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SoCon Notebook: Ayers, Monken share opinions

    Ever since Wofford’s historic 14-7 win over Georgia Southern at Paulson Stadium in 2002, the teams have been evenly matched.
    In 2004 and 2005, the home team won, and since then, the visiting team has had the upper hand.
    The coaches of both programs couldn’t say enough about each other Tuesday on the Southern Conference’s weekly teleconference as they talked about the upcoming 2 p.m. matchup at Spartanburg, S.C., in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship subdivision playoffs.
    “When you look at where they are now,” Wofford coach Mike Ayers said about the Eagles, “just flip the calendar back a year and there’s a lot of difference. It comes from hard work and dedication from their staff and from their players.”
    In first-year GSU coach Jeff Monken’s eyes, Wofford (10-2) works just as hard.
    “They are very good at what they do both offensively and defensively,” said Monken, whose Eagles (9-4) have won five-straight since sitting at 4-4 after a loss to Samford. “Mike and his staff do a really good job. They’ve been coaching together for a long time and their kids are bought into what they do. I wouldn’t expect to see something a whole lot different than what they’ve done this year, and we’re the same.”
    Ayers agrees.
    “Jeff’s got those guys winning down there and believing down there,” he said. “I know they’re a lot better right now than what they were when we played them early in the year, and hopefully we’re better, too.”
    The Terriers are led offensively by Eric Breitenstein, who leads the SoCon with 1,359 rushing yards.
     “Anybody who runs an offense like ours would be thrilled to have a guy like that,” said Monken. “I know I would.”
    Monken downplayed GSU’s athletes in comparison to Saturday’s opponent.
    “I wouldn’t go into overly athletic or fast or any of those things. I mean, we are who we are,” said Monken about the Eagles. “We’re trying to slug around and do the best we can right now.”
    On that note, some laughter from Ayers put an end to the love-fest between the two coaches.
    “I don’t know about whether we’re faster or more athletic, but I do know both of us are going to have to slug it out,” he said. “Both teams are going to want it, both teams are going to get after it and both teams are going to have to play hard.”

A familiar look
    No. 1 seed Appalachian State’s 42-14 win over Western Illinois in the second round of the playoffs meant that, for the first time since 2001 when GSU, ASU and Furman won first-round games, three SoCon teams are still playing in the quarterfinals.
    Mountaineers (10-2) coach Jerry Moore thinks ASU’s opponent in the quarterfinals, Villanova (8-4) reminds him of a team from the SoCon.
    “They’re more talented, but they remind me of Samford,” Moore said about the Wildcats. “Their defense is a little bit different from the people we’ve played, but their offense is a little bit like Samford. They’re very versatile, they have traits of throwing it and they have traits of running it.”
    After Villanova’s road through the Colonial Athletic Conference, Moore won’t let its record fool him.
    “There’s no shame to lose a couple of ballgames in your league when they’re so good up there,” he said. “It’s a lot like us, I think. In each one of our leagues, there’s more teams that come out. We’re a lot alike, the Southern Conference and the Colonial. In my opinion, it’s always been that way. When we won our first national championship, we’d lost two conference games.”
    Villanova travels to Boone, N.C. to face the Mountaineers Saturday at noon.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.