Welcome to Week 6 of the college football season and the sixth SoConversation between 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.
Wofford conquered Appalachian State, Georgia Southern remained unbeaten and, depending on your vantage point, there was either a monumental meltdown or epic comeback in The Citadel's big rally past Chattanooga. What's your take on last week?
JEFF: I've never seen anything quite like The Citadel's win at Chattanooga. The Bulldogs scored 28 straight points in the final 21 minutes. It was almost like someone (Spike the Bulldog?) had written a script, and both teams were fated to follow it.
It began with a bit of Mocs' hubris, however, throwing deep downfield with a 27-0 lead on first down midway through the third quarter. The Bulldogs picked it off, and the comeback/meltdown proceeded from there. Best part is, my car was still in the media lot after the game.
Wofford's win over App State confirmed suspicions about both teams. With Chris Forcier playing the way he is (11 TD passes in the last two games), Furman could be emerging as a surprise contender in Bruce Fowler's first year as coach.
JOHN: The Citadel deserves a ton of credit for hanging in there — we wouldn’t expect anything less — and raising its game when the Mocs started faltering. But UTC paved the way for the comeback with its worst half of the season.
A bad interception, a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown (yet another special teams mishap that proved very costly, just like at App State) and very conservative play-calling, combined with poor execution, in the second half doomed the Mocs.
Wofford certainly looked impressive from what I saw of that game — App State’s offense, not so much —and Furman appears to be getting on a bit of a roll. Forcier not only has 11 touchdown passes in the past two games, as Jeff noted, but 11 TDs in his last 26 completions. Talk about efficiency.
ADAM: Let me piggyback on Frierson, which sounds like fun. No doubt, the efficiency is becoming ridiculous from Chris Forcier, who has morphed into the FCS version of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Even if you pull it back to a three-week snapshot on Forcier, one out of every three completions still goes for a touchdown. Oh how the potential fantasy football numbers send my nerdy mind racing.
App State lost for only the second time in its last 30 SoCon games — an absolutely unreal run — and yet Wofford’s victory didn’t come as any sort of a surprise. Propaganda alert: When you think about it, Wofford put more of a scare into unbeaten Clemson than Auburn or Virginia Tech did.
Top-ranked Georgia Southern pretty much looked the part, grinding turnover-ravaged Elon into submission. And what else can be said about The Citadel and Chattanooga? Stunning to the max.
What are your thoughts on the game you covered last Saturday and how do those views factor into things moving forward?
JOHN: The Mocs looked like a SoCon contender in the first half as they dominated on both sides of the ball. It was a totally different story in the second half, especially the fourth quarter.
UTC’s inability to run the ball effectively makes it very difficult for this team to sit on a lead and keep the clock moving. And that gave the Bulldogs the time, and confidence, they needed to mount a heck of a comeback.
At 0-2 in the SoCon, any title hopes have certainly disappeared for UTC. The Mocs have to win five of their last six to reach seven wins and have a shot at the playoffs. And what’s waiting for them Saturday? Top-ranked Georgia Southern in Paulson Stadium.
When the Mocs play well in all phases of the game they can beat anyone in the league, but this team thus far has had a hard time avoiding those fatal mistakes that also cost them a playoff spot a year ago.
ADAM: Elon led 7-0 in the first half and pulled within 24-14 midway through the third quarter, but Georgia Southern proved too much to handle for the mistake-prone Phoenix.
Four Elon turnovers helped Georgia Southern lower the boom 41-14. Elon’s turnover bug has become an infestation. The Phoenix has committed 16 on the season and 11 in its last three games.
First-year coach Jason Swepson has joked that he needs to find Lady Luck and give her a big hug. Maybe a smooch is in order, too, especially with Elon playing four of its next five games on the road.
It’s still hard to draw a definitive read on the Phoenix. At 3-2, Elon has posted wins (Division II Concord, N.C. Central and The Citadel) and losses (Vanderbilt, Georgia Southern) that were expected.
