SOCON: Week 9 Review and Power Rankings

There were not very many surprises this week in the Southern Conference games.  The Citadel handled ETSU fairly easily to remain unbeaten.  Chattanooga beat WCU in Cullowhee.  Furman got another win, this time over VMI on the road.  Wofford bounced back nicely and won at home against Mercer. Probably the biggest surprise was the shootout between Samford and Mississippi State where the Bama Bulldogs almost pulled out one against the SEC Bulldogs.

#5 The Citadel 45  ETSU 10 (box score)

It didn’t take The Citadel Bulldogs long to take control over the Bucs of ETSU.  The Dogs scored on their first two possessions to make it 14-0 only half way through the first quarter.  The Citadel scored on 5 of its 7 first half possessions.  The biggest surprise was probably the first play of the game for the Dogs.  It was a 38 yard reception down the middle for the triple option team.

The Bulldogs threw 14 times in the first half.  That tied their season game high.  They needed to up their passing game just a bit.  Wofford made it tough a week ago because the Dogs were just a little too predictable and the Bulldogs were a bit rusty throwing the ball.  Against the Bucs it really didn’t matter to much.  The Citadel ran easily against ETSU.  On the day the Bulldogs racked up 427 yards on the ground.  That included 124 yards by Cam Jackson on just 7 attempts for a superb 17.7 yards a carry average.  He only had two carries on the first drive of the second half.

ETSU made some noise though.  After punting on their first 5 possessions, they went on a five play, 64 yard scoring drive in the second quarter. That drive was highlighted by a 52 yards pass. The Bucs went on another long drive in the second only to have it end on an interception by Dee Delaney at the goal line.

On its first drive of the second half, ETSU also scored on a 15 play 63 yard drive. The Dogs halted them at the 5 and they had to settle for a 22 yard field goal.

The Bulldogs did give it up twice on fumbles, but they were both committed by backups.  One was deep in ETSU territory.  The other was on a 4th and 2 at the ETSU 38.

On the day The Citadel did what they needed to.  They totaled 427 on the ground, and 77 in the air for a total of 504 yards. Allen did go 7/14 with one TD pass, all in the first half.  Another bright spot for the Dogs was its 108 punt return yards on 4 returns by DeAndre Schoultz.  He almost broke two for scores.

Austin Herink had a respectable day for ETSU and went 12/25 for 125 with one TD and one interception.  On the ground ETSU got only 87 yards out of a stingy Bulldogs defense. In addition to the 3 sacks by the Bulldogs, ETSU was tackled for a loss 6 more times.

The Bulldogs defense also remained solid in the fourth quarter and did not allow a score.  This year, they have only allowed 22 total points in the fourth quarter in all 8 games.

With the Bulldogs now at 8-0, 6-0, in addition to its best start ever, this win earned them a single season program record of 8 straight wins.  In addition, first year Head Coach Brent Thompson has won more SOCON games to begin his tenure than any other Bulldog coach.

The Bulldogs will face one of their sternest tests of the year next week as the Samford Bulldogs come to Charleston.  That game may very well decide the SOCON championship.  ETSU will travel to Macon to face Mercer.

#9 Chattanooga 38  WCU 25  (box score)

The Chattanooga Mocs gained 515 yards enroute to a comfortable victory over WCU on Saturday.  The Mocs scored on five of their six first half possessions, including TDs on their first four.

After punting on its first possession, the Western Carolina Catamounts looked to get in the groove with a one play 75 yards TD run.  But the Mocs defense stiffened up and Western was limited to a field goal on their next drive followed by three punts after that.  UTC took a 31-10 lead into the half.

After scoring on its first drive of the second half, the Mocs began to sub and run quite a bit.  WCU scored late in the third and again late in the fourth to make it 38-25. WCU went for and made a two point conversion on their last TD.

Mocs QB Bennifield went 11/16 for 182 yards with 2 TDs and one interception.  The Western defense never got to him.  On the ground, Chattanooga had a banner day with 323 yards. They were lead by Richardre Bagley who got 126 yards and Tyler Roberson who gained 121.  WCU continues to have issues stopping the run and trails the SOCON and FCS in yards allowed.

Even if they have problems stopping it, the Cats have a pretty good runner themselves in Detrez Newsome.  He gained 277 yards which was good enough for a Western Carolina game record.

WCU QB Tyrie Adams went 13/23 for only 117 yards with 1 TD.  He did not toss any interceptions though.  He also ran for 55, but lost 32 on four sacks. The Mocs defense also had 8 QB hurries.

