Saturday, September 30, 2017

Paladins pile up offense to beat ETSU

For the second consecutