KENNESAW — Kennesaw State will travel to Spartanburg, South Carolina, on Saturday for a meeting with Wofford — a team that is quickly becoming a regional rival.
The Owls and Terriers have met twice before — both in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs — resulting in victories for Kennesaw State.
The Owls beat Wofford 13-10 in a 2018 second-round game decided on Justin Thompson’s 30-yard field goal with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. A year later, they traveled to Wofford for an opening-round game that proved to be the coming-out party for quarterback Jonathan Murphy.
Taking over midway through the second quarter for an injured Tommy Bryant, Murphy went on to run for a Big South Conference quarterback-record 206 yards and three touchdowns — which included a 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter — to lead Kennesaw State to a 28-21 win.
Because of the recent history, coach Brian Bohannon said he expects Wofford to have a long memory, hoping the third time is the charm.
“I can promise you this, we beat them two years in the playoffs. I guarantee they will be ready,” Bohannon said. “It’s two years they probably didn’t think we should beat them. I promise you, they will be ready. They will be highly motivated.”
Wofford (1-0) comes into the game following a 24-22 victory over Elon two weeks ago. That followed a 1-4 spring season against only Southern Conference opponents.
In the preseason SoCon coaches’ poll, the Terriers were picked to finish eighth, but regardless of record, Bohannon said he sees a third highly competitive game between the two programs.
“We’re playing a team in Wofford we’re somewhat familiar with,” he said. “They are familiar with us.
“They are a really good football program. Coach (Josh) Conklin does a great job, I don’t see it being any different. We’re going to have to go up there and play extremely well.”
Kennesaw State (1-1) will return a number of players who played in the 2019 playoff game — including much of the starting offensive and defensive lines — but Wofford have almost seen a complete roster turnover since then.
“We were counting up on defense — I think the two linebackers are good players, but there’s only three or four guys that played against us in ’19,” Bohannon said.
The Wofford defense is set to led by defensive lineman Michael Mason, a first-team preseason all-SoCon selection, and linebacker Joe Beckett, a third-team pick. The unit held Elon to 114 rushing yards and 312 total yards.
On offense, Wofford still likes to run the ball, although not as much from the option as in previous seasons. The Terrier ran for 268 yards and three touchdowns in their opener, led by Irvin Mulligan’s 114 yards and a score.
One player the Wofford will have to face this time is Murphy.
The Owls’ starting quarterback, who suffered a lower-body injury in the second half against of the season opener against Reinhardt, is still not ready to return, which means Xavier Shepherd will start for the second week in a row.
Last week against Georgia Tech, Shepherd threw for 111 yards a touchdown and two interceptions. He was also credited for minus-22 rushing yards through sacks and a fumbled pitch.
Kennesaw State will also be without starting running back Isaac Foster, who reinjured his leg against the Yellow Jackets, and starting defensive linemen Peyton Moore and Travis Bell.
On the air
Saturday’s game will be broadcast by ESPN+ and heard on the KSU Owls app. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.