SoConversation: Week 10

SoConversation: Week 10

November 3rd, 2011 by John Frierson in Local Regional News

Welcome to Week 10 of the college football season and a 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.

(Quick editor's note before we get started - if you'd like for the SoConversation to continue during basketball season, please let us know via our contact info at the bottom of the page. The response during football season has been outstanding and it seems like a good idea to keep this going.)

Here are last week's results: Appalachian State def. Georgia Southern 24-17; Furman def. UTC 14-7; Wofford def. Elon 48-28; Samford def. Western Carolina 52-24; The Citadel def. VMI 41-14. What are your thoughts on the game you covered last week and the rest of the scores?

ADAM: Somebody I know wrote that Elon's demons reappeared in full maniacal form. Over the top? Oh yes. But at least it was accurate.

The Phoenix had pulled even with Wofford and was set to get the ball back late in the third quarter when a punt bounced off the chest of sure-handed return man David Wood. In less than five minutes, the score suddenly went from 21-21 to 35-21 as Wofford cashed in on that fumble and then returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Elon did some good things - Thomas Wilson threw for 342 yards and three TDs, two of which went to Aaron Mellette, who caught nine passes for 162 yards - but couldn't keep the game clean enough to topple Wofford.

Also, some breaking news: Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein is an animal. The SoCon rushing leader chewed up Elon with 217 yards and four TDs. He's relentless. And even when he's tackled, he always falls forward for an extra yard or 2.

Sounded like App State and Georgia Southern delivered a championship-style bout in Boone. New QB Jamal Jackson, big-play wideout Brian Quick and a fired-up defense came up clutch for the Mountaineers.

And who turned back the clock in Chattanooga? What an old school defensive struggle between Furman and the Mocs. The halftime score was 0-0. The game film from that one should be black and white and all grainy.

JEFF: VMI coach Sparky Woods tweeted this week that his team was working on punt protection this week. I would hope so, given that The Citadel blocked three punts in its win over VMI to retain the Silver Shako (which is coveted, by the way). The blocked punts covered up some inconsistent offense by the Bulldogs, though they did end up with more than 350 rushing yards.

Not shocked by App State's win over Georgia Southern; you knew the Mountaineers would not relinquish the crown easily. Furman's surge continues, and the Paladins should be/need to be ranked soon. Those things matter when the playoff committee meets. And I was wrong about one thing; it wasn't he band director who got fired after the latest Western Carolina loss, but the defensive coordinator.

JOHN: The Mocs had no offense and their long-shot hopes of running the table to earn a playoff spot came to an end. UTC and Furman were both outstanding on defense, and the key to the game was the Paladins' preparation for what UTC likes to do with quarterback Terrell Robinson. Furman seemed ready for everything, like they were in the huddle.

UTC had something of a QB controversy (conundrum might be the better word) brewing with Robinson playing so well while B.J. Coleman was out with a sprained shoulder. After Robinson completed one pass (for 3 yards) and threw two interceptions, in seven attempts, all that "Who needs B.J.?" talk has likely died down.

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern played some good defense, as well, and the Mountaineers picked up a big win. I don't think it would surprise (or disappoint) anyone if those two met again in the playoffs.

Now on to Saturday's matchups: UTC at Samford; Appalachian State at Furman; The Citadel at Georgia Southern; Wofford at Western Carolina. What will you be keeping an eye on this week?

JEFF: App State at Furman is the headliner, and by all the evidence the Paladins' improving defense is ready to test Jamal Jackson and crew. Still, this is a different App State squad than early in the season, with Jackson at QB, DeAndre Presley at CB and the defense back in its traditional 4-3, from what I hear.

GSU will be heavily favored over The Citadel, but I give the Bulldogs a puncher's chance. The Citadel is more confident in what it is doing than it's been all season. The Bulldogs scored 42 points against App State and GSU 17 (though App had a big early lead and was in "let's get out of here" mode v. The Citadel), and both squads beat Chattanooga by a single point.

On the other hand, the Eagles should be a) ticked off and b) fully aware that they cannot afford another SoCon loss if they want a piece of the title.

JOHN: The Mocs still have a shot at a third straight winning season, something UTC hasn't done since the early '80s, while Samford is trying to continue a bounce-back season after going 4-7 a year ago. UTC destroyed the Bulldogs by 34 points a season ago, but Samford looks like a completely different team.

And both B.J. Coleman and Robinson are questionable for Saturday's game due to injuries, so who knows what UTC's offense is going to look like.

I was very impressed with Furman last week and Appalachian State should have its hands full, especially coming off such an emotional win. Georgia Southern and Wofford should cruise in their games and be well rested heading into next week's showdown.

It probably also bears watching to see who Western Carolina fires after this week's loss. With the AD and the defensive coordinator sacked the past two weeks, I'm sure other staff members are feeling a bit anxious.

ADAM: With Elon on its bye week, apparently I'll be keeping an in-person eye on either North Carolina at N.C. State or Notre Dame at Wake Forest. But that's enough breath about those wannabes. We're here to SoConversate.

Georgia Southern and Wofford shouldn't be tested, so I'll be interested to see how App State at Furman plays out, as well as the battle for bragging rights on the league's western flank (Chattanooga at Samford).

Furman seems to be peaking with back-to-back victories against Wofford and Chattanooga. Meanwhile, App State's mojo appears to be reborn with Jamal Jackson at quarterback. If the Mountaineers win Saturday, they have a fairly unimpeded path the rest of the way - with games remaining vs. Western Carolina and at Elon - and should finish the regular season at 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the conference.

