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Nocek, Wofford ready for playoffs

December 1, 2012
By Michael Boytim (mboytim@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

Brad Nocek started noticing the Wofford football team in 2007 when the Terriers won the Southern Conference Championship.

Five years later, Nocek was a big part of Wofford's third title in six years, and he'll be starting today when the Terriers enter the FCS playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.

"Minus one season in 2009 [when Nocek was limited to just three games due to an injury], every year has been a winning one and one that ended in the playoffs," Nocek said. "It means a lot to me to have found this team and played for a team as good as this one."

Article Photos

Courtesy photo
Brad Nocek carries the ball for Wofford earlier this year.

Wofford will host New Hampshire in a second round game at 2 p.m. with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line. The game can be viewed on ESPN3.com.

"Option football is centered around the fullback, and [Wofford starting fullback] Eric Breitenstein's production has forced defenses to find ways to stop the dive in our offense," Wofford running backs coach Aaron Johnson said. "It has created opportunities for other phases of our offense to flourish. Brad has taken advantage of his opportunities, leading us on scoring drives with big plays versus both The Citadel and South Carolina."

Nocek has started every game for the Terriers the past two seasons at halfback and despite modest numbers has made an impact both on offense and special teams.

"He's been a model of consistency and a reliable contributor in our offense," Johnson said. "In the area of special teams, we try to find personnel that is dependable and tough, and Brad is both of those and has proven it repeatedly. He's sure-handed and elusive enough to make a play with the ball in his hands."

Nocek has 18 carries for 137 yards on the season, eight punt returns for 36 yards and has returned four kickoffs for 72 yards. A season ago, Nocek rushed for 168 yards on 28 carries.

The Hollidaysburg graduate has played in several big games against notable opponents in his career.

Nocek saw time as a freshman against South Carolina and again this season, when the Terriers played even with the Gamecocks, 7-7, until midway through the fourth quarter. He also had one carry for 3 yards in a game at Wisconsin in 2009 and did the same at Clemson last year when Wofford lost, 35-27.

"It was cool [playing at South Carolina]," Nocek said. "We only lost by 10 there my freshman year, and we had them on the hook this year. We just lost them in the fourth quarter, but it was amazing to be in that stadium and hear their fans be completely silent going into the final quarter."

The South Carolina game wasn't the first time Wofford has been in the national spotlight - unfortunately for the Terriers.

A year ago in the second round of the FCS playoffs, Wofford completely dominated Northern Iowa statistically but lost on a fluke play that made SportsCenter. Stephon Shelton fielded a kickoff in the end zone but did not down the ball. Assuming the play was dead, he started walking off the field with the ball. A Northern Iowa defender knocked the ball out of his hand and recovered it for a touchdown in a game Northern Iowa won, 28-21.

"We don't mourn a loss or celebrate a win more than 24 hours afterward, but we would be foolish not to use that game as an opportunity to improve," Johnson said. "We have addressed the mistakes and tried to ensure the problems wouldn't happen again, but our 2012 team is different than last year's team."

One thing that is similar between the teams is Breitenstein, who led Wofford in offense both seasons. The senior fullback has 244 carries for 1,653 yards, including 125 yards against South Carolina.

"Eric has been my roommate for the past three years," Nocek said. "He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, and we have a lot of upperclassmen on the offensive line. Between that and both Eric and I being fifth-year seniors, you can't get much more experience than that."

Nocek, a finance major, will graduate in December and plans to look for a job in South Carolina. But before that, the senior hopes he still has a few more football games to play.

"We've won two Southern Conference championships, and being a fifth-year senior and winning a title is a pretty memorable moment," Nocek said. "But hopefully, the best memories are yet to come."

 
 

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