Welcome to week two of season two of the SoConversation, featuring The Citadel beat writer Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston Post and Courier, Elon beat writer Adam Smith of the Burlington Times-News and UTC beat writer John Frierson of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The college football season kicked off last week with all nine SoCon teams in action, including a league game between Furman and Samford. Here are last week’s results: Samford def. Furman 24-21, Western Carolina def. Mars Hill 42-14, East Carolina def. Appalachian State 35-13, North Carolina blanked Elon 62-0, Georgia Southern thumped Jacksonville 58-0, The Citadel beat Charleston Southern 49-14, Wofford beat Gardner-Webb 34-14 and South Florida beat UTC 34-13. What, if anything, surprised, impressed or stood out to you from week one?
ADAM: How about Samford, without coach Pat Sullivan on the sideline due to pneumonia, and breaking in new starter Andy Summerlin quarterback, getting a field goal in the final minute to edge turnover-prone Furman.
My handy SoCon pocket schedule tells me Samford — with games coming against West Alabama, Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina — probably should be 4-0 for its Sept. 29 date at Georgia Southern.
Even though the opponent was Mars Hill, a Division II program, it still was nice to see former Appalachian State and Elon assistant Mark Speir win his first game as Western Carolina’s coach.
Wofford fullback / animal Eric Breitenstein is averaging 10 yards per carry after running for 219 on Gardner-Webb. Those numbers sound about right. (I’m exaggerating. Kind of.)
App State trailed East Carolina 14-13 late in the third quarter before the Pirates pulled away.
As for the bloodbath I attended, Elon was bludgeoned with its most lopsided loss in 87 years. Had it been a high school game, there would’ve been a running clock throughout the second half.
JOHN: The bloodbath that Adam attended was the most striking game to me. I was able to see a little of UNC’s rout and Elon looked as ineffective as any team I’ve seen in a long time.
The folks at Samford deserve a lot of credit for pulling off a quality win over Furman amid some circumstances that were at best unusual and at worst rather rather difficult. As a Pat Sullivan admirer, I hope he will be back on the sideline soon.
As for the Mocs, the defense played well in stretches against South Florida — the Bulls had 85 yards rushing on 31 attempts — but the offense wasn’t able to get much going. South Florida was more impressive than I anticipated so it’s hard to get too much of a read on UTC from the game.
JEFF: All games went pretty much to form, I think. I suppose I thought Elon would put up a little more of a struggle against UNC, but it's difficult to read too much into such a mismatch. Samford seems to have found a new QB in Memphis transfer Andy Summerlin, who put up big numbers against Furman, and the Bulldogs are nicely positioned for a 4-0 start with West Alabama, Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina up coming. App State QB Jamal Jackson, who threw for 300 yards against ECU, is no surprise, but he's got to have more help, especially in the run game.
Now for the hot news of the week — what are your thoughts on UTC quarterback Terrell Robinson quitting the team Tuesday?
UPDATE: John Frierson (I'm typing in the third person) is reporting that Robinson has rejoined the team: http://goo.gl/E361p. For more, read Friday's Times Free Press.
JOHN: I made the mistake of arriving at Tuesday’s practice with both of my articles for Wednesday’s paper essentially done. I got to practice and Robinson wasn’t there, and then I had a lot more work to do that day.
The coaches were stunned by Silk quitting, the players were stunned and I was surely stunned. Well, I was stunned by the timing. It was hard to figure that a two-QB system, any two-QB system, was going to work for three years.
Silk apparently felt that he was at a disadvantage competing against coach Russ Huesman’s son Jacob. He also apparently didn’t feel like he could flourish in a system that rotated quarterbacks every other series or within a series.
Russ Huesman’s being painted by some around the Chattanooga area as either a coach that is more concerned about his son getting playing time than winning or as some kind of racist. Having talked with the man darn near daily since he was hired in December 2008, I don’t believe either of those to be true.
In my dealings with Robinson and the Huesmans, I’ve found them all to be very good people. The Mocs had a good problem: they had two good, young quarterbacks. There was no easy solution.
ADAM: How much of a jerk move would it be if I pointed out that I kind of called something like this in last week’s SoConversation? (link: http://bit.ly/NEI8SH)
For starters, obviously, I have no idea what happened out there in Chattanooga. But as we all know, any quarterback competition involving a coach’s son has the potential to get messy in a hurry. There just are so many extra angles and layers of emotion for everybody involved.
When Frierson broke the news about “Silk” Robinson, my mind immediately went to 2004 and 2005, when I had a front-row seat as then-coach Paul Hamilton essentially eliminated all of Elon’s main quarterback contenders so his son, Kye Hamilton, could become the starter.
Anthony Crews, Elon’s 2003 starter as a true freshman, was moved to receiver. Wes Pope was moved to tight end — later, in 2006, under new coach Pete Lembo, Pope led the SoCon in passing. Bo Williamson, a prep star at quarterback for tradition-rich Cummings High School here in Burlington, was moved to receiver. And an East Carolina transfer, who had been the state’s high school Athlete of the Year as a quarterback, was moved to receiver. His name? Terrell Hudgins. You may have heard of him.
Paul Hamilton, always exceedingly nice to me (he still mails me cards occasionally), was fired after two 3-8 seasons at Elon. He landed at Brevard, a Division II program, and now is in his sixth year there.
In 2008, guess who surfaced as Brevard’s quarterback. Kye Hamilton.
JEFF: Coach's son + Quarterback = Trouble. We've seen that formula play out at Elon and now, apparently, at Chattanooga. Other teams are making a 2-QB system work -- notably, The Citadel and Georgia Southern -- but those are option teams that almost have to have two quarterbacks just to get through a game. I'm not certain why Terrell Robinson did not want to take one for the team by sharing the job or even moving to another position, but if a kid's heart is not in it, there's not much sense in forcing it.
