Southern Conference off to tough start in football

Southern Conference off to tough start in football

September 4th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sportscollege

Southern Conference

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 2013 football season got off to a rough start last week. The Mocs weren't alone in the Southern Conference, which went 2-7 in week one.

While Elon got drilled by Georgia Tech, Wofford was routed by Baylor and Western Carolina lost by 21 at Middle Tennessee State -- all three guarantee games that ended about as most expected -- few would have predicted that UTC, The Citadel, Furman and Appalachian State all would fall.

For a league that may be fighting for credibility in the Football Championship Subdivision with the imminent departures of national powers App State and Georgia Southern, this wasn't the start the SoCon needed. The only real positive was Samford's 31-21 win over Georgia State in the losing Panthers' debut as a member of the Bowl Subdivision.

"We obviously didn't have the kind of weekend that we would have liked to have had," SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said Tuesday. "I was very pleased with Samford's comeback at Georgia State. I was disappointed with some of the other results -- toss aside the [guarantee games] -- but it's a long season and we've got to play out the schedule."

The Mocs lost 31-21 at home to UT-Martin of the Ohio Valley Conference, The Citadel lost at home 32-29 to crosstown rival Charleston Southern of the Big South and Furman fell on the road 28-21 at Gardner-Webb, also of the Big South.

Appalachian State flew out to Missoula, Mont., in the first game for Scott Satterfield as head coach, and lost 30-6 to the Montana Grizzlies, which moved up from No. 22 to No. 18 in this week's FCS coaches' poll. Wofford, ranked No. 14, is the only SoCon team in the coaches' poll, which doesn't include teams with more than 63 scholarships.

"I was pretty shocked," UTC coach Russ Huesman said of the first-week results. "As I'm watching this thing unfold during the course of Saturday and Saturday night, I'm going, 'Are you kidding me?' But it happens."

Huesman and Mocs Chaz Moore and Corey Levin were all asked if they liked having some company in the loss column. They all said no, that the losses of other SoCon teams don't do UTC any favors.

"We can't think about other teams and what they're doing," said Moore, a senior cornerback. "We're just worried about ourselves. We lost, we're putting that in the past and we're trying to put up a 'W' every week."

Each SoCon game was its own entity, and a loss to UT-Martin or Gardner-Webb isn't the same as a loss to Baylor, so perhaps there's nothing to be read into a 2-7 league start. It's too early to tell, Huesman said.

"We'll see at the end of the year. It might be a statement; it might not be," he said. "I think after it's all unfolded, people can call it what it is. But right now, I think The Citadel's got a good football team; I think App's got a good football team; Furman's probably a better football team than what they showed.

"Let's see how it unfolds here in the next little bit of time."

Things aren't much easier this week for many of the teams that are 0-1. UTC will face a tough test at Georgia State, Furman visits Coastal Carolina and in the marquee game of the week, and the SoCon's first league game, Wofford visits The Citadel.

"You know that both of those coaches have their teams' full attention this week," Iamarino said. "It's way too early to think about a must-win, but I'm sure there's a certain sense of urgency probably in both of those programs to play well coming off disappointing results."

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