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CSN So South: Appalachian State Picks Off Elon’s Hopes
By Myron Hosea, CSN So South Columnist
Before a record Rhodes Stadium crowd, visiting Appalachian State intercepted Elon’s bid to loosen the Mountaineers’ grip on the Southern Conference.
The Mountaineers turned three first-quarter interceptions into touchdowns to defeat the Phoenix 27-10 and clinch at least a share of the SoCon title for the fifth consecutive season. The victory also gives Appalachian State the league’s automatic berth in the FCS playoffs. Appalachian State has now won 19 SoCon games in a row.
“It’s extra hard to get through this conference undefeated,” Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore said. “Elon was well prepared. We have huge respect for them.”
He said the Mountaineers played “as good a game defensively as we have. I think we were extra well-prepared. They didn’t do anything to us we weren’t prepared to handle.” He specifically pointed out holding down yards after catch and pressuring the quarterback. “If you can destroy timing in the passing game, you’ve won half the battle.”
Elon head coach Pete Lembo said his team never quit. “I felt like we played well and hung with them for three quarters. But we dug a big hole for ourselves. I did feel like our kids battled throughout. We’ve got to come out and make plays from the start.”
The game featured a battle of the top offense in FCS (Appalachian State) against its best defense (Elon). The Phoenix defense gave up yards, but it kept the Mountaineers out of the end zone except following the three picks. Perhaps the difference in the game turned out to be the Mountaineers defense, which for the most part shut down Elon’s high-powered offense. Elon generated just 67 yards in the first half and finished with 270. That’s 171 yards below its average.
Appalachian State’s interceptions, though, turned the game.
At the beginning, each team’s all American got a big play on his first offensive snap. Elon wide receiver Terrell Hudgins took a Scott Riddle pass 17 yards on their first play, but the Phoenix had to punt. Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards ran for 16 yards on his first snap, but the Mountaineers had to punt.
Then things changed.
The Mountaineer defense sacked Riddle – the first of five sacks on the day – on first down of Elon’s second series. On second down, safety Mark LeGree intercepted Riddle’s pass at midfield. Edwards threw to Matt Cline for 18 and then nine. Two plays later, he found Brian Quick for 10. Two plays after that, Edwards spread everyone out and scored from the 15 on a delayed quarterback draw. Appalachian State led 7-0 with 7:17 remaining in the first quarter.
On its next possession, Elon moved 24 yards to its 49 when Ed Gainey intercepted Riddle’s deep pass attempt to Aaron Mellette at the Appalachian State 10. On third-and-six, Edwards kick-started a drive with a 39-yard pass to Blake Elder. A 13-yard pass to Cline and a pass interference penalty on Elon advanced the Mountaineers further down field. Four plays later, Edwards scored on a six-yard run to put the Mountaineers ahead 14-0 with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Mountaineer D wasn’t finished with the first quarter, though. On the first play of the ensuing Elon possession, Riddle’s pass went through Lance Camp’s hands and into the arms of LeGree. He returned his second pick 31 yards to the Elon 15. Devon Moore ran for 14, and Edwards followed two plays later with a three-yard scoring run on the first play of the second quarter. Appalachian State had staked itself to a comfortable 21-0 lead.
LeGree, who now has six picks on the season, said the interceptions can boost the entire team. “When I get interceptions, I know everybody feeds off it.”
Neither team scored the rest of the first half. Appalachian State managed two field goals in the second half – Jason Vitaris hit from 35 and 26 yards, but he also missed from 30 and 41.
Elon, meanwhile, finally got on the board with a 79-yard drive in the third quarter. It forced Appalachian State to punt to start the second half, and the Phoenix promptly drove downfield as Riddle and Hudgins connected on passes of 17, six and 27 yards. A false start penalty helped stall the drive, and Adam Shreiner came on to kick a 32-yard field goal.
The Phoenix went three-and-out on its next two possessions while the Mountaineers drove for those two field goals and one of the misses. Elon did go 75 yards in the fourth quarter. Mellette caught a 12-yard scoring pass from Riddle to finish the drive and the scoring with 4:48 remaining.
