published Thursday, October 18th, 2012

SoConversation: Week 8

Welcome to week eight of the SoConversation, featuring Elon beat writer Adam Smith of the Burlington Times-News, UTC beat writer John Frierson of the Chattanooga Times Free Press and joining us this week is a distinguished guest, Todd Shanesy, the Wofford beat writer for the Spartanburg Herald Journal.

Our venerable colleague Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston Post & Courier is on assignment (actually he’s just taking a little time away from the laptop during The Citadel’s off week) and will be back next week.

Before we discuss what happened elsewhere in the SoCon last week, let’s take a moment to go over what happened with the teams we cover. UTC looked good in every phase of the game at Furman, Elon got to put its feet up for a while with an open date and Wofford tasted defeat for the first time this season in a tough loss at Georgia Southern. Thoughts?

JOHN: The Mocs played perhaps their best game of the season. The offense was tricky and effective, the defense shut the Paladins down for most of the game and special teams were nearly perfect.

It was interesting watching UTC’s offense line up in a bunch of different formations and use quarterbacks Terrell Robinson and Jacob Huesman in a variety of ways. Robinson had eight receptions and Huesman had three. They were a combined 25 of 33 passing for 256 yards and Huesman threw a pair of TD passes to Robinson.

I have to figure Furman was guessing a lot of the time before each snap, especially since UTC unveiled a lot of new plays.

Perhaps more impressive was UTC’s defense, which held the Paladins, who have some quality offensive weapons, to 223 yards of offense — more than 200 below Furman’s average coming into the game.

TODD: Georgia Southern against Wofford was the most physical game I’ve seen this year. A real defensive slobber-knocker. Terriers quarterback Brian Kass had grass stains covering his shoulders by the end of the first quarter.

Offensive lineman Calvin Cantrell was knocked silly. He got up and started walking but didn’t know where he was going. He’ll be out a few weeks with a severe concussion. Georgia Southern was great, but Wofford wins if the Terriers can punch in a couple of touchdowns on those three trips inside the 10.

It was a deadline writer’s dream. No pass attempts by Georgia Southern and only eight by Wofford. We were in the fourth quarter in an hour and 45 minutes and I was doing postgame interviews two and a half hours after kickoff.

ADAM: Elon enjoyed what felt like a perfectly placed bye week that coincided with the school’s fall break during the weekend. So while recharging and reassessing, players were able to get away from things, even if they didn’t actually leave campus.

After a stretch of six straight games, the last three of which were a gauntlet against SoCon big boys Georgia Southern, Wofford and Appalachian State, it was, to invoke what feels almost mandatory to type, a much-needed open date for Elon.

Around the Smith homestead, bye weeks remain unplugged, undefeated and glorious.

Nothing like some pumpkin patch moves and taking in the movie “Hotel Transylvania” to get your Dad of the Year stock soaring.

Here are last week’s results: Appalachian State def. Samford 28-25, Georgia Southern def. Wofford 17-9, UTC def. Furman 31-10, The Citadel def. Western Carolina 45-31. What surprised you or caught your eye during week seven?

JOHN: In the interest of showing off my clairvoyance, at least in one of the four games I predicted last week, I offer what I wrote a week ago: “ASU’s Sean Price will catch the game-winning TD pass with less than two minutes remaining.”

Price caught the game-winner with 22 seconds left in what was a heck of a game in Birmingham. Wofford and Georgia Southern played a pretty darn good game in Statesboro, as well, though it might not have been the game of the year. No game-winning pass from the Eagles in that one since Georgia Southern didn’t attempt a pass.

My favorite thing about the GSU-Wofford game was something I saw in the stats — total elapsed time: 2:26. In an era when TV and high-scoring offenses are turning games into marathons of four hours or more — the Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech game last week, a 59-57 A&M win, lasted 4:28 — a quick game like that is a thing of beauty (and yes, a beat writer’s dream).

ADAM: Word up (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=word%20up) on the box score from that triple-option slugfest down at Georgia Southern.

Combined play distribution: Eight passes and 106 rushes.

That was two Top 10 ranked teams in the FCS lining up and pounding it at each other. Old school to the core. Can’t help but picture some crusty codger from a bygone era — wearing a crew cut, those Bike coaching shorts and tube socks up to his knees — just loving the heck out of it.

Also, I’m normally all for the alternate uniform craze, but the blue digital camouflage that Georgia Southern wore for the first time looked pretty gross. It was, of course, for a good cause, though, Military Appreciation Day.

Chattanooga’s stout defense and sandlot creativity with its quarterbacks certainly was attention-grabbing. Not to mention wholly productive.

On a different holy note, I almost fell out of a church pew Sunday when I strayed from the sermon and realized how App State eked past Samford.

Johnny Frierson, professional man of soothsaying.

