Recapping Week 5:
In a season in which the Southern Conference entered the campaign with maybe its best collection of talent at the running back position in league history, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, will go down as one of the greatest in league history for running backs on a single Saturday.
The story of this tale obviously begins in Elon, N.C., where Wofford's Eric Breitenstein rolled up a SoCon record 321 rushing yards as a part of an afternoon that saw the Terriers roll up 500 yards on the ground en route to a 49-24 win over Elon to remain unbeaten, at 4-0, and atop the league standings with a 2-0 record.
Breitenstein's magical Saturday put him in some pretty good company, as he became part of the SoCon's Mount Rushmore of players to eclipse the 300-yard plateau in a game. Breitenstein became the fourth player in Southern Conference history to complete a game by rushing for 300 or more yards in a single game, and only the second player to do it in a regular-season game.
Breitenstein joins former Georgia Southern's Adrian Peterson (333 yards vs. UMass in '99 FCS Quarterfinals), Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards (313 yards vs. Richmond in the 2007 FCS Semifinals) and Furman's Louis Ivory (301 yards vs. Georgia Southern in 2000). Only Breitenstein and Ivory were able to pull off the feat during the regular season.
The elite pantheon of former SoCon greats that Breitenstein joined with his performance on Saturday were three of the five players that have won a Walter Payton Award Trophy (awarded to the top individual player at the FCS level) from the SoCon.
The league has won six overall, with Edwards being the only player in FCS history to have won the award twice in his career.
In total, Breitenstein finished the day with 27 rushes for 321 yards and a pair of scores, averaging an amazing 11,9 YPG. The Terriers were simply dominant on the ground, with a 500-49 advantage in rushing yards.
While Breitenstein and the Terriers were busy running roughshod through the Elon defense on Saturday afternoon, Furman running back Jerodis Williams was busy rolling up his own huge day against the Western Carolina Catamounts, tallying a career-high 239 rushing yards, while also posting 131 return yards to help power Furman past Western Carolina 45-24 on Saturday afternoon in Greenville. In total, Williams posted 370 all-purpose yards on the afternoon for the Paladins.
The 239-yard rushing performance was the fourth-highest rushing total in a single game in program history, while his 201 first-half rushing yards tied the school mark for rushing yards in a single half of football. Louis Ivory rushed for 201 yards in the second half of Furman's 45-10 win over No. 1 Georgia Southern during the 2000 season.
The afternoon didn't exactly get off to the start Williams had hoped for, as despite gaining 42 yards on three carries on the opening drive of the game, Williams fumbled out of the back of the end zone just before he crossed the goal line, turning the ball over the Catamounts. However, that would be the end of Williams's miscues on the day for the Paladins, as every time he touched the ball from that point on was golden.
He answered an early Catamount field goal, which gave the visitors a very brief 3-0 lead, with a 100-yard kickoff return for a score to give Furman a lead it would not surrender the rest of the afternoon.
Early in the second quarter, Williams had just caught his breath when he sprinted 89 yards down the left sideline for the second-longest scoring run in school history, making it 14-3. His third and final score of the day was much shorter, as he plunged into the end zone from two yards, extending Furman's second quarter lead to 21-3.
In total, his 239-yard rushing effort helped the Furman offense gain 600 or more yards (619 yards vs. WCU) for just the 11th time in school history and for the first time since the 2003 season in the regular-season finale against Chattanooga. The 389 rushing yards were also the most ground yards since that same game to round out the the 2003 season.
Also on Saturday, it was Appalachian State's Stephen Miller getting into the rushing act, as he helped the 17th-ranked Mountaineers put together its most impressive rushing effort of the season, as ASU churned out 399 yards on the ground in its 55-14 blasting of Coastal Carolina at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Saturday.
The Mountaineers improved to 3-2 overall and remain 1-1 in league play, as they ended the Chanticleers' three-game winning streak against the SoCon and improved to a perfect 3-0 against Coastal Carolina in three-career meetings.
It was Miller, a senior from Piscataway, N.J., that provided a lion's share of the ground work on Saturday, and like Breitenstein and Williams, posted a career afternoon with 201 yards on 17 carries, averaging 11.9 YPC.
ASU became the third team to amass 500 or more yards on the day and the second team to post 600 or more yards on the day, as the Mountaineers posted 684 yards of total offense.
Jamal Jackson amassed a career-high 339 yards of total offense (285 passing, 54 rushing) and had four TD responsibilities (three passing, one rushing) in leading ASU's offensive outburst, which accounted for the most yards by an Appalachian State offense since rolling up 712 yards in a 52-16 win over Georgia Southern in 2009. The 684 yards ranks as the third highest offensive yardage total in school history.
