Thursday, December 14, 2017

Paladins tally most points in 13 years in victory

Jordan Lyons scored a career-high 19 points in Furman's 103-47
win over Montreat Thursday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Jordan Lyons led six Furman players in double figures with 19 points as the Paladins cruised past Montreat, 103-47, Thursday night at Timmons Arena. It's the highest point total in a game for Furman since a 126-33 win over Virginia Intermont on Dec. 29, 2004.

Thursday marked the final home game of 2017 for Furman and wrapped up a five-game homestand. It was the the fourth consecutive win for the Paladins (8-3), who held the Cavaliers to 26.5 percent shooting from the floor. Furman opened the game with a 22-4 run and shot 39-of-78 (50 percent). That's the most field goal attempts by the Paladins in a game in more than 15 years.

"It was a lot about the start tonight. I thought our starters did a good job of making sure they brought intensity from the jump (ball)," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "Now, it's what can we take from these wins that we can continue to improve on. Now that exams are over and we've got a little practice time, there's some things I think we can focus in on before we get to conference play."

Furman forced 20 turnovers, had 10 steals and a season-high 27 assists, which is the most assists since 29 in that Virginia Intermont game. Over the last three games, the Paladins have forced 63 turnovers and tallied 71 assists. It's the fourth straight game with double-digit steals for Furman, which has totaled 46 in those games.

It was the lowest point total of the season for Montreat (12-2), an NAIA school just outside of Asheville. The Cavaliers, who are ranked No. 17 in the latest NAIA Division II Coaches Poll, entered Thursday with a 12-1 record and an average of 92.2 points per game.

"We know we're at our best when we're guarding and that's something we didn't do at all against Winthrop (Furman's last loss)," said Furman senior Geoff Beans, who drew three charges Thursday. "So each game - no matter who we're playing - we're holding our own standard and we know it all starts with defense for us."

Lyons had 13 points in the first half as Furman led 49-23 at the break. The Paladins went through a mini-slump offensively scoring just eight points over the final 7:07 of the first half, but only allowed seven during that same time frame. Furman outscored Montreat 32-8 over the first 11 minutes of the second half to push its lead to 50.

Lyons hit 5-of-10 3-pointers to finish with a career-high 19 points in 16 minutes. Daniel Fowler had 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals in 20 minutes. Matt Rafferty, John Davis and Clay Mounce each had 13 points, while Devin Sibley scored 12. Rafferty and Jalen Williams each had 11 of Furman's 53 rebounds. Rafferty also had a game-high three steals, while Williams had nine points and two blocked shots.

"When the game comes to Jordan simply and naturally, I think he's unstoppable. He can make threes at will and he's a great playmaker," Fowler said. "I'm very proud of this team (coming back since the Winthrop loss). ... It's not easy to win at this level, so we're cherishing every moment that we're out there and using every game as an experience to get better."

Furman wraps up the non-conference portion of its scheduled with games at UNC-Wilmington Sunday at 2 p.m. and at Tennessee Wednesday at 9 p.m. After Christmas, the Paladins open Southern Conference play at VMI on Dec. 30.

"We've got good players in those (reserve) positions," Richey said. "We're just looking forward in the next couple of weeks to just try to get consistency so that we can go into league play with kind of a mapped-out rotation."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Furman women's hoops off to fast start

Senior Cierra Carter leads Furman in scoring (14.6 points per game) and
rebounding (6.6 rebounds per game) this season. Photo courtesy of Furman.
The Furman women's basketball team has overcome a couple of significant preseason injuries to get off to a hot start this season. Following it's latest win - a 93-46 victory over Bob Jones, the Paladins are 7-2 this season.

Last season, Furman played the final month without one of the greatest players in school history after Whitney Bunn suffered a season-ending injury. While her career ended prematurely, Bunn still finished as the fifth-leading scorer in school history and the school's all-time leader in 3-pointers and assists.

"When she went down last year, it just rocked our entire world. I had to learn a lot of lessons for myself as a coach - how not to put ourselves in that position and to just talk to my team about taking everything one day at a time," Furman coach Jackie Carson said. "That's how we've approached this season. We say every day in practice, 'let's be better than we were yesterday,' and we've had a lot of success doing that."

Learning how to deal with Bunn's injury last year has unfortunately paid off before this season even got started. Furman lost two players expected to make major contributions in the preseason. After Tierra Hodges suffered a torn ACL, Milica Manojlovic had the same injury less than a month later. Both are out for the season.