In regard to the WCU defense, its looks as though Coach Speir has had enough.  On Sunday he announced that the Catamount defensive coordinator has been relieved of his duties.  Speir will assume those duties.  Probably a little late in coming, but something had to be done.  WCU was last in defense in the SOCON, by a long way.

On special teams, both punters had big days as the Mocs punter averaged 51 yards on two kicks and the WCU punter averaged 49.2 on 5 kicks.  Not bad.

Chattanooga gets a much deserved bye week next Saturday as it prepares for Wofford in two weeks. WCU hosts VMI in Cullowhee for its final home game.

Furman 24  VMI 10  (box score)

Furman’s defense had a strong day and limited VMI to just 280 total yards.  They also took out the VMI QB, Al Cobb, on a clean, but hard hit late in the second quarter.  Up to that point, Cobb had gone 16/26 for 139 yards.  He had gone 12/14 immediately leading up to his injury and it looked like he was hot.  His departure obviously knocked the Keydet’s morale pretty hard.

Down 17-3 at half, it took VMI’s back up QB, Austin Coulling a little while to get going.  He threw an interception to open the third quarter.  Overall he went 6/16 for 60 yards with one TD and 2 interceptions.  VMI found the end zone early in the fourth for the final score in the game.

Furman’s defense was effective in limiting the Keydet’s running game as well. VMI gained just 81 yards in the game.

The Furman offense, ineffective for most of their first six games, appears to have come alive.  Reese Hannon went 18/27 for 291 yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions.  Furman limited their turnovers to just one fumble which is a marked improvement over the first half of the year.  They are now at -1 on the year in turnovers.  Furman also gained 215 on the ground with Hannon leading the way with 84 yards. Hannon was not sacked all day.  He is a pretty big buy to bring down.

The prognosis for Cobb has not been revealed yet, but it will be devastating for VMI if they lose him. He is VMI’s top passing QB ever.

With Furman’s defense apparently back in health and in form, and their offense apparently clicking again, they may be a tale of two seasons.  They have Wofford, Western Carolina and Mercer remaining, and while a winning season has already passed them by, they can make it respectable by winning their last five games.  Two down, three to go.

Furman faces Wofford at home next week.  VMI travels to Western Carolina.

Wofford 31  Mercer 21 (box score)

It would have been understandable for Wofford to have had a hang over after a heartbreaking loss last week to The Citadel.  But good teams don’t do that.

It did take them a little while to get going though. After punting on their first possession, turning it over on downs close to mid-field, and then punting again, it was going to take a lot of effort to get through the Mercer defense.  They finally did in the second quarter on a 9 play 48 yards drive after their defense held Mercer on a 4th down try near midfield.  Both teams were counting on their defenses in order to take some chances on offense apparently.

Wofford scored again on their next possession to make it 14-0.  The drive took five plays and went 77 yards and included a 60 yards pass by Wofford’s QB, Brandon Goodson.  Mercer answered this with a 7 play, 74 yards drive of their own to make it 14-7 at half.  This drive included a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty and a 20 yard run by Mercer’s QB, John Russ.

After trading three, three and outs, Wofford struck first in the second half by blocking Mercer’s punt for a quick TD to make it 21-7.  After Wofford tacked on field goal, Mercer finally answered with a 7 play 75 yard drive to close it to 24-14 with 3:42 to go in the third quarter.

After Wofford attempted and failed to convert on a 4th and 1 at the Mercer 6, Mercer began to drive but faced a 4th and 1 at their own 33 yard line and elected to go for it.  They didn’t make it and Wofford made them pay for the gamble with a 14 play, 32 yard drive to score again. Yup, 14 plays and just 32 yards. It took 7:15 off the clock and two more 4th down conversions, but the score put the Terriers up 31-14 with just 6:39 to go in the game.

The Mercer Bears answered fast.  Just 4 plays and 74 yards got them into the end zone to make it 31-21. Russ connected on 40 and 25 yard passes during the drive.  Wofford milked the clock on their next drive, along with Mercer timeouts, but had to punt it back with 1:36 to go. The Terriers defense sealed the deal when they intercepted Russ on Mercer’s second play.

Wofford’s defense was as stingy as ever and allowed Mercer only 48 yards on the ground.  Russ went 30/45 and 271 yards with three TD and 2 interceptions.  Mercer had pretty good pass protection and Wofford did not record any sacks.

Wofford had some issues on the ground against a stubborn Mercer defense and gained only 205 yards rushing.  Lorenzo Long lead all Terrier runners with 108 and two TDs.  But Wofford did have some moderate success in the air.  Goodson went 5/10 for 112 yards.

Wofford had zero turnovers this week, but they did have an uncharacteristic 10 penalties for 128 yards. They went for it on 4th down 5 times and made it twice.  As usual, they dominated the TOP with 36:16 and that made all the difference.  Mercer also turned it over twice.

Wofford faces its nemesis, of sorts, next week when it travels to Greenville to play the Furman Paladins.  With this win against Mercer, Wofford is still on the playoff bubble and needs to win out for an 8-3 record to have a realistic shot at a playoff berth.  On the other hand, Mercer is probably done.  They can get to 7-4 if they win out and that would include a win over Samford, but 7-4 may not do it this year.  It will all depend on the rest of the playoff field.  Mercer hosts ETSU next week.

Miss St 56  #15 Samford 41  (box score)

Most teams playing FBS P5 teams are content to play respectable, don’t get anyone hurt and collect their check. Samford did not do any of these things. Well, I am sure they collected their check, but they also played more than respectable and they unfortunately had a couple injuries as well.

With 9:19 to go in the first, it was already 14-7.  There were three scores in under 6 minutes.  The game looked like it was going to be a track meet at this point.  It was.  There were 33 offensive possessions between the two teams.  There were 185 offensive plays run.  There was a total of 1296 yards of offense.

Although Samford never led, they were always on the heels of the SEC Mississippi State Bulldogs.  Just when it seemed that Samford was closing the gap, Miss St would pull ahead only to have Samford respond again.

Turnovers played a major part with Samford tossing three interceptions with one a pick six.  Miss St tossed two interceptions themselves and fumbled once.

One glaring difference was in penalties.  Not necessarily in the amount, but in the tolerance for making a call on Samford.  In the fourth, Samford was called for a late hit out of bounds on the Miss St QB while he was still in play and trying to gain more yards.  It was a critical drive for Miss St as well.  And we thought SOCON refs were bad.  The guy that called that should be fired.  There was also an intentional targeting call in the fourth on one of their Defensive linemen.  It was a good call, but the more I watched it I don’t think he was doing it intentionally. Still doesn’t matter, but I would hate to think he did it intentionally.  He will miss the first half next week though and that is not good news for Samford.

Samford was only down 28-20 at half.  It would have been easy to come out in the second half satisfied, but the Samford Bulldogs were playing to win.  They gave it their all and that is always nice to see. Samford would go on to score 21 more points. Unfortunately, Miss St scored 28 more.

On the day, Samford totaled 468 yards through the air. Hodges went 42/70 with 4 TDs and the three interceptions.  Did you read that? 4 passing TDs against an SEC defense.  Well, not a very good SEC defense, but that is still more yards than anyone has gained on Miss St including LSU, Auburn, or BYU. Samford was only sacked three times.  Samford also gained 159 on the ground.  That’s more yards than Samford gained against UTC or Wofford, or Furman, … or VMI.  Yikes.

While their offense was cranking it up, Samford’s defense is another matter.  They gave up 669 yards including 417 passing and 252 rushing.  Miss St was 7/15 on third down conversions.  They also gained about 5.5 yards per rush.  Apparently, at least three of Samford’s defensive players were injured in the game as well.  Their status for next week is not known yet.

Overall, regardless of the cost, and profit, it was a well played game by the Samford Bulldogs and they should be proud of their effort.  They travel to Charleston next week to face The Citadel in what may very well be the game that decides the Southern Conference Championship and auto bid for the FCS playoffs.  If the Citadel wins, they get it.  If Samford wins, it just becomes more complicated and it will either be The Citadel, Samford, or Chattanooga depending on what happens the week after.

Power Rankings

1 – The Citadel

2 – Samford – normally I would not move a team up when they lose, but Samford’s performance against an SEC team was deserving of it.

3 – Chattanooga

4 – Wofford

5 – Mercer

6 – Furman

7 – VMI

8 – WCU

9 – ETSU


Written by 

Born and raised in New Jersey, but gravitated south to graduate from The Citadel in 1985. Served 23+ years in the USAF retiring in 2008 as a Field Grade Officer. Logged 4600+ flying hours as an Aircraft Commander and Instructor Pilot in the KC135. After retiring from active duty, worked as a Program Manager on various Air Force weapon systems. Retired completely as of May 2016. I have followed SOCON football since my days as a cadet. I like statistics, but also find value in looking at the intangibles as well, such as a team's emotions and motivation.

Related posts