SoCon Week 3 Recap & Week 4 Preview: Is It Time to Be Concerned?

Western Carolina looks to challenge Furman, Chattanooga, and Mercer for the SoCon Championship while concerns linger over weaker teams' competitiveness.

Desmond Reid (1) leapt over the line into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run in WCU's road win at EKU.
Source: Western Carolina Athletics


It was another tough Saturday around the Southern Conference, with concerns continuing to be raised about the league’s overall strength. Only Furman and Western Carolina won non-conference games on the road, while Chattanooga claimed a 48-3 home win in its SoCon opener against The Citadel. Mercer (2-1) had the weekend off and will commence league play next Saturday in Greenville, S.C., against Furman.

But before we praise those three teams that seem to be firmly entrenched as the SoCon’s hierarchy, we have to take a look at what’s going on around the league among the bottom four members, because it looks bleak for the SoCon being able to garner the type of positive attention needed to sway a committee at this juncture in the season for a potential third playoff bid.

Right now, two bids is still a possibility, but outside of that, it doesn’t look good. Instead of doing game recaps this week of what happened around the league, I am going to take a look at some of the positives and negatives. First the negatives, which I have listed as concerns below.

Concern #1 – What happened at Wofford?

I have to admit, I did not watch what went on in Spartanburg at Gibbs Stadium for Wofford’s home opener against Presbyterian, but judging from the score, this season is going to be a long one for Shawn Watson’s Terriers. That’s because the Terriers dropped a game to non-scholarship Pioneer Football League member Presbyterian, 23-20, at Gibbs Stadium. If Wofford’s football program hadn’t reached a low point by losing 16-straight under Josh Conklin, it did with Saturday night’s loss to Presbyterian, who knocked off Wofford for the first time since 1994.

Concern #2 – The Losses to bad teams are mounting

With the league now sporting losses to the likes of Bucknell and Presbyterian and lopsided defeats to Austin Peay (defeated ETSU 63-3) and Campbell (defeated The Citadel 56-7). For starters, it’s a PC team that saw the SoCon’s own Western Carolina set records against the Blue Hose last season, scoring 77 points in a win at EJ Whitmire Stadium almost exactly a year ago. The Blue Hose snapped a 20-game losing streak to FCS competition, and were 4-20 against its last 24 opponents entering Saturday night’s contest at Wofford. The Terriers, which had played good defense for the most part for the opening two games, were lit up for 405 yards by the Blue Hose. The Terriers posted a season-high 310 yards. VMI’s loss to a Bucknell team last week was of similar concern. The Bison had been 1-10 the previous season, with one of those 2022 setbacks coming against the Keydets.

Concern #3 – Will the SoCon champion even be prepared for the postseason?

Last season, the reason Furman and Samford were able to perform at a high level in the postseason was they were tested weekly in league play. It doesn’t appear that the league’s one or two league qualifiers are going to be tested enough during conference play to be able to have deep runs in the playoffs. Things are of course subject to change, however, it doesn’t look good.

Concern #4 – Bucs ship has sunk?

Against Division I opposition this season, the Bucs are getting outscored 112-6. The 63-3 loss at Austin Peay at Fortera Stadium was one of the worst in school history in any era. The Governors dictated the rules of engagement from the outset of the game and things progressively in pretty much every way. Austin Peay’s talented QB Mike DiLiello had a record-setter, completing 36-of-47 throws for 441 yards and five scores without an INT. He also finished with 21 yards rushing on four carries, including a 1-yard score. The Bucs, who were already without starter Tyler Riddell to start the game, lost both Baron May and Timothy Dorsey during the game, ending up with fourth-stringer Haynes Eller. The Bucs ended up getting out-gained 612-269 in total offense by the Govs.

Some Positives

WCU silences Roy Kidd Stadium in thrilling win over Eastern Kentucky

Another week and another eyebrow-raiser by the Western Carolina Catamounts. It should be enough to see the Catamounts find their way into the Top 25 for the first time since 2017, as the Catamounts look like a real contender to challenge Furman, Chattanooga and Mercer for the league crown.

With wet conditions for what it was its home opener, the Colonels welcomed a Western Carolina team bristling from a win over Samford, many wondered whether or not the Catamounts could go on the road and into a tough environment and come away with a big win. Cole Gonzales’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Branson Adams with just 25 seconds remaining gave the Catamounts a 27-24 lead, and WCU would have to weather a missed 40-yard field goal by Patrick Nations that would have tied the game as time expired and the Catamounts brought back a historic win.

