SPARTANBURG - Wofford football is back in the quarterfinals.
The Terriers beat Furman 28-10 Saturday during a rematch between Southern Conference football rivals in the FCS playoffs at Gibbs Stadium to reach the final eight of the national postseason tournament for a second straight year.
“We had a team that was ready to play,” Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. “This team came in with the mindset that it wasn’t going to be the last time we played this season.”
Wofford (10-2) will play next at perennial powerhouse North Dakota, which beat San Diego 38-3 to reach the quarters for an eighth time in a row. The Bison won five straight championships from 2011-15.
The Terriers were down 10-7 late in the second quarter but dominated the game from that point. Furman (8-5) seemed poised to make this one tight all the way down to the end just like in the opening game of the season, when Wofford stopped a two-point conversion in the final minute for a 24-23 victory.
“Even when we were down, you could hear the chatter on our sideline, and it was nothing but confidence,” Ayers said. “We had guys that, for whatever reason, fate punches their ticket and it’s their day.”
It’s been the Terriers’ day nearly every college football Saturday since the middle of last season. They have won 16 of their past 19 games, the only losses to Youngstown State in double overtime during the playoff quarterfinals, to a ranked Samford team this season by three points and a then few weeks ago at South Carolina.
Furman rebounded after that opening-day loss to Wofford and an 0-3 start to win seven straight games, averaging more than 42 points per contest, to get back into playoff consideration. The Paladins had a chance to share the league title with Wofford until dropping the last regular-season game at Samford.
“Going against Furman and trying to play them twice was going to be a tough task,” Ayers said. “They got their offense going after they played us and they were rolling over people. Our defense and defensive staff did a great job of preparation. We felt like we had a good matchup with our front guys against their front guys.”
The best example of that was late in the fourth quarter, Furman having driven all the way down to the 2-yard line with four chances to punch it in to give it somewhat of a chance. But the Paladins couldn’t punch it in.
“Wofford was just too big and too strong for us,” Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. “We really just couldn’t handle them.”
Wofford had the knockout punch on a fake field goal with less six minutes remaining. Place-kicker Luke Carter lined up for a 20-yard field goal to make it a 14-point lead, but holder Miller Mosley, a backup quarterback, instead took the snap and ran into the end zone for a touchdown that made it 28-10.
Wofford scored touchdowns on the first and last possessions of the half for a 14-10 lead.
The Terriers opened with a 75-yard drive capped by a 5-yard run by Blake Morgan. Lennox McAfee had third-down runs of 30 and 22 yards.
“We came out with a lot of emotion,” said McAfee, who finished with 98 yards on only nine carries. “We always feel in the running backs’ room that if we bring the energy, everybody else will follow.”
With only 1:30 left before halftime, the Terriers went 64 yards on five plays, all passes, to go back in front. R.J. Taylor had a couple of catches for first downs and then quarterback Brandon Goodson threw a 33-yard TD to Morgan with 45 seconds still remaining.
“The drive before the end of the first half was key,” Goodson said. “R.J. made some big plays. He had dropped one, and I told him, ‘We’re coming right back to you.’ We called two in a row. We had great pass protection. I don’t think I had anybody within five yards of me the whole drive. Then Blake made a great read on his route. He could have gone a couple of ways, but he did the right thing and he was the open receiver.”
The Terriers went up 21-10 on a 79-yard drive in the third quarter. McAfee had another 30-yard run and Chase Nelson pushed in from the 2.
“That was a heck of a win against a heck of a program,” Ayers said. “I’m proud of our guys.”