Breitenstein returns 'home' one more time
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Breitenstein, a Watauga County native, returns to Kidd Brewer Stadium in his senior season when his Wofford Terriers take on Appalachian State Saturday in a key Southern Conference showdown beginning at 3:30 p.m. He returns as the leading rusher in the SoCon, and the second leading rusher in the nation, with 995 yards.
He also returns with a team that is 6-1 overall, 3-1 in the Southern Conference. The Mountaineers are 5-2 overall, 3-1.
“It’s always nice to come back to Boone,” Breitenstein said. “It’s a beautiful area and it’s going to be good weather, I believe.”
Breitenstein did not dismiss the possibility of Wofford returning to Kidd Brewer Stadium in the playoffs. Both teams are looking to return to the playoffs, and Breitenstein felt if the teams keep winning, they could meet again in the future.
He said winning on Saturday comes first, which could determine who wins the Southern Conference championship. If Appalachian State wins its final four games, it would finish with a 7-1 record and win its seventh conference championship in eight years.
If Wofford wins out, it would still need Appalachian State to beat Georgia Southern, which beat Wofford 17-9 last Saturday, to win the SoCon.
Thinking about advancement into the playoffs is a bit premature for Breitenstein, but it’s not out of the realm of thinking that the teams could play again.
“It’s probably a little early to think about that since we’ve got to get there first,” Breitenstein said. “We’re tied with four teams, and they’re all good teams. Whichever one loses, they’re not going to get a Southern Conference ring. Someone’s going to run the table here.”
Wofford will need Breitenstein to run well if the Terriers want to beat the Mountaineers. Breitenstein gained 173 yards on 33 carries in Wofford’s 28-14 last season. Wofford rushed 71 times for 388 yards, which was helped by the Terriers converting 11-of-18 third downs, and all four of their fourth-down attempts.
Breitenstein has already cranked out a 90-yard touchdown run this season, but did not take the credit for it. Instead, that went to his offensive line.
“That doesn’t happen unless everybody is doing their job,” Breitenstein said. “It’s been one of those years when things have opened up and I’m a product of the system. I know what I’m supposed to do.”
Wofford coach Mike Ayers gave credit to Breitenstein for the season he’s having.
“He’s a complete player,” Ayers said. “He understands football. God blessed him with good size, quickness and good speed. He also has great vision and balance and he’s got a tremendous heart.”
Ayers said the Terriers started persistantly recruiting Breitenstein by his junior year at Watauga. Ayers even hoped a little divine intervention would creep in.
“We saw what we needed to see on film and when we met him in person, we knew we wanted him,” Ayers said. “We were praying to the good Lord that he wanted us.”
Breitenstein, who was placed on the early Walter Payton Award list, said he would like to extend his career into the NFL. He’s drawn comparisons to former Western Carolina running back Brad Hoover, who was a workhorse runner with the Catamounts, but was converted to fullback by the Carolina Panthers.
Hoover played for the Panthers until 2010 when they waived him and several other veterans.
“Absolutely. It’s always been a dream of mine since day one,” Breitenstein said. “Statistically, I’ve set up a little of a chance. I’ve talked to some scouts and I hope somebody will give me a shot.”
Ayers said several scouts have already been in contact with the coaching staff about Breitenstein. Ayers hopes that when teams consider Breitenstein, they think about other things than 40-yard dash times.
“Everybody who has watched him and watched him on film were very impressed,” Ayers said. “With all that said, up at that level it’s all about the (stop) watch. How fast are you? For us, we try to look beyond the watch and see the guy and determine where he is when it comes to desire and commitment and all those things.”
That’s still far into the future. Wofford has to find a way to beat Appalachian State in Boone. Breitenstein was a part of the Terriers’ last two losses at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The first was a 70-24 demolition done by the Mountaineers on Halloween night in front of a national ESPN2 audience in 2008.
Yet it’s not like Wofford can’t beat Appalachian State. The Terriers also beat Appalachian State 42-31 in 2007, and beat the Mountaineers in 2002 and 2003.
Breitenstein feels there’s no time like Saturday to change that.
“That place has not been very good to us,” he said. “I think we just haven’t executed well. It’s not just going to Kidd Brewer, we didn’t execute well. On the other hand, Appalachian State is a great football team. It’s up to us to come up there and play our game and give it our best shot.”