Losing a player of Robinson's ability — he was SoCon freshman of the year last year — never helps, but at least it won't be a festering problem throughout the season. Somebody told me if the coach's son is going to be on the team, he'd better be the best player on the team or the worst. Some truth in that, I think.
Here are this week’s matchups: Coastal Carolina at Furman, Georgia Southern at The Citadel, Montana at App State, North Carolina Central at Elon, Lincoln (Pa.) at Wofford, UTC at Jacksonville State, Western Carolina at Marshall and West Alabama at Samford. It looks like a pretty heavy slate with an interesting SoCon game, as well as some good non-conference games. Any predictions on what’s to come this weekend?
ADAM: If you listen to sports talk radio in North Carolina, you’ve no doubt heard an ad that bills Montana’s visit to App State as “the game of the year in the FCS.”
Throwing some exclamation points in there would better convey how that is said.
Whether that’s hyperbole remains to be seen, of course. These historical powerhouses have combined for five national titles and 10 championship game appearances, so there’s plenty of intrigue to be sure. Plus, the last time these teams met, Armanti Edwards’ remarkable career ended in a snowy 2009 national semifinal loss at Montana that was full of down-to-the-wire dramatics.
Like App State, Furman also wants to avoid an 0-2 start. Georgia Southern figures to be too much for The Citadel, especially if the Bulldogs’ fumbling problems carry over from Week 1.
Bold prediction — Lincoln, Wofford’s opponent, will encounter some trouble in trying to stop Breitenstein, the animal.
And I can’t wait to hear the N.C. Central band. Should be fun.
JOHN: I’d like to be in Boone to see the Grizzlies and Mountaineers go at it. I think it’s a pretty big game for both programs. Georgia Southern can remind everyone that its the SoCon’s top dog by thumping what looks like a Bulldogs team on the rise, or maybe The Citadel puts up a heck of a fight like last season.
I’ll be in lovely Jacksonville, Ala., watching the Mocs take on Jacksonville State. It’s a massive game for UTC, and not just because of what happened with Robinson this week. The Mocs need to win seven of their nine FCS games to make the playoffs because they’ve already lost to USF and next week they host Division II Glenville State.
These teams aren’t exactly fond of each other and this is the last scheduled game in the rivalry, so things could get interesting.
JEFF: The Citadel is hyped for this game against No. 3 Georgia Southern, maybe the most important game they've played in coach Kevin Higgins' eight years as coach. For whatever reason, The Citadel has played GSU close over the last five years — much closer than the Bulldogs have played App State or Wofford, for example — and believe they have a chance at the upset.
They’ve got to clean up the six fumbles they had against Charleston Southern, make a big play or two on special teams and create a couple of turnovers, too. GSU and The Citadel combined to complete three passes last week (all by the Bulldogs), so this game should be a quick one, at the least.
Furman, App State, Elon and Chattanooga are out of conference, but all of them can ill afford a loss this weekend. A loss to Coastal Carolina will start the grumbling in Greenville, and a loss to NC Central would be code red in Elon. App State and Chattanooga already are worrying about playoff implications in the second week
The NCAA is again discussing changing the name of this level of football, which was Division I-AA until 2006, when it was changed to the cumbersome Football Championship Subdivision. From an AP story on the subject: “Quite frankly, our level of football continues to have an identity crisis," said Patty Viverito, commissioner of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Do you agree or are there much more pressing and important matters that need examination?
JEFF: It's a problem, and I'm not sure what you do about it. It's instructive to listen to coaches talk about FCS -- most of them still use "I-AA" and App State coach Jerry Moore uses "our division." A lot of times, media still get FBS and FCS mixed up. And the FBS move toward a playoff muddles the situation even further.
I'm inclined to just call it all "Division I football" in the same way that basketball and baseball are Division I. After all, Citadel football is a lot closer to Duke football, even with scholarship differences, than Citadel basketball is to Duke basketball. Every college football fan knows that Georgia and Wofford don't play on the same level, just as they know South Carolina baseball and UNC Greensboro baseball (not to pick on the Spartans) are not on the same level as far as resources and interest are concerned.
The only time you need to draw an administrative distinction is for the playoffs, and I don't think anybody is going to put Wofford in the big boy four-team playoff by mistake.
JOHN: This doesn’t seem like the biggest problem the FCS has right now, but I suppose from a marketing perspective it’s hard to sell your brand of football when nobody seems to know what to call it — or they prefer to call it by its old name.
Personally, I wouldn’t spend a ton of time and energy on this now since I strongly believe that the arrival of the playoffs in the bowl subdivision, combined with all the conference shuffling, is going to lead to major changes in all of Division I.
Sooner rather than later, the BCS schools are going to be off doing their big-money thing and the rest of Division I will play for their own trophy.
ADAM: Football Championship Subdivision is a mouthful, and “FBS” and “FCS” surely remain confusing for those who don’t use those labels as often as we do. But what do you do here? Barring a magical stroke of genius, changing the name again only would confuse things even more.
I can remember former Furman coach Bobby Lamb telling me in 2006 how some schools from lower bowl-level conferences — they were MAC teams, in this case — would tell recruits that Furman wasn’t in Division I because of the “AA” tag at the end.
Then again, some people, especially coaches, still remain more comfortable saying “I-AA,” despite the name change from six years ago.
FBS? FCS? OMG, I’m SMH.
If you’ve got a question, e-mail the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. The guys are also on Twitter: @Jeff_fromthePC, @adam_smithTN and @MocsbeatCTFP.
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 ...