It’s one of the biggest wins of the Kerwin Bell era. In my Top 25 poll for RS Sports this week, I had the Catamounts No. 11 in my poll, as I have had the Catamounts in my FCS poll since the start of the season. WCU’s win brought to mind a similar type game back in 2005, when Appalachian State opened the season and was pushed to the limit by the Colonels at Roy Kidd Stadium before getting a hard-fought 24-16 win.

The Mountaineers would go on to win the first of their three-straight national titles and while I am not predicting a similar fate just yet for the Catamounts, I am just stating the mere fact that the Purple and Gold’s ability to go on the road and get such a win says a lot about the grit and toughness of Kerwin Bell’s 2023 Catamounts.

Saturday night’s game will go down as a classic and be remembered for years to come by fanbases on both sides. History suggests that being picked in the middle of the SoCon portends a pretty good season for teams in the SoCon. The Mountaineers were picked fifth in the SoCon back in 2005. When Furman won its lone national title in 1988, the Paladins were picked fourth, and just last season, the league’s top two teams and ultimately playoff qualifiers, in Samford and Furman, were picked sixth and fourth, respectively, as both would go on to win double-digit win seasons and would represent the league well in the postseason. In Western’s three-point win Saturday, the game see-sawed back-and-forth, with the Catamounts falling behind 11-0 on a 6-yard pass from EKU quarterback Parker McKinney and subsequent two-point conversion making the score 8-0. Nations then added a 41-yard field goal to extend the Colonel lead to double digits with 4:02 remaining in the opening quarter.

Bell’s Catamounts, however, would answer the Bell, as Censere Lee got the Catamounts on the board with a 45-yard scoring catch on the ensuing WCU possession. Nations put the Colonels up a TD at the break, as his 34-yard field goal as time expired in the opening half made it a 14-7 game at the break.

The Catamounts would post the solitary points of the third quarter, tying the contest for the first time since it was 0-0 when Lee caught his second scoring pass from Gonzales, hauling in a 15-yard scoring strike with 9:11 remaining in the third, tying the game 14-14, and setting the stage for an epic fourth quarter. Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, the Catamounts would stun the Colonels by taking their first lead of the night when Desmond Reid, who set a career-best rushing mark for a second-straight game, plunged in from a yard out to give the Cats a 21-14 lead with 14:24 left.

Almost three minutes later, the Colonels responded to tie the game when Jaden Smith hauled in a McKinney aerial for a 14-yard score to make it a 21-21 game with 11:32 remaining.

The Catamount defense would do its job on the next EKU possession, as the Colonels reached the WCU 1, however, were stymied from there and had to settle for a Nations field goal with 4:18 to take a 24-21 lead.

When NAIA transfer (Marion) and linebacker Logan Blake picked off a Gonzales offering with just over three minutes remaining, things didn’t look good.

With EKU looking to run out the clock, the Catamounts defense stood strong forcing a three-and-out to get the ball back for the Catamount offense with just 1:56 remaining. Gonzales and the Catamount offense would need just 91 seconds to drive the needed 87 yards for what proved to be the game-winning points. Highlighting the game-winning drive were completions of 46 and 28 yards to wideout AJ Columbo before Adams hauled in the decisive 8-yard strike.

Gonzales finished the evening completing 18-of-33 passes for 340 yards, with three touchdowns and an INT. Desmond Reid rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown on 29 attempts. He also hauled in four passes for 63 yards, ending the contest with 244 all-purpose yards.

The Catamounts held the slight edge in total offense, out-gaining the Colonels 551-509 in the contest.

Western Carolina returns to action Saturday for its final non-conference game of the season, hosting Charleston Southern at EJ Whitmire Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.

Huff and the Paladins gut out win in Kennesaw

The SoCon’s second impressive win of the evening came in Kennesaw, GA, as Paladin quarterback Tyler Huff rushed for a school record four rushing TDs and rolled up 316 yards of total offense (237-passing, 79-rushing) to help the Paladins to close out non-conference play with a solid win against a team that had sported a 41-7 home mark over the past eight-plus seasons. The win by Furman marked just the eighth win by an opponent on KSU’s home turf in the history of its football program.