These teams pounded on each other all day. Edwards went out late in the second quarter with a possible strained knee. He did not re-enter until Appalachian State’s second series of the third quarter, and then his coaches did not call his number on any runs.
On back-to-back plays in the third, Elon’s top three offensive players were shaken up. Runningback Brandon Newsome, who ran for 63 yards, and Hudgins went out on the same play. On the following snap, Riddle came up limping after an incompletion and had to be replaced on a punt. Riddle and Hudgins would get touches throughout the remainder of the game.
This game featured some of the best players in the SoCon as well as FCS. Here’s a quick look at their day.
Edwards: Led Appalachian State in rushing with 73 yards on 10 carries (with those three touchdowns) and completed 21 of 24 passes for 281 yards.
Cline: Caught eight passes for 104 yards.
Hudgins: Grabbed 10 passes for 127 yards. This was his 26th career 100-yard receiving game, tying the Division I (FBS and FCS) record. On Hudgins, Lembo said, “Terrell Hudgins was a great leader out there today. Over the course of this year, he’s competed harder than he ever has before.”
Riddle: Finished with 20 completions in 34 attempts for 212 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions.
Appalachian State linebacker D. J. Smith: Made 15 tackles, eight solo, one tackle for loss.
The Mountaineers now return home to face Western Carolina. It’s not only an opportunity to keep the Old Mountain Jug in Boone, but also to wrap up a second consecutive unbeaten run through the SoCon. “I probably studied that game with Elon (game tape of Elon versus Western Carolina) more than any other game,” Moore said when talking about the Catamounts. “I was impressed with Western Carolina.”
Elon must dust itself off and travel across the Southeast to Birmingham to play a tough Samford team that’s won its last two. The sense is that despite its high ranking all year, Elon needs to win to ensure an at-large playoff bid. “We’ve got a chance to go down there and beat a good team and continue playing,” Lembo said.
By the way, 14,167 people attended this televised game, breaking the Rhodes Stadium record by more than 1,000 people.
NOTE: Photos of the tailgating and pregame activities are included at the end of this column.
SPOTLIGHT OF THE WEEK
Samford runningback Chris Evans needed 10 yards against Wofford to become the school’s all-time career rushing leader. He got those 10 yards and 247 more in the Bulldogs’ triumph. Evans, a junior, now has 3,370 career rushing yards.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Big South: Offense – Liberty wide receiver/quarterback Mike Brown; Defense – Charleston Southern defensive back Chris Kuzdale; Special Teams – Charleston Southern placekicker John Paglia; Freshman – Presbyterian College runningback Lance Byrd
Southern: Offense – Samford runningback Chris Evans; Defense – Appalachian State defensive back Mark LeGree; Special Teams – Chattanooga placekicker Craig Camay; Freshman – Chattanooga defensive lineman Joshua Williams
NOV. 14 IN REVIEW
Army 22, VMI 17
Army needed a fourth-quarter rally to hold off VMI 22-17 Saturday at West Point.
VMI fullback Howard Abegesah ripped off a 44-yard run in the opening moments of the final quarter to put the Keydets ahead 17-16. Two series later, however, Army drove 45 yards for the go-ahead points. Patrick Mealy ran 17 yards for the touchdown with 8:58 to go in the game. A try for two failed.
The Keydets twice drove into Army territory after that but turned the ball over on downs on the 38 and 34.
Army jumped to a 10-0 halftime lead before VMI rallied to tie the game in the third. Tim Maypray took a 13-yard scoring pass from Cam Jones for VMI’s first points. VMI forced and recovered a fumble on the kickoff, setting up Jeff Sexton’s 28-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 9:07 to go in the third.
The Black Knights went back ahead on a pair of field goals late in the third quarter before Abegesah’s run.
Coastal Carolina 41, Presbyterian College 37
Coastal Carolina held off a late Presbyterian College rally to earn the program’s 50th victory, a 41-37 triumph.
All of those triumphs have come under head coach David Bennett, a graduate of PC.
