Thursday, November 27, 2014

Terrier football has come a long way, and is looking to keep on

It happens.

Whether we like it or not, it happens every season. Another football season ends, only to live on in the box scores, stat sheets, and endless memories of Terrier fans—yes, football runs deep in places like Spartanburg. How many seasons have come and gone or how many divisional shifts or the conference realignment—none of that matters. It’s football and, despite the air of a colder quality becoming predominate outside, it’s here to stay.

Some thought this year would be an off year. Or was that last year? Maybe it was a rebuilding season, as with all the youth on the roster. Or was it the season after the rebuilding year, the season that brings a depleted program back to its former relevancy?

The 2013 season started and ended the same way: with muted disappointment. When it began, though, the culprit for the bad feelings was Baylor, an explosive powerhouse of the Southwest. They grabbed hold of the Terriers and didn’t let go, crushing them by a score of 69-3. But that was all right, wasn’t it? After all, it’s usual for FBS programs to stomp out smaller, inferior teams of the FCS—“money games,” they call it.

This writer remembers full well where he was the night of that throttling at the hands of the Big XII Bears—a secluded spot, rather deep in the woods of northeast Arkansas. Wofford’s played when he’s been up here before, and with mixed results. Sometimes he, temporarily being in a place without the modern necessities of satellite television and an ever-important internet connection, is forced to miss the game entirely.

Not this time. Yes, this time he dropped by a neighbor—a neighbor who had satellite. And he was excited for the game, which brought on a feeling he hadn’t felt since 2009—or, at least, mildly in the 2011 playoff loss, or when the games against Clemson or South Carolina began to slip away, or the heartbreaking loss to Samford in 2012. But 2009, though. That’s something.

Apart from the early games against FBS opponents, one of the things that was best remembered by the author about that dismal campaign—in which the Terriers went 3-9—was the loss to Furman in the season’s last contest. It was 58-21.

58-21. In our two games against FBS teams (South Florida, Wisconsin), we scored twenty-one points. But that doesn’t matter. It just happened. It’s that bad feeling.

And it happened again this season.


Every offense brings to fans several things: joy, when things fall into place, and sorrow, when things fall apart. There’s nothing that brings more joy to this writer than our offense’s well-executed option. Remember the wishbone? This year, it came back.

It’s so easy, though. So easy that it’s “kind of like stealing,” according to former Terrier standout quarterback Shawn Graves—who, from 1989-1991, ran all over opposing defenses en route to setting the league record for most rushing yards by a quarterback—and that’s just the way it should be.

This year saw the growth and development of one of the SoCon’s top running backs, Lorenzo Long. He began the season with a bang; a strong, heady return of the opening kickoff at the Georgia Tech game hoped to be a sign of what’s to come: more hard-nosed football, more Wofford football.

He scampered for over one hundred yards five times on the year, and broke free for a long score on several occasions. The resurgence of a player—one donning the number seven jersey—that brought back some of the excitement Terrier fans found in Eric Breitenstein, the stocky, record-breaking fullback that was an integral part in successful seasons like 2011 and 2012, was truly a welcome sight for Wofford faithful.

Long, who averaged 84.5 yards a game and scored a team-high fifteen touchdowns, was just one part of a rushing corps that averaged 296.7 rushing yards per game. Ray Smith gave the Terriers a brief lead in the season opening encounter with Georgia Tech with a heart-pumping 92-yard traversal right up the middle—just one, albeit the longest, of his 67 rushes for over 600 yards this season.

Additionally, Evan Jacks, the starting quarterback in the season’s first six contests, racked up well over 500 yards on the ground. An injury sustained on the Terriers’ final offensive play in the loss to Western Carolina, though, put the sophomore from Johns Creek, Ga., out of commission for the remainder of the season and harkened the return of Michael Weimer.

The Chapin, S.C., native shored up the squad and brought them through the final five contests—which included a gutsy, excellent road win at Samford, a casual homecoming swatting of VMI, the season-ending win over Mercer, and two heartbreaking setbacks: against Chattanooga, which won the conference title, and at archrival Furman’s home field.

We, as Terrier faithful, have been through a lot this season. Like every other, it had its spotty performances, questionable aspects, and glorious moments. It’s over—that won’t change—and it may have fit in with expectations. It may have not. There’s a lot hiding within this season, though—potential galore—and that’s something to be proud of.

‘What’s right with college football?’ It’s still on campus.

No comments:

Post a Comment