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GSU taking one final trip to Spartanburg
GaSouthern2 WEB
Zach Walker (9) of Georgia Southern breaks the tackle of Blake Wylie of Wofford to score a touchdown after catching with no time on the clock in the second quarter in this Oct. 12, 2011 file photo in Spartanburg, S.C. The Eagles won 31-10 and clinched the 2011 SoCon championship. - photo by JOHN BYRUM/Wofford Athletics

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Georgia Southern was the Southern Conference’s top-ranked team in a preseason poll of conference coaches and media.

Wofford was the media’s favorite to win the SoCon championship although it was third in the polling.

Chew on that for a moment, and after the spider webs begin to clear out read on.

The SoCon, which was founded in 1921, prides itself on being the nation’s fifth oldest conference, but this year’s football season is going to be like no other in its history.

Two league members—the Eagles and Appalachian State — are leaving the league after this season as they are moving to the FBS level. Both will become members of the Sun Belt Conference on July 1, 2014.

Consequently Georgia Southern and the Mountaineers are not eligible under NCAA guidelines for the conference championship or a bid to the FCS playoffs because they are exceeding the FCS 63 scholarship limit as they transition to FBS.

The SoCon, however, made the decision that Georgia Southern’s and Appalachian State’s games will count in the standings and the teams and individual players will be included in conference statistics.

The Eagles thus find themselves playing for pride while the Terriers will have championship aspirations on the line when the two teams meet for what likely will be the final time at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C.
Wofford (1-1, 1-0) is the early leader in the SoCon race after last Saturday’s 21-10 win at The Citadel. It will be the conference opener for the Eagles (2-0) who have yet to be tested in wins over Savannah State (77-9) and St. Francis, Pa. (59-17).

In what has been one of the conference’s best rivalries in the last decade the Eagles lead the series, 12-7, and have won three straight against the Terriers. And, Georgia Southern has won the last four games played at Gibbs Stadium.

All the past history aside the two coaches are only focused on what they have to deal with in the present.

“It’s a huge game,” Wofford Coach Mike Ayers said. “It’s our first home game and it’s a game against Georgia Southern. That right there makes it a huge game.”

The Terriers opened their season with a 69-3 loss at No. 22 Baylor, a defeat which Ayers and his team quickly put in the rearview mirror.

“We didn’t have a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings coming out of the Baylor game,” Ayers said. “We didn’t know what kind of team we had. We didn’t know if we were as bad as we looked at Baylor or we just ran into a buzz saw.”

After last week’s win over the Bulldogs the veteran Wofford coach came to a conclusion about his team’s outing against the Bears.

“They’re a great team,” Ayers said.

The Terriers, who shared the conference title with Georgia Southern and Appalachian State last year, lost heavily to graduation, but Ayers believes he has the makings of a good team.

“Our kids worked hard, and did a great deal of physical work and came prepared,” Ayers said of the Terriers win over The Citadel. “Defensively I thought we played a dominating game from the standpoint of never letting them get anything going.

“Offensively we did enough either by scoring points or getting field position,” Ayers said. “It was a great win, one we desperately needed.”

Donovan Johnson leads the Terriers in rushing with 226 yards in two games as he averages 4.5 yards per carry. Wofford has uncharacteristically thrown the ball 33 times, completing 15 for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

Ayers alternates James Lawson and Michael Weimer at quarterback. Weimer is 4-14-2 for 65 yards and Lawson is 8-13-0 for 106. Weimer has 18 yards rushing, Lawson four.

While Ayers got some answers about his team the Eagles are still an unknown quantity, Coach Jeff Monken said.

“I’m not happy about the way we’ve been playing,” Monken said. “The two teams we’ve played to this point are not the two toughest opponents on our schedule. Certainly getting into conference play this week it’s going to get better so we have to play better.”

The Eagles are averaging a whopping 68 points per game as the 136 points they’ve scored are the most points they’ve ever had in the first two games in all the years they’ve played football.

Still, Monken is far from satisfied.

“I feel like we’ve been playing like garbage,” Monken said on this week’s SoCon teleconference. “Right now I have no idea what kind of team we have.”

Torrance Hunt leads the Eagles in rushing with 152 yards, and backup quarterback Kevin Ellison is 9-13-0 for 216 yards. Montay Crockett had three catches for 80 yards.

Linebackers Kyle Oehlbeck and Edwin Jackson each have 14 tackles, Johnathan Battle has two sacks, and Deion Stanley two interceptions.