SoCon Football Week Nine Recaps and a Brief Look Ahead to Week 10

John Hooper@soconjohn22Correspondent IINovember 1, 2011

ASU Safety Troy Sanders Breaks Up Pass Intended For GSU Intended Receiver J.J. Wilcox In Saturday's 24-17 Win By No. 5 Appalachian State Over Top-Ranked Georgia Southern On Saturday (Photo Courtesy of Adam Jennings, The Appalachian)
ASU Safety Troy Sanders Breaks Up Pass Intended For GSU Intended Receiver J.J. Wilcox In Saturday's 24-17 Win By No. 5 Appalachian State Over Top-Ranked Georgia Southern On Saturday (Photo Courtesy of Adam Jennings, The Appalachian)

BOONE, N.C.—For the first time since the 1999 season, NCAA Division I FCS fifth-ranked Appalachian State claimed a win over a top-ranked foe in the regular season, earning a hard-fought 24—17 win over No. 1 Georgia Southern in front of a raucous crowd of 30,018 on a chilly, snow flurry-riddled afternoon at The Rock.

The win marked ASU's first win over a No.1 foe at Kidd Brewer Stadium since 1999, when the Eagles posted a 17—16 win over top-ranked Georgia Southern in 1999 at The Rock, and ASU improved its all-time mark to 3—5 against top-ranked foes.

The win also put Appalachian State squarely back into contention and in control of its own destiny for an unprecedented seventh-straight Southern Conference crown. Appalachian State improves to 6—2 overall and 4-1 in SoCon play, while Georgia Southern falls to 7—1 overall and 5—1 in Southern Conference action.

On this day, the Mountaineers were buoyed by a revved up Black and Gold defense that limited the nation's second-ranked offense to just 201 total yards of total offense, while picking off a couple of GSU passes to highlight ASU's staunch defensive effort.

Fueled by a boisterous Black Saturday crowd at The Rock, the Mountaineers held Georgia Southern—the NCAA Division I FCS leader in scoring (44.6 points per game) and rushing (369.7 yards per game) coming in—to just 17 points, 135 rushing yards and 201 yards of total offense, 286 fewer than the 487.3 yards per game it rolled up en route to its 7—0 start.

ASU's game—winning score would come with a little over nine minutes remaining in the game, as senior wide receiver Brian Quick hauled in an acrobatic, 15-yard scoring reception from quarterback Jamal Jackson, giving ASU a 24—17 lead with 9:24 remaining in the game.

Mountaineers Secondary Opportunistic

The Mountaineers would use an opportunistic secondary to set up its two TDs in the opening half, as the Apps would go to the locker room with a commanding 17—3 lead. The Appalachian State defense would impose its will early on in the contest, as ASU used a Demetrius McCray interception to set up ASU's first score of the afternoon.

Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw, who came into the game without having thrown an INT all season, threw a pick on the game's fourth play to set up the Appalachian State offense in good position to get on the board for the first time on the afternoon.

The Mountaineers needed only six plays to get on the scoreboard for the first time on the day in the matchup of SoCon juggernauts. On a third-and-two play from the Georgia Southern 25—yard line, Jackson faced a heavy blitz from the GSU defense, but not before finding a wide-open Andrew Peacock for a 25—yard scoring strike, giving ASU a 7—0 lead less five minutes into the contest.

The two teams traded field goals in the second quarter, and late in the half, the Eagle offense drove deep inside Appalachian State territory, looking to knot the score just before the half. Shaw would look to the air again, and once again it would be McCray that would be equal to the task for the Mountaineers, as he picked off his second pass of the afternoon to thwart Georgia Southern's potential scoring threat.

That would set up the Apps with the football at their own 20, with just 1:29 remaining until the half. From there, the Jackson-and-Quick would call upon the "big play" to increase ASU's momentum and advantage going into the Owens Fieldhouse Locker room for the halftime respite. Jackson flighted a beautiful, tight—spiral pass to Brian Quick down the sidelines, which Quick proceeded to turn into a 56—yard TD to give the Mountaineers the 17—3, with only 17 seconds remaining into the half.

The 56—yard TD reception by Quick was able to help him surpass the 3,000—yard receiving mark for his career, marking only the second player in school history and just the seventh player in SoCon history to establish that particular personal milestone.

