SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford edged Charleston Southern, 15-14, in a defensive slugfest in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday at Gibbs Stadium. The loss ends another historic season for CSU, who repeated as Big South Conference champion to advance to the 24-team playoff for the second straight year.
Wofford (9-3) took the lead for good on fullback Lorenzo Long's 32-yard touchdown run with 2:32 left in the third quarter. CSU (7-4) had two opportunities inside the Wofford 40-yard line in the fourth quarter, but the Terriers' Devin Watson intercepted two Shane Bucenell passes to seal the final outcome. Wofford will meet the No. 6 national seed, The Citadel, in next Saturday's second round.
CSU's defense continued its mastery of the triple option in defeat. The Bucs limited Wofford to 185 yards of total offense, including just 141 (2.9 per carry) on the ground. The Terriers entered play with the nation's fifth-best rushing attack. Solomon Brown led CSU with 13 tackles, just two off the career-high he set in last year's playoff win over The Citadel.
CSU jumped to a 7-0 first quarter lead, regained the advantage early in the third quarter and had several chances for more points but tallied only 286 yards and could never get fully into gear against Wofford's stout defense. The interceptions and several ill-timed penalties proved costly for the Bucs.
Afterward, CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell reflected on a senior class that leaves as the winningest in program history. The group led the Bucs to 35 wins, two conference titles, two playoff appearances and countless memorable moments, putting the program on the national map.
"I'm proud of our senior class," Chadwell said. "There's nothing you can say after a loss but I told them in there they made us relevant. They made our football program relevant and I'm proud of the way we fought today. I wish we could march on."
"I thought our defense played outstanding," Chadwell continued. "We talked a lot about it before the game that it was going to come down to turnovers and not making mistakes and if you look at the stats, it was basically pretty even but we had a couple of turnovers and penalties that killed us. We give credit to Coach (Mike Ayers) and Wofford. They're a classy, classy program. I don't want to get beat by anybody but I know they do football the right way here so I congratulate them."
CSU's defense forced four three-and-outs and a turnover on downs, courtesy of a goal line stand, over a five-drive stretch prior to Wofford's winning score. Quarterback Brandon Goodson snapped the Terriers out of their malaise by buying time and hitting Dorian Lindsey for a gain of 30 yards into CSU territory. Five plays later, Long, the Southern Conference's leading rusher, burst through the middle for a 32-yard touchdown to push Wofford in front.
Bucenell and Darius Hammond ran for first downs, and Kameron Brown hauled in a first down catch as the Bucs started to respond on the ensuing drive. A penalty wiped out a Bucenell to Colton Korn connection that would have given CSU a first down at the Wofford 11, however, and then Watson picked off a pass on the next play.
The Bucs' defense came up with three more stops to keep the deficit at one, and CSU gained possession at its own 48 at the 3:03 mark of the fourth quarter. Bucenell again found Brown for first down yardage to convert a third down and push the ball to the edge of field goal range at the Wofford 35. Watson then intercepted a Bucenell pass to the right sideline, though, and returned it 40 yards to clinch the Terriers' fifth consecutive victory.
Wofford took the momentum into halftime with an 8-7 lead thanks to Tyler Vaughn's safety, but CSU answered with a six-play, 75-yard drive to start the third quarter. Hammond got loose for a season-long 51 yard scamper to key the march, and Bucenell crossed the goal line from two yards out two plays later to give the Bucs a 14-8 edge.
Junior wideout Jared Scotland was the star of CSU's first quarter touchdown drive. Scotland first reeled in a 22-yard first down catch, taking the ball away from a Wofford defensive back that appeared primed for an interception. He then made a leaping grab in the front left corner of the end zone for a seven-yard score to give the Bucs a 7-0 advantage with 1:41 remaining in the opening period.
A roughing the passer penalty on a 3rd and 18 play sparked Wofford's lone scoring drive of the first half. Long carried for 23 yards for the biggest gain of the march, and plunged in from one yard out to get the Terriers on the scoreboard. All-SoCon kicker David Marvin missed the extra point, allowing CSU to hold onto a 7-6 lead.
CSU continued to maintain the advantage late in the stanza thanks to a brilliant goal line stand. Wofford was set up at the CSU 2-yard line following a blocked punt from linebacker Terrance Morris. The Bucs stuffed four consecutive Terrier runs to keep them out of the end zone, as D.J. Curl capped the spirited stand by holding up Long before he could cross the plane.
Wofford would end up taking the lead on CSU's ensuing series as Vaughn, an All-SoCon defensive end, sacked Bucenell in the end zone for a safety.
Hammond recorded a team-high 94 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries to pace CSU offensively. Long finished with 96 yards and two scores for the Terriers. Anthony Ellis, the Big South Defensive Player of the Year, was a force once again with nine stops, including 2.5 TFL. Wofford was led by seven tackles and 2.5 for loss from safety Jaleel Green. Vaugh had 2.5 TFL as well, highlighted by his second quarter safety.