The Chanticleers finished 5-0 at home this season – the first time they’ve been undefeated at home since 2005 – but they had to withstand the Blue Hose’s fourth-quarter rally. Three times Coastal Carolina built 14-points leads (14-0, 28-14, and 35-21) and led 41-24 when Zach MacDowall hit Paul Nicholas for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 10:41 left in the game.
PC then rallied. The Blue Hose drove 82 yards in 13 plays to narrow the gap. Quarterback Brandon Miley hit Robert Bumgarner for a three-yard touchdown pass. That made the score 41-31 with 4:54 left.
The Blue Hose recovered the onside kick and drove for the score. Miley connected with Patrick McKoy for 29 yards for a touchdown with 2:56 remaining. The point-after kick failed.
PC got the onside kick again, but after one first down, the Blue Hose were flagged for holding. A 15-yard pass from Miley to Sean Adegbola gave PC a fourth-and-two at the Coastal Carolina 36. Lance Byrd could get only a yard, however, and the Chanticleers ran out the final minute of the game.
Besides his touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, MacDowall threw another 23-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas just before halftime and hit Brandon Whitley for a 26-yard score in the third. He also ran one yard and two yards for touchdowns in the first quarter.
Miley also threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Adegbola while Michael Ruff scored on a 44-yard run for PC.
Western Carolina 24, Eastern Kentucky 7
Western Carolina ended its eight-game road losing streak in fine fashion, traveling to OVC country to upset Eastern Kentucky 24-7.
Quarterback Zack Jaynes threw three touchdown passes to lead the Catamounts to their first road victory since September 2008.
Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, Jaynes guided Western Carolina on an 80-yard drive to tie the game with 11:01 left. The score came on MacDowall’s 43-yard pass to Marquel Pittman.
Late in the period, Jaynes led his team 73 yards to set up Blake Bostic’s 47-yard field goal 50 seconds before halftime.
Chaz Jackson recovered an Eastern Kentucky fumble at the Colonels’ 7-yard line in the third period. The Catamounts needed one play to score – Jaynes’ seven-yard pass to Pittman. They led 17-7 with 8:54 remaining in the third.
Nate Harris recovered a fumble on a punt return late in the third to set up the final score. Chris Everett caught a 13-yard pass from Jaynes for that one with 4:29 to go.
On the day, Western Carolina recovered three fumbles and intercepted a pass. The Catamounts defense held Eastern Kentucky to 102 yards rushing and 174 yards passing.
Liberty 51, Gardner-Webb 28
Trailing by a point at halftime, Liberty scored 24 unanswered second-half points to defeat Gardner-Webb 51-28 and go into the final weekend unbeaten in the Big South.
The Flames have now won seven straight road games in the Big South and 16 straight overall.
Liberty had won the last two games in this series handily, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs sought to make this one much tougher. They did so in the first half by matching Liberty’s scores.
Gardner-Webb scored first when David Montgomery returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
Liberty responded with a long drive capped when Mike Brown scored on a two-yard run. Later in the first quarter, Brown put the Flames ahead with a one-yard touchdown run with 2:31 left in the opening quarter.
Gardner-Webb drove to tie the game early in the second. Wide receiver James Perry III scored on a four-yard run. Back came Liberty. Tommy Shaver caught a five-yard pass from Tommy Beecher for a 21-14 lead with 11:05 remaining in the half. Patrick Hall raced 66 yards on the ensuing possession for another tie. With 2:59 to go in the first half, Matt Bevins kicked a 33-yard field goal for a 24-21 lead.
Montgomery figured in another big play to help Gardner-Webb take the lead before halftime. He caught a 43-yard pass from quarterback Stan Doolittle for a touchdown with 55 seconds. That left Liberty time to drive for another Bevins’ kick, making the halftime score 28-27.
Liberty took the lead for good when Bevins connected from 42 yards with 3:26 left in the third quarter. Bevins extended his consecutive field goal streak to eight before missing one in the third.
Beecher and Brown teamed to strike quickly on the next Flames possession. They combined for an 80-yard touchdown pass.
In the fourth, the Flames forced a fumble that Demetrius Ward returned 18 yards for a Liberty touchdown. The Flames finished the scoring with 3:36 left in the game when Beecher hit Chris Summers for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
After its fourth touchdown in the first half, Gardner-Webb’s six second-half offensive possessions ended in three punts, two fumbles and going out on downs.