Power Rankings

  1. Furman (2-1)
  2. Western Carolina (2-1, 1-0 SoCon)
  3. Mercer (2-1)
  4. Chattanooga (2-1, 1-0 SoCon)
  5. Samford (1-2, 0-1 SoCon)
  6. VMI (1-2)
  7. ETSU (1-2)
  8. The Citadel (0-3, 0-1)
  9. Wofford (0-3)

SoCon Game of the Week: No. 8 Furman hosts No. 22 Mercer Saturday in key SoCon showdown

No. 21 Mercer (2-1, 0-0 SoCon) at No. 8 Furman (2-1, 0-0 SoCon)

Paladin Stadium/Greenville, S.C.


One of the games that will ultimately decide how the Southern Conference race will shake out is this weekend, when Furman hosts Mercer at Paladin Stadium, in what will be one of four ranked clashes in FCS football this Saturday.

The Paladins snapped what was a two-game skid in the series by coming up with a 23-13 win over the Bears last season in what was another ranked clash between the two. The 2022 clash saw the Paladins play some of their best defense of the season, limiting what was a potent Mercer offense, which was one of the best in the country and led by one of the nation’s premier quarterbacks, in Fred Payton, who the Paladins managed to sack five times in the contest and limited the Bears to their lowest point total of the season. Thanks in large part to Furman’s five sacks in the contest, the Paladins limited the Bears to just 53 rushing yards in the contest.

No two teams returned more talent from a year ago than both Furman and Mercer, and it should make for yet another intriguing clash Saturday in Greenville. The lone change on either side of the football is under center, as Fred Payton has moved on, leaving the reins of the Mercer offense to Carter Peevy (41-of-65 passing, 521 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT/23 rush att, 90 yds, 1 TD). It was Peevy who lit up the Paladin defense back during the COVID spring season, as he threw for a school-record 406 yards in a 26-14 win over the Paladins back during that spring season.

Both wideouts Ty James (13 rec, 232 yds, 2 TDs, 17.8 YPR) and Devron Harper (14 rec, 170 yds, 12.1 YPR) have given most everyone they have faced issues, however, James was not able to finish last season’s game against the Paladins, having gotten ejected for targeting in the opening half of that game during a Furman punt return. Both will surely be heavily involved in the plans of the Mercer coaching staff for Saturday’s contest in Greenville. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the Paladins are surrendering 327.7 YPG (119th of 122 in FCS) through the air so far this season, and the Paladins will need to figure out how to stop the bleeding there, and stop it quickly.

The Bears have been reliant upon several backs in the running game without the services of Austin Douglas this season. Al Wooten II (27 rush att, 140 yds, 2 TDs, 5.2 YPC), Micah Bell (33 rush att, 68 yds, 1 TD, 2.1 YPC) and Tyrell Coard (7 rush att, 53 yds, 1 TD, 7.6 YPC) look like the trio of running backs that will get touches for the Bears for the remainder of the season. All three are capable receivers coming out of the backfield for the Bears.

Harper is the real x-factor for the Bears, and much like Kennesaw State’s Gabriel Benyard, he can be used in a variety of different ways to put stress on a defense. In addition to having caught 14 passes for 170 yards this season, Harper also has 74 rushing yards on just six attempts, averaging 12.3 yards-per-attempt. Harper is also averaging 20.5 yards-per-return on six returns this season, including a 53-yard return for a score in Mercer’s 48-22 win over Morehead State last time out.

The Mercer offensive front had been spectacular all season in 2022 before facing Furman, having allowed only a couple of sacks the entire season before the Paladins arrived in Macon, and by the time the two teams had played 60 minutes of football, the Paladins had more than doubled that total.

This season, the Bears offensive front is being anchored by John Thomas, who was a preseason All-SoCon selection. He anchors an offensive front that has helped the Bears offense 323.7 YPG so far this season. This is a unit that has already surrendered seven sacks through the first three games in 2023.

Furman’s defense, however, has had trouble generating the kind of pressure through the first three games of the season, and to have a chance to knock off a good Mercer team, it’s imperative the Paladins are able to get pressure on Peevy. Likewise, it’s imperative that Mercer protect Peevy and give him time to pick out his receiver to have a chance to pull off the road upset.

Up front, the Paladins field one of the most veteran units in the country, led by Matt Sochovka (3 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 QBHs) and Jack Barton (4 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 3 QBHs). Xavier Stephens (6 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT) and Sirrod Cook (3 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sack, 2 QBHs) have both done a good job of tag-teaming the nose tackle spot. Cook left the game against Kennesaw State with an injury in the second quarter and did not return. His status for Saturday is unknown.