Hodges started 18 games as a freshman last season and averaged 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Manojlovic, a freshman and native of Montenegro, was projected as Bunn's replacement at point guard this year.

"It was devastating to have Baby T (Hodges) go down because she worked probably the hardest in the postseason. She took it personal when we said we needed more out of her as a leader and for her game to expand," Carson said.
"Milica got hurt at our Midnight Madness (practice) and she'd been through so much already. She had just gotten cleared by the NCAA because they couldn't read her transcripts from Montenegro. Her visa got messed up, so she had to go home early for summer school. That injury's been really hard because that kid is 24 hours away from home."

Carson said the injuries allowed Furman to utilize those lessons learned last season.

"As disappointing as it was to lose both of them, we can't let one person or injury define what our team is going to do. It just means everyone else has to step up and that's exactly what's happened," Carson said. "Our upperclassmen have done a great job of being tremendous leaders through the adversity."

Senior Cierra Carter leads Furman in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounding (6.6 rebounds per game). The Paladins' top outside shooter, sophomore Le'Jzae Davidson, is second on the team at 13.8 points per game.

Celena Taborn is the other player in double figures at 10.4 points per game off the bench for Furman. Taborn, who's one of seven freshmen on this year's squad, also averages 5.4 rebounds per game and has pulled down 30 offensive boards.

"Cierra's played the four her entire career, but this year she's our starting three. ... She's probably been in the gym more this year than she was in three years combined just trying to work on it," Carson said. "Celena's given us something we've never really had in this program. ... She's a presence who uses her body well and has tremendous hands. Our guards are confident throwing any kind of pass in there and expect her to finish."

After a November schedule filled with home games, the Bob Jones game was the lone one at Timmons Arena in December. Furman begins a five-game road trip Sunday at 2 p.m. at North Carolina. The Paladins are 1-2 away from home this season, but are coming off an 80-59 win over USC Upstate in their last road game. That marked Furman's first non-conference road win since another victory over USC Upstate on Dec. 12, 2015.

By the time the Paladins return to Timmons Arena, it will be a new year and time to begin Southern Conference play. Furman hosts Samford and Mercer on Jan. 4 and 6, respectively.

"We have to get ready because it can't get too much tougher than Samford and Mercer coming out of the gate in conference play," Carson said. "These (road) games will be good for us."

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Big runs help Furman cruise past S.C. State

Furman's John Davis III had 21 points and five assists in the Paladins'
101-72 win over S.C. State Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
The turning point of a basketball game is sometimes difficult to pinpoint. In Furman's 101-72 win over South Carolina State Saturday at Timmons Arena, it was crystal clear albeit a little odd considering the final score.

When S.C. State's Justin Jones got free to drain his fourth 3-pointer, the Bulldogs led 20-16 with 10:31 left in the first half. That's when Furman coach Bob Richey vigorously encouraged the Paladins to stick with Jones whether he had the ball or not. Furman proceeded to go on a 25-3 run over the next 7:47 to take a commanding 18-point lead that was never threatened.

"We went back to our gameplan principles and tried to slow him down a little bit," said John Davis III, who scored 21 points and had five assists. "We hang our hat on defense. Whenever anything starts to click, it's predicated on defense. Defense just ignites our offense."

Davis, who was just 7-of-33 on 3-pointers entering Saturday, hit 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. Devin Sibley, who scored a game-high 24 points, was 4-of-5 on 3-pointers as the Paladins were 14-of-33 (42.4 percent) overall on 3-pointers. Sibley, who also had four assists and two steals, moved into 15th place on Furman's all-time scoring chart with 1,516 career points.

The victory avenged a home loss to S.C. State last season. It also marked the first time the Paladins scored 100 points against a Division I opponent since a 103-98 win at Charleston Southern on Dec. 18, 1993.

Richey said the best thing the Paladins did Saturday was collect 24 assists against just 10 turnovers. All five starters had at least three assists. Furman (7-3) also helped force 22 turnovers, collecting 12 steals along the way.

"We knew they were going to throw multiple defenses at us and part of the game plan was to just keep it simple, make sure we know what we want to do on each attack and just keep the ball moving," Richey said. "Credit our guys, 24 is a lot of assists."

S.C. State (2-9) went scoreless over the final 6:24 of that 25-3 first-half run by the Paladins. Furman forced six turnovers during that span, including turnovers on five consecutive possessions. The Paladins stretched the lead to 23 on their final possession of the first half when Davis dribbled on nearly all the shot clock before finding Jalen Williams for a dunk.