Samford 27, Wofford 24
In Spartanburg on Saturday, Samford and Wofford combined for 944 yards – 651 of them on the ground – but Samford had just a few more points in hand on the day, beating the Terriers 27-24.
Three players accounted for 81 percent of those rushing yards. Samford runningback Chris Evans rushed for 257 yards on 37 carries, becoming the school’s all-time career rushing leader along the way. Wofford runningback Michael Scott ran for 165 yards on 12 carries while quarterback Mitch Allen added 103 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Most of the scoring occurred in the third quarter. Wofford led 7-3 at halftime, but Dustin Taliaferro, Samford’s quarterback, put his team ahead in the third quarter with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Richie Fordham. Wofford’s Christian Reed kicked a 24-yard field goal with 5:39 left in the third to tie the game at 10.
Samford went ahead a short time later. Evans keyed the drive with a 30-yard run to the Wofford one. Taliaferro ran it in from there on the next play. The Terriers needed just one play to tie the game again when Scott ran 59 yards for a touchdown. The Bulldogs went back out front just before the quarter ended when Cameron Yaw booted a 25-yard field goal.
On its next possession, Samford extended its lead to 10. Starting at midfield, the Bulldogs needed eight plays. They included four runs and a pass reception by Evans. Taliaferro hit Riley Hawkins for 15 yards on third down to keep the drive going. He then connected with Jonathan Lowery for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 10:57 left in the game.
Wofford’s running game got it back in the contest. Allen ran for 11, then Scott for 38 and 10. Allen’s 10-yard run two plays later set up Mike Rucker’s 14-yard dash for a touchdown with 8:28 to go.
The Terriers could not get past that 27-24 score, however, because they didn’t see the ball again. The Bulldogs kept possession for the full 8:28, going 75 yards in 17 plays before running out the clock at the Wofford two.
Charleston Southern 30, Stony Brook 27 Overtime
Charleston Southern got its kicks Saturday, going to overtime to hand Stony Brook its first Big South loss of the season, 30-27.
Charleston Southern placekicker John Paglia made kicked three of four field goal attempts, including the game-winner from 43 yards in overtime. He booted 51- and 46-yard field goals in the second quarter.
The Buccaneer special teams figured prominently in this game right from the opening kickoff. That’s when Deon Lee returned the kick 89 yards for a touchdown.
Stony Brook tied the game a little later after Tyler Santucci intercepted a pass and returned it 13 yards to the Charleston Southern 26. Runningback Conte Cuttino ran for 20 yards on second down and then scored from the six.
The Bucs recaptured the lead when quarterback A. J. Toscano completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Josh Atkinson, but the Seawolves tied the game on their next possession. Cuttino and Edwin Gowins did much of the work. Gowins capped the drive with a 17-yard scoring run.
Paglia’s two long field goals put Charleston Southern up by six in the second quarter, but his Stony Brook counterpart, Wes Skiffington, booted a 27-yard field goal to trim the lead to 20-17 at halftime.
Charles James intercepted a Michael Coulter pass and returned it 51 yards for a Charleston Southern touchdown. That gave the Bucs a 27-17 lead with 7:11 to go in the third. Stony Brook bounced back behind its runners. Cuttino ran for 10 and 43 yards before Gowins ran 14 yards for a touchdown. The Seawolves trailed 27-24 with 5:42 remaining in the third.
Skiffington kicked an 18-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 27-27. Neither team could score to avoid overtime.
Things went about as well as they could in the extra frame for Charleston Southern. Stony Brook got the ball first, but Chris Kuzdale intercepted Coulter’s pass on first down. The Buccaneers just set up Paglia for a field goal, and he delivered.
Furman 30, Georgia Southern 22
Furman jumped ahead early and then held off a Georgia Southern rally to defeat the Eagles 30-22 in Statesboro.
The Paladins placed themselves in position to finish with a winning record overall and in the SoCon if they can beat Wofford in the season finale. Georgia Southern, meanwhile, is assured of a losing season overall with a game remaining with The Citadel.