Braden Gilby (16 tackles, 2.0 TFL), Dan Scianna (11 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD), and Evan DiMaggio (20 tackles, 0.5 TFL) have been pillars at inside linebacker this season for the Paladins. One of the few times the Paladins did bring pressure from the linebacking spot in last Saturday’s win resulted in a sack for Scianna. Peevy is a mobile QB and is fast, but his elusiveness is more as a straight ahead runner with his tremendous speed.

Furman loves to bring pressure with its OLBs, and that will be one of the areas to watch Saturday and how the Bears are able to block guys like Jalen Miller (6 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 FF) and Luke Clark (14 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 QBH). At times teams have been taking advantage of Furman’s perimeter pressure by throwing to where the pressure is coming from, but instead of throwing deep, utilizing the space left underneath. That was something Kennesaw State was able to do with some effectiveness this past weekend.

Furman’s back line is led by safety Hugh Ryan (28 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 FF), as well as Travis Blackshear (11 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 3 PBUs, 1 INT, 1 TD), who has proven to be the best and most fundamental tackler on the Paladin defense.

Kam Brinson (19 tackles, 2 PBUs), who teams with Ryan at safety in the Furman secondary, is off to an outstanding start to his final season for the Paladins. He is Furman’s third leading tackler, and he comes off a game in which he led the Paladins in total tackles, recording eight stops. He also broke up a pair of passes, with one of those that could have been a pick-six had he been able to haul it in.

Despite giving up some points against both Ole Miss (73 pts) and Morehead State (22 pts), the Bears have excellent talent at all three levels on the defensive side of the ball. The stats are again skewed due to the opposition, however, as the Bears come into the contest surrendering 407.0 YPG through the air, and brought back 10 starters from a defense that was among the nation’s top units a year ago.

The key cogs for the Bears defensive unit are guys like Solomon Zubairu (13 tackles, 1.5 TFL) up front, while Isaac Dowling (18 tackles, 2.5 TFL) and Ken Standley (19 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 QBHs) are two of the best linebackers in all of FCS football. Standley’s 19 tackles through the first three games this season leads the unit.

The Bears had two defensive backs ejected against Morehead State, with one of those being Lance Wise (13 tackles), who was disqualified from the game in the first quarter, and will be back in the lineup as a starter Saturday. Wise is one of the very best at coming up and making plays against the run, as well as being able to effectively drop in coverage.

Furman’s offense continues to be led by the ever-elusive Tyler Huff (53-of-84 passing, 538 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs ) under center this season, and the graduate senior is coming off a milestone performance against Kennesaw State last time out, as he became the first quarterback in Furman history to rush for four scores in a single game in school history. As a result, Huff has been Furman’s second-leading rusher this season, having rushed for 136 yards and four scores to this point in 2022. He is averaging 3.7 yards-per-attempt, and his 694 rushing yards last season were a single-season school record for a Paladin quarterback.

Dominic Roberto (43 rush att, 152 yds, 3 TDs, 3.5 YPC) makes Furman’s running game even more lethal, especially with his ability as a blocker, which he showed on Furman’s second TD last Saturday at Kennesaw, as Huff followed behind Roberto, as he cleared the path for a 28-yard scoring run for Huff. As the season has progressed, Roberto has slowly but surely started to get it going. Furman has struggled to establish Roberto and the running game consistently this season, however, that could change this week, as the Paladins are slated to have their starting five along the OL healthy for the first time this season, as All-American Jacob Johanning is expected to be in the starting lineup along the OL for the first time this season.

Johanning will join a unit that is improving with each game, but hasn’t looked as sharp as maybe it did last season—at least not yet. The good news for Paladin football fans is that it wasn’t until about the middle of the season until the OL and the running game start to click on all cylinders last season.

The most impressive department on the offensive side of the ball to-date this season has been the Paladin wide receiving corps, especially young wideouts Ben Ferguson (7 rec, 141 yds, 0 TDs, 20.1 YPR) and Colton Hinton (9 rec, 97 yds, 0 TDs, 10.8 YPR), who have figured big in the plans of the Paladin offensive plans early in the 2023 season.

Furman wideout Joshua Harris (13 rec, 129 yds, 0 TDs, 9.9 YPR) turned in what was a career night against the Bears last season. Harris’ night included five catches for a career-best 146 yards. His 56-yard scoring catch in the third quarter of last season’s clash would help the Paladins break open the game and go on to a big road win. Harris threw his first pass in Furman’s only loss this season at South Carolina—a 51-yarder to fellow wideout Kyndel Dean (8 rec, 119 yds, 14.9 YPR), and that would eventually lead to a Furman score.

