The Baylor football players might need a Google search to find Wofford College, but they’re treating the Football Championship Subdivision school with the same respect they’d have for a major college.
They’ve seen too many upsets spring up across the country to underestimate anybody, regardless of the size of the school.
“We’re preparing for Wofford like we did for Kansas State last year,” Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon said. “We never underestimate anybody. . . . Louisiana-Monroe beat Arkansas last year, and nobody ever expected that or even thought about it.”
After enduring three weeks of preseason camp, the Bears are anxious to open their final season at Floyd Casey Stadium against the Terriers at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Wofford was added to Baylor’s schedule during the offseason after SMU dropped this year’s game.
Wofford, a private school with an enrollment of 1,600 in Spartanburg, S.C., is ranked fifth in the FCS preseason poll. The Terriers are coming off three consecutive appearances in the FCS playoffs including a quarterfinals berth last year where they ended a 9-4 season with a 14-7 loss to North Dakota State.
Mike Ayers is starting his 26th season as the Terriers head coach and has compiled a 171-115-1 record.
“Name me three other coaches in college or pro football who have been there that long,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “It just doesn’t happen. He’s done a great job and people believe in him and respect him. He’s run the program right and they’re just a solid football team.”
In an age when pass-oriented spread offenses are the rage in college football, Wofford looks like a throwback with its option-based wingbone rushing attack. The Terriers ranked second among FCS schools with 349.7 yards rushing per
game last season and featured a 2,000-yard rusher in departed senior fullback Eric Breitenstein.
Fullback Donovan Johnson, who rushed for 967 yards in 2011, is back to lead the offense, while either junior James Lawson or sophomore Michael Weimer is expected to start at quarterback.
A new challenge
Most of the Baylor defensive players haven’t played against a triple-option attack since high school. Some have only seen the formation on vintage college football films.
“I’ve never played against anything like this,” Baylor senior defensive end Chris McAllister said. “It definitely takes a lot of discipline to play against it. You have to read keys on every play. We have to be on our toes.”
While Briles was pleased with Baylor’s progress in preseason drills, he’s anxious to see how his players perform in a game. Coming off a school-record three straight bowl appearances, the Bears are a confident, experienced team that has visions of claiming its first Big 12 championship.
“The tough thing about fall camp is that since you go against yourself, it’s hard to gauge where you’re at and what you need to work on,” Briles said. “What we have done is stayed healthy. I think we’re in good shape in that we have people in places where they can be successful and help us win.”
Eager to prove self
Nobody is more eager to hit the field than fourth-year junior quarterback Bryce Petty, who will start for the first time after sitting behind Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence. Petty improved throughout preseason drills and feels confident that he can keep Baylor’s offense operating at a high level.
“It’s hard to watch other people play your position,” Petty said. “RG3 is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play, but it was hard for me to watch him because I know I can do the same things. I learned from what he did and what Nick did, and now it’s time to put all that stuff together and put it in my game.”
Saturday’s opener will be the first of four home games to start the season, followed by a Sept. 7 date against Buffalo, a Sept. 21 date against Louisiana-Monroe and a Big 12-opening Oct. 5 date against West Virginia.
The Baylor players believe they can set the tone for the season with an opening win against Wofford.
“Every game is extremely important and you don’t like to label one more important than another,” Baylor defensive tackle Trevor Clemons-Valdez said. “But in the first game, setting the tone is a huge deal. We have to execute our technique and show people what we can do.”
BEAR FACTS: Baylor coach Art Briles said sophomore defensive tackle Javonte Magee is attending a family funeral in Louisiana this week and is expected to return Sept. 2. Magee has missed the last two weeks of practice . . . Briles said he expects at least three true freshmen to play against Wofford: receiver Robbie Rhodes, defensive tackle Andrew Billings and safety Taion Sells . . . Baylor is approaching 24,000 in season tickets, which is a school record . . . Briles expects running back Glasco Martin to see limited action against Wofford after rehabbing from a broken ankle in the spring.