Two quick scores in the opening quarter accounted for Furman’s hot start. The Paladins took the opening kickoff and kept the ball for 5:43 to score. Quarterback Jordan Sorrells, who became the Paladins career passing yards leader last week, completed all six pass attempts on the 10-play, 84-yard drive. He also ran eight yards for a first down on a third-and-four. Runningback Tersoo Uhaa completed the drive on a 16-yard touchdown run with 9:17 to go in the first.
Georgia Southern moved for a first down before disaster struck. Kyle Collins, who started at quarterback for the Eagles, had his pass picked off by Furman’s Ryan Steed, who returned it 44 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 Furman lead eight minutes into the game.
Furman added to its lead in the second quarter. Sorrells teamed with wide receiver Adam Mims on a 29-yard touchdown pass. Matthew Cesari kicked a 42-yard field goal, and the Paladins led 24-0 at intermission.
The Eagles got on the board in the third after a short punt gave them the ball on the Furman 48. Quarterback Lee Chapple threw 10 yards to Mitch Williford for a touchdown with 9:21 remaining in the period.
Furman answered, however, when Jerry Williams scored on a two-yard run. The extra point kick failed, and the Paladins led 30-7.
Two long scoring drives in the final quarter got Georgia Southern back into the game. Chapple’s one-yard scoring run and his pass for two to Patrick Baker cut the Furman lead to 30-15 with 6:46 to go in the game. Steed intercepted Chapple the next time the Eagles had the ball, but they got one more score. Collins returned and threw 49 yards to Jamere Valentine, setting up his 16-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Bryant with one second left in the game.
Chattanooga 31, The Citadel 28
Chattanooga rallied from a 21-0 deficit to defeat The Citadel 31-28 and clinch the school’s first winning season since 2005 and its first .500 finish in the SoCon since 1998.
Mocs quarterback B. J. Coleman threw three second-half touchdown passes to pace the comeback, which began as the first half ended when Craig Camay kicked a 30-yard field goal for Chattanooga’s first points of the day.
The Citadel took the early lead behind walk-on quarterback Tommy Edwards and wide receiver Andre Roberts. They connected on two first-half scoring passes that covered three and nine yards. In between those scores, Edwards ran five yards for a touchdown. Edwards also threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to B. J. Phillips in the fourth quarter.
Back to the rally. Camay’s second field goal – a 35-yarder with 11:24 to go in the third quarter – cut the Bulldogs lead to 21-6. Then Coleman tossed the first of his touchdown passes with 3:01 remaining in the third. This one covered 23 yards and went to Chris Pitchford.
After Edwards’ third touchdown pass, the Mocs fell behind 28-13 with 13 minutes left to play. Coleman hit Blue Cooper for a four-yard score and then tossed to Sloan Allison for the two-point conversion. Camay added a 33-yard field goal at the 7:51 mark to narrow the gap to 28-24.
Then, there was a moment of déjà vu – sort of. A year ago in Charleston, Roberts returned a punt for a touchdown in the final minute for The Citadel’s winning points over Chattanooga. This year, Joel Bradford of Chattanooga returned a punt 53 yards to the Bulldogs nine yardline. After an incompletion, Coleman threw to Pitchford for eight. The Bulldogs stopped runningback Chris Awuah for no gain on third down. The Mocs got the points on fourth down, though, when Coleman tossed one yard to Cooper for the winning score.
The teams combined to turn the ball over on downs on the next three offensive possessions before Miguel Starks’ pass to Cam Turner went incomplete to end the game.
NUMBERS FROM NOV. 14
+ For Appalachian State and Elon, see above.
+ Against Army, VMI ran for 328 yards behind the efforts of Howard Abegesah (24 carries for 111 yards), Cam Jones (three for 100), and Kyle Hughes (15 for 65).
+ Coastal Carolina quarterback Zach MacDowall threw for 193 yards and ran for 69 while accounting for five touchdowns against Presbyterian College. Runningback Tommy Fraser added 157 yards rushing and a touchdown on 23 carries.
