameron Yaw put the Bulldogs ahead with 41-yard field goal.
Bryce Smith made 10 solo tackles to lead Samford’s defense, which held Central Florida to 282 yards. Samford finished with 286 yards.
Hofstra 17, Stony Brook 10
Stony Brook came up short in its latest attempt to notch its first football victory over Hofstra. Instead, the Pride held off the Seawolves.
Hofstra wrapped up Stony Brook’s running game, holding Edwin Gowins to 37 yards and Conte Cuttino to 29. Seawolves quarterback Michael Coulter took up some of the slack with 188 yards on 18 of 29 passing. He completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Stephan Towns with 3:58 to go in the game for Stony Brook’s only touchdown of the game.
The Pride scored a touchdown and a field goal on its first two possessions of the game and threatened on the next two but missed field goals on them. Their last touchdown came on a fumble recovery in the end zone.
Stony Brook drove 63 yards for its field goal and 82 yards for its touchdown. Otherwise, the Seawolves had just one other possession that covered more than nine yards.
Vanderbilt 45, Western Carolina 0
Behind a 620-yard offensive performance, Vanderbilt overwhelmed Western Carolina in the season opener in Nashville.
Two Commodore runningbacks topped the 100-yard mark as Vanderbilt rushed for 430 yards against the Catamounts. Vanderbilt led 21-0 at halftime and held Western Carolina to just 115 yards of total offense. Only one Catamount drive finished on the Vanderbilt side of the 50.
South Florida 40, Wofford 7
Stung by miscues, Wofford saw a 7-7 second-quarter tie dissolve as South Florida cruised to victory over the Terriers.
Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein scored from two yards out with three minutes left in the first quarter to help the Terriers tie the Bulls. Two bad punt snaps in the final minute led to a South Florida touchdown and a safety, giving the Bulls a 16-7 lead at intermission.
The Bulls got a short field for its first possession of the second half, using that to extend its advantage to 16 points. Wofford followed that with fumbles on its next two possessions and could not recover.
Numbers from Week One
Furman wide receiver Adam Mims caught eight passes for 96 yards and a score, all in the first half. He missed the school single-game record for receptions by one.
Presbyterian College wide receiver Patrick McCoy matched Mims by catching eight passes. His receptions covered 103 yards, and he also scored a touchdown.
Coastal Carolina and Kent State combined were 3 of 27 on third-down conversions.
Chattanooga linebacker Joseph Thornton participated in 17 tackles and broke up two passes.
The passing game did reappear in Statesboro as Georgia Southern quarterback Lee Chapple threw it 43 times, completing 30 for 259 yards, two scores and just one interception.
Linebackers D. J. Smith and Jacque Roman led Appalachian State’s defense with 13 and 11 tackles, respectively.
Charleston Southern’s multitalented Gerald Stevenson finished with 166 all-purpose yards against Florida, 104 via kickoff returns.
The Citadel and North Carolina combined for eight turnovers, four apiece.
Elon’s big three Saturday night were quarterback Scott Riddle (22-33-0 passing for 326 yards), wide receiver Terrell Hudgins (7 catches, 156 yards), and runningback Jamal Shuman (20 rushes, 115 yards).
Liberty’s Mike Brown proved elusive to the West Virginia defense. He caught 11 passes for 157 yards and a score, ran for a touchdown and averaged 36 yards on three kickoff returns.
Gardner-Webb wide receiver Nick Melton caught five passes for 111 yards and a score.
VMI fullback Howard Abegesah rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries against Robert Morris.
Samford wide receiver Riley Hawkins caught three passes for 107 yards and two scores against Central Florida.
In its loss to Hofstra, Stony Brook surrendered only 276 yards to the Pride.
Three Western Carolina defenders – Mitchell Bell, Chris Collins and Ricky Schwarz – finished with double-digit tackles against Vanderbilt.
Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein rushed for 121 yards on 13 carries against South Florida.
Coming Up This Week
Saturday, Sept. 12
Elon (1-0) at Presbyterian College (0-1), 1:30 p.m.
