Georgia Southern earned the automatic bid in the Southern Conference to the NCAA FCS Playoffs Saturday afternoon, when The Citadel defeated Furman 45-20 in Greenville, S.C. If
Furman had won, then Appalachian State would have earned the automatic bid. The Mountaineers will receive an at-large bid when the NCAA announces its 20-team field at 1:30 p.m. on ESPNU. Georgia Southern, ASU and Wofford College finished in a three-way tie for first place in the SoCon.
VanDyke Jones scored three touchdowns, Ben Dupree ran for one and threw for another and Darien Robinson became the first Bulldog in five years to gain 1,000 rushing yards in a season on Saturday at Paladin Stadium.
The Citadel completed the regular season with a record of 7-4 and 5-3 in the Southern Conference, its first winning record in league play since going 4-3 in both 2006 and 2007. The Bulldogs earned just their second seven-win season since going 11-2 and winning the SoCon title in 1992 and finished the regular season with a three-game winning streak for the first time since 1997.
The Bulldogs are seeking their fourth tournament bid, having also qualified in 1988, 1990 and 1992. Should it be the final game of the season, it ended on a high note for several Bulldog seniors, who helped The Citadel snap a two-game losing streak to Furman and defeated the Paladins for only the fourth time in the past 18 years. The game was the 92nd between the two teams, the oldest rivalry in SoCon history.
Jones, one of those Bulldog seniors, rushed for a season-high 74 yards and his three touchdowns established a career best. He scored twice in the first half as The Citadel took a 21-17 lead into the locker room and put the finishing touches on the win with another score with 2:49 remaining in the game.
Robinson entered the game with 943 yards and had to wait until just over the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter to hit the 1,000 plateau. His 11-yard run put him over the magic number and made him the first Citadel running back to eclipse 1,000 since Tory Cooper did so in 2007.
Robinson gained 64 yards against the Paladins and has 1,007 on the year. He is the 13th different Citadel runner to achieve the feat and next year has an opportunity to join Jack Douglas as the only two players in school history to post two 1,000-yard seasons. Robinson also moved up into 11th place on the school career rushing list with 1,969 yards.
Dupree, who also enjoyed an outstanding 2012 season with 839 rushing yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns, led the Bulldogs with 84 against the Paladins and contributed his third scoring pass of the season when he hooked up with Dom Jones on a 28-yard score with 11:03 remaining in the game to give The Citadel a 35-20 lead.
Jones, a senior, caught all three of Dupree's touchdown passes this season and had five in his career.
The Bulldog defense was led by freshman James Riley, who had 12 tackles and led the team in that category in three of the four games he has played in since joining the lineup after season-ending injuries to linebackers Carl Robinson and Rah Muhammad. Bay Amrhein added nine tackles and Brandon McCladdie had eight.
Chris Billingslea, another Bulldog senior, had 2.5 sacks on the game and has a total of 13 in his career, placing him in a tie for sixth in school history since that statistic began being tracked in 1983. Billingslea led the team with 6.5 sacks on the year.
Jerodis Williams led all rushers with 103 yards for Furman, followed by Hank McCloud with 92.
The Citadel took advantage of two turnovers and a long kickoff return by Keith Gamble to score its three first half touchdowns, including scoring runs by Jones and Dupree on consecutive first quarter plays.
Reggie Thomas picked off a Dupree pass on the opening play of the afternoon, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Williams to give Furman a quick 7-0 lead. But Gamble took the ensuing kickoff 74 yards, the second-longest return of his career, to put the ball at the Paladin 25.
Jones took a pitch from Dupree and went the distance for his first touchdown of the game. On the first play of the next Furman series, Nick Willis picked off a Reese Hannon pass for his first career interception and returned it to the Paladin 45.
Again The Citadel scored on the first play following the Furman miscue when Dupree went off right guard and raced untouched to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead with still 9:51 left in the first quarter. The touchdown was Dupree's 18th career rushing score to move him into sole possession of 11th place in school history.
The offensive fireworks continued the next time the Paladins had the ball, with McCloud rushing for 56 of Furman's 66 yards on a drive that ended with his eight-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 14 at the 6:53 mark of the opening quarter.
After The Citadel was forced to punt, Chris Billingslea upped the pressure on Hannon, sacking him twice to stall a Furman drive and force a punt that the Paladins downed on the Bulldog 2. The Citadel was unable to achieve a first down, and a 52-yard Cass Couey punt gave Furman the ball back at its 38.
The Paladins reached The Citadel 35 but a third-down pass from Hannon to Gary Robinson was underthrown and broken up by Akeem Garnett. Ray Early came on to kick a 52-yard field goal that split the uprights with room to spare to put Furman back ahead 17-14 with 5:14 remaining before halftime.
The Bulldogs got a 25-yard run from Robinson on their next possession but were ultimately forced to punt. Again the defense created a scoring opportunity when Amrhein knocked the ball out of Robinson's hands and Austin Boyle recovered at the Furman 24 with 1:43 left on the clock.
Rickey Anderson ran for 10 yards to the 14, and Jones covered the rest of the distance to the end zone for his second score of the day to give the Bulldogs a 21-17 lead. Julian Baxter ended a last chance for first half points for the Paladins when he picked off backup quarterback Dakota Derrick at the Citadel 15 for the third forced turnover of the half for the Bulldog defense.
