Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wofford's battle with Idaho shoved into same old category

Wofford is no stranger to walking off higher-division fields with a collective dejectedness about the team.

In the 2011 season opener, Wofford struck first against Clemson, but conceded a 21-21 halftime lock with lack of second-half production to counter the Tigers' grating attack.

A year later, Wofford and a nationally-ranked South Carolina squad were knotted at a touchdown apiece through three quarters of play before the Terriers effectively ran out of steam and fumbled away the game.

Wofford had endured a similar result in 2006, when the Gamecocks were forced to stage a late-contest defensive stand to hang on, and once again in 2008.

Memories such as those certainly weren't the ones Wofford players and staff wished to invoke after completing the longest excursion in program history. Emerging from the plane after the 2,500-mile trip from Spartanburg to Moscow, Idaho, the Terriers aimed to capitalize on momentum left over from last Saturday's dismissal of Tennessee Tech and snap a disheartening streak of fourteen consecutive losses against FBS opposition.

Although the two outfits trudged through a sloppy first half and its three combined turnovers, it was Wofford's offense which suffered the most. A mere three snaps after Chris Armfield extinguished an early Vandal scoring threat with an interception near the goal line, starting quarterback Brad Butler wasn't on the same page as his pitch man, causing a fumble with Idaho safety Russell Siavii's name all over it.

The junior traipsed ten yards into the end zone, granting Idaho an early lead. Idaho's defensive attack, though, proved to be the least of Wofford's worries throughout much of the game.

With a largely-accurate arm and a variety of receiving options, Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan shredded the Terrier pass coverage throughout the afternoon. Linehan threw for an average of nearly ten yards a reception, racking up a total of 334 yards through the air.

It was the aggressive and relentless passing surge that kept Idaho on top for the entire first half.

Evan Jacks, Wofford's arguable offensive savior off the bench in all three matchups this season, helped the Terriers execute their way into a position to compete with Paul Petrino's pass-happy Vandal squad. The contest morphed into a scoring slugfest, a back-and-forth second half which witnessed four lead changes.

For every defensive hole that Jacks or a Terrier back would exploit, though, Idaho produced a curt answer, and in the end, Wofford failed to convert on a fourth-and-long play, relinquishing possession with a three-point deficit and only a handful of ticks left on the clock.

As Idaho lined up in the victory formation, safely assured of only its third win in three seasons, the remnant of Wofford's hope melted away, leaving only that same sick feeling that comes with dropping a decision it was so close to snatching.

That sick feeling surfaces harshest with a close loss to an FBS foe.

The worst part is, no matter how hard the Terriers fought, no matter how near the visitors were to a valuable victory, it really won't matter, because in the end, this contest will get filed away with the rest of the losses.

And that's a real shame.

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