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The triple optin returns to Paulson - sort of

It’ll be “Throwback Saturday” when Wofford and Georgia Southern meet at noon today at Paulson Stadium.
    Eagle fans nostalgic for the triple option will get an opportunity to see an option offense as run by the Terriers (4-4, 3-2) who have won three of their last four games.
    The snake bitten Eagles (3-5, 2-3) are coming off a disheartening 24-21 loss at The Citadel and now find themselves in the position of having to win out to avoid only the second losing season in the school’s modern era. Southern was 4-7 in 1996.
    Four of Georgia Southern’s five defeats have come by a total of 15 points, and the fifth — a 31-14 loss to North Dakota State — was a 14-14 game in the third period.
    The Eagles could not have picked a much tougher opponent against which to try and start a three-game winning streak. Option teams as a rule tend to get better as the season progresses, and Wofford is no exception.
    “Obviously their offense and defense is a little different from some of the conventional offenses and defenses we’ve seen this year,” said Georgia Southern Coach Brian VanGorder. “That’s the problem you begin with: to prepare for something a little different in all three phases starting with their offense.
    “The wingbone they run…we haven’t seen that, but a lot of our players are familiar with it,” said VanGorder. “Defensively their 30 scheme gives you a lot of looks. They’re just very, very well coached. They look like a high character team – their kids play fast and play with confidence. It’s a difficult team to deal with.”
    When the Terriers came into the Southern Conference in 1997 they were one of the Eagles’ favorite whipping boys. However, the worm turned in 2002 when Wofford posted a 14-7 win at Paulson. The Terriers have now won three of the last four meetings and what was once a cupcake game has turned into an intense rivalry.
    Wofford comes into the game leading the conference in rushing at 247 yards per game, and is in its customary last place ranking in passing, putting up 80.5 yards per game.
    In contrast the Eagles, who abandoned the option for a multiple offense, are third in rushing at 182.5 and third in passing at 193.4 yards per game.
    Tailback Kevious Johnson, SoCon Freshman of the Year in 2003, is back after missing last season. He leads the Terriers in rushing with 595 yards and now has 2,492 for his career, sixth best in school history.
    Johnson is sixth in the conference in rushing. The Eagles counter with the one-two punch of Chris Covington and Lamar Lewis who rank third and fourth, respectively. Covington is averaging 85 yards per game, Lewis 82.9.
    Ayers is in his 19th year at Wofford and as long as he is able to draw a breath the Terriers will run the option. The past four years Wofford has posted a league best 35-13 record against conference teams.
    Unlike previous years when he had an idea of how the Eagles were going to defense his team, Ayers said VanGorder and his staff present a bit of the unknown.
     “I’m sure we’re going to be testing the waters,” said Ayers. “This is the first time we’ve played them with this new staff. We’ve kind of understood how they were going to try to defend us over the years, and now it’s a new ballgame.
    “Coach VanGorder is an excellent football coach,” said Ayers. “He’s got a defensive background. He was at Georgia when Georgia Southern played them and he had a pretty good plan to stop them then. We think we have an idea of what’s going to happen from a scheme standpoint, but ultimately we won’t know until we get there.”
    And if the Eagles throw something at them they’re not expecting, the Terriers will adjust — something they’ve had to do a lot of this season, said Ayers.
     “I think out of the games we’ve played so far there have been seven different coordinators on the defensive level,” said Ayers. “So, we’ve had to go into a game kind of suspecting what they’re going to do, but ultimately you find out what they’re trying to do, then you’ve got to adjust, be able to adapt and create hopefully positive plays.”
    Preparation is a trademark of Ayers’ teams, and as a part of it the Terriers work against four defenses each week, he said.
    “One team we played, the University of South Carolina, is a 4-3 shade eagle team,  and we come into the ballgame and they play a 50 defense,” said Ayers. “You’ve got to adapt and improvise on the run.”
    The Terriers adapted well enough to give the Gamecocks a scare before losing, 27-20, and they lost to Appalachian State, 14-7, after falling behind 14-0 in the first period.
     As an indication of how the Terriers adjust they’ve scored 82 of their 212 points in the second quarter. They’ve allowed 186 points, but only 65 in the second half. 

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