- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Wofford and The Citadel have had disappointing starts to their seasons, but both coaches say the games that really matter start Saturday as the Bulldogs and Terriers play each other to open Southern Conference play.

“The ‘get ready’ games are over. You’ve got to play some great ball,” Wofford coach Mike Ayers said.

In other games Saturday involving South Carolina’s Football Champion Subdivision teams, South Carolina State faces North Carolina A&T; in the Atlanta Football Classic; Furman hosts Coastal Carolina; and Presbyterian hosts Western Carolina.

At Spartanburg, Wofford (2-2) opens the conference season with a Citadel (1-3) team it has owned.

The Terriers haven’t lost to the Bulldogs since 1998. But while the streak is the talk of The Citadel locker room, Ayers said his players don’t give it much thought.

“We don’t talk about that. Every year is a different year, every Citadel team has been a different team. For us to be naive and think the past is going to dictate the present is foolish,” Ayers said.

Don’t look for a lot of passes. Both teams use the option. The Citadel is fourth in FCS with 300 yards rushing a game, while Wofford is fifth at 299 yards on the ground.

The Bulldogs have won just one of their first four games, but coach Mike Houston said his team is looking better every game, especially after beating Gardner-Webb 37-14 last week,

“We’re starting to resemble the football team we want to be on a weekly basis,” Houston said.

Ayers said his Wofford team has been bothered by inconsistency. The Terriers lost 43-36 to Gardner-Webb and their two victories have come over lower division teams.

“We’ve looked like a superstar in one quarter and we’ve looked like some of those Pop Warner teams who come here and plays at halftime,” Ayers said.

In Atlanta, South Carolina State (3-2, 1-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) will try to stay on top of its league when it plays North Carolina A&T; (4-1, 1-0) in the Atlanta Football Classic.

The Bulldogs have won 12 of the last 13 over the Aggies, but the teams have split the past two games after North Carolina A&T; hired Rob Broadway as coach.

“It’s actually his year to win,” South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to end that cycle.”

The Bulldogs are also trying to improve scoring when they get inside the 20. South Carolina State has come away with points in only two-thirds of the 18 times it has bene in the red zone.

“We’ve struggled in our goal line and short yardage attack,” said Pough, who won his 100th game as a head coach last week.

In Greenville, Furman (2-3) will try to turn things around against Coastal Carolina (5-0).

It’s a tough task for the Paladins. The Chanticleers are ranked No. 3 in both FCS polls and beat Elon 31-3 last week in what coach Joe Moglia said was his team’s best game of the year.

Furman has been betrayed by its offense. While the Paladins are the best team in FCS in passing defense at 118 yards a game and ranked 15th in points allowed at 17 a game, the offense hasn’t been able to move since losing starting quarterback Reese Hannon to a broken ankle in the first game of the season. The Paladins are only scoring 13 points a game and gaining 299 yards.

“We’ve got to get some things cleaned up. We certainly have to execute better,” Furman coach Bruce Fowler said. “We’re really working hard this week to progress. We’ve got to make some progress in our attitudes and get players ready to go “

The Paladins have been a top-notch team in South Carolina for a long time, but Coastal Carolina has had their number. The Chanticleers have only been playing football for 12 seasons, but have beaten Furman four of the five times they have met.

If Coastal Carolina has a weakness, it is turnovers. The Chanticleers have given the ball away 10 times in five games.

“We’re turning the ball over too much this year. That is something we need to correct,” Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia said.

In Clinton, Presbyterian (2-2) is coming off a bye week as it faces Western Carolina (3-1).

The Blue Hose are kicking off in the afternoon, which has some fans worried. Presbyterian is 2-0 at home this year, with both games played under their new lights.

“We’ve had two really good wins at home at night. But as the weather gets a little bit better during the afternoon, we’re going to stick with the plan we had scheduled during the summer,” Presbyterian coach Harold Nichols said.

Nichols said he was able to get some players healthy after the bye week and get some younger players some practice time.

Meanwhile, Western Carolina comes in after a significant victory. The Catamounts 35-17 win last week over Furman was their first Southern Conference road win since 2010, but coach Mark Speir doesn’t want his team to take too much pride in that.

“We’re not in any position to think this program has arrived,” Speir said.

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