JEFF: It felt like a turning point game for The Citadel, which rushed for 202 yards in the second half against what had been a stout Mocs defense. But with Wofford and App State next on the slate, it may be a slow turning for the Bulldogs (John Hiatt reference there, for you music fans). As for the 2-3 Mocs, the loss may have reduced their playoff margin of error to zero.
They've still got GSU, Furman and Wofford to play, and a 7-4 mark with a loss to The Citadel might be enough to pop the bubble.
Are Georgia Southern and Wofford already on a collision course for the SoCon title?
ADAM: No tiptoeing here. I’ll go ahead and put myself out there and say that Wofford will be perfect in the league — and perhaps No. 1 in the FCS — on Nov. 12 when it plays host to Georgia Southern.
Go back to the debut installment of our SoConversation. I’m sure you’ve got it bookmarked. If memory serves, yours truly predicted then that the Terriers would be the X factor in what had the makings of a power struggle at the top between App State and Georgia Southern.
Sure, not exactly the boldest of forecasts. But coming off last weekend’s statement win, I’ll continue to ride with Wofford.
As for Georgia Southern, something tells me that there’s at least one pothole waiting ahead with games against Chattanooga, Furman and App State this month. Four of Georgia Southern’s next five games are at home in Statesboro, though, with the only road date an Oct. 29 trip to App State.
JOHN: I think it’s a little too early to tell. Both teams are obviously playing well, but I’m not sure anyone is getting through the SoCon this season without at least one loss.
Georgia Southern’s stats are simply absurd — the Eagles are averaging 7.3 yards per play and the defense is brutal against the run — but the schedule gets a lot harder the rest of the way. The Eagles have played three games against FCS teams who have a combined record of 6-7, and they’ve also played Division II Tusculum, which is 1-4.
Wofford has its signature win over App State (that win had to feel great after so many previous disappointments) and put a serious scare into Clemson. Both teams will be in the mix at the end, but will they have company? I’m not ready to write off App State yet and maybe Furman is the wild card this season.
JEFF: They may well be. Can they both remain unbeaten in the league until their Nov. 12 showdown? Wofford's toughest roadblock left is at Furman on Oct. 22, while the Eagles must play Furman and App State, which surely will get it together at some point.
That GSU at Wofford game could be monumental, but we've had co-champs four times since 2001. And who knows? Maybe The Citadel, now a mere 15 points from being 4-0, will jump up and bite somebody else.
What's one of the sillier comments you've heard recently from a fan?
ADAM: I raised this question because of a certain App State alum who apparently has grown fond of me through the years. This guy, taking him at his word, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees. And yet here’s what he wrote me on Monday: “Why can’t Jerry Moore be fired? Not retired. Not asked to step down. Fired.”
The dude went on to write: “I refuse to accept the actions of the team the past two weeks and I believe that now is finally the time a groundswell can begin.”
Heck yeah, buddy. Go for it. Rise up and overthrow the winningest coach in SoCon history. Since 2005, his teams only have gone 42-4 in the league, won at least a share of the last six conference titles and been crowned national champs three times.
Yep, that’s all.
JEFF: I can think of a silly scribe comment. When it was 24-0 at Chattanooga, I tweeted something about how the rest of this game should be devoted to preparing Citadel freshman QB Aaron Miller for the remainder of the season. Oops.
JOHN: After last week’s loss, there are some Mocs fans — not many, but some — that are so upset that they’re complaining about having spent money on season tickets (alums can get them for as little as $32) to watch the team. Others used the line “same old UTC,” which seems a bit harsh since a lot of those old UTC teams would never have been up 27-0.
Given how miserable most of the last 25 years has been for Mocs fans, it’s probably understandable that their confidence remains rather shaky even after the past couple of seasons.
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_Smith10 and @MocsbeatCTFP.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth 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 ...