• Who: Wofford (9-2) at James Madison (10-1)
• Where: Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Va.
• When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
At least this weekend, there won’t be 10 inches of snow and it won’t be a brisk 14 degrees for the Wofford Terriers.
Those were the conditions they faced last year when they opened the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs against in Missoula, Mont., against the No. 2-ranked Montana Grizzlies. Saturday’s forecast for Harrisonburg, Va., and James Madison University is a little balmier, but the hill is even a little steeper — the 10-1 Dukes are ranked No. 1.
Not that it dissuades Terriers senior linebacker and Effingham County High School graduate Seth Goldwire and his teammates — not in the least bit.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Goldwire said.
Wofford, which has one of the smallest enrollments (1,400) of any school playing Division I football, is in the FCS playoffs for the third time since joining that level of play in 1995. The Terriers have been in the Southern Conference since 1997 and were conference co-champions last season.
Wofford, 9-2 with its only losses to three-time defending national champion Appalachian State and FBS team South Carolina, is being taken seriously by the rest of the FCS, if you ask the Terriers.
“I think people have to,” Goldwire said. “We came in with a lot of questions and a lot of doubts. I think by the end of the year, we answered that. We answered those questions and we answered those doubts.”
Winning at Montana helped, too, and it’s helped the Terriers believe they can win anywhere, anytime. That 23-22 victory over the Grizzlies was a statement game, according to Goldwire.
“It doesn’t matter how you’re ranked,” he said. “Anybody can win. That’s how we take Saturday’s game. We’re going to have to be confident in what we do. It’s going to be about Wofford, playing Wofford ball and doing what Wofford does.”
The Terriers have been ranked as high as No. 3 this season, and the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Goldwire has been the backbone for the Terriers’ defense. He leads the Terriers with 86 tackles, and he has five games with at least 10 stops. After his performance against Georgia Southern earlier this year — 11 tackles, two interceptions, one fumble recovery, 1.5 sacks and one touchdown — Goldwire earned SoCon defensive player of the week honors.
And it’s a blend of skill and countless hours that have enabled the all-conference linebacker to be a difference maker. In fact, it’s time he puts in that no one else sees, watching hours and hours of video of the opponents so he knows where to be and when to be there.
“He’s a football junkie,” Ayers said. “He loves to watch film. You tell him something, and he wants more. He’s a competitor. He plays hard every snap. If he wanted to be a coach, he’d be a great coach.”
Goldwire’s study habits began the summer before his sophomore year, and he was the Terriers’ second-leading tackler that ensuing season.
“In my opinion, you can never watch too much film,” he said. “It certainly slowed the game down for me.”
And now, he makes sure his teammates watch film with him to study tendencies, strengths and weaknesses of their opponents. He started watching footage of James Madison on Tuesday afternoon, but didn’t need to see a lot to know that stopping quarterback Rodney Landers. The 6-1, 220-pound Landers is the seventh-leading rusher in FCS and engineered a comeback from 21 points down against Appalachian State earlier this year.
“He’s a load,” Goldwire said.
While Goldwire has to know where to be against JMU’s defense, he insists that stopping Landers and the Dukes’ offense is going to take all 11 defenders. Landers has rushed and thrown for a combined 2,613 yards and is responsible for 29 touchdowns.
"It’s a stress on the whole defense,” he said. “He’s going to find that hole.”
In Goldwire’s four years, the Terriers are 31-15 and the program has been able to recruit and sign a better caliber of athlete from the time it joined the SoCon. Still, prospective Terriers must be able to handle Wofford’s academic rigors which Goldwire — the son of Franklin and Cheryl Goldwire and an economics major — has done.
And Goldwire, a first-team all-conference selection last year by the coaches and the media, exemplifies what Ayers and staff look for in a player, the coach said.
“A lot of people thought that we could not get it done. But they are bright kids and competitive kids and they are willing to work hard,” he said. “We’ve been able to increase our scholarships over the years. We have been fortunate the last several years to have a great group of kids.
“They may not be everybody’s prospect, but they fit into our system. We find the best group we can fit in.”