The Wofford Terriers had a saying during the 2016 football season.
"Man down, man up. Man up."
That was no more evident than at the quarterback position.
The Terriers started the preseason with Evan Jacks, the presumed starting quarterback, tearing an ACL. His backup, Brad Butler, also was lost for the year.
› 2016 record: 10-4, 6-2 in SoCon; lost 30-23 to Youngstown State in FCS quarterfinals
› Season opener: Sept. 2 vs. Furman
› Date against UTC: Nov. 4 in Spartanburg, S.C.
› Preseason ranking (coaches/media): 1/1
That led to Brandon Goodson moving into the vacant position and leading the Terriers to a 10-win season and the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. He started 10 games but was hobbled at times with his own injuries, which paved the way for freshman Joe Newman to play in five games.
Playing with that "next man up" mentality is what led the Terriers to their first double-digit-win season since 2010 and the third of Mike Ayers' 29-year tenure as head coach. He said last week at Southern Conference media day that the team's ability to rally behind Goodson was key to Wofford's success.
"The analogy I would give is you're trying to sit on a seat with no back, trying to drive across the country," Ayers said. "You have to have that support, and those guys were his support, those guys were that constant in your ear, singing music you like to hear. When you're playing, the thing we tell is to master the play, go on to the next play, having maturity and focus. Basically he earned the confidence from his peers by the way he went out and executed.
"We constantly talk about doing your job, and the thing everybody found out is that's him: He's going to go out and do his job."
Goodson said it wasn't just the faith the Terriers had in him that led to the late surge, in which they won six straight games before a 30-23, double-overtime playoff loss to Youngstown State. When the senior was hobbled with an ankle injury during the playoffs, Newman rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns, with Goodson on the sideline cheering him on the entire time.
"Everybody just had faith in what we were going to do," Goodson said. "Everybody's here for a reason; your reason might be different from that person, but coaches brought you here because they thought you could do something for this team."
With the return of 14 offensive and defensive starters — including eight from the league's top defense in terms of points, total yards and rushing yards allowed per game — the Terriers were the heavy favorite to win the league. But Ayers isn't wanting any complacency and is preaching to his players to have the same attitude and approach as they did last season.
"We've got to have that 'picked seventh' mode and mentality. We've got to have that little chip on our shoulder," he said. "We've got to go with that 'they don't believe we're that good' mentality and give the best you've got every day in whatever you put your hand to — books, ball, Bible, personal life. Do the best you can do, and after that you can be satisfied, because that's all there is."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.