Eagles Dominated Second Half

Georgia Southern would emerge from the locker room and dominate the second half. The Eagles would roll up 118 yards of their 201 yards on the afternoon in just two offensive drives. On the top—ranked Eagles' first possession of the second half, the Eagles would march 60 yards in 12 plays, taking seven minutes off the game clock before slotback J.J. Wilcox found the end zone from three yards out to cut ASU's lead to a TD, 17—10, with 6:12 remaining in the quarter.

After the Georgia Southern defense forced an ASU three—and—out, the Georgia Southern offense would go to work once again, as Shaw directed the GSU offense 56 yards, all the ASU three-yard line before the drive would eventually stall. On fourth-and-goal from the Mountaineer three, ASU LB Brandon Grier stopped Shaw after only a two-yard gain on an option keeper to the near side of the field.

It was the Georgia Southern special teams unit that would help the Eagles gain even more momentum and tie the football game between the two SoCon heavyweights early in the fourth quarter. The ASU offense had trouble moving the ball after forcing the Eagles' turnover on downs. Sam Martin came on to punt out of his own end zone, and GSU would tie the football game when Eagle return man Darieon Robinson shed several ASU would-be tacklers for a 45—yard TD return for a score, tying the football game, 17—17, with 13:57 to go in the game.

Jackson trotted on the field in a crucial situation for the Mountaineer offense, helping ASU offense to what would turn out to be the game—clinching score. He directed a nine—play, 67—yard drive that culminated with Quick's leaping TD grab in the back of the end zone, gracefully getting a foot down inbounds before being forced out by GSU cornerback LaRon Scott. That helped the Apps gain a 24—17 lead with 9:24 remaining in the ball game. Jackson completed 3—of—4 passes for 41 yards and rushed twice for seven yards to help lead the all-important game-winning drive.

From there, it would be the ASU defense that put the finishing touches on ASU's first win over a No. 1 foe in 11 years.

Furman Gets Best Defensive Effort Since 2006 In Win At Chattanooga

CHATTANOOGA, TENN.—Furman put forth its best defensive effort since the 2006 season, including its best against the pass since 1993, in getting a 14—7 win at Chattanooga on Saturday afternoon to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Leading the defense for the Paladins, who improved to 8—0 all-time at Finley Stadium against the Chattanooga Mocs, was 'bandit' linebacker Mitch McGrath, who finished the contest with nine tackles, four sacks, an INT, a fumble recovery and forced a fumble in heading a Paladin defensive effort that held the Mocs to just 169 yards of total offense, including only three passing yards, in the seven-point road win.

The 169 yards of total offense were the lowest total surrendered by a Paladin defense since 2006. The three passing yards was the lowest total a Furman defense has held an opponent to since 1993, when the Paladins held Georgia Southern to just three yards passing in a 31-19 loss to the Eagles. The Paladin defense limited the Mocs to just 2.6 yards-per-snap.

Furman's ninth consecutive win over the Mocs on their homefield looked in doubt when Terrell Robinson plunged in from a yard out with 4:16 remaining gave the Mocs a 7—6 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Hank McCloud fumbled at the 16 but picked up his own fumble and returned it to the 47 to set up the Paladin offense with excellent field position. On the first play from scrimmage, Furman quarterback Chris Forcier completed a 23-yard post pattern to Sedderick Cunningham to get the Paladins all the way to the Chattanooga 30-yard line. Forcier would find Cunningham again on the drive to get the Paladins to the Chattanooga 12.

A couple plays following Cunningham's second reception, Jerodis Williams would score Furman's lone TD of the afternoon on a 10-yard scoring run, giving the Paladins a 12—7 lead with 2:06 remaining in the game. Furman would make it a 14—7 advantage on the two-point conversion, as Forcier connected with wide out Ryan Culbreath to complete the eight-point possession.

Furman Defense: Six Sacks

In fitting fashion, it would be the Furman defense that would slam the door shut on the Mocs, as Josh Lynn recorded the sixth Paladin sack of the afternoon on Chattanooga's opening play of the following drive, forcing a fumble which was recovered by McGrath at the UTC 14 to effectively seal the win for the Paladins.