And file this away, Samford safety Alvin Hines II contended afterward that App’s Sean Price didn’t land in bounds on his game-winning catch in the end zone.

TODD: None of the outcomes last week were surprising, but I didn’t think Appalachian State would need a last-minute touchdown to beat Samford and that Furman wouldn’t even put up a fight against Chattanooga. The Mocs seem to be settling into the team I had ranked in the preseason top 25. The Bulldogs are tough, too.

Wofford is 3-1 (in the SoCon) but now it seems clear that those wins came against the three weakest teams: Furman, Elon and Western.

Here are this week’s matchups: Georgia Southern at Furman (1:30 p.m.), Western Carolina at Elon (3 p.m./ESPN3), Wofford at Appalachian State (3:30 p.m.) and Samford at UTC (6 p.m.). Any predictions on what’s to come this weekend?

TODD: This is one of the few times that Wofford fans will root for Furman. But I don’t see an upset there. Somebody has to win the game between Elon and Western Carolina, I suppose. I’ll take the Phoenix at home after an open date. Samford and Chattanooga should be a great one. I have a feeling the Bulldogs will win.

Wofford’s last two trips to Appalachian State have not gone well for the Terriers. They’ve been outscored, 113-37. But if The Citadel can run for 450 yards and score 52 points in Boone, the Terriers should be capable of winning. Wofford in what wouldn’t officially be an upset, 34-31.

JOHN: Wofford-App State and UTC-Samford look like the marquee games this week. The Mountaineers are playing very well and Wofford is banged up and coming off its first loss, so advantage Mountaineers. The Mocs are also playing well and Samford just suffered what had to be a heartbreaking loss to ASU, so it could be advantage Mocs.

I’m looking forward to seeing Samford play because clearly the Bulldogs have taken a big leap forward this season.

Predictions: Georgia Southern will win a close game at Furman, Elon will beat the Catamounts by two touchdowns, Price will have two TD catches and ASU wins by 10 and the Mocs will edge Samford 28-27.

ADAM: App State staged a second-half rally to overcome Elon two weeks ago and needed last-gasp heroics from quarterback Jamal Jackson and Price to deny Samford a signature victory last week.

Given that dynamic and the fact Wofford fullback / monster Eric Breitenstein grew up less than 10 miles from Boone, I’m inclined to pick Wofford to win up there in the High Country.

But I can’t. The Terriers are hurting. Breitenstein has been hobbled this week. And App has started posing serious matchup problems with running back Steven Miller in its passing game. Miller has 11 catches for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ last two games.

Elon should pick up its first SoCon win of the season against Western Carolina, trying to avoid its 20th consecutive SoCon loss.

Samford at Chattanooga looks too close to call. I’ll say Samford in a squeaker.

Furman gave Wofford fits two weeks ago, but I think Georgia Southern — who needs to pass, huh? — wins comfortably.

Now we head into more whimsical territory. Who’s got the best name in the SoCon this season? We did this last season in Week 9 and covered some good ones, such as Western Carolina’s Rock Williams and Ace Clark and UTC’s Faysal Shafaat and Muhasibi Wakeel. Any new ones for 2012?

ADAM: Western Carolina’s defense is a gold mine. In addition to Williams and Clark, there’s Bevans Robbs, Rainey Ala, Jaleel Lorquet, Sertonuse Harris and Elijer Martinez.

But my favorites are Ezayi Youyoute, once the starter, now the backup quarterback at Georgia Southern and Appalachian State freshman receiver Simms McElfresh, which is just all kinds of awesome.

And who is the reservation for, sir?

Simms McElfresh.

TODD: The names I love are Appalachian State wide receiver Mo Gore (fan of scary movies), ASU offensive lineman Shaq Counts (preschool book by Shaquille O’Neal), The Citadel linebacker Rah Muhammad (cheer for your prophet), Elon running back Thuc Phan (sounds like cursing), Furman running back Hank McCloud (sheriff in the old West), Georgia Southern running back Nardo Govan (just cool), GSU safety Emmanuel Orange (well, of course he’s from Florida) and Chattanooga defensive back Dee Virgin.

JOHN: That’s some strong work by our guest. As a person with the boring first name of John (and my brothers are Joe and Jack), I envy those whose name have flair.

Among my favorites are Wofford linebacker Alvin Scioneaux, The Citadel’s punter Cass Couey, Samford running back Fabian Truss and Western Carolina receiver Spearman Robinson.

My vote, however, is going to Samford defensive back Jaquiski Tartt, who also happens to be second in the SoCon with 68 tackles.

If you’ve got a question, e-mail the writers at jhartsell@postandcourier.com, asmith@thetimesnews.com or jfrierson@timesfreepress.com. The guys are also on Twitter: @Jeff_fromthePC, @adam_smithTN and @MocsbeatCTFP. And don’t forget to follow Todd @TerrierTracker.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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