+ Presbyterian College runningback Lance Byrd tallied 148 yards on the ground while quarterback Brandon Miley threw for 251 yards and three scores.
+ Western Carolina quarterback Zack Jaynes completed 24 of 34 passes for 232 yards, three scores, and no interceptions against Eastern Kentucky. Wide receiver Marquel Pittman caught nine of those completions for 109 yards and two of the scores.
+ Liberty’s Mike Brown led the team in rushing against Gardner-Webb with 52 yards and two scores and caught 10 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Tommy Beecher completed 23 of 32 passes for 337 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
+ Gardner-Webb runningback David Montgomery, in addition to returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver James Perry III grabbed six passes for 62 yards and ran for one score.
+ Samford wide receiver Riley Hawkins caught five passes for 103 yards against Wofford. Quarterback Dustin Taliaferro threw for 174 yards and two scores on 19 of 26 passing.
+ Wofford quarterback Mitch Allen, besides rushing for 103 yards, threw for 107 yards and a 69-yard touchdown pass to Brenton Bersin in the Samford game.
+ Charleston Southern’s A. J. Toscano threw for 214 yards on 19 completions against Stony Brook. Gerald Stevenson caught eight of those passes for 76 yards.
+ Stony Brook’s rushing duo of Edwin Gowins and Conte Cuttino rang up big numbers against Charleston Southern. Gowins ran for 177 yards and two scores on 18 carries. Cuttino finished with 163 yards and a touchdown on his 21 rushes.
+ Furman quarterback Jordan Sorrells completed 17 of 23 passes for 244 yards, one touchdown, and one interception against Georgia Southern. Seven of his completions and the touchdown pass went to Adam Mims, who tallied 139 receiving yards.
+ Georgia Southern safety K. R. Snipes made 10 tackles against Furman, including eight solos. He also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.
+ Chattanooga’s Blue Cooper and B. J. Coleman had big games versus The Citadel. Cooper caught 14 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Coleman completed 39 of 61 passes for 356 yards, three scores, and one interception.
+ The Citadel quarterback Tommy Edwards threw for 214 yards on 21 of 37 passing and hit three touchdown passes. Wide receiver Andre Roberts caught 10 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
Saturday, Nov. 21
It’s difficult to believe, but here we are at the end of the regular season. This time next week, we’ll talk about who is going where in the playoffs and begin forming reviews on the season for most of the teams in the So South region. Let’s turn, for now though, to the games of the final weekend of the regular season.
Chattanooga (6-4, 4-4) at Alabama (10-0), 12:20 p.m.
Series Record: Alabama leads 10-0 (Last meeting: Alabama won 42-13 in Tuscaloosa in 1994)
What can you say? Chattanooga faces a monster opponent in the second-ranked team in the BCS in Alabama, who will be tuning up for the Auburn game. Instead, let’s just focus on the success of Russ Huesman’s first season at the helm of the Mocs. A program that has found winning difficult will take home a winning record for 2009.
Gardner-Webb (5-5, 2-3) at Presbyterian College (0-10, 0-5), 1 p.m.
Series Record: PC leads 16-15 (Last meeting: Gardner-Webb won at home last year, 47-21)
These former members of the South Atlantic Conference square off in Clinton. Gardner-Webb looks for its first winning season since 2006. Presbyterian College wants to end the season with a victory. Though it’s the end for both for 2009, don’t expect a lack of effort.
Liberty (8-2, 5-0) at Stony Brook (5-5, 4-1), 1 p.m.
Series Record: Liberty leads 1-0 (Last meeting: Liberty won the 2008 contest 33-0 in Lynchburg)
OK, so Stony Brook lost in overtime, ruining a showdown between teams with unbeaten records. Liberty comes in with the unblemished league record, but this game is still for the title. If Stony Brook can get the win at home, it would have the head-to-head claim to the title. The Flames have the opportunity to win their third-straight outright Big South championship without losing a single league game. Also, there’s some feeling among FCS observers that Liberty might have a shot at an at-large playoff berth. It would need to win this one, though.
Coastal Carolina (5-5, 3-2) at Charleston Southern (5-5, 3-2), 1:30 p.m.
