Sunday, November 2, 2014

A historical perspective on Wofford vs. Chattanooga

It seems as if the annual tilt between the Wofford Terriers and the Chattanooga Mocs almost always has a great deal riding on it.

Whether it’s a squad’s last clutching grasp at a share of the conference title and a playoff bid, or a team looking to maintain a perfect record and clinch SoCon supremacy, this encounter is undoubtedly going to be impactful to the state of the conference standings, and who gets a bid to the playoffs.

In 2011, the Terriers, led offensively by the rushing power of Eric Breitenstein and Donovan Johnson, who both amassed over 100 yards in the contest, were able to stop the Mocs on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, clinching a 28-27 victory that gave Wofford a playoff bid—an occurrence that was further reassured by Wofford/IMG Sports Network play-by-play voice Mark Hauser’s shout of “the Terriers are going to the playoffs!”

Although the Terriers, plagued by a mishandled kickoff catch in an already-tight game, fell 28-21 to Northern Iowa, Wofford had a share of the conference title and an eight-win season to be proud of.

The very next year, a 9-4 campaign that proved to hold some of this writers’ personal favorite memories of Wofford football, didn’t necessarily have to come down to the Chattanooga game.

Everything that had to happen was happening; teams were losing, and the only thing standing between the Terriers and an outright SoCon title were the scrappy Samford Bulldogs. Despite holding a 17-9 with the clock winding down, the Terrier defense allowed the Bulldogs from Birmingham to drive down the field and ultimately score a touchdown on the very last play of regulation.

Although Andy Summerlin’s pass on the two-conversion attempt fell incomplete, the Terriers were flagged for pass interference, giving the Bulldogs another chance. They connected, and we were thrust into overtime. Both sides missed field goals on their first overtime possessions—the one from the leg of Cameron Yaw of Samford, however, was almost sure to go through the uprights and caused the collective heartbeat of Wofford fans to stop for a moment. However, it did, in fact, go wide, and the Terriers lived to see another overtime.

There, Samford scored, and the Terriers fumbled the ball away—effectively giving the Bulldogs an upset 24-17 victory.

Now, a week prior to the exciting, yet immaterial game against South Carolina in Columbia, the Terriers had to fight to set things straight in the SoCon. Fight, that is, with none other than the Chattanooga Mocs.

Although the Terriers held a 10-3 lead at the half, Chattanooga quickly tied the game up and there we stood—10-10—at the end of regulation. The coin toss was won by the Terriers, who elected to start on defense. The Mocs, led by the leg of Nick Pollard, were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal after converting for a pair of first downs.

During Wofford’s next drive, there was zero doubt in my mind on the capability of the Terrier offense, especially Eric Breitenstein, who scored from two yards out—and caused a celebratory dog pile in the end zone—to clinch a 16-13 victory that assured Wofford of a SoCon title share.

Photo credit: Mark Olencki/Wofford College Athletics
Last year, though, was a completely different story.

Limited to 172 yards on the ground and 99 through the air, the Terriers fell behind early and never caught back up in the Nov.9th tilt held at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium. Although Donovan Johnson led the squad with 80 rushing yards on twenty totes, no Terriers rushed for over 100 yards, while the Wofford defense gave up 233 rushing yards and 151 passing yards.

While Will Gay launched a 60-yard pass completion, quarterback Evan Jacks only found 39 yards through the air, going 7-for-15.

Altogether, the Terriers dropped the uncharacteristic game by a score of 20-10. The setback, which followed an off week, like this year’s installment of the series, came two weeks after a heartbreaking 24-17 loss to Samford. It would prove to be the second loss of a dismal four-game skid that effectively wiped out any chance left for the Terriers to be playoff eligible and closed off the 2013 season.

Photo credit: Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press

The series is actually led by Wofford, eleven games to nine.

While the Mocs won the first five encounters (1927, 1968-69, 1997-98), the two squads only met four times before Wofford’s SoCon era. In said time span, the Terriers lead 13-6, including victories in three of the last four meeting.

The last three games have been decided by an average of just 4.7 points—that includes one of only two overtime contests in the series. Both (2002 [27-21], 2012 [16-13]) were won by the Terriers.

Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman is 2-3 vs. Wofford, and the Mocs are 5-4 against the Terriers when playing in Finley Stadium—in fact, both clubs have enjoyed a home field advantage in the series, but Wofford more so than the Mocs, as they lead 7-1 in Gibbs Stadium.

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