Wofford brings unique challenge to Clemson in opener

Wofford gave Clemson a scare when the teams played at Memorial Stadium in 2011. Behind quarterback Mitch Allen (9), the Terriers scored 27 points in a 35-27 loss. AP Photo/Richard Shiro/File

There’s not even a point spread posted on the game, but all parties involved know the odds of Wofford leaving Clemson with a winning record Saturday.

Wofford is 1-16 against FBS opponents (including 15 straight losses) and Clemson is 29-0 vs. FCS foes. Beyond the obvious prestige and financial advantages possessed by major-conference schools, FCS programs are limited to 63 athletic scholarships, 22 fewer than their mainstream counterparts.

That, of course, doesn’t stop Clemson coach Dabo Swinney from gushing respect for the Terriers, six-time FCS playoff participants in a dozen years but 11-11 since 2013.

“This is a tough opener. No different than last year (at Georgia),” Swinney said. “Physically, we have more players, but it only takes 11 to get the job done. We have great respect for Wofford and the team they’ll bring in here.”

Wofford does hold the record for most points scored by an FCS team against Clemson, playing gamely in a 35-27 loss in Week 2 of 2011.

“The thing we try to emphasize to our guys is embrace it,” Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. “We know the deck’s stacked against us, and we know if they’ve got 82,000 (fans), 80 (thousand) will be yelling against us.”

Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said Wofford’s defense is structured similarly to Oklahoma, the Tigers’ 2014 bowl opponent. That means Clemson will likely favor the aerial game, and test Terriers’ first-year cornerbacks coach Brian Mance — a former Clemson player and graduate assistant.

“They’re built to stop the run, because they want to get more guys near the box than you can account for,” Elliott said. “They’re going to make you beat them throwing the football.”

The Terriers operate out of the triple option on offense, giving Clemson’s defense an early round of practice to get ready for Georgia Tech in five weeks.

However, Wofford and its offense (the FCS No. 3-rated rushing attack in 2014) has Clemson’s attention this week.

“The thing about those guys, a lot of those guys were kind of overlooked by Clemson,” senior linebacker B.J. Goodson said. “So I feel like those guys will have a point to prove coming in here. I’m not looking at them as a smaller opponent; I’m going like we’re playing Florida State because you never know.

“In 2011, they got a good jump against us. We don’t want that same thing to happen.”