The Paladins ran the ball four times and turned the ball over on downs with 52 seconds left. On Chattanooga's ensuing possession, McGrath would cap his memorable day by sacking Mocs backup quarterback Sloan Allison, who fumbled on the play, and the ball was recovered by the Paladins at the UTC 6.

Neither team to get on the board in the opening quarter, but it would be a Ryan Steed INT that would set up Furman's first score of the day by picking off a Terrell Robinson pass at the UTC 42. Early's 30-yard field goal would give the Paladins a 3-0 lead.

A 23-yard pass by Forcier to Ryan Culbreath would set up Early's second field goal of the day, as he connected on a 44-yard field goal to give the Paladins a 6-0 lead with 10:51 to play in the game.

Furman appeared that it would take full control of the game after the Paladins forced a punt on the ensuing UTC possession, but a rugby-style, line-drive punt by Chattanooga wide receiver Joel Bradford bounced off Furman cornerback Austin Williams and was recovered by UTC's Don Cope at the Furman 43.

Eleven plays later, Robinson plunged in from a yard out to give the Mocs a 7-6 lead.

Forcier finished the game completing 9—of—14 for 177 yards for the Paladins, who finished with 261 yards. Furman posted season highs in sacks (6) and forced turnovers (4).

Wofford Dominates Elon

SPARTANBURG, S.C.—On Homecoming, the Wofford College football team defeated Elon 48—28 on Saturday afternoon at Gibbs Stadium. The Terriers ran for 465 yards and six touchdowns in the contest, including 217 yards and four touchdowns by Eric Breitenstein. Wofford also took advantage of a blocked punt, muffed punt return and an interception, all of which resulted in touchdowns for the Terriers.

The Terriers are 6—2 on the season and 4—1 in the SoCon. Elon is 4—5 overall and 2—4 in conference play. In addition to Breitenstein, the Terriers were led by Mitch Allen with 100 yards and two touchdowns, while Brenton Bersin added 73 rushing yards and 13 receiving yards. Mike Niam led the team with eight tackles. The Phoenix were led by Thomas Wilson, who was 27—of—35 passing for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Aaron Melette had nine catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

The Terriers took the opening kickoff and after two first downs were faced with a fourth—and—one. Eric Breitenstein ran right up the middle for 27 yards to score on the play and give Wofford a 7—0 lead with 12:19 on the clock. Elon was forced three—and—out on their first possession of the game.

Wofford was forced three—and—out, with Elon getting the ball back with 8:51 left in the first quarter. The Phoenix drove down the field, picking up five first downs and Dontay Taylor capped the drive with a one yard touchdown run. The score was tied at seven with 2:36 on the clock. The Terriers were able to gain two first downs, but failed to convert on fourth—and—four.

Elon then was able to take the lead when Thomas Wilson found Aaron Mellette for a 39—yard touchdown reception. The Phoenix led 14—7 with 12:17 remaining in the second quarter. Wofford gained only one first down before punting the ball back to Elon. The Terrier defense then forced a three—and—out and the Phoenix punted.

Eric Breitenstein then used a 49-yard run to get the Terriers inside the ten yard line. He finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14 with 7:32 left in the second quarter. Elon gained 36 yards on a pass to A.J. Harris, but back—to—back sacks by the Terriers forced a punt. However, Wofford went three—and—out and punted to give the ball back to Elon with 2:35 left in the half.

Terriers Turnover

The Terriers came up with the first turnover of the game when Thomas Wilson was intercepted by Blake Wylie and he returned it for 22 yards. Eric Breitenstein added an 18—yard run, then scored from three yards out for a 21—14 lead with 43 seconds remaining in the half. Elon ran one play to end the half.

To open the second half, the Phoenix had the ball, but went three—and—out and punted. Wofford turned the ball over on downs after a pass on fourth—and—six was incomplete. Elon then was able to tie the game on a 47—yard pass from Thomas Wilson to Jeremy Peterson with 6:37 on the clock in the third quarter. Wofford was then forced three—and—out and punted. However, the fair catch was muffed by David Wood and caught in the air by Michael Harpe at the 18—yard line.

The turnover was converted to points when Eric Breitenstein scored from four yards out to take a 28—21 lead with 3:41 left in the third quarter. Elon then gained two first downs before being forced to punt. Alvin Scioneaux blocked the punt and it was picked up by Qay Bell, who returned it 42 yards for the touchdown. Wofford had a 35—21 lead with thirty seconds left in the third quarter. After forcing a three—and—out for Elon, the Terriers responded with a 61—yard touchdown run by Mitch Allen. The PAT was wide, giving Wofford a 41—21 lead with 12:40 left in the game.

