Terriers determined to rise above 'average'

Terriers determined to rise above 'average'

August 5th, 2016 by Gene Henley in Sports - College

WOFFORD

Head coach: Mike Ayers (198-153-2 in 31 seasons overall; 187-132-1 in 28 at Wofford)

Date against UTC: Nov. 12 in Chattanooga, 2 p.m.

2015 record: 5-6

Returning starters (O/D/ST): 8/9/3

Predicted order of finish (Coaches/Media): 6/7

Local players: Junior TE Chandler Gouger (Baylor); sophomore FS Jojo Tillery (East Ridge); freshman CB Ulysses Strawter (Baylor)

There was a time in which the Wofford football team was synonymous with the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

The Terriers and coach Mike Ayers are trying to get back to that level of reverence.

The expectations aren't as high. The Terriers are typically picked in the middle of the Southern Conference but were sixth in one poll and seventh in another this season at media day.

"It doesn't matter," Ayers said. "I can remember when we won (the SoCon title) in 2003, we were seventh or something like that. It doesn't make a hill of beans. The final poll is the important poll; all this stuff is just stuff. It'll come down to the champion is going to earn it."

Ayers begins this season as the fourth-winningest active FCS coach with 198 wins in 28 seasons as the leader at Wofford. He's been through the good, with four SoCon championships and two other playoff appearances following a pair of NCAA Division II playoff appearances in the early 1990s.

But in the last three seasons since winning the 2012 conference title, Wofford has been the definition of average: 16 wins, 17 losses.

"I think we're close," Ayers said. "We've got to play to prove it, but I think we're in a good spot now. Our guys are hungry; their attitude is where it needs to be; our work ethic is where it needs to be.

"I think we're in a good place as a team."

The players' message is simple. They're tired of "being average."

"Instead of talking about it, we're putting in the work and trying to change the culture here," defensive end Boston Bryant said. "It's everything: workouts, extra stuff after practice, going to watch film, trying to do what we think will change the culture and doing everything we can to get back.

"I think we played to the level of our competition last year."

That was evidenced by the Oct. 24 game against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, ranked fifth in the country at the time. The Terriers held the Mocs to 256 yards of total offense, but UTC won 20-17 on a Henrique Ribeiro 38-yard field goal as time expired in Spartanburg, S.C.

After that game, UTC coach Russ Huesman said Wofford "probably outplayed us."

"We played a heck of a game (against Chattanooga), but other teams, we stooped down to their level," Bryant said. "We have to bring a better mentality to it all, and that starts with leadership. We have a very good group of leaders this year, and we have to trust in each other.

"No matter what, we're in this together."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.