By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Western hoping to pull a Chattanooga
Placeholder Image
    Think Western Carolina coach Kent Briggs has mentioned Chattanooga’s upset of Georgia Southern to his team a time or two this week?
    “Oh yeah, no doubt,” Briggs said Tuesday morning. “It gives us hope that (if you) go out there and do the things you’ve got to do as a football team, you can win any game you play.”
    The Catamounts (1-3, 0-0 Southern Conference) travel to Statesboro for a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday, and the sixth-year WCU coach took careful note of what UTC did right at Paulson Stadium last week in hopes of pulling off a similar feat. Western Carolina has never won in Statesboro and has dropped the last 12 meetings with the Eagles (2-1, 0-1).
    “I thought Chattanooga was very opportunistic as far as the way they took advantage of turnovers and put the ball in the end zone,” Briggs said. “That was the difference in the game.”
    Western’s coaches are the latest to ponder the best way to defend GSU quarterback Jayson Foster, who’s rushed for 694 yards and 12 touchdowns through three games.
    “Even though Jayson got some big plays, (Chattanooga) got him several times too, and that’s what we’ve got to do,” Briggs said. “We won’t stop him, but maybe we can kind of contain him or slow him down some.
    “They’ve got some great athletes and great players at other positions, but definitely he’s been featured. I’m sure he’s going to remain in that role, and we’ve got to be ready for that.”
    After 12 consecutive losses and arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in the league, the Catamounts viewed last week’s game with Presbyterian as a chance to start over. They did, picking up a 33-20 victory at home to end their losing skid. Briggs was encouraged by the way his team kept its composure in late in the game.
    “We hadn’t won in a long time, and a lot of times when you hadn’t won, things slip in your head,” Briggs said. “But we had a very, very solid fourth quarter during a game we were supposed to win and the pressure was on for us to win. We made it happen, so I was pleased with the way our guys hung tough, stayed focused and finished the game.”

League parity
    No doubt there are plenty of talented teams in the SoCon this year. Appalachian State knocked off Michigan, The Citadel hung with Wisconsin, Wofford defeated ASU and Chattanooga upset Georgia Southern. And that’s just in the first four weeks of the season.
    The parity has been noteworthy, prompting Wofford coach Mike Ayers to call this year’s SoCon “probably the best group of teams” since the Terriers joined the league a decade ago.
    “Our league is a great league, and I believe it doesn’t matter who you are — if you’re not ready to go and if you don’t play at a high level, don’t expect to win in this league,” Ayers said. “App raised the bar for everyone — two-time league and national champion. If you want to have an opportunity to be a great team and have a great year, you’ve got to be ready every week. Basically, it’s going to be a championship game every week no matter who you play.”

Expanding the playoff field?
    In general, SoCon coaches are in favor of increasing the Football Championship Subdivision’s 16-team playoff field.
    “Too many teams get left out,” said Appalachian coach Jerry Moore.
    The Citadel’s Kevin Higgins also supports talk of a change.
    “I think we could have the best of both worlds — increase the numbers and still come up with a national champion,” he said.

Around the league
    This week Appalachian State (3-1, 0-1) travels to Elon (2-1, 0-0), The Citadel (2-1, 0-0) visits Chattanooga (1-2, 1-0) and Furman (1-2, 0-0) hosts Wofford (3-1, 1-0).

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.