Elon was able to answer with a 43—yard touchdown pass from Thomas Wilson to Aaron Mellette with 11:27 on the clock, which made it a 41—28 contest. Wofford gained three first downs, including a 30—yard run by Brenton Bersin, to set up a one—yard touchdown run by Mitch Allen. The Terriers had a 48—28 lead with 6:04 left in the game. Elon was able to gain one first down on their next drive, but turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a fourth—and—one. Wofford was able to run out the remaining 3:47 of the game to pick up the win.

Wofford had 478 total yards, with 465 on the ground. Elon had 363 total yards, 342 of which were passing. Wofford had the time of possession advantage by a 32:38 to 27:22 margin. Wofford was 7—of—16 on third downs and 2—of—4 on fourth down. Elon was 4—of—13 on third down and 1—of—2 on fourth down. Wofford had one penalty, while Elon had two.

Samford Hands Western Carolina Another Lopsided Loss

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Western Carolina's Rock Williams returned a second quarter interception to the goal line where Brandon Vaught cashed in on his fumble for a touchdown to pull the Catamounts back within four points after trailing by two touchdowns early in the going on Saturday afternoon. However, starting with the ensuing kickoff return for a score, Samford recorded 24 consecutive points en route to knocking off WCU, 52—24, in Southern Conference action at Seibert Stadium.

Western Carolina rushed for 172 yards as a team—the secondmost on the season and the most against a SoCon foe this year. Junior Michael Vaughn carried the ball 30 of WCU's season-high 57 times for 83 yards while Michael Johnson added 62 yards on 16 rushes in the loss.

Samford (5—3, 3—3 SoCon) climbed on top early after a quick three—and—out by the Catamount offense. Equally as quick, Bulldog tailback Fabian Truss took a handoff in the backfield, stretched the play to his left and found the corner for a 61—yard rushing score.

Following a second WCU punt on its second possession, Western Carolina took advantage of the game's first turnover to knot the game at seven apiece. One-play after Brandon Vaught jarred the football loose on a big hit and Christon Gill scooped it up, Brindise found George Richardson down the right sideline after a run-fake in the backfield for a 20—yard scoring strike.

It was the first career receiving touchdown for Richardson.The Bulldogs responded with back—to—back scores including a 20—yard Stanley Robinson TD rush and a 33—yard interception return by Alvin Hines to lead 21—7. WCU was able to trim it back to a two—possession game as Clark Sechrest capped a 12—play, 66—yard drive with a 26—yard field goal just before the end of the first quarter.

High—Scoring First Quarter

The two teams combined to light the scoreboard for 31 points in the opening 15 minutes.

On the second play of the second quarter, WCU punter Blake Cain—who was injured in the second quarter just two punts shy of tying the school career punts record—pinned the Bulldogs deep in their own territory. Two plays later, Rock Williams floated back into coverage and stepped in front of a Dustin Taliaferro pass, returning it to the one—yard line where he fumbled. Fortunately for the Catamounts, Vaught was able to corral the bouncing ball and finish the final yard of the return for a touchdown, pulling the Catamounts back to within four points, 21—17.

It would be as close as WCU would get for the remainder of the day, though.

Just as the Catamounts had seized momentum with the defensive touchdown, a Samford score on special teams swung the tide back to the home sideline. Truss, who like WCU's Richardson ranks among the league leaders in kickoff return yards, took the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown and a 28—17 lead.

Truss added 99 yards rushing on 12 carries and three receptions for 29 yards for Samford.

The Catamounts missed two golden opportunities in the red-zone late in the first half including being stopped on fourth—and—goal and a blocked field goal to trail at intermission, 31—17, after Cameron Yaw punched one through the uprights from 39 yards out as time expired.

In the second half, the pace of play slowed with the two squads trading punts early. However, the Bulldogs were able to continue to pull away on Robinson's second touchdown gallop from 21 yards out and a six—yard scoring pass from Taliaferro to Kelvin Clay that capped an 11—play, 70—yard drive to put Samford up, 45—17.

