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Wofford preparing for key stretch of SoCon games
No more open date. No more NAIA opponent.
Fourth-ranked Wofford faces five games in five weeks for the Southern Conference football championship and the FCS playoffs.
“We don’t want the next five opponents to change our mindset in any way,” Wofford head coach Mike Ayers said Monday. “I think we’ll continue to approach each week like we’ve been doing and see what we can get done.”
Wofford (5-1, 3-0) begins the crucial Southern Conference stretch at 2 p.m. Saturday at Furman (3-3, 2-2) in a homecoming game at Paladin Stadium.
What: Wofford (5-1, 3-0 Southern Conference) at Furman (3-3, 2-2)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Paladin Stadium, Greenville
Last week: Wofford beat Virginia-Wise, 47-14. Furman lost at Georgia Southern, 50-20.
Series: Wofford has won three of the last four, 38-17 last season at Gibbs Stadium. Furman leads all-time, 50-27-7. Wofford won the first-ever meeting in 1889, the first college football game in South Carolina. The Terriers are 2-5 in Greenville since joining the Southern Conference.
The Terriers, while ranked in the top five in both major polls (fifth in The Sports Network list from media members and sports information directors), are still behind top-ranked Georgia Southern (6-0, 5-0), which dismantled Furman last week, 50-20, at Paulson Stadium.
After the Furman game, Wofford has Elon at home and then Western Carolina on the road before the crucial matchup against Georgia Southern on Nov. 12 in Gibbs Stadium. Then it’s the regular-season finale at Chattanooga.
“We talked about it last night to the kids,” Ayers said. “You’re looking at all conference games. You’re looking at all quality opponents. You’re looking at an opportunity to stay in the driver’s seat or get kicked out of the truck.
“You can see that the players have the same focus as the coaches. They understand. Their focus will get tighter and tighter as time goes on. We need a great deal of focus and a great deal of energy. That’s what it is going to take.”
Wofford began the season with expectations of third place in the Southern Conference, behind Georgia Southern and Appalachian State in separate voting by the league coaches and media members. It started with closer-than-expected games, a 35-28 win at Presbyterian and a 35-27 loss at Clemson. The Terriers then took care of Samford (38-23) and knocked off then nationally third-ranked Appalachian (28-14) before dominating The Citadel and NAIA opponent Virginia-Wise by a combined 90-28.
“The first part of the season challenged us. It made us better,” Ayers said. “I thought we accounted well for ourselves. … The only thing that could have been better was beating Clemson.”
Furman, under first-year head coach Bruce Fowler, lost the opener to Coastal Carolina (30-23) and barely beat The Citadel (16-6) before routing Presbyterian (62-21) and SoCon cellar-dweller Western Carolina (47-21). The Paladins lost at home to Samford (26-21) and then got wiped out by GSU.
Ayers said he expects Furman to be ready to bounce back against an upstate rival it has beaten five times in seven home games since Wofford joined the league.
“The road ahead is strong and tough,” Ayers said. “We have a great challenge in facing Furman. We’ll have our work cut out for us. That’s for sure.”