Terriers looking forward to battle with USC

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Terriers looking forward to battle with USC

Postby BestOfBreed on Thu Aug 17, 2006 10:07 am

http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/sp ... 291776.htm

Terriers looking forward to battle with USC
Rebound season has Wofford dreaming big when it faces the Gamecocks this season
By PATRICK OBLEY
pobley@thestate.com

SPARTANBURG — A massive, mounted fish greets visitors to Wofford football coach Mike Ayers’ office. He caught the desk-size behemoth at a location on the Saluda River he prefers to keep to himself.

Next month, the Terriers will travel to the far end of that same river with the hope of landing another big fish — in-state big brother, USC.

“I know our kids like the challenge,” Ayers said. “Going in, to win the game against those type of people, you have to play perfect and they’ve got to play a little bit down. But that’s why you play on Saturdays, to see what happens. They’re a team that when you look on the ticker on Saturday, you’ll see South Carolina versus Wofford and you’re gonna get the exposure and that factor is tremedous.”

On the surface, it might sound strange to hear a Division I-AA school, which went 6-5 the year before, is salivating at the thought of taking down a Southeastern Conference stalwart. But keep in mind last year’s middle-of-the-pack finish in the Southern Conference was atypical.

Sure, Appalachian State, Furman and Georgia Southern each reached the playoffs last year, but the team with the conference’s best record during the past four years is Wofford.

And the last time Wofford had as few representatives on the preseason all-conference squad (defensive back Brian Ford), the Terriers promptly went unbeaten in the conference and reached the national semifinals.

That magical year was 2003. The following year, Wofford went 8-3 but was snubbed at playoff time.

An 8-3 record this season likely would mean an invite for the Terriers, considering the schedule. Before traveling to Williams-Brice, the Terriers must open against a hungry South Carolina State team, then play host one of the nation’s fastest-rising I-AA powers, Coastal Carolina.

If the non-conference schedule was not enough, the Terriers open SoCon play against Furman following the USC game.

“There are no days off on our schedule,” Ayers said. “Except maybe that Sunday after the USC game.”

If there is a bright spot on the conference schedule it comes in the form of a coaching change at Georgia Southern. A schedule quirk during the past few years had each SoCon team playing Georgia Southern and Wofford in consecutive weeks. Since the new Georgia Southern regime has scrapped that school’s option-based offense, teams will no longer have two weeks to prepare for Wofford’s frenetic wingbone attack.

“But in a way, it’s also a downer,” Ayers said. “Before, you could see how teams would play against it.”

Wofford returns six starters on offense and five on defense. Important among the offensive returnees is junior quarterback Josh Collier, who Ayers says is one of the best passers in recent Terriers history.

“Quarterback plays a big part of this offense,” said Collier, who rushed for 530 yards and passed for 617. “I get to run the ball and make a lot of decisions. It’s a good school for a quarterback to get a lot of action.”

Passing is something Wofford’s defense likely will see quite a bit against the Gamecocks on Sept. 16. The man who likely will lead the Terriers’ scout team during practice that week is Irmo graduate Stev Davitte. He said he’s hopeful that his third trip to Williams-Brice in a football uniform goes better than his first two when the Yellow Jackets lost to Rock Hill and Byrnes in the 2002 and 2004 state championships.

“I’ve had two experiences at Williams-Brice and it’s been bad both times,” he said with a smile, “but I want to beat South Carolina.”

That’s a sentiment Ayers shares.

“Our belief is, if you don’t talk about being first, you’re always going to be second,” he said. “That’s our goal. That’s the thing that we’re working toward.”

Reach Obley at (803) 771-8473
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