Instead of measuring the depths of panic in our favorite FCS league this week, we’ll examine the rising levels of relief in the SoCon, starting with a trip to the Meat Store:
1. Western Carolina (2-7, 1-4). Quote of the year in the SoCon:
“It feels like a dog that has been starved for years, and somebody took them on a long
ride to a meat shop, showed them all the meat in the world and then told that dog to eat. That’s what this feels like.” — WCU linebacker Courtland Carson.
That’s how Carson described the feeling after WCU snapped a 33-game losing skidagainst Division I teams with a 27-24 overtime win over Elon last week. I felt like a trip to the Meat Store myself since I had boldly predicted that the Catamounts would not go 0-8 in the SoCon for the third straight year. That’s a load off my mind. Seriously, the picture above (by Mark Haskett) speaks volumes about what Saturday’s events meant to the long-suffering folk of Cullowhee and the greater Sylva metroplex. Congratulations and enjoy the weekend off.
Telling quote: “Thank you, Jesus.”– WCU coach Mark Speir.
2. App State (2-6, 2-3). In retrospect, the answer was right there all along for App State as
the once mighty Mountaineers struggled through a 1-6 start to the season. They just needed to get Simms McElfresh more involved in the offense. The sophomore from Charlotte with the best name in the SoCon caught a 9-yard TD pass as App State snapped a four-game skid with a 38-24 win over Georgia Southern in the Ineligi-Bowl, the final meeting of the two Sun Belt-bound squads as SoCon rivals.
In truth, App State had shown signs of snapping out of its post-Jerry Moore funk. The offense played pretty well in a 27-10 loss to Furman if you discount EIGHT FUMBLES. App State has looked bored through much of this no-championship season, but apparently got fired up on Saturday when an illegal chop block took out freshman defensive tackle Darian Small. We’ll see if the Mountaineers can remain interested against Chattanooga, Georgia, Wofford and Western Carolina to finish the season.
Telling quote: “We’ve won three SoCon championships since I’ve been here. I want these young guys to know what it’s like to win… To win this game, especially against Georgia Southern, is a good way to hopefully kick start the rest of the season and that momentum will hopefully go into the next season in the Sun Belt.” — Senior WR Tony Washington.
3. Furman (3-5, 2-2). The Paladins score high on the relief meter this week for obvious reasons — they took home $500,000 and a moral victory from their trip to LSU. Furman was down only 20-16 at halftime to the fearsome Tigers, thanks to a 74-yard interception return for a TD by Reggie Thomas. The final score ended up 48-16, but by then Furman already had what it came for — a big paycheck and a respectable showing. All of the sudden, a game at injury-riddled Georgia Southern this week seems a lot more winnable than it did a couple of weeks ago. You can bet Sir Paladin has not forgotten last year’s 2-point conversion imbroglio.
Telling quote: “I would never try to put a black mark on this rivalry by trying to run up the score on them or anybody. But, you know, we had a tough, hard-fought football game. They were beating the pants off us in the first half, and we went in that locker room and I said, ‘They’ve got a good football team, and if we don’t get it going, they’re going to beat our butts.’” — GSU coach Jeff Monken after last year’s 38-17 win, when he went for 2 with 20 seconds left.
4. Samford (6-2, 4-0). Pat Sullivan had to be wondering what in the name of Ed Marinaro was
going on when quarterback Andy Summerlin threw a pick-six to Wofford on the Bulldogs’ first play of the game in last week’s showdown with Wofford. But Samford spotted the Terriers seven points and outscored them, 34-17, the rest of the way for a 34-27 victory. Summerlin ended up throwing three interceptions and Samford had four turnovers in all, but won anyway. Samford has won four straight, the last three over Georgia Southern, App State and Wofford, and can run the streak to five straight this week at The Citadel.
Telling quote: I think this team has got a lot of love for each other. They care for each other. They’ve got each other’s back. — Samford coach Pat Sullivan.
5. Chattanooga (6-2, 4-1). The Mocs were not at their best Saturday against The Citadel, losing RB Keon Williams on the opening kickoff and watching QB Jacob Huesman overthrow open receivers through the first half. But Chattanooga won anyway, overcoming deficits of 17-7 and 24-14 in a 28-24 victory. The Mocs now face a big game at App State this week if they want to keep pace with Samford and Wofford in the SoCon title chase; Chattanooga has lost eight straight to App State, and hasn’t won in Boone since 1983, when QB Huesman was -10 years old. And just in time for the Mocs, of course, App State seems to be pulling it together.
Telling quote: “We could have made some plays in the first half, but I just wasn’t
connecting with our receivers. I was overthrowing, underthrowing and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the first half. Luckily I started hitting people in the second half. — QB Jacob Huesman.
6. Wofford (5-3, 4-1): The Terriers’ 34-27 loss to Samford last week means that Wofford
will likely have to win its final three games — at Chattanooga, App State and at Furman — to secure an FCS playoff berth for the fourth straight season. Coach Mike Ayers, however, has been here before and knows exactly how to motivate today’s young people — by quoting country music legend Marty Robbins.
Telling quote: “It was early in the morning when he rode into town. He came ridin‘ from the south side, slowly lookin‘ all around … — Wofford coach Mike “Big Iron” Ayers.
7. Georgia Southern (4-3, 2-3): The Eagles were pretty much doomed at App State
when QB/FB Jerick McKinnon went down with a sprained ankle in the first quarter. The Eagles are kind of a two-man band with McKinnon and QB Kevin Ellison, and a One-Man Band wasn’t going to get it done in Boone. He’s hoping to play this week against Furman. Fortunately for the injury-riddled Eagles, they’ve played the meat of their schedule already — until the Nov. 23 finale at Florida.
Telling quote: “I just wanted to be out there with my teammates, be able to contribute with them in any way possible. It was the last time playing App State. It all hit me. There’s wasn’t really anything I could do. I couldn’t run. The biggest thing that hurt me was not being able to be a part of it.” — GSU FB Jerick McKinnon.
8. The Citadel (2-6, 2-4). After a week off, the Bulldogs jumped out to leads of 17-7 and 24-14 at Chattanooga last week, and outdid the Mocs in yards gained, rushing yards, first downs and time of possession. And they lost. That’s hard to take, when you realize you’ve played about as well as you can and its still not enough. Saturday’s game against Samford is homecoming, a big deal at The Citadel and maybe enough to get the Bulldogs fired up again in what’s become a long and trying season.
Telling quote: “Our guys did a great job of executing the game plan. We had a great first half. We were in control at 17-7. I knew that they were going to come back and score some points. That was a given. Bottom line is that we didn’t get a stop in the fourth quarter when we needed one.” — Citadel coach Kevin Higgins.
9. Elon (2-7, 1-4). Well, somebody had to do it, and it was Elon that took the blow for the
rest of the SoCon and lost to Western Carolina, snapping the Catamounts’ 33-game
losing streak against Division I teams. A lovely parting gift for the Fightin’ Phoenix as they blow this pop stand for the promised land of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Telling quote: “Everyone’s upset. The pain’s there and the pain’s real for all of us.” — Elon QB Mike Quinn.