WCU (1—7, 0—6 SoCon) did add a late third quarter touchdown as Gary Green hauled in a 29—yard strike from Brindise for his first career touchdown reception. But Samford answered as Taliferro caught a scoring pass from wide receiver Kelsey Pope to conclude the scoring.

Green finished with a career—best 74 yards receiving while Jacoby Mitchell paced the team with five receptions totaling 38 yards. Brindise found seven different receivers including both tight ends, Andrew Rogers and Taylor Spangler, completing 16—of—32 passes for 196 with the two touchdowns and one interception.

Taliferro finished 14—of—25 for 124 yards with the one interception and one TD pass. The Catamount defense held Bulldog leading receiver Kelsey Pope to a season-low, one reception for 23 yards. Pope had caught at least five passes in each of the previous seven games.

Defensively for the Catamounts, Williams finished with a team—high seven tackles with the interception while Ace Clark finished with six tackles including five solo stops. Defensive lineman Brian Johnson tallied a pair of tackles for loss from his end position, finishing with four total stops.

Briefly Looking Ahead To Week 10

No. 3 Appalachian State (6—2, 4—1 SoCon) at Furman (5—3, 4—2 SoCon)

Furman and Appalachian State will be meeting for the 42nd time on Saturday, with Furman holding a narrow 21—17—3 all-time series edge. No SoCon foe has ever won three straight at Paladin Stadium.

Like Appalachian State, first—year head coach Bruce Fowler and the Paladins have plenty on the line, too, as they now stand an excellent shot at making their first playoff appearance since 2006, should the Paladins win their remaining two league games, both at home, against Appalachian State and Elon.

The Mountaineers have been dominant in the series of late, winning nine of 10 games against the Paladins in Bobby Lamb's nine seasons at the helm, from 2002—2010. Four of the past five meetings between the two have been decided by double digits, which is a rare case considering only 11 of the previous 37 meetings prior to the 2006 matchups had been decided by double figures.

The past three matchups have seen the boys from Boone win by a cumulative 48 points, which of course equates to 16.0 PPG. From 2000—05, the Mountaineers and Paladins met seven times with the combined margin of victory being 20 points, with an average of nearly a field goal separating the two SoCon titans during that timespan.

Appalachian State enters Saturday afternoon's matchup with an offense that will be led by talented sophomore quarterback Jamal Jackson (58—of—87 passing, 872 yds., 9 TDs, 3 INTs/44 rush att., 214 yds., 5 TDs, 4.9 YPC) for the fourth straight week. Jackson comes in posting a 3—0 record as a starter and leads an Appalachian State offense that seems to improve with each week.

Mountaineers Offense Ranks Fourth

After Saturday's win over the Eagles, the Mountaineers rank fourth in the SoCon in scoring offense (31.0 PPG) and total offense (390.8 YPG), while ranking fourth in rushing offense (186.6 YPG) and fifth in passing offense (204.1 YPG). Brian Quick (42 rec., 734 yds., 8 TDs, 17.5 YPC), became just the second receiver in school history and seventh in the SoCon annals to go over 3,000 yards receiving.

Defensively, the Mountaineers produced a masterpiece in last week's win over the top-ranked Eagle, as ASU held Georgia Southern to a modest 201 yards of total yards, which was 288 yards fewer than the Eagles coming into the game.

The Mountaineer "D" also held the Eagles to just 135 yards rushing and just 10 offensive points. Prior to the matchup with the Apps, GSU had been averaging 369.7 YPG on the ground and 44.6 PPG, which were both national leading averages.

Furman is coming off an impressive win in its back pocket, as the Paladins were 14—7 winners over Chattanooga on Saturday, and like the Mountaineers, did work on the defensive side of the football in getting their third conference win away from Paladin Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Fowler, a disciplined, defensive—minded head coach, got performance out of his defense that mimicked the personality of its head coach. The Paladins held the Mocs to just 169 yards of total offense, which was the lowest total the Paladin defense has held an opponent since the 2006 season.

Fowler's Defense 18 Sacks This Season

The Paladin defense posted six sacks and held the Mocs to just three yards passing on the day. The three yards allowed by the Paladins through the air was the lowest total since Georgia Southern's three yards in 1993 in a 31—19 Furman loss. Fowler's defense has now posted 18 sacks on the season, doubling the previous season's total and besting the combined 17 sacks of the past two campaigns.