Jackson's favorite target in that ASU passing attack once again was redshirt freshman Sean Price, who hauled in eight passes for 128 yards and a couple of TDs in the all-around offensive explosion by ASU.
Miller's 201-yard rushing performance is the first 200-yard rushing effort by a Mountaineer since former quarterback DeAndre Presley racked up 264 yards in a second round FCS Playoff win over Western Illinois back in 2010.
Jackson's 339 yards of total offense on the day marked the 11th time in 12 career starts that the junior signal-caller has amassed 250 or more yards total offense in a single game.
In the Southern Conference Game of the Week, which featured the league's lone matchup between ranked foes, No. 9 Georgia Southern had two players eclipse the 100-yard mark, and the Eagles were able to improve to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in SoCon play, as the Eagles handed No. 25 Samford (4-1, 2-1 SoCon) its first loss of the season. They claimed a 35-16 win on Saturday night at Allen E. Paulson Stadium to notch their 12th-straight win inside the friendly confines.
The Eagles got a pair of solid rushing performances from Jerick McKinnon (162 rushing yards, 2 TDs) and Dominique Swope (133 yards, 2 TDs) and the defense played strong, limiting a normally potent Samford offense to just 354 yards, and had a 72-yard INT return for a score from Lavelle Westbrooks lead to one of the GSU scores.
The preseason Southern Conference favorites managed a 394-354 advantage in total offensive yards in claiming their 12th straight home win at Allen E. Paulson Stadium. In total, McKinnon was able to rush for 162 yards on 13 rush attempts, and his two scoring runs were from 67 and 41 yards in the contest.
The Eagles were able to forge a 363-60 advantage in rushing offense, as the Eagles were able to limit Samford all-league running back Fabian Truss to just 50 yards on 15 rush attempts.
A large majority of Samford's offense came through the air, with Andy Summerlin doing most of the damage with his arm, as he completed 23-of-49 passes for 291 yards with a TD and an INT. Samford also had a defensive TD, as Jaquiski Tartt picked up a fumble and returned it 80 yards for a score in the third quarter.
Chattanooga went on the road and picked up its first Southern Conference win of the 2012 season, taking a 28-10 win over No. 15 Citadel at Johnson-Hagood Stadium on Saturday night. The win sees the Mocs improve to 2-3 on the season and 1-1 in Southern Conference play, while the Bulldogs drop to 3-2 and 2-1 in league play.
Leading the Chattanooga offense for the first time in the starting role under center this season was sophomore Terrell Robinson, who connected on 4-of-5 passes for 73 yards and a TD, while also rushing for 97 yards and a score, and the Chattanooga offense out-rushed the potent Citadel ground attack, which came into the contest ranking fifth in the nation.
The road win for Chattanooga marked the highest-ranked road win for the Mocs since a 30-9 road win over No. 10 Appalachian State on Oct. 8, 1983. The Mocs had scoring drives of 78, 82, 85 and 85 yards to account for their four scores in the contest.
Not to be outdone was the performance by Jacob Huesman, who connected on 11-of-14 passes for 86 yards and a score, while rushing for 80 yards on 14 attempts.
The defensive efforts for the Mocs were led by defensive back D.J. Key, who posted a game-high 12 stops, while fellow defensive back Kadeem Wise posted eight stops and picked off a pass to key what was one of the best defensive performances of the season for the Mocs.
Kendrix Huitt, who saw his first extensive action of his collegiate career on Saturday night, made the most of that opportunity by rushing for 57 yards, including a 29-yard score, to help bolster that balanced rushing attack for the Mocs.
Darien Robinson led the Bulldogs' offensive efforts by rushing for 132 yards on the night, while backup quarterback Aaron Miller rushed or 45 yards and the Citadel's lone score of the evening.
The Bulldogs had a pair of player that registered double-digit tackle performances on the night, with linebacker Carson Smith and cornerback Sadath Jean-Pierre contributing 11 tackles apiece in the loss.
SoCon Power Rankings Following Week 5:
1. Wofford (4-0, 2-0 SoCon)—Terriers have scored no less than 49 points in any one game this season and enter next Saturday's contest against Furman averaging a whopping 53.5 PPG, while averaging 549.2 YPG, with 485 of those yards coming on the ground per contest.
The Terriers were simply dominant in the win over Elon, with Eric Breitenstein establishing a new Southern Conference regular-season mark for rushing in Saturday's 49-24 win at Elon, as he rushed for 321 yards. It would be hard to bet against the Terriers and the SoCon's Preseason Player of the Year at this point.
2. Georgia Southern (3-1, 2-1)—Yes, it hasn't been all that pretty for the preseason Southern Conference favorites, but the fact remains the Eagles are still a work in progress, and that should be good news to GSU fans because it means the Eagles haven't peaked yet. One of the dangers for any college football team is to peak too early during any season. Two of GSU's three wins this season have come in grind out fashion. It's been the Georgia Southern defense and not its offense that has been leading the way thus far.