Series Record: Coastal Carolina leads 4-2 (Last meeting: Charleston Southern won in Conway a year ago, 24-0)
This is becoming a nice little rivalry between teams just a pleasant drive down the South Carolina coast from each other. Then, you add in the fact that both teams enter with identical records. The winner finishes above .500, the loser below it. Enough said.
Old Dominion (8-2) at VMI (2-8, 1-5), 1:30 p.m.
Series Record: First meeting
VMI closes with an interesting battle. One of the oldest football programs in Virginia hosts the newest. Old Dominion has done well in its first season. The Monarchs enter the game on a five-game winning streak and an 8-2 record. The Keydets have the inverse of that mark and would like to close out 2009 with a win.
The Citadel (4-6, 2-5) at Georgia Southern (4-6, 3-4), 2 p.m.
Series Record: Georgia Southern leads 14-4 (Last meeting: Georgia Southern went to Charleston last year and won 44-41 in three overtimes)
Three months ago, both of these teams hoped this game might be for something special. Not so much now expect for a positive close to frustrating seasons. The winner finishes with five victories. Georgia Southern could force its way into a log jam around third or fourth in the league by winning and finishing at .500 in the conference.
Elon (8-2, 6-1) at Samford (5-5, 3-4), 3 p.m.
Series Record: Elon leads 5-2 (Last meeting: Elon won at home in 2008, 23-17)
After the loss to Appalachian State, Elon players noted that this regular-season finale now takes on greater significance, perhaps even more than the game with the Mountaineers. The Phoenix knows they might need to win to clinch a playoff berth. It won’t be easy. Samford plays good defense just like Elon has, and the Bulldogs have won their last two games – both on the road. This will be a good one to watch.
Wofford (3-7, 2-5) at Furman (5-5, 4-3), 3 p.m.
Series Record: Furman leads 49-26-7 (Last meeting: Wofford won 35-10 at home a year ago)
Another meeting of teams wrapping up disappointing seasons. Furman has the opportunity to finish with its 14th winning season in 15 years. A Paladin victory also means they would lock up sole possession of third place in the SoCon and be one of only three teams with a winning league record. Wofford, meanwhile, will be looking to derail all those opportunities for their nearby rivals.
Western Carolina (2-8, 1-6) at Appalachian State (8-2, 7-0), 3:30 p.m
Series Record: Appalachian State leads 54-18-1 (Last meeting: In Cullowhee, Appalachian State won 35-10 in 2008)
Elon head coach Pete Lembo said Appalachian State is peaking at just the right time. Bad news for Western Carolina as it ventures into Boone to battle for the Old Mountain Jug. Like last year, though, the Mountaineers could be without Armanti Edwards. We’ll have to see if the knee injury he suffered against Elon needs rest.
NEWS AND NOTES
+ Elon broke ground Saturday on the 30,000 square foot Alumni Field House. The facility will feature a locker room and team meeting room for football, conference room, athletic training room, strength and conditioning room, and study space for athletes. It also will include offices for football, baseball, soccer, cross country, track and field, and the athletic director and other staff. Elon expects the facility to be completed in December 2010.
+ Furman senior quarterback Jordan Sorrells passed Ingle Martin versus Auburn on November 7 to become the all-time career passing leader for the Paladins. Sorrells entered the Georgia Southern game with 5,762 career passing yards.
+ The Appalachian State-Elon game was just the second time since 1982 that a pair of SoCon teams with 6-0 league records had met. The previous meeting occurred in 1996 and featured a Randy Moss-led Marshall team playing at East Tennessee State. The Herd won that game 34-10 en route to a 15-0 season.
+ Coming into the Nov. 14 games, freshmen had run for 93 percent of Western Carolina’s rushing yards.
+ When Furman and Georgia Southern played this past Saturday, it was the first time since 1994 since neither team carried a top-25 ranking into the game.
Since Bruce Dowd was unable to make it to Elon Saturday, I walked around the beautiful Elon campus snapping some photos of all the pregame activities. View them here. Saturday’s weather was just about perfect for mid-November, enabling even an amateur photographer such as myself to get a few good ones. Enjoy.