Early kicked a 37-yard field goal on Furman's first possession of the second half to make it 21-20, but the Paladins were unable to dent the scoreboard the rest of the way. An 18-yard run by Cass Couey on a fake punt led to a 17-yard touchdown run by Dalton Trevino, his first of the season, to make it 28-20 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
In addition to his fake, Couey punted three times for 133 yards and the senior's career average of 40.9 is the second highest in Citadel history.
Dupree connected with Terrance Martin on a 23-yard gain to convert a third-and-18 before eluding the Paladin pass rush and finding a wide open Dom Jones for the score that made it 35-20. The Bulldogs then took six minutes off the clock on the drive that produced the Robinson milestone run and VanDyke Jones' third touchdown.
Chattanooga 24, Elon 17
Davis Tull and Jacob Huesman set school records as the Chattanooga Mocs claimed a 24-17 win over visiting Elon (3-8, 1-7 Southern Conference) Saturday. The win gave Chattanooga (6-5, 5-3) its third winning season in the last four for the first time since 1984-87.
Tull recorded 2.5 sacks to set the single-season school record for sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (19.0). He will run away with both of those stat titles in the Southern Conference.
Huesman was impressive. He threw for 234 yards and two scores, completing 13 of 25 attempts. He also ran for 109 yards on 21 carries with a score there, as well. He ended up with the freshman record for passing yards (1,712) while tying the freshman marks for rushing (7 - James Roberts, 1989) and passing (13 - Kenyon Earl, 1991) touchdowns.
Elon's star wide receiver Aaron Mellette did not disappoint the visiting fans. The senior caught nine passes for 188 yards and a touchdown. Thomas Wilson threw for 295 yards, completing 23 of 32 offerings despite getting sacked three times and enduring tremendous pressure from the Mocs' front four.
UTC wide receiver/quarterback Terrell Robinson was not to be out-done. He had four catches for a career-high 124 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on passes of 13 and 67 yards from Huesman.
No. 4 Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0
Fourth-ranked Alabama scored rushing touchdowns on four of its first five possessions, adding a 29-yard passing TD to cap a 99-yard drive, en route to a 49-0 nonconference victory over Western Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama (10-1) scored on six of its first seven possessions, including all five in the first half, adding a 57-yard fumble return for a touchdown to carry a 42-0 advantage into halftime. The Crimson Tide got three rushing touchdowns from Eddie Lacy, who just missed eclipsing the century mark with 99 yards on 10 carries.
Backup quarterback Blake Sims capped the game’s scoring in the third quarter with a 5-yard run to provide the final tally.
Western Carolina (1-10) managed 163 yards of total offense, which included 123 yards in the second half against the Crimson Tide defense. Starting quarterback Troy Mitchell threw for 30 yards on 4-of-8 passing and was sacked once but also had a costly turnover on a throwback pass to his QB counterpart, Eddie Sullivan, which the Tide turned into a 57-yard fumble recovery touchdown.
Sullivan finished 4-of-12 passing for 63 yards, adding a team-high 28 yards rushing.
Senior tailback Michael Johnson caught a team-high five passes out of the backfield while junior Jamil James led the team with WCU’s long gain of the day on his first career reception – a 30-yard reception in the third quarter.
Defensively for the Catamounts, true freshman Sertonuse Harris finished with eight tackles, while redshirt sophomore Ace Clark tallied five. Junior linebacker Courtland Carson and senior defensive lineman Eric Banford both tallied tackles for loss on the afternoon.
Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron only played in the first half, completing all six of his pass attempts for 133 yards and the 29-yard touchdown toss to Christion Jones. McCarron’s scoring strike set an Alabama record for passing touchdowns in a single season. Sims completed two of his six attempts for 27 yards.
No. 12 South Carolina 24, Wofford 7
With the game tied at 7 heading into the fourth quarter, South Carolina scored 17 unanswered points to defeat the Wofford football team 24-7 at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Despite outgaining the Gamecocks in total offense, the Terriers lost three fumbles on the day, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
The Terriers are 8-3 on the season and 6-2 in the SoCon. South Carolina is 9-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC, and ranked 12th in the nation.
For Wofford, Eric Breitenstein ran for 125 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown. Alvin Scioneaux led the defense with 12 tackles, a sack and interception. The Gamecocks were led by Kenny Miles with 127 rushing yards, while Connor Shaw was 16-for-20 passing for 122 yards along with 18 rushing yards.
No. 5 Georgia 45, Georgia Southern 14
Aaron Murray passed for 330 yards and four touchdowns to lead No. 5 Georgia to a 45-14 football victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium.
Jerick McKinnon had 19 carries for 109 yards and two scores to lead Georgia Southern (8-3), and Dominique Swope logged 17 carries for 92 yards. Darreion Robinson finished with 12 carries for 54 yards.
Murray completed 18 of 28 passes on the day for the Bulldogs (10-1), and Chris Conley caught four passes for 76 yards and a pair of scores. Tavarres King caught three balls for 61 yards and a score, and Todd Gurley rushed 15 times for 68 yards and a touchdown.