Wofford Clemson Football

Wofford quarterback Joe Newman rushes out of the backfield during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Clemson, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

KENNESAW -- Kennesaw State is entering the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the third straight season, but, for the first time, it has a target on its back.

The last two years, the No. 15 Owls (10-2) entered the playoffs as somewhat of an unknown, and a new program finding its bearing. This year will be different, however, as Kennesaw State travels to Spartanburg, South Carolina, for a rematch with No. 11 Wofford (8-3), the team the Owls upended 13-10 in the second round last season.

Kickoff at Gibbs Stadium is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said he was excited about the opportunity to be one of 24 teams in the FCS playoffs, but he knows coming home with a win is going to be difficult.

"We go on the road to play the Southern Conference champs, which is a really a senior-laden football team," Bohannon said. "The conference offensive player of the year is quarterback (Joe Newman), who is really making them go. All five of their guys up front are two- and three-year starters, and their skill kids have been there and they are good players." 

Newman leads the No. 2-ranked rushing offense in the FCS. Wofford runs for 323.5 yards per game, second only to Kennesaw State (348.6).

Newman is the Terriers' leading rusher 880 yards with 13 touchdowns, but he is one of five runners who have more than 350 rushing yards on the season, in addition to Blake Morgan (686 yards, seven touchdowns), Jacquez Allen (527, 4), Nathan Walker (447, 5) and Ryan Lovelace (372, 4).

Newman has also thrown for 1,037 yards and seven touchdowns against five interceptions.

Bohannon said the numbers may not be big, but when Wofford does turn to the pass, they do it well.

"When (Newman) needs to make a throw, he's making it," Bohannon said. "They don't throw it a ton, but they've been impactful when they do throw it.

"He's executing the offense at a high level. He's taking care of the football. He catches a little crease and he could go the distance. They are playing good as a unit, I just think he is making it go at a high level right now. 

Bohannon is right about the impactful throws. Wofford has had 51 offensive chunk plays of 20 yards or more. Sixteen of those have come in the passing game, including six of Newman's seven touchdown passes.

If Kennesaw State has an advantage, it may come from first-year defensive coordinator Blake Harrell.

Harrell spent the last five years in the same position at The Citadel -- one of Wofford's Southern Conference rivals -- and has had to game-plan for the Terriers in the past. Four of the five times Harrell's Citadel defenses faced Wofford, the Bulldogs held the Terriers to 20 or fewer points.

Kennesaw State's defense is ranked No. 5 in the FCS, allowing 277.8 yards per game. It had success keeping Newman in check last year, applying constant pressure to sack him twice and hold him back for a net of minus-22 rushing yards on 14 carries. He did complete eight passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted twice.


Kennesaw State is on a nine-game road winning streak against FCS opponents. The streak goes back to its quarterfinal loss at Sam Houston State to end the 2017 season.


Kennesaw State has knocked off Southern Conference opponents in the opening game of the playoffs each of the last two years -- Samford in 2017 and Wofford last year.


The game can be seen on ESPN3. It can also be heard on 1230 AM and 106.3 FM Atlanta's Sports X, and it can be streamed on the TuneIn app. 


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