The Eagles enter next Saturday's contest against Western Carolina ranking as one of the top defensive units in the nation, allowing its foes only 286.0 YPG. The Eagles rank only second in the SoCon in scoring defense, allowing opponents just 15.5 PPG. Preseason SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Brent Russell (17 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 blocked kick) is coming off a solid effort on Saturday night against Samford, with six tackles, including one for a loss which denied Samford a first down on 4th-and-inches. The Eagles got their second INT return for a score of the season on Westbrooks's 72-yard INT return for a score against Samford on Saturday night.
3. Appalachian State (3-2, 1-1 SoCon)—We have seen the evidence of a young football team early on this season from Appalachian State, such was the case in ASU's 52-28 home loss to the Citadel a few weeks ago. However, we have also seen what the Mountaineers have been able to do when they put it all together, as evidenced by back-to-back offensive showcases in wins over Chattanooga (34-17) and Coastal Carolina (55-14).
The emergence of a defense that was much ballyhooed in the preseason, coupled with an offense that is averaging 467.6 YPG and just rolled up a 684 spot on the board in last Saturday's win over the Chanticleers has the prospects even more scary for ASU's future opponents. We're getting ready to learn plenty about the prospects of the 2012 Mountaineers, with games at Samford (Oct. 13) and at home vs. Wofford (Oct. 20) in two of the next three weeks.
ASU needs to avoid a letdown in a potential trap game against Elon--a team that hasn't defeated ASU since 1964—in a homecoming game this Saturday. The Mountaineers continue to get strong play of what is one of the nation's top signal-callers, in Jamal Jackson (108-of-163 passing, 1,277 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INTs/52 rush attempt, 233 yards, 3 TDs, 4.5 YPC), who is flourishing in Scott Satterfield's offense.
4. The Citadel (3-2, 2-1 SoCon)—Rarely it would seem that a team that has defeated the two teams directly above it would be ranked below each of those teams, but that is exactly the case with the Bulldogs. After back-to-back wins of over Top 10 FCS foes Georgia Southern (23-21) and at Appalachian State (52-28), the Bulldogs have hit a stumbling block, dropping two straight games in convincing fashion, with setbacks at NC State (52-14) and on its home turf against Chattanooga (28-10).
For the Bulldogs, however, it is now time to panic with a absolutely huge game with playoff implications looming in Birmingham against Samford on Saturday. The loss was a bit more understandable to NC State than last week's home setback to Chattanooga in a game that I felt was a major trap game for the Bulldogs coming in. The Bulldogs are still sporting healthy averages of 396.2 YPG of total offense and 308.2 YPG of rushing offense, but as has become the case many times with the triple option—the more games a team that utilizes that offense plays, the more it can be broken down on film.
I think Saturday night's 28-10 win by Chattanooga in Charleston is evidence of what a good defense can do against that offense with a good amount of film to watch from the first portion of the season. Chattanooga Russ Huesman is one of the nation's defensive masterminds and his staff did an excellent job of breaking down that film and his veteran defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage against a veteran Citadel offensive line. On the same hand, I expect to see some new wrinkles out of the Citadel's triple option, starting this week at Samford.
5. Samford (4-1, 2-1 SoCon)—In all honesty, I have trouble putting the Bulldogs this low, but the reason they are below the Citadel in the power rankings is the fact that the Bulldogs own wins over Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. Still, the Bulldogs are a force to be reckoned with in the Southern Conference and will have a lot to say about how this 2012 league championship ends up shaking out.Samford has gotten great play out of the quarterback position and running back position.
Memphis transfer Andy Summerlin (112-of-178 passing, 1,108 yards, 5 TDs, 4 INTs) has been solid in replacing Dustin Taliaferro under center. He has helped lead one of the more balanced offenses in the SoCon through the first five games. Defensively, the Bulldogs have been downright stingy at times this season, and enter this week's contest against the Citadel ranking fourth in the SoCon in total defensive, allowing just 354.4 YPG.
One of the players on the defensive side of the ball having an All-America worthy season so far is defensive back Jaquiski Tartt (51 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FRs, 1.0 TFL, 1 TD), who returned a fumble 80 yards for a score in the 35-16 loss at Georgia Southern on Saturday night. We will find out if the Bulldogs plan on being contenders the rest of the way or fade into the rear view mirror over the next four weeks. The good news is that the Bulldogs will be at home in three of the next four weeks, while the bad news is the Bulldogs must face The Citadel, Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Wofford in what is easily the most difficult portion of Samford's schedule. Samford hosts the Citadel on Saturday in a huge SoCon showdown. Samford running back Fabian Truss (88 rush attempts, 498 yards, 7 TDs, 5.7 YPC) is one of the SoCon's most explosive players, and he continues to be among the nation's leaders in kick returns, averaging 31.8 yards per return this season.
t-6. Furman (2-3, 1-1 SoCon)—After starting a season 0-3 for the first time since 1979, the Paladins have gotten well over the past couple of weeks with wins over PC (31-21) and Western Carolina (45-24), suddenly finding offensive rhythm. The Paladins can at least solace in the fact that the three teams they lost to in the opening three weeks are a combined 10-5 on the season.