Leading that staunch Paladin defense this season have been linebackers Kadarron Anderson (94 tckles, 5.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, 1 FF) and Mitch McGrath (62 tackles, 11.0 TFLs, 4.0 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 FFs), while Ryan Steed is the best shut down corner in the league. Steed and Appalachian's Quick will make for an interesting individual battle at cornerback and receiver, as the two will likely be playing on Sundays next season.

The Paladins enter Saturday afternoon's contest tied for third in scoring defense (22.8 PPG), seventh in total defense (353.1 YPG), third in pass defense (151.2 YPG) and seventh in rush defense (201.9 YPG). The Paladins are also tied for third in the SoCon in sacks, with 18 on the season.

Offensively, the Paladins continue to be efficient, led by senior Chris Forcier (107—of—156 passing, 1,531 yds., 17 TDs, 4 INTs/60 rush att., 159 yds., 1 TD, 2.7 YPC). Forcier continues to be the nation's most efficient passer (181.9). The Paladin ground attack has been powered by Jerodis Williams (153 rush att., 838 yds., 7 TDs, 5.5 YPC), and he is the league's second—leading rusher. Colin Anderson (30 rec., 495 yds., 6 TDs, 16.5 YPR) continues to have an All—America worthy season at tight end and is the SoCon's best at that position.

Overall, the Paladins come into the contest ranking fifth in the SoCon in scoring offense (28.6 PPG), fifth in total offense (382.9 YPG), sixth in rushing offense (174.5 YPG) and fourth in pass offense (208.4 YPG).

Saturday's matchup pits a couple of teams against each other that have won a combined 23 SoCon football titles. The Paladins have won 12, which are more than any other school in the league, while Appalachian State is right behind. A win for ASU Saturday would put it a step closer to the Paladins, tying Furman for the most league titles of all time. A Furman win would inflate its playoff hopes even more, giving Furman two wins over top five ranked foes in three meetings in the regular season. Furman has never played three top five foes in the regular season.

The Citadel (4—4, 2—4 SoCon) at No. 5 Georgia Southern (7—1, 5—1 SoCon)

Saturday afternoon's matchup between the Eagles and Bulldogs will mark the 21st all-time meeting between the Bulldogs and Eagles, with the Eagles holding a commanding 16—4 all—time series edge, including a commanding (10—1) lead at Allen E. Paulson Stadium. The Eagles claimed a 20—0 win over the Bulldogs in Charleston last season, forcing 10 turnovers in the process of getting that victory.

The Citadel has already eclipsed last season's win total of three wins, as the Bulldogs were able to post a 41—14 win over arch—rival and former Southern Conference member VMI in Charleston last Saturday. The Bulldogs' offense rolled up 358 yards on the ground and blocked three punts in the win over the Keydets.

Georgia Southern dropped its first game of the season last week, with a 24—17 loss at Appalachian State. For the first time this season, the Eagle offense was held under wraps, as the Eagles were only able to muster 201 yards of total offensive yards on the day and just 10 offensive points. The Eagles are still a juggernaut offensively despite last week's struggles, as the Eagles come in ranking second nationally in rushing offense (340.4 YPG) and the Eagles continue to lead the nation in scoring offense (41.1 PPG).

The Citadel heads to Georgia Southern for a key Southern Conference clash on Saturday afternoon at Allen E. Paulson Stadium. The Bulldogs will be looking for their first win at Paulson Stadium since 2003. The Bulldogs have lost four straight to the Eagles, dating back to a 24—21 win over the Eagles and Johnson—Hagood Stadium in Charleston back in 2006.

The Eagles continue to be led offensively by quarterback Jaybo Shaw (39-of-73 passing, 817 yds., 5 TDs, 2 INTs), who tossed his first two INTs of the season last week, and will look to rebound this week against a much-improved Citadel team that is in its second season utilizing the triple-option offense. Robert Brown (106 rush att., 734 yds., 5 TDs, 6.9 YPC) continues to be one of the league's top running backs.

