Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Much on the line in encounter between Wofford, Western Carolina this weekend

On Saturday, Wofford will make the trip to Cullowhee, N.C., to take on the Western Carolina Catamounts in E.J. Whitmire Stadium. To help prepare for the matchup, here's a preview powered by questions from the Palmetto & Pine Sports Network, as this is the game of the week.

Report Card for the season thus far

Offense: Well, we were simply a different team last week than we had been. Yes, that win over The Citadel brought back flashes of the 'good old days,' when the Terriers were more than happy to utilize their rushing skills.

Who was especially more than happy to do that last week? Evan Jacks. The sophomore quarterback looked comfortable, viable, and consistent. That's what we want to see.

Jacks ran all over The Citadel, punching in two touchdowns and a displaying a bevy of impressive scampers, all in the process of earning the first 100-yard rushing game and first Division I (and, of course, SoCon) victory as a starter.

A problem that looms over the offense is ball control. Wofford coughed it up three times against The Citadel.

What's the best way to make sure it doesn't happen again. Forget about it.

"Get it out of your head," offensive line coach Eric Nash reminded Long as he came back to the sideline following a fumble. "We're going to need you."

Indeed we will, along with Ray Smith and Will Irwin and everyone else. It's refreshing to see so many powerful players get into the picture for the Terriers.

As for the offensive line, they're maturing and making some holes for our ground game.

The biggest thing to look at is the fact that we are improving; the team I saw take the field at Gibbs Stadium last week was much better than before. Overall, if I had to give these guys a grade, they would receive a solid B.

Defense: Before the advent of this season, our defense could mainly be summed up in one word: young.

You can tack "big-time playmakers" onto that description. Like Coach Ayers following last week's game, I can't say enough about our defense.

Our varied linebacker corps is coming up big; I've been mainly impressed by our defensive line. Our secondary has matured greatly against a few different offensive systems, particularly those that are pass-based. It's all coming together.

Some names that stand out are: lineman Steven Cornellier, who has a couple big plays under his belt so far this season; our linebackers, such as Terrance Morris and a few of the newer faces that have helped fill the void left by Travis Thomas and his career-ending Achilles' tendon tear; and of course, Tarek Odom, the senior stalwart at defensive end.

Ayers has found that zone coverage is more fitting for the Terriers against the pass—this was just one of things they figured out during the non-conference slate that will help them by implementation during crunch time.

All in all, they deserve a B+.

Special Teams: In a few words, we're glad to have David Marvin back on the field following his injury scare at Georgia Tech to open the season. In that game, prior to his knee injury that was sustained on a punt, the redshirt freshman booted through a 51-yard field goal.

With his advent, we're confident, but we also gained confidence in a couple of other kickers, namely Ben Bruggeworth, who performed double duty with the men's soccer team as well as on the gridiron, and safety? Michael Sarafianos.
It's good to know that we can fall back on someone when Marvin is unavailable.

We have an excellent punter in Brian Sanders, and so far, our kickoff returns have ultimately been fruitful. I extend similar accolades to our kickoff and punt coverage.

This special teams unit is mainly young, and that's something that Wofford has not seen in a while, but obviously, they've come up big so far this season, and I don't expect it to stop anytime soon.

My grade, a good ol' A-.

How big is this early SoCon tilt?

Gosh, when you're Wofford, you know that every single conference game is a huge deal. The Terriers are coming off of a close, exciting 17-13 win over The Citadel that caused fans of both squads' heart to skip a beat at the end. They now have something they've been searching for for far too long: confidence.

Both teams have suffered setbacks at the hands of Big South teams, and both squads played a pair of games against non-Division I schools. Those are not the only likenesses between this pair of SoCon programs; both Wofford and Western Carolina have something to prove to the rest of the SoCon, the playoff committee, and most importantly, to themselves.

I would say it all begins here, but it's already begun. I said this before the season starts, but every game counts. Every half, every quarter, every series, every single snap—it matters.

These teams are coming back, and this matchup will determine how the tone these teams have already set will continue to sound as the season progresses.

Let's get this.

Do you still have playoff dreams?

What? Never give up hope on that.

While I can't by any means predict what's going to go down in the coming weeks, I can see a playoff bid as a possibility. We just have to execute every single week—and that's not just during gameplay. That's during practice, during the bye week, all the time.

As for a shot at the SoCon title, or a breakout performance in the playoffs? Well, let's just say that we're taking this campaign a week at a time, and all that other stuff will come to light with each team's play on the gridiron.

Also, this season, we're focused on improving and allowing the youth of this squad to adapt and mature in our system. However, if opportunities come along the way, who are we to pass them up?

Biggest Concern Coming Into the Game

Really, my biggest concerns are ball security and our capability of playing a full four quarters of football. The latter worry was a bit alleviated after last week's impressive showing. Ball security obviously needs to improve. As of now, I'm loving our running game and feel that we can start out strong with either big plays or meticulous drives, and keep the momentum in our favor.

Western Carolina Wins If...

They're a team that will come out swinging, and they will enter E.J. Whitmire Stadium with a desire to get back on track after last week's out-of-conference setback and put away Wofford early. If they can figure out the Terrier defense early and put up some quick scores, it might prove to be tough for Wofford to get back into the game.

Wofford Wins If...

The Terriers need to come out there with full force and get ahead early. Against an opponent like Western Carolina, you just can't afford to fall behind by more than a single score.


It will be close, and can theoretically go either way. Nevertheless, here's my shot at predicting this one:

Wofford 31, Western Carolina 28


  1. I'm glad to see all the new blogs for the SoCon. You are doing a great job with Talkin' Terriers, I hope they appreciate the work you are doing, as it takes a lot of time and commitment to publish a blog with the quality you produce. Good Luck Saturday.

    1. Jerry, I greatly appreciate the kind words, and you show an excellent commitment to quality as well with your great work at Purple & Gold. Best of luck on the field this afternoon.