Series Record: Elon leads 23-18-2 (Last meeting: Elon won at home last year, 66-12)
Presbyterian College’s run of SoCon opponents continues as Elon rolls into town. Last year’s meeting at Elon did not go well for the Blue Hose. They will have to stop the high-powered Phoenix offense while facing a defense that has lots of experience and confidence.
McNeese State (1-0) at Appalachian State (0-1), 3:30 p.m.
Series Record: First meeting
Appalachian State welcomes a perennial Top-25 FCS program to the Rock this week. The Cowboys almost stumbled to start the season when they had to score 15 fourth-quarter points to defeat Division II Henderson State 27-24.
Furman (1-0) at Chattanooga (1-0), 6 p.m.
Series Record: Furman leads 25-13 (Last meeting: Furman won 35-10 last year in Greenville)
It’s an early start to the SoCon season as Chattanooga welcomes Furman to Finley Stadium. Russ Huesman opened his coaching tenure at his alma mater with a win, but he and his team will face a tougher task this week. The Paladins showed balance on offense in their week one victory and have dominated this series in recent years.
Gardner-Webb (1-0) at Western Carolina (0-1), 6 p.m.
Series Record: Western Carolina leads 2-1 (Last meeting: Gardner-Webb won 26-20 in overtime in 2004)
This game is one of the more intriguing games of the week. It’s a SoCon-Big South match up of western North Carolina teams. Despite being close geographically, these schools have met just three times on the gridiron. The game will be a good test for both.
Stony Brook (0-1) at Colgate (1-0), 6 p.m.
Series Record: Stony Brook leads 1-0 (Last meeting: Stony Brook won 43-26 at home last year)
A year ago, Stony Brook captured a big triumph over eventual playoff team Colgate. This year’s game should be a tight contest as the Seawolves will try to get their running game off the ground. Colgate opened with a 35-23 victory over Monmouth.
Charleston Southern (0-1) at Wofford (0-1), 7 p.m.
Series Record: Wofford leads 11-0 (Last meeting: Wofford won 41-23 in Spartanburg last year)
Neither team had much success opening the season in Florida, and both will be anxious to avoid an 0-2 start. Wofford hosted last year’s game when the threat of a hurricane moved the game up Interstate 26 from Charleston to Spartanburg. Despite controlling the ball most of the game, the Bucs lost by 18.
Georgia Southern (1-0) at South Dakota State (0-0), 7 p.m.
Series Record: Georgia Southern leads 3-0 (Last meeting: Georgia Southern won 41-38 in Statesboro in 2007)
The Eagles fly north to serve as the Jackrabbits’ first opponent of the season. The two squads went back and forth two years ago in Statesboro. That seems to be the standard state of play for Georgia Southern these days. Expect more of the same this week.
Jacksonville (1-0) at Samford (0-1), 7 p.m.
Series Record: First meeting
The Florida theme continues in the So South region as the Bulldogs welcome Jacksonville. Former Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell has made the Dolphins of the Pioneer Conference more competitive. They’ll face a Samford team that will be looking to bounce back from nearly upsetting Central Florida.
Monmouth (0-1) at Coastal Carolina (0-1), 7 p.m.
Series Record: Coastal Carolina leads 1-0 (Last meeting: CCU won 26-7 at home last year)
The Chanticleers would love to get their offense in gear this week against Monmouth, which dropped a 35-23 decision to Colgate in the season opener. Monmouth will face a stalwart Coastal Carolina defense in the Chants’ home opener at Brooks Stadium.
North Carolina Central (0-1) at Liberty (0-1), 7 p.m.
Series Record: First meeting
Liberty welcomes North Carolina Central for the home opener. The Flames will hope to show more of its offensive prowess this week. North Carolina Central lost to Hampton, 31-24, in its opener.
Not playing this week: The Citadel and VMI
* * *
News and Notes
- Despite the loss, Liberty’s game with West Virginia marked the 19th time in the last 20 games that the Flames have scored at least 20 points.
- VMI has now won five straight season openers.
- For the first season ever, Presbyterian College plays only Division 1 (FCS) schools.
- Gardner-Webb quarterback Stan Doolittle surpassed the 3,000-yard passing mark for his career.
- With his 79 yards rushing, VMI quarterback Tim Maypray became the seventh Big South player to top 2,000 yards rushing for a career.