The fastest receiver the Paladins have is Wayne Anderson Jr. (1 rec, 3 yds), and he was back to being 100% healthy last Saturday in Furman’s road win at Kennesaw State. He also has been key in the return game for the Paladins, including a 50-yarder in the third quarter which set up a Furman score.

The tight end position has been almost by committee this season early one, and while you can’t replace a guy like Ryan Miller with one player, the Paladins have managed to get big plays out each of the trio of Mason Pline (4 rec, 21 yds, 5.3 YPR), Parks Gissinger (1 rec, 7 yds) and Brock Chappell (1 rec, 16 yds, 1 TD). In fact, Chappell has one of the two receiving scores the Paladins have been able to produce this season, hauling in a 16-yarder from Carson Jones back in Furman’s loss at South Carolina. Pline had a key eight-yard catch on what proved to be Furman’s game-winning drive last week vs Kennesaw State.

Who Wins?

This game will no doubt be a good game and it should come down to the fourth quarter. However, I’ll take the Paladins to win a close, low-scoring game at home.

Furman 27, Mercer 19

Other Games

Chattanooga (2-1, 1-0 SoCon) at No. 20 Samford (1-2, 0-1 SoCon)

Series: Chattanooga holds a 33-11-3 lead in the all-time series/Samford won 35-24 last season at Finley Stadium

Brief look at the matchup:

Until last season’s clash in the Scenic City, which saw the Bulldogs win on the road rather comfortably, this has been a rivalry that has been owned by Chattanooga since Samford joined the SoCon back in 2008. The Bulldogs have lost two straight, with setbacks to Western Carolina (L, 7-30) and Auburn (L, 13-45), while the Mocs have won two-straight, getting home wins over Kennesaw State (W, 27-20) and The Citadel (W, 48-3) to get off to a positive start in Southern Conference play. Quite simply, the Bulldogs can’t afford another letdown in Southern Conference play. The good news is Michael Hiers (67-of-100 passing, 831 yds, 7 TDs, 2 INTs) looked solid last week all things considered against Auburn after taking a vicious hit in the loss to Western Carolina last week and never seemed to be the same afterwards, even despite having a five-hour weather delay to recover. Keeping his jersey clean Saturday will be paramount for the Bulldogs’ offensive line, who will have to block two of the top sack masters in the Southern Conference, in defensive lineman Ben Brewton (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 QBH, 1 FF) and edge rusher Jay Person (16 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 0.5 sack). Chase Artopeus (57-of-90 passing, 787 yds, 8 TDs, 2 INTs) has looked pretty good since initially struggling in the first two quarters of the season-opening loss to North Alabama. One thing that concerns me in this one for the Mocs is they have struggled against the pass when they aren’t able to generate pressure. That is not a recipe for success against the Bulldogs, and while Chattanooga has won six of the past eight in the series, I think Samford wins its second-straight in the series Saturday, which hasn’t happened since the Bulldogs claimed consecutive wins in the series in 2003 and 2008, respectively.

Who Wins: Samford 41, Chattanooga 35

Wofford (0-3, 0-0 SoCon) at VMI (1-2, 0-0 SoCon), 1:30 p.m. EST

Foster Stadium/Lexington, VA

Series: 27th meeting/Wofford leads 14-12 and claimed a 34-16 win last season in Spartanburg

Brief Preview:

Wofford and VMI both are looking for a fresh start following a rough end to non-conference play. The Keydets have lost back-to-back games to both Bucknell (L, 13-21) and last week at North Carolina State (L, 7-45). Wofford didn’t win a game in non-conference play, and is coming off a 23-20 loss to Presbyterian in a game that probably most would say is a “low point” for the program in what has been a decline that stretches back to the COVID-19 season, which was played in the spring of 2021. The Terriers are having a tremendously difficult time moving the football. The Terriers currently rank 117th (197.3 YPG) nationally out of 122 FCS teams in total offense. The unit is led by Bryce Corriston (26-of-47 passing, 218 yds, 1 TD, 0 INTs). On the flip side, VMI’s defense looks much improved under new head coach Danny Rocco. Linebacker Christian Dunn (22 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 QBHs) and defensive back Alex Oliver (21 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBUs) have been the main leaders of that turnaround on the defensive side of the ball. The return of a healthy Colin Ironside (37-of-57 passing, 459 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT) along with that defensive improvement have me leaning Keydets in this one.