After scoring his 14th point less than 10 minutes into the first half, Jones did not get another shot off until a 3-pointer just past midcourt at the first-half buzzer. That cut Furman's lead to 52-32 at the break. The Paladins used an 18-2 run midway through the second half to take its biggest lead of the game at 87-54. The cherry on top came on Furman's final possession when Jonathan Jean threw an alley-oop from midcourt that Clay Mounce dunked.

"I thought we had 30 good minutes of basketball. I wasn't real thrilled about our start in either half. We were just trading baskets with them," Richey said. "But after about the 15-minute mark of each half, we really stepped it up."

The Paladins shot 56.7 percent in the first half and 55.9 percent in the second half. Furman outscored S.C. State 36-22 in the paint, 28-11 off turnovers, 23-7 on fast breaks and had a 33-14 advantage in bench points.

In addition to Sibley's 24 and Davis' 21, Daniel Fowler had 15 points, three assists and three steals. In 19 minutes off the bench, Williams posted career-highs in points (14), rebounds (8) and steals (3).

"Each time I've gotten on the floor, I've gotten more and more comfortable with this being my second year," Williams said. "My goal is to be bring physicality to the game each night and I feel like that's what I did tonight. Whether that's playing five minutes or 19 minutes, I've just got to bring that every day."

Richey felt that Williams, a sophomore from Wade Hampton High, turned a corner and provided a needed presence against the bigger Bulldogs.

"I'm really, really proud of him. They definitely had an advantage on us with size ... and we decided to give Jalen some more minutes. To his credit, he maximized his opportunity," Richey said. "He rebounded at a high level tonight and played with some physicality. Once we put him in there, they weren't getting those easy layups and put-backs."

Jones finished with 19 points to lead S.C. State, while Donte Wright added 15.

Furman wraps up its five-game homestand Thursday when the Paladins host Montreat at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Rafferty powers Paladins past UNC Asheville

Furman raced out to a 14-2 lead less than four minutes into the game Tuesday as the Paladins cruised past UNC Asheville 83-72. Furman (6-3) had 14 steals and 20 assists in recording its first win over the Bulldogs (5-4) since 69-67 decision seven years ago.

For the second game in a row, the Paladins stymied a team that was shooting the lights on 3-pointers coming in. On Saturday, Furman held Tennessee Tech to 2-of-19 shooting from beyond the arc. UNC Asheville hit 4-of-13, but didn't connect on its first until 7:36 left in the game when the Paladins were up 68-51. UNCA then hit three of its final four shots from beyond the arc, all over the final 2:41 when Furman led 80-59.

For the Paladins, it's been a case of not overthinking defensively since suffering a 93-74 loss to Winthrop last Wednesday.

"I was so worried about Winthrop's 3-point shooting and we put a focus on it and extended our defense a little bit more and it backfired on us," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "What we realized is that you've got to do what you do."

In the last two games, the Paladins faced Tennessee Tech, which was shooting 40.4 percent on 3-pointers entering Saturday, and UNC Asheville, which entered Tuesday ranked No. 7 in the country at 44.6 percent from beyond the arc.

"For both of them, we strictly focused on our defensive principles - can you disrupt the ball, can you keep the ball in front, can you be in your gaps to support your teammates and can you communicate?" Richey said. "It's just a funny paradox. When you just go out there and play hard, focus on your assignment and play connected, they just don't get the clean looks.
"Whereas against Winthrop, we got extended, they started driving us and it looked like a circus out there trying to rotate and scramble all over the place."

Three layups from Matt Rafferty, an Andrew Brown 3-pointer and a Devin Sibley layup gave Furman an 11-0 lead 2:22 into the game. Alex Hunter's 3-pointer a minute later put the Paladins up 14-2 and they never led by single digits the rest of the way. Less than five minutes into the second half, Furman had an 18-4 run to push its lead to 26.

The Paladins and Bulldogs were each 29-of-57 from the floor - thanks to UNCA making five of its last six shots. The difference came from beyond the arc, where Furman was 8-of-24, and at the foul line, where Furman hit 17-of-22. The 20 assists and 14 steals were season highs for the Paladins.