Georgia Southern's Defense Highly Rated

Georgia Southern's defense continues to be one of the top units in the nation, entering Saturday afternoon's contest leading the SoCon in scoring defense (19.6 PPG) and rushing defense (100.4 YPG), while ranking fourth in the SoCon in total defense (335.4 YPG). Leading the Eagle defense this season has been Buck Buchanan Award candidate Brent Russell (38 tackles, 10.0 TFLs, 5.0 sacks, 2 PBUs, 1 blkd kick) at nose tackle, while cornerback LaRon Scott (29 tackles, 3 INTs, 12 PBUs) has been the "do everything" player in the secondary and on special teams this season for GSU. He had a 76-yard kickoff return and an INT in last week's loss at ASU.

The Citadel is vastly improved on the offensive side of the football and come into Saturday's matchup continuing to be led by Ben Dupree (19—of—41 passing, 174 yds./138 rush att., 541 yds., 6 TDs, 3.9 YPC) under center, as well as Dareion Robinson (85 rush att., 598 yds., 7 TDs, 7.0 YPC) at fullback.

The Bulldogs come into Saturday's contest ranking third in the league and 69th nationally in rushing offense (304.4 YPG). Between Dupree and Aaron Miller (7—of—17 passing, 82 yds., 2 INTs/59 rush att., 191 yds., 4 TDs, 3.4 YPC), who has also played under center for the Bulldogs this season, the Bulldogs have yet to get a TD pass from a QB through eight games, and have a grand total of one this season.

The Citadel continues to play solid on the defensive side of the football, as the Bulldogs rank third in the league in total defense (329.5 YPG), continuing to be led by linebacker Rod Harland (77 tackles, 9.0 TFLs. 3.0 sacks), who ranks fourth in the league in total tackles this season. Defensive end Derek Douglas (11.5 TFLs, 3.0 sacks) continues to lead an impressive rush defense that ranks fourth in the league against the run (160.9 YPG).

Expect a low-scoring, defensive struggle when the Eagles and Bulldogs get together on Saturday for a key league matchup in Statesboro. Georgia Southern will get back on the winning track, however.

Chattanooga (4-5, 2-4 SoCon) at Samford (5-3, 3-3 SoCon)

In many ways, Chattanooga's season this fall has mirrored the season that Elon had last season, as both were ultra talented football teams, and each saw injuries and just plain old bad luck play a role in the two teams not making post—season appearances. I will say the Mocs are a better team than that Elon team of a year ago, and Chattanooga probably had 10 times the bad luck the Phoenix had a year ago.

Chattanooga will be one of the best teams to not qualify for the FCS playoffs in any given season since 1978. The Mocs come in having lost four league games by a combined total of 11 points, which means they are losing by less than a field goal per conference game. The Mocs are literally a TD from being the SoCon leader at this point in the season.

While post—season hopes have been dashed, the Mocs still have plenty to play for on Saturday afternoon against the Bulldogs. At stake is a third straight winning season, which would mark the first time since the Mocs put a string of 10 straight winning seasons together from 1976—85, in what was the most successful era of football in the Scenic City in school history.

The Mocs have the chance to play the role of 'spoiler' for at least two teams hoping to garner playoff invitations, starting this Saturday with arch—rival Samford. The Bulldogs are still clinging to life as a playoff contender coming into Saturday's matchup with the Mocs, and the Bulldogs come in having won four out of their last five games.

Saturday's meeting between the Mocs and Bulldogs will mark the 37th meeting all—time between the two schools separated by about 90 miles. Chattanooga owns a 24—9—3 series edge, and the Mocs have owned the series of late, winning the last two, including a 48—14 blowout win last season at Finley Stadium.

It has been a struggle for the Mocs offensively all season, especially along the offensive line, as the Mocs have yielded 24 sacks this season, which is tied for the most in the league. The Mocs surrendered six sacks alone in last week's loss to Furman.

Chattanooga enters Saturday afternoon's contest ranking seventh in the league in scoring offense (26.0 PPG), sixth in passing offense (179.9 YPG), ninth in total offense (326.1 YPG) and seventh in rushing offense (146.2 YPG). This is a team that finished the 2010 season ranking ranking third in scoring offense (31.6 PPG) and third in total offense (430.0 YPG).

