published Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Powers meet for final time as SoCon rivals

Every game counts, right? Well, maybe not always, or at least not to everyone.

Take Georgia Southern's visit to Appalachian State on Saturday. Normally this is one of the Southern Conference and Football Championship Subdivision's marquee matchups and rivalries. It's usually Goliath versus Goliath, with the winner taking command of the race for the league title.

Not this season.

"Very, very strange," The Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said of the situation during Tuesday's SoCon teleconference.

In this awkward final year in the SoCon for both longtime league powers headed for the Sun Belt Conference, Saturday's game absolutely matters to the Eagles, Mountaineers and their rabid fans. They surely will continue to be rivals in the Sun Belt, and bragging rights alone are enough to give the matchup meaning.

But App State (1-6, 1-3) and GSU (4-2, 2-2) are ineligible for the SoCon title this season because they have more than the FCS limit of 63 scholarships. Their games against the other SoCon teams still count in the standings, so those games affect and matter to the rest of the league. But this game, it's for the Eagles and Mountaineers alone.

"We always look forward to playing Georgia Southern, and it's a great rivalry game for us," ASU first-year head coach Scott Satterfield said. "It's two teams that have a tremendous history, and it's really unique this year in that both of us are in our last year in the Southern Conference."

The Mountaineers have lost four straight games, scoring only 10 points in the past two, and will have their first non-winning season since going 4-7 in 1993. A win over the Eagles would certainly be the high point in what has been a very rough season so far.

Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken isn't looking at this game as any different from the teams' past meetings. He's also not looking at this season as much different. Even though the Eagles can't officially win the SoCon, they're still pushing to finish with the best record in the league.

"It's the same rivalry for us," he said. "It's an important game; it is every year."

Touchdown Mocs

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has scored 33 times this season, and its scoring average of 31.3 points per game is third in the SoCon behind Georgia Southern (40.2) and Samford (35.7).

The Mocs are maximizing their scoring chances. Of those 33 scores, 30 have been touchdowns -- the highest percentage in the league. Georgia Southern has 32 touchdowns and six field goals, while Samford has 32 touchdowns and nine field goals.

In 2012, UTC scored a total of 35 touchdowns and kicked 12 field goals.

Happy returns

UTC leads the SoCon in kickoff-return average at 26.4 yards. The Mocs' primary returner, cornerback Chaz Moore, is averaging 30.8 per runback. He fumbled the opening kickoff last week at Elon but was bailed out by an offside penalty.

UTC is second in punt-return average at 9.6 yards. Tommy Hudson's longest return of the season is 27 yards.

Extra points

Mocs coach Russ Huesman stressed during UTC's media lunch that defensive line coach Marcus West deserves loads of credit for helping past and present defensive ends Josh Beard, Josh Williams and Davis Tull set or tie school records. ... Thanks to fall break, UTC was able to practice early Tuesday and was done for the day by 3:20 p.m.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.

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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