Around the SoCon
Scores and recaps of SoCon games from this past weekend.
No. 20 Mercer 17, The Citadel 0
Mercer held The Citadel scoreless in picking up its first Southern Conference win of the season at Five Star Stadium. The Bears held The Citadel to just 151 yards of total offense, with Isaac Dowling leading the outstanding defensive effort for the Mercer defense, leading all defenders with 17 tackles in the contest. After a scoreless opening half of play, the Bears got its only touchdowns of the night in the third quarter, with Ty James hauling in both from Fred Payton. The first came on a 9-yard strike to conclude a 75-yard scoring drive, while the second was a 63-yard bomb from Payton with a little over five minutes remaining in the third quarter. Devin Folser's 23-yard fourth quarter field goal with 2:41 left gave the Bears the insurance they needed to hold on for the win.
No. 9 Chattanooga 41, North Alabama 14
Southern Conference preseason favorite Chattanooga improved to 3-0 with a big 41-14 homecoming win over visiting North Alabama out of the Atlantic Sun. The Mocs looked good offensively for a second-straight week, compiling 469 yards of total offense to get off to their first 3-0 start to a campaign since 2018. Preston Hutchinson continued to impress under center for the Mocs, passing for 303 yards and three scores, while the Mocs have continued to be among the best in the nation, having allowed only 34 points through the first three games. Only the 2016 season, which included a non-Division I win (66-0 vs Shorter) accounted for less points in the first three games of the season, as the Mocs allowed just 14 through the first three games of the 2016 campaign. It’s the lowest point total against three NCAA Division I foes since allowing just a total of 26 in 1985.
No. 24 Samford 33, Tennessee Tech 28
Samford improved to 2-1 following a come-from-behind, 33-28, win over former conference rival and Ohio Valley Conference member Tennessee Tech Saturday night at Tucker Stadium in Cookeville. The Bulldogs were able to overcome an 11-point second quarter deficit, with Michael Hiers once again shining under center for Samford, and his favorite target was Chandler Smith, who hauled in all three of Hiers’ four TD tosses, as the “Hatch Attack” was up to its old tricks, amassing 512 yards of total offense in the win. Hiers finished the night connecting on 29-of-47 passes for 327 yards, with four touchdowns and no picks. Smith had five catches for 56 yards and three scoring grabs, as eight different receivers caught a pass for Samford, while four Samford receivers caught five passes in the win. The biggest play of the night came late in the contest, with the Bulldogs trailing 28-27 following a Jeremiah Oatsvall 18-yard scoring run with 2:43 remaining, as the Austin Peay transfer looked to have helped the Golden Eagles steal what would be a dramatic win over its former conference rival. However, Chandler Smith would haul in a 26-yard pass from Hiers on a third down play with 26 seconds left to help the Bulldogs steal an important non-conference road win.
Western Carolina 77, Presbyterian 21
Western Carolina opened its 2022 home slate by hosting non-scholarship Presbyterian before an impressive crowd of 11,776 fans on-hand at E.J. Whitmire Stadium, and the Catamounts would do so by tying a school-record for points in posting a 77-21 win over the visiting Blue Hose. The Catamounts played five different quarterbacks in a game that saw WCU roll up a school-record 766 yards of total offense, breaking the 53-year old record of 713 yards set back in 1969 against Lenoir-Rhyne. Cole Gonzalez made his first-career start in the Purple and Gold, connecting on 19-of-24 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns, while also adding 36 yards rushing, which included a 9-yard scoring run. The win saw the Catamounts improve to 2-1 overall on the 2022 campaign heading into its Southern Conference opener at Samford next Saturday.
Cornell 28, VMI 22
VMI scored 20 unanswered points in the final six minutes of action, but it wasn’t enough, as visiting Cornell held off the Keydets for a 28-22 win Saturday afternoon at Foster Stadium. The Keydets cut the lead to six with five seconds remaining following quarterback Collin Ironside’s six-yard scoring run, however, the Keydets kicked the ensuing onsides kick go out-of-bounds, ending any hopes of a miraculous come-from-behind win. The loss saw the Keydets drop to 1-2. VMI totaled 358 yards through the air, with Ironside coming in to complete 16-of-18 passes for 275 yards, with a TD and an INT.
Virginia Tech 27, Wofford 7
Wofford suffered its 13th straight loss with a 27-7 setback on the road at FBS power five foe Virginia Tech. However, the Terriers would see their streak of scoreless football to open the 2022 campaign come to an end after being blanked in the opening 11 quarters to open the season, as Nathan Walker’s 3-yard scoring run with 9:34 left concluded the most impressive Terrier drive of the season, which covered 75 yards in six plays. Virginia Tech finished the contest with a 475-199 advantage in total offense, getting a pair of Grant Wells touchdown passes, a 1-yard TD plunge from Jaden Holston, and a pair of Ross Williams field goals to assume the 27-0 lead before the Terriers eventually got on the scoreboard.
SoCon Power Rankings following week 3
- Chattanooga (3-0, 1-0 SoCon) — Mocs have been as impressive as advertised to start the 2022 season, and seem intent on returning to the postseason for the first time since 2016, and claiming a SoCon title for the first time since 2015.
- Furman (2-1, 1-0 SoCon) — Followed up an impressive performance in a road loss at FBS No. 5 Clemson to claim a win over a ranked FCS foe for the first time since a 28-27 win over No. 15 Elon in the 2017 FCS playoffs, and for the first time in the regular-season since Sept. 1, 2005 in a thrilling last-second win at Jacksonville State (37-35)
- Mercer (2-1, 1-0 SoCon) — Recorded its first shutout since 2021 home opener against Point, downing The Citadel at Five Star Stadium to open league play.
- Samford (2-1, 0-0 SoCon) — Bulldogs find a way to get an important road win to finish non-conference play 2-1 heading into a key league clash next Saturday.
- Western Carolina (2-1, 0-0 SoCon) — Western Carolina has satisfied its sweet tooth with a pair of cupcake wins over a non-scholarship opponent and a weak Big South foe, sandwiching those two victories with a solid performance at power five Georgia Tech.
- The Citadel (1-2, 1-1 SoCon) — The Bulldogs defense kept them in the game against the Bears before eventually getting worn down in Saturday’s 17-0 SoCon road loss.
- East Tennessee State (1-2, 0-2 SoCon) — It's almost hard to believe the Bucs find themselves at 0-2 in the SoCon, but should be at .500 overall before Chattanooga comes to Johnson City for a key league clash on Oct. 1.
- VMI (1-2, 0-0 SoCon) — The Keydets have started slow in every game this season, and that proved costly in yesterday’s setback to Cornell.
- Wofford (0-3, 0-1 SoCon) — Josh Conklin’s offensive experiment continues to be a complete disaster, but the defense has played well for the most part all things considered.
Schedule for Sept. 22, 2022
- Chattanooga (3-0, 1-0 SoCon) at Illinois (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten), 8 p.m. EST
Schedule for Sept. 24, 2022
- Furman (2-1, 1-0 SoCon) at Charleston Southern (0-3, 0-0 Big South), 12 p.m. EST
- ETSU (1-2, 0-1 SoCon) at Robert Morris (0-2, 0-0 Big South), 12 p.m. EST
- Western Carolina (2-1, 0-0 SoCon) at Samford (2-1, 0-0 SoCon), 3 p.m. EST*
- Mercer (2-1, 1-0 SoCon) at Gardner-Webb (1-2, 0-0 Big South), 6 p.m. EST
- Wofford (0-3, 0-1 SoCon) at Kennesaw State (0-2, 0-0 A-Sun), 6 p.m. EST
*-denotes Southern Conference game