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Wofford struggling with penalties early this season
Terriers hope to clean up mistakes with Appalachian State coming to town on Saturday
The least-penalized football team in the Southern Conference for the past decade is suddenly the most-penalized.
Wofford has been No. 1 four times in the past nine seasons and ranked among the top three every year except one, allowing fewer than 38 yards per game. In three games this season, however, the Terriers have given up a whopping 83.3 per contest. They’ve been flagged for 250 total yards, more than a hundred from the fifth-worst team, Furman.
No, the chart is not upside down.
The Southern Conference’s least-penalized football teams (yards per game) each year for the past decade:
2011 — The Citadel, 23.0 (Wofford ninth, 83.3)
2010 — The Citadel 33.8, (Wofford second, 36.2)
2009 — Wofford, 38.6
2008 — Wofford, 33.6
2007 — Chattanooga, 34.7 (Wofford third, 47.7)
2006 — The Citadel 31.1, (Wofford second, 31.9)
2005 — Furman 38.4, (Wofford fifth, 45.1)
2004 — Elon 35.5, (Wofford second, 40.5)
2003 — Wofford, 35.4
2002 — Wofford, 32.8
Wofford (2-1, 1-0 SoCon) rose to No. 6 this week in the FCS coaches’ poll (eighth by The Sports Network) after a 38-23 home win against Samford despite nine penalties for 104 yards. The Terriers host third-ranked Appalachian State (3-1, 1-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Gibbs Stadium.
For the Terriers to win, head coach Mike Ayers said, yellow hankies must remain in pockets.
“You play a good team and that is going to beat you,” Ayers said Monday. “We were fortunate to win that game (against Samford) with all the things we did wrong. If you play a team that is as good as any in the country and you slop around and get cheap penalties and stuff like that, forget it.”
Holding a one-point lead, Shephon Shelton of Wofford returned the second-half kickoff down to the Samford 25-yard line, but a penalty forced the Terriers to start back at their 34. Two straight penalties by the offense made it first-and-20 from midfield.
Wofford scored the go-ahead touchdown anyway.
“We just can’t expect to do that against Appalachian State,” Ayers said, “and have any chance whatsoever.”
The Mountaineers used their defense last week to come up with a 14-12 home win against No. 17 Chattanooga. They returned a botched field-goal snap and an interception for their only touchdowns. ASU got away with penalties, too, seven compared to just one by UTC.
Ayers said he is not worried about the inordinate number of flags.
“There are some where, yes, we did it,” Ayers said. “There are some where, no, I don’t think we did. It’s just that simple. … You can’t say a whole lot.”
Wofford was penalized twice for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“One of them was a yes and one of them was a no,” Ayers said. “That’s the way it is. The one who got a yes ran last night. The one who got a no didn’t.”
Wofford had 11 penalties for 121 yards in the season opener at Presbyterian, the most yards since 137 against Gardner-Webb in 1981. The Terriers have had nine penalties in a game only four times since 2008, two of those coming in the first three games this season.
“It’s crazy. Nothing has changed. I mean nothing has changed,” Ayers said. “I’m not concerned about it. But at the same time, we have to make sure we play well, we play smart and we play like we’ve been coached to play.”
What: Appalachian State (3-1, 1-0 Southern Conference) at Wofford (2-1, 1-0)
Rankings: Wofford No. 8 by The Sports Network, No. 6 (tied) by FCS coaches. Appalachian State No. 3 in both polls.
When: 3 p.m.
TV: SoCon Network (ETV)
Radio: 1400 AM, 97.1 FM