Furman is a young football team that will compete for a Southern Conference title next season, and I fully expect Furman to return to the postseason in 2013. However, this season, Furman probably won't make a run at the playoffs or SoCon title, but the Paladins are simply a team SoCon foes don't want to face this season. Over the past two weeks, the Paladins have played loose, breaking in a lot of freshmen talent, including under center with new signal-caller Reese Hannon (71-for-111 passing, 937 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT). Hannon, in my opinion, is the second-best passer in the SoCon right now behind only Appalachian State's Jamal Jackson, and if he stays healthy, will break every program passing record. He's the best true freshman quarterback to suit up for the Purple and White since Bobby Lamb in 1982.
But Hannon will just be starting his fourth game under center on Saturday when Furman makes the short trip to take on No. 5 Wofford on Saturday. Hannon's cousin, Justin Hill, helped the Paladins to a 28-7 win over Wofford in his first career start as a redshirt freshman in 1997, albeit that Wofford team was much weaker than the one Hannon and the Paladins will face on Saturday. Hannon made it 4-for-4 in 200-yard passing performances last Saturday, passing for 230 yards and a TD in Furman's 49-24 win over Wofford.
However, as good as Hannon has been in just four games since taking over for an injured Dakota Derrick under center, the story of the season on offense for Furman has once again been running back Jerodis Williams (95 rush attempts, 645 yards, 5 TDs, 6.8 YPC) and Williams is coming off a career-best 239-yard rushing effort in Furman's 45-24 win over Western Carolina on Saturday. The Paladins' offense has definitely picked up the pace over the past two weeks against weaker foes, averaging 445.0 YPG through the first five games. Furman must improve on the defensive side of the football, as the Paladins head into Saturday's game at Wofford surrendering 400.2 YPG.
t-6. Chattanooga (2-3, 1-1 SoCon)—Chattanooga displayed the team many thought it had coming into the season, producing a dominating win over the Citadel on the road this past Saturday. The Mocs have a veteran defense, and the Mocs will be in most every SoCon game with that defense this season. The Mocs rank third in the SoCon in total defense (316.0 YPG) and have two of the top defensive ends in the nation, in Davis Tull (19 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 FFs) and Josh Willaims (11 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1 FR). While the defense is a known entity, it looked like the Chattanooga offense had an identity for the first time this season in its new spread attack.
If the Mocs can get their act together quickly on offense, they have a defense that is good enough to help the Mocs win a Southern Conference title. The Mocs now have a week off to prepare for their trip to Greenville, where they will look to win their second straight game, having claimed a 36-28 win over the Paladins back in 2010.
8. Elon (2-3, 0-2 SoCon)—Elon led us to believe that it was ready to make some noise in the 2012 Southern Conference race in 2012 with its narrow 26-23 loss at Georgia Southern a couple of weeks ago. However, the Phoenix performance against the GSU triple option did not help it against the Terriers, who rushed for 500 yards, including 321 from Eric Breitenstein, who set a Southern Conference regular-season record against the Phoenix's defense.
But it's not the Elon defense keeping the Phoenix from being a factor in the SoCon race, but its the inability to run the football. Since the start of the 2010 season, the Phoenix have struggled to find any sustained success running the football, making the offense one-dimensional. Thomas Wilson's 322 passing yards weren't enough to overcome the deficiencies in the ground attack once again in Saturday's loss to Wofford.
9. Western Carolina (1-4, 0-3 SoCon)—Western Carolina is a team that is much improved than it was a year ago, but it might be hard for some to see it. After all, the program is riding a 17-game losing skid, but there have been some signs that the Catamounts might end that this season, such as their performance against Samford in a 25-21 loss a couple of weeks ago. Eddie Sullivan (83-of-145 passing, 849 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INTs/44 rush attempts, 211 yards, 2 TDs, 4.8 YPC) appears to be a solid fit for this offense for the future for the future, and its not the skill positions where the program finds itself markedly behind the rest of the SoCon, but rather in the trenches.
Slate For Saturday Oct. 6, 2012
Furman at No. 5 Wofford, 1:30 p.m.
The Citadel at Samford, 3:00 p.m. EST
Elon at Appalachian State, 3:30 p.m.
Georgia Southern at Western Carolina, 3:30 p.m.