Let’s get this out of the way now: Ole Miss is going to beat FCS opponent Wofford this Saturday, and it’ll probably do so by a pile of points. Sure, the Terriers’ triple option offense will be a nuisance and yes, the Rebels’ loss to Florida State exposed some gaping holes in the team’s makeup, but Hugh Freeze’s bunch can cruise through this game on sheer talent alone (to say nothing of the home-field advantage offered by the newly-expanded confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium).
That doesn’t mean that Week 2 isn’t important for Ole Miss. FCS opponent or not, Saturday offers invaluable game reps to a group of young players who simply weren’t ready to face a team of FSU’s caliber. It also provides the coaches a sandbox in which to find solutions to the issues exposed in Orlando.
Wofford, which is coming off a 21-7 Week 1 win over Tennessee Tech, is a relative unknown for most Rebel fans. Let’s get to know this bunch a little more, beginning with your first question:
Where the hell is Wofford?
That’d be Spartanburg, S.C., about an hour and a half northwest of Columbia.
Wofford's been mediocre recently, even by FCS standards.
Between 2002 and 2012, the Terriers tallied eight seasons in which they won at least eight games, winning four Southern Conference titles in the process. Things have cooled off a bit recently—Wofford's gone 5-6, 6-5 and 5-6 over the last three seasons and, during that same span, has been outscored 138-32 by DI Power 5 opponents (Baylor, Georgia Tech and Clemson, in that order). After missing the FCS playoffs last season, the Terriers are picked to finish sixth in the SoCon in 2016.
Starting quarterback Evans Jack is done for the season.
After splitting time with two other passers last year, the senior wrestled away sole possession of the starting gig during offseason practice... then tore his ACL in the second-to-last fall scrimmage. The good news for Wofford is that the other two options, Brandon Goodson and Brad Butler, combined for six starts in 2015. Butler started in the win over Tennessee Tech last week, going 4-of-5 for 30 yards while racking up 85 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Wait, you say, how the hell did the starting QB only attempt five passes? That's because...
Wofford runs the triple option.
Ah yes, that antiquated, run-heavy system that any defensive coordinator hates to see on the schedule. The triple option is always a pain in the ass to prep for, but even more so for an Ole Miss team facing a short week after Monday night's game in Orlando.
"This is a tough turnaround," Hugh Freeze said in his presser earlier this week. "We got back at 4 a.m. [on Tuesday], gotta play the triple option Saturday, which is totally different. Wasn’t real smart on our scheduling."
Knowing that turnaround was coming, Freeze set aside four 30-minute segments during fall camp to install his defense for the Wofford game. "Whether or not they can recall that today, who knows," he said on Wednesday.
The key to defending the triple option is to play disciplined and not get lost in all of the moving parts, something that could be a challenge for Ole Miss’ transfer linebackers and inexperienced DBs. The reality, though, is that even if the Rebs' aren't completely mentally prepared, the gulf in athleticism and talent (particularly on the defensive line) will allow them to keep things in check while Chad Kelly and the receivers pile up points. The more significant concern is that Wofford's idiosyncratic offense robs a young Rebels defense of the practice and game reps that would normally be spent preparing for a more traditional attack. Not that it’s a complete waste: Ole Miss faces another triple-option attack (albeit a more advanced version) against Georgia Southern in November.
Yes, the guy who collapsed on the sideline is doing fine.
Wofford football made the national news cycle during opening weekend when junior linebacker Michael Roach had to be resuscitated on the sideline after collapsing during the Tennessee Tech game. Roach’s football career is over—it turns out that he suffers from a heart defect—but he’s already back in class and, from the sound of this report by WYFF News 4, will be able to lead a completely normal life.
"We think that God had a plan for me. He wanted me to go down at this certain time in this situation with the right medical help and medical equipment around to bring me back,” said Roach, who is among just five percent of people with his condition that survive after going into cardiac arrest. “I don't really try to question it. I just try to look at all the positives. I feel like football kind of saved my life."
Here’s what a former Wofford player thinks about the game.
Our weekly podcast (listen to the full episode here) hosted Coleman Hornaday, who played at Wofford from 2007-2010 (before playing his last year and graduating from South Alabama). He offered some inside thoughts on how to slow down the triple option and provided some fascinating insight into the mind of an FCS player about to face a major conference power.