"I think it started with getting back in transition and on-ball pressure. That really interrupted their offense," Rafferty said. "We got steals off deflections. It was overall a good team defensive performance by us. I think after Winthrop these last two games have been needed to give us some confidence back on defense.
"My job (offensively) was easy tonight. It was the guards that were driving in there and dumping to me for layups, so all the credit to them."

Rafferty had a near perfect game. He was 8-of-9 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the foul line for a career-high 22 points. He also had nine rebounds, three assists, three steals, one blocked shot and no turnovers.

"The guy just literally gets every single drop out of the rag. He just rings it completely out," Richey said. "He never asks for a sub. He never says he's tired. He never misses an assignment. He's just steady.
"We had a season-high 36 deflections tonight and he had 13 of them. So your guy that quantitatively-speaking, probably has the lowest amount of athleticism led our team in deflections. That's because he cares, he anticipates and absolutely plays as hard as he can play."

After getting injured against Winthrop and having an off-day shooting against Tennessee Tech, Devin Sibley bounced back with 16 points and a game-high five assists. Andrew Brown had 11 points, three assists and a game-high four steals, Daniel Fowler had nine points and three steals, and John Davis had seven points and three steals also for Furman.

Kevin Vannatta led the Bulldogs with 18 points.

Furman returns to action Saturday for game four of the five-game homestand. The Paladins host South Carolina State at 4 p.m.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Paladins basketball bounces back with defense

Matt Rafferty (32) had nine points, 14 rebounds, three assists and five steals
in Furman's 64-50 win over Tennessee Tech. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Following its first loss this season to a team that hasn't played in the national championship game in the last seven years, the Furman men's basketball team bounced back strong Saturday with a 64-50 win over Tennessee Tech at Timmons Arena.

The defensive effort was more like what the Paladins have come to expect during the program's rise the last couple of years. It came days after allowing 52 points in the opening half of a 93-74 home loss to Winthrop.

Furman (5-3) held Tennessee Tech to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor, including 2-of-19 (10.5 percent) on 3-pointers. The Golden Eagles (7-2) saw their six-game winning streak, which included a victory at The Pit over New Mexico, snapped.

Furman led 14-13 midway through the first half before an 11-0 run over the next five minutes gave the Paladins a commanding lead that was never seriously threatened. Tennessee Tech did have a 10-0 flurry over a 78-second stretch early in the second half, capped by Aleksa Jugovic's four-point play. That cut Furman's lead to single digits for the only time in the second half.

On the Paladins' ensuing possession, Matt Rafferty's 3-pointer pushed the lead back to 10. That sparked a 13-1 run that ended on another Rafferty 3-pointer as Furman took a 49-30 lead with 11:35 to play.

Furman didn't exactly shoot the lights out either at 34.4 percent. The difference came from beyond the arc as the Paladins hit 10 3-pointers, albeit in 36 attempts. John Davis scored a game-high 16 points to lead Furman. Daniel Fowler scored 12, while Rafferty had nine points, 14 rebounds, three assists and five steals.

After suffering an injury that sidelined him for most of the Winthrop game, Devin Sibley returned to the Paladins' lineup but may have still been feeling the effects of the injury. Sibley was 1-of-12 from the floor, including 0-of-7 on 3-pointers.

• Furman returns to action Tuesday as it hosts UNC Asheville at 7:30 p.m. Prior to the men's game, the Furman women host Bob Jones at 5 p.m. Fans who bring a new, unwrapped toy for the Think Twice Foundation's toy drive will receive a $6 general admission ticket.

• The 2017-18 season debut of Furman coach Bob Richey's radio show will be tonight from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at Shortfield's Restaurant in Travelers Rest. The show can be heard on FoxSports 1440-AM, on the TuneIn Radio app and through Stretch Audio at

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Furman falls in rematch at Wofford

SPARTANBURG - Being unable to run and unable to stop the run was the root of Furman's struggles the past few seasons. Getting it fixed was perhaps the biggest key to the Paladins' turnaround this year.

On Saturday, Wofford brought those struggles back. The Terriers rushed for 291 yards and held Furman to just 52 yards on the ground as Wofford won 28-10 in the second round of the FCS Playoffs. The eighth-ranked Terriers (10-2) advance to play at North Dakota State next Saturday in the quarterfinals.

The 52-yard rushing total was easily the lowest output by No. 22 Furman (8-5) of the season. The previous low was 133 yards at N.C. State. Wofford's 291 rushing yards were the most allowed by the Paladins this year.

