Monday, September 4, 2017

Furman-Wofford Notebook

Triston Luke's 44-yard touchdown was the longest run of his Furman
career. Photo courtesy of Furman.
SPARTANBURG - When a football team loses a close game, penalties can usually play a big role. Such was the case for Furman Saturday night at 11th-ranked Wofford, just not how you might expect. The Paladins were flagged only twice in their 24-23 loss, but both turned out to be vitally important plays in the game.
The first occurred late in the first half with the teams tied at 10. On a third-down play, Darius Morehead appeared to run for an eight-yard touchdown but Furman was flagged for a questionable holding penalty. The Paladins' drive ended after an incompletion and a missed field goal.
Furman led 17-10 late in the third quarter and could've forced a three-and-out after a Wofford incompletion on third down. However, the Paladins were penalized for pass interference extending the drive. Six plays later on 4th-and-1, Lennox McAfee ran for a 15-yard touchdown as the Terriers tied the game early in the fourth quarter.
In addition to the obvious negative result, the penalty also extended the amount of time Furman's defense was on the field. That proved to be a big factor in the fourth quarter when Wofford possessed the ball for nearly 11 minutes.
"They (penalties) were killers. ... They were huge plays, probably a 14-point swing," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "For as many guys as we had playing their first college football game, I thought our lack of concentration penalties - two guys moving, false starts, etc. - was phenomenal. It gave us a chance."
Offensive linemen have solid debut
Heading into Saturday's game, Furman's young offensive line appeared to have the stiffest test of the night against a Wofford defensive front that could be one of the best in the FCS. Furman freshmen tackles Reed Kroeber and Bo Layton, and sophomore guard Chris Breedlove, made their first collegiate starts Saturday. Freshman guard Caleb Auer also played several snaps.
The test got a shade lighter when Wofford starting nosetackle Mikel Horton missed the game and was replaced by true freshman Deon Priester. Nevertheless, the Paladins' young offensive linemen played well. Furman ran for 159 yards, with an average of 4.5 yards per carry, threw for 224 yards and quarterback P.J. Blazejowski was sacked only once.
"I'm really proud of those guys," Blazejowski said. "For them to be as young as they are and to play that well, it's really exciting."
Of course, having veteran senior offensive linemen like Terrell Bush and Matthew Schmidt helped. Schmidt had the "Big Hogs" highlight of the night with a pancake block that took out two defenders and cleared the way for a 17-yard run by Morehead in the second quarter.
Wofford's Vaughn keys two-point miss
While Wofford's Malik Rivera - who was a high school teammate of Blazejowski - deserves credit for making the interception on Furman's two-point attempt that sealed the game, an unsung hero for the Terriers on that play could be Tyler Vaughn.
Vaughn, a 2016 All-Southern Conference first team performer at defensive end, pursued Furman's Ridge Gibson after he took the direct snap and ran left. After Gibson handed off to Ryan DeLuca on the end around, Vaughn immediately shifted his 6-1, 270-pound frame the other way and pressured DeLuca into a hurried pass that was intended for an open Blazejowski.