Who: Wofford (0-1) at The Citadel (0-1)
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Johnson Hagood Stadium
Radio: WQNT 1450-AM
Derek Douglas is completely correct when he points out that he and his fellow fifth-year players at The Citadel have not lost to Wofford 14 straight times.
“I’ve only lost to them four straight times,” the Bulldogs’ defensive tackle said with a rueful chuckle this week.
Whether they’ve lived through four straight losses or 14, all Citadel folk — fans, players and coaches — can agree that having not beaten Wofford since 1998 is getting old.
Here, then, is a handy guide to beating Wofford, which comes to Johnson Hagood for the Southern Conference opener for both teams:
• Be an FBS team. Wofford has lost 12 games in the last four seasons (including this one), a full third of them to teams from the FBS, the higher level of NCAA Division I football. The Terriers were blown out by speedy Baylor, 69-3, last week, but have tested South Carolina (24-7), Clemson (35-27) and Ohio (33-10) before losing in other FBS games since 2010.
Since the Bulldogs are firmly ensconced in FCS, the second level of Division I football, this might be hard to pull off. Moving on.
• Be a ranked FCS team. Of those 12 losses since 2010, half have come against ranked FCS teams, three of them in the FCS playoffs — Georgia Southern three times, Appalachian State, Northern Iowa and North Dakota State.
Had The Citadel defeated Charleston Southern handily last week, the Bulldogs might have earned enough votes to meet this standard.
Instead, the Bulldogs lost 32-29 and are not only unranked but uncertain.
“It was disappointing, definitely, and a bit of a deflation,” said fifth-year guard Keith Carter. “But then you saw people coming back with a resolve to come back. Let’s clean it up and get ready for Wofford.
• Play at home, win the turnover battle and sack the quarterback.
The above categories leave Wofford with just two losses since 2010 against teams like The Citadel — unranked FCS squads. In 2011, in the midst of an 8-4 season, the Terriers lost at Furman 26-21. And last season, while going 9-4, Wofford lost 24-17 in overtime at Samford.
In those games, both on the road, Wofford lost the turnover battle — fumbling three times and losing one at Samford, which had no turnovers; and fumbling three times (losing none) and throwing two interceptions at Furman, which also did not turn the ball over.
Wofford threw a combined total of just 17 passes in the two games, but Terrier quarterbacks were sacked five times, three by Samford.
Can the Bulldogs follow that formula and break the losing streak Saturday? It won’t be easy, even though the Terriers are without all-SoCon fullback Eric Breitenstein (graduated) and possibly halfbacks Cam Flowers and Ray Smith (concussions last week vs. Baylor).
“Wofford is the same team we’ve seen over the last 10 years,” said Citadel coach Kevin Higgins, whose personal losing streak against the Terriers stands at eight straight. “They are well-coached, with excellent speed and good-sized guys with experience on the offensive and defensive lines.”
The Terriers are uncertain at quarterback, where veteran coach Mike Ayers used three players — junior James Lawson, sophomore Michael Weimer and freshman Evan Jacks — against Baylor.
There’s also more at stake than the streak. In this season of opportunity — with SoCon powers Georgia Southern and App State ineligible for the league title — the loser of Saturday’s game is quickly a step behind.
“It’s a big win for whoever can pull it out, and a loss sets the other team back,” Ayers said. “I get it. I get it, and I’m sure they get it.”
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