MISSOULA (AP) – The Wofford football team is looking for some FCS respect as it brings its option attack to Washington Grizzly Stadium against second-ranked Montana on Saturday.
Coach Mike Ayers said his No. 11 Terriers (8-3) were surprised when they learned they would be making the longest road trip in school history (2,330 miles from Spartanburg, S.C.) to take on Montana (11-0) in the first round of the FCS playoffs.
“We’ve had a great season and are in a great league, but for whatever reason, the impression is that we were just an afterthought of getting in,” he said.
The Wofford-Montana game kicks off at 12:05 p.m. Saturday.
Wofford, with an enrollment of just under 1,400 — about the same as Carroll College of the NAIA — is making its second appearance in the FCS playoffs. Montana, with an enrollment just under 14,000, has advanced a record 15 consecutive years.
Wofford won the Southern Conference’s automatic bid into the playoffs by virtue of its 42-31 victory over then top-ranked Appalachian State in September, three weeks after Appalachian State knocked off Michigan.
Wofford uses an option attack and rushes for an average of 318 yards per game, second in the FCS, while passing for 124 yards — 104th among the 116 FCS teams.
“We do a combination of things,” Ayers said. “We have a three-back concept, and then we run the option out of the gun. Anyway you can run option, we will run it.”
Kevious Johnson averages 93 yards rushing per game. He has eight touchdown runs and three TD catches this season. Quarterback Josh Collier passes for 86 yards per game and rushes for another 46 and has 14 touchdowns — nine rushing and five passing. Michael Hobbs and Adrian Young average about 36 yards rushing each.
“Johnson is good, no doubt,” said UM coach Bobby Hauck. “But the quarterback is their second-leading rusher and it’s unbelievable how many guys they get the ball to … it’s hard to locate one player and just flow with him. They really spread it out.”
Wofford’s leading receiver, Andy Strickland, averages 42 yards per game and has four TD catches.
The key for the Grizzlies, who have advanced to the playoffs for the 15th straight year, would be to get an early lead and force the Terriers into a passing game they’re not as comfortable with.
“The danger in playing a running team is that they can continue to run it, consequently, you don’t get many opportunities on offense,” Hauck said.
Montana, which has swept its Big Sky Conference foes for two consecutive years, comes in with a more balanced attack.
Cole Bergquist averages 219 yards passing and has 19 TD passes. He also averages 36 yards rushing and has another two scores.
Lex Hilliard leads the Griz ground game with an average of 101 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns this season. Mike Ferriter is averaging 63 yards receiving and has four touchdown catches while Eric Allen is averaging 36 yards and has seven TD receptions.
Montana defensive end Kroy Biermann, the Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year, is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player on the FCS. he has 63 tackles this season, including 15 sacks. Tyler Joyce has 85 tackles and Loren Utterback 81 for the Griz.
Seth Goldwire anchors Wofford’s defense with 90 tackles this season.
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