Who Wins: VMI 17, Wofford 13

Charleston Southern (1-2) at No. 23 Western Carolina (2-1), 2:30 p.m. EST

EJ Whitmire Stadium/Cullowhee, N.C.

Series: Western Carolina leads 1-0/WCU claimed a 52-38 win over the Bucs last season in North Charleston.

Brief Preview: Western Carolina will finish out non-conference play against Charleston Southern and now with their first appearance in the national rankings since 2017, the Catamounts will look to put the cherry on top of what would be considered a successful run through the non-conference portion of the slate, with a win over Charleston Southern. The Catamounts have been the talk of the Southern Conference so far this season, and are again leading the Southern Conference and rank high nationally in total offense (462.7 YPG/7th in FCS), and when the Catamounts do return to Whitmire Stadium, they will be looking for a sixth-straight win over FCS competition dating back to last season. Quarterback Cole Gonzales (56-of-82 passing, 720 yds, 5 TDs, 2 INTs) and running back Desmond Reid (67 rush att, 358 yds, 3 TDs, 5.3 YPC/9 rec, 111 yds, 12.3 YPR) have the Catamount offense operating at a high level at the moment, while defensively the secondary and the defensive line have been outstanding so far for the Purple and Gold, with Jayelin Davis (5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) helping lead the way up front, while Samaurie Dukes (13 tackles) and Rod Gattison (12 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 3 PBUs). Charleston Southern is under the direction of a new head coach, in Gabe Giardina, and the Bucs have faced a brutal schedule so far. After opening with a narrow 13-10 win over North Greenville, the Bucs have suffered back-to-back losses to FBS No. 25 Clemson (L, 17-66) and No. 4 William & Mary (L, 7-15) last week. The Bucs offense has struggled mightily so far in 2023, ranking dead last in the FCS in total offense (140.7 YPG/122nd). To give you an idea of how real the struggle has been for CSU, they have scored four touchdowns this season, with just two of them coming from the offense. Last week’s only score came via a 100-yard kickoff return for a score by Nivon Holland. I expect another tough day at the office for Charleston Southern’s offense on Saturday.

Who Wins: Western Carolina 42, Charleston Southern 20

The Citadel (0-3) at South Carolina State (0-3), 6 p.m. EST

Oliver C. Dawson Bulldog Stadium/Orangeburg, S.C.

Series: It will mark just the fourth all-time meeting between the two, with The Citadel’s Bulldogs having won all three previous meetings, including a 31-8 win back on Sept. 29, 2001.

Brief Preview: Both sets of Bulldogs come into Saturday’s contest looking for their first win of the season. The Citadel is under first-year head coach Maurice Drayton, while South Carolina State is under the legendary Buddy Pough, who is in his final season as the head coach of the Orangeburg-based Bulldogs. Neither team is very good right now, with both having issues on the offensive side of the football. South Carolina State comes into Saturday evening’s contest ranking 114th nationally in total offense (220.0 YPG), while The Citadel comes in ranking 111th nationally in total offense (234.0 YPG) and have just one offensive touchdown in three games, or 12 quarters. The Citadel has had its offensive issues at quarterback this season, which is no secret, with Graeson Underwood (6-of-15 passing, 65 yds) and Dustin Fletcher (20-of-29 passing, 201 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) have been the two QBs Drayton has called upon this season to lead The Citadel’s offense this season. When going to the ground, The Citadel has looked to Cooper Wallace (33 rush att, 163 yds, 4.9 YPC) to gain the tough yards. Wallace has also been the top receiving option in the passing game this season, having hauled in five passes for 27 yards. Things haven’t been all that great on the defensive side of the football, either. The Citadel currently ranks 116th nationally in total defense (508.7 YPG), while South Carolina State ranks 106th nationally in total defense (471.4 YPG). SCSU comes in led by graduate Corey Fields (16-of-35 passing, 151 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs). SCSU’s ground game is led by Jawarn Howell (32 rush att, 145 yds, 4.5 YPC), while the favorite target of SCSU quarterbacks in the passing game this season has been Chattanooga transfer tight end and graduate student Keshawn Toney (8 rec, 80 yds, 1 TD, 10.0 YPR). This should be a low-scoring game, and I like the Bulldogs….from Orangeburg.

Who Wins: SC State 14, The Citadel 9