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Clock is ticking as Wofford's opener nears
There is a countdown clock in the Wofford football locker room, much like New Year’s Eve at Times Square, and the numbers go backwards toward the big moment.
But the ball is not going to drop. It’s going to rise.
It’s almost time for kickoff.
“The clock is ticking,” head coach Mike Ayers said Monday. “When we first got to camp (earlier this month), it seemed like forever. Now the first game will be here in a blink.”
Defending Southern Conference champion Wofford will kick off the new season 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Clinton against Presbyterian of the Big South. The Terriers, whose last time on the field was in a November playoff loss at home against Georgia Southern, are ready to get things going again.
What: No. 8 Wofford (10-3 last season, 7-1 Southern Conference) at Presbyterian (2-9, 1-5 Big South Conference)
When: 1:30 p.m., 97.1 FM, 1400 AM
Where: Bailey Memorial Stadium, Clinton
Last meeting: Wofford won, 38-21, in 2008.
First meeting: Wofford won, 7-0, in 1914.
Overall series: Presbyterian leads, 40-38-1.
“Camp is a long grind,” said junior running back Eric Breitenstein, who led the Southern Conference last season with 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns. “We are so ready to hit somebody else. You can sense it throughout the team. We’re real excited about getting a chance to play somebody else, strapping it on and going at it.”
With most of the key ingredients returning from a team that went 10-3 overall, 7-1 in the league to share a title with Appalachian State, the Terriers have been well ahead of schedule during the preseason. Starters didn’t play much in three preseason scrimmages.
“We feel like or first team is pretty good,” Ayers said. “We’ve worked hard. The coaches have tried to make sure that we haven’t overlooked anything. By the end of the week, we will have done everything we can to be ready for the game. … We’ve finished banging on each other, for the most part, and it’s time to play.”
Wofford begins as the No. 8 team nationally among NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams and tabbed for third in the Southern Conference behind Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.
Presbyterian, meanwhile, coming off a 2-9 season, was picked for last in the Big South Conference. The Blue Hose, in their third season under head coach Harold Nichols, were overwhelmingly picked to finish last in the league again. They had half the points of former SoCon member VMI for sixth. The top five respectively, according to experts in the media, are Liberty, Stony Brook, Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb.
“The pieces are very similar to last year at PC,” Ayers said. “They played a lot of kids. There are always growing pains with young kids. They made mistakes that they probably won’t make this year. We expect a challenge. We expect a fired-up football team in Presbyterian.”
In their last meeting, the 2008 season opener, Presbyterian jumped out to a 14-0 lead at Gibbs Stadium before Wofford finally got going and took a 38-21 win. The countdown is on for the rematch at Bailey Memorial Stadium.
“It’s a different deal now,” Ayers said. “After all the hours the staff puts in and the meeting times, we’re finally at the point where we see the light. This is game week.”