With the focus shifting towards the future for head coach Russ Huesman and the Mocs, it will be interesting to see who starts at quarterback on Saturday for the Mocs. Will it be freshman Terrell Robinson (24—of—40 passing, 328 yds., 6 TDs, 3 INTs/81 rush att., 388 yds., 4 TDs, 4.8 YPC), who could use the experience, or the Mocs' NFL hopeful B.J. Coleman (111—of—186 passing, 1,295 yds., 6 TDs, 6 INTs), who should be fully healed from a shoulder injury suffered three weeks ago in a loss at Georgia Southern.

Chattanooga Defensively Solid

Chattanooga continues to see solid play on the defensive side of the ball, leading the league in total defense (292.0 YPG) coming into Saturday's contest. The Mocs have possibly the best corps of LBs in the league, led by Ryan Consiglio (87 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 2 FFs) and Wes Dothard (82 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 4.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD, 4 FFs).

Samford counters with maybe the SoCon's most versatile offense, led by quarterback Dustin Taliaferro (158-of-251 passing, 1,650 yds., 12 TDs, 7 INTs) and one of the league's premier pass-catchers, Kelsey Pope (46 rec., 525 yds., 5 TDs, 11.4 YPR). Fabian Truss () has led a ground attack that has been somewhat surprising this season, considering the Bulldogs lost the all-time state leader in rushing to graduation from last season, in Chris Evans. Overall, the Bulldogs come into Saturday ranking third in the SoCon in total offense (408.9 YPG)

Truss, who is the reigning SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week, continues to help the Bulldogs rank among the best in the nation in kick and punt return average this season, as Truss averages 29.3 yards-per-kick-return.

Defensively, the Bulldogs enter Saturday afternoon's contest ranking eighth in the league in total defense (389.6 YPG), and the Bulldogs are led on the defensive side of the ball by linebacker Keith Shoulders (45 tackles, 3.0 TFLs) safety Alvin Hines II (45 tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 3 INTs, 8 PBUs), who's having an all-conference worthy season.

Should be a good one on Saturday in Birmingham, as the Bulldogs look to post their first win over the Mocs in Seibert Stadium since a 33-14 win over the Mocs way back in 1939. The two teams battled to a 7—7 tie in Anniston, AL., in 1941.

Chattanooga saw its hopes and dreams of making its first playoff appearance since 1984 with last week's 14—7 loss at home to the Furman Paladins.

No. 11 Wofford (6-2, 4-1 SoCon) at Western Carolina (1-7, 0-6 SoCon)

Saturday's meeting between the Terriers and the Catamounts will mark the 34th all—time meeting between the two rivals, with the Terriers holding a 21—12 all-time series edge. The Catamounts have lost five straight meetings to the Catamounts, dating back to a 24—0 win over the Terriers in Cullowhee in '05.

Since Wofford joined the SoCon in 1997, the Terriers hold a 12—2 advantage against the Catamounts. Prior to joining the SoCon, Western Carolina held a narrow 10—9 advantage in the all-time series between the two old rivals.

Western Carolina is well on its way to fielding the worst defense in Southern Conference history, which likely prompted the firing of defensive coordinator Matt Pawlowski by the interim Athletics Director shortly after Saturday's 52—24 loss at Samford. The Catamounts come into Saturday's matchup ranking second 119th (second-to-last) nationally in both total defense (502.1 YPG) and scoring defense (46.1 PPG), while ranking last nationally in rushing defense (331.9 YPG).

The Catamounts have been pretty proficient offensively, ranking seventh in the SoCon in total offense (360.9 YPG), while ranking second in the league in passing offense (226.1 YPG), continuing to be lead by Brandon Pechloff (95—of—177 passing, 1,280 yds., 7 TDs, 9 INTs) under center and Deja Alexander (30 rec., 425 yds., 1 TD, 14.2 YPR) at wide receiver.

The Terriers lead the nation in rushing offense (358.5 YPG) have the league's leading rusher, in Eric Breitenstein (184 rush att., 1,084 yds., 14 TDs, 5.6 YPC). That combo should make for another lopsided Wofford win in the series.

SoCon Power Poll After Week 9

1. Georgia Southern 7—1 5—1

2. Appalachian State 6—2 4—1

3. Furman 5—3 4—2

4. Wofford 6—2 4—1

5. Samford 5—3 3—3

6. Chattanooga 4—5 2—4

7. The Citadel 4—4 2—4

8. Elon 4—5 2—4

9. Western Carolina 1—7 0—6


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