What an unsettling house cleaning going on at Western Carolina. Monday, Oct. 24: Athletics director fired. Monday, Oct. 31: Assistant head coach / defensive coordinator fired. Monday, Nov. 7: _. Stay tuned.

Elon running back Jamal Shuman learned a hard lesson this week, that athletes with public Twitter accounts (the same goes for Facebook) should think twice before going on expletive-filled rants. They might think only their buddies will see what they post, but in reality anyone can be watching if you're account isn't protected. How do you handle what players you cover post on social networking sites?

JOHN: Most of the Mocs have private accounts so only the people they allow in can see what they're posting. I occasionally see posts with language a bit more colorful than my mom allowed in our house, but there's never been an issue I've had to address with UTC's coaches.

It's a tough spot for the athletes because they certainly have every right to express themselves, but at the same time they are public figures and part of a team, and what they post could have consequences that they never anticipated when they hit the Tweet button.

ADAM: Frierson hit it right on the screws, like one of his majestic drives off the tee on the golf course. This indeed is a tough spot. For everybody involved - athletes, administrators and reporters.

Honestly, sometimes I try to stay away from certain guys' Twitter pages just because I feel like in a lot of ways it's none of my business. But then I also can be so darn curious, especially when it comes to guys I have really good relationships with.

It bears noting that in my neck of the woods (ACC country), former Duke basketball guard Nolan Smith and current North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall quickly come to mind as two athletes who have mastered the positive power of Twitter and social media. And fans no doubt love them even more for all of the good stuff those guys usually post.

Any guesses as to my second-newest follower on Twitter? He's none other than Jamal Shuman.

JEFF: I haven't spent a lot of time trying to look up guys on Twitter or Facebook, but most of what I do see is personal in nature or positive/pep talk type stuff as it relates to the team. Certainly what the Elon player did rises to the level of newsworthiness, and provides a glimpse into some of the locker-room frustrations that we're not always privy to. You can tell that there are some guys who realize they are talking to the public on Twitter and Facebook, and some who must think no one but their buddies are reading it.

I would recommend that coaches and SIDs talk to their players about their social media habits and remind them to keep it clean. Like it or not, players are public figures to some degree, and fans (and reporters) are looking them up and making judgements based on what they see there.

Samford's in a situation where its game against Stillman College could potentially keep it from playoff consideration. Samford has a 5-3 record, but only four D-I wins. It could certainly win its last two SoCon games, against UTC and The Citadel, which would leave it a win shy of the seven-win mark (unless it upsets Auburn in the finale). If 7-1 Georgia Southern (which beat D-II Tusculum) somehow lost to The Citadel, Wofford and Alabama to end the season, it also would be a win short.

If FBS schools get credit for a win over an FCS program when it comes to bowl eligibility, should FCS schools be given credit for wins over Division II programs when being considered for a playoff bid?

JEFF: That's a good question, John. I'm inclined to say no, that the FCS should stick with its seven D-I wins standard. Who wants to be more like the FBS with its watered-down, meaningless bowl games featuring 6-6 teams? Seven D-I wins out of an 11-game schedule leaves plenty of room for a money-maker against Alabama or Florida. Teams with playoff aspirations schedule a D-II squad at their own risk.

ADAM: Doesn't Kanye West have the line "I ain't one of the Cosbys, I ain't go to Still-man" in one of his songs? Oh wait. I may have botched that a little. My super whiteness must be seeping through.

Back on topic. I'm fine with D-II wins not counting for FCS playoff inclusion. Of course, I'm sure I might feel differently if I was a coach or schedule-maker. But to me, the most intriguing and rewarding schedules never include names such as Concord, Tusculum, Mars Hill and Virginia Wise (not even sure what division that team resides in).

JOHN: I think a good case could be made for a win counting as a win, regardless of the level of the opponent. Most FCS schools schedule a money game, which is usually like scheduling a loss, so they're already faced with having to win seven of their other 10 games in an 11-game season.

On the other hand, you want the best of the best in the playoffs and holding teams to a seven-win standard helps insure that, at least among at-large teams. Since the playoffs are likely expanding to 24 teams in the near future, it will be interesting to see if that standard changes.

If you could execute one play to perfection in a college football game, what would it be?

JOHN: For me, nothing tops a kickoff return for a touchdown. I talked with former UTC speedster Buster Skrine about this a few months ago and told him that it's the one thing in football I wish I could do just once.

You catch the ball around the goal line and the whole field, plus 21 guys, is in front of you. You pick a lane, get a few blocks and then it's all about speed as you burn your way down the sideline. It's one of the most exciting plays in sports.

If I could do anything in sports it would be win a mountain stage in the Tour de France, followed closely by scoring a game-winning goal for Manchester United. Then, a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD.

JEFF: I like a good trick play. Puntrooski, fumble-rooski, throw back to the quarterback, stuff the ball under your jersey and take off. The Citadel had a unique fake punt a couple of weeks ago in which the punter did a forward handoff (I think) to a back coming around from the left side. Anything that shows some imagination and requires some guts, I'm for.

ADAM: While few plays titillate like a well performed fullback dive, I'm going to go with a perfectly executed hook-and-lateral as my choice.

Back in the day, my high school team would break that out in special situations. Somehow it always seemed to work for some massive touchdown and the whole town would go crazy.

I was losing my mind a couple years ago when Boise State pulled off that hook-and-lateral on fourth down against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

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_Smith10 and @MocsbeatCTFP.