"Credit Wofford. They just were clearly better than us today," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "They were certainly committed to stopping the run. When you don't run the ball any better than we did, it's hard to beat anybody.
"I've been doing this a long time, but I couldn't be prouder of this group. Just where they came from. We were sitting here three months ago today with our backs to the wall and they fought to put us in position to get to the second round."

Just as happened in each of Furman's other losses this season, Wofford's first possession resulted in a touchdown. In the Paladins' eight wins, the opposition didn't get a score of any kind on its first possession.

It appeared that Furman was set to tie things up on its opening drive, but leading rusher Antonio Wilcox was dropped for no gain on 4th-and-1 at the Wofford 31.

In a rematch of a one-point game the first time the team met to open the 2017 season, there was a thought that any turnover could be a key factor Saturday. But Furman couldn't take advantage of the game's only one on the next play.

After Jaylan Reid forced a fumble that Chris Washington recovered at the Wofford 34-yard line, Furman drove to the five-yard line. On 3rd-and-4, P.J. Blazejowski threw to Jake Walker, who dropped the touchdown. The Paladins settled for a 22-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by Dominique Lemon.

Furman reached the red zone again on its next drive, but Blazejowski was sacked for just the seventh time this season on third down. Grayson Atkins' 41-yard field goal cut Wofford's lead to 7-3 early in the second quarter.

On the Paladins' next possession, Blazejowski threw a deep ball on the money to Cam Burnette for a 44-yard gain. On the next play, Blazejowski hit Logan McCarter for a 20-yard touchdown and Furman took a 10-7 lead with 6:52 left in the half.

Perhaps the biggest drive of the game came with just 1:30 left in the first half. When Wofford took possession of the ball at its own 36-yard line, it might've been expected that the run-heavy Terriers would simply run out the clock and settle for a three-point halftime deficit. However, Brandon Goodson took to the air. He completed 3-of-4 passes for 58 yards on the drive, including a 33-yard touchdown throw to a wide open Blake Morgan as Wofford took a 14-10 lead into halftime.

"In the first half, I kind of thought we were doing some things we wanted to do. We just had three really crucial plays - the dropped touchdown, the blocked field goal right after that and then we bust a coverage and give them a cheap one before the half," Hendrix said. "Those are just mistakes you can't make, but I still thought we were right where we wanted to be.
"I was disappointed we gave it back to them (with 1:30 left in the first half). We hit a pass for a first down, but we get a procedure (penalty) and end up having to punt to them."

That was just one of two penalties for the least penalized team in the FCS, but both proved costly. Wofford's fourth quarter touchdown drive was extended when Furman was flagged for holding on a third down incompletion.

It marked the first time Furman trailed at the half since the N.C. State game on Sept. 16. The only other time the Paladins trailed at the half this year was Sept. 9 against Elon.

A Wofford team that made a living off of close wins all season cruised to Saturday's win with a dominant second half.

Prior to their final drive, the Paladins had just one first down in the second half which came on a personal foul for leaping by Wofford on a Furman punt. The Terriers took a 28-10 lead on a 13-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that shaved 8:23 off the fourth quarter clock. The Paladins then drove to Wofford's two-yard line and had 1st-and-goal, but could not crack the end zone.

Furman, which played without injured second-leading rusher Kealand Dirks (concussion), had just 107 yards and had the ball for only 9:01 of the second half.

"In the second half, they were just plain and simple better than us," Hendrix said. "To be quite honest, and I've known this all year ... we're just not big and strong enough. We will be, but it's just where we are right now with the youth of our group.?

In his final game as a Paladin, Blazejowski was 18-of-30 passing for 257 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

"This year's been unbelievable. ... To be in that locker room and feel the momentum swing that took place, especially in the middle of the year," Blazejowski said. "I'm excited for a lot of the young guys. I think they're going to do some really great things, especially under the leadership of Coach Hendrix and the rest of the staff."

Friday, December 1, 2017

Furman-Wofford set for Round 2 in Round 2

Chinedu Okonya (98) celebrates Furman's win over Elon. Okonya has
4.5 of the Paladins' 34 sacks this season. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Perhaps the biggest game in the Furman-Wofford series comes 128 years after the first meeting Saturday at Gibbs Stadium. The Deep South's oldest rivalry resumes for the 92nd time, but for the first time ever in the FCS Playoffs. Saturday's winner advances to the quarterfinals against the North Dakota State-San Diego winner next weekend.

The Paladins (8-4) will try to avenge one loss a week after avenging another against Elon in the opening round. Furman lost the season opener at Wofford, 24-23, on a missed two-point conversion with 46 seconds left.

Playing the preseason Southern Conference favorite - who went on to live up to those expectations - that close on the road in Clay Hendrix's first game as head coach turned out to be a positive sign of things to come for Furman. But quite a few Paladins who were essential in the team winning eight of their last nine games either didn't play or had little impact in the season opener:

RB Antonio Wilcox - 150 carries, 790 yards, 14 TD, 5.3 ypc
RB Kealand Dirks - 152 carries, 720 yards, 9 TD, 4.7 ypc
TE Andy Schumpert - 27 receptions, 572 yards, 9 TD,  21.2 ypr
LB Reynard Ellis - 79 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception
LB Elijah McKoy - 70 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss
CB Darius Kearse - 34 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 4 PBU, 6 PD
CB Bradford Lemmons - 20 tackles, 2 PBU, 2 PD

(DNP - did not play)
RB Antonio Wilcox - 10 carries, 23 yards, 1 TD, 2.3 ypc
RB Kealand Dirks - DNP
TE Andy Schumpert - 1 reception, 13 yards, 0 TD
LB Reynard Ellis - DNP
LB Elijah McKoy - DNP
CB Darius Kearse - DNP
CB Bradford Lemmons - 0 tackles (played very little)

In addition to those listed above, Furman's offensive line will also have a different look Saturday from the opener. On that night, Reed Kroeber (left tackle), Chris Breedlove (right guard) and Bo Layton (right tackle) each made their first career start as did Schumpert, who shifted from receiver to tight end in the preseason.

While seniors Terrell Bush and Matthew Schmidt were All-SoCon mainstays at left guard and center, respectively, the rest of the front was tweaked during the season. Kroeber shifted to right guard with Andy Godwin inserted at left tackle. Jacob Conrad has started at right tackle as Layton has been sidelined by injury.

That offensive front has helped pave the way for a Furman running game that ranks 10th in the FCS at 240.1 yards rushing per game. They've also allowed the fewest sacks in the country with six.

"We're still a work in progress, but we've made really good strides up front," Hendrix said. "We didn't run it as good early in the year as I wanted to. I think a lot of that was figuring out how to go about it. I think in weeks 4, 5 and 6 we started feeling more comfortable in how to attack and knowing what our strengths are in the running game.
"If you can run it, then all of a sudden your defense gets better because they have to practice against it all the time."

That strong running game has offered up big play opportunities in the passing game and P.J. Blazejowski has cashed in. The senior captain has thrown for 2,204 yards, 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He's second in the country with a passing efficiency rating of 176.6. Seven of Blazejowski's touchdown throws have gone for at least 57 yards.

Schumpert has established a new record for Furman tight ends with his nine touchdown catches, two shy of the overall school record for touchdown receptions. Schumpert (21.2) and teammates Thomas Gordon (19.1) and Logan McCarter (18.6) easily rank 1-2-3 in the SoCon in yards per reception.

Furman's young defensive unit, which has 15 freshmen and sophomores on this week's two-deep depth chart, has improved throughout the year. The Paladins have developed depth on the defensive side of the ball that wasn't there in the opener. That night, Wofford's offense dominated the fourth quarter wearing down Furman to the point that the Paladins' late two-point conversion attempt was almost a given.

True freshmen Ellis and McKoy were pressed into duty after Furman lost three inside linebackers for the season in the first three weeks. Kearse and Lemmons joined the starting lineup at each cornerback following Furman's 56-35 win over ETSU, which threw for 434 yards. Defensive improvement this season has been highlighted by Furman's 34 sacks, which have been collected by 16 different Paladins. The previous two seasons combined, Furman had just 20 sacks.

"Defensively up front, we've been able to rush the passer because you can roll a few more guys (in and out) because of the depth we've built," Hendrix said. "For a lot of the guys, that (opener) was the first game they'd ever played in college."

Hendrix said that experience built since week one has not been limited to the players. He expects another barn-burner Saturday afternoon.

"That goes for all of us. That was my first game as a head coach and the first time we were together as a staff," Hendrix said. "You would think you'd always improve, but I think ours was a little bit more drastic because of where we started (0-3).
"I think it's going to be two pretty even teams and it will come down to who can execute and take care of the ball. I think the difference in the (first) game was we were twice inside the (Wofford) eight (yard line) and got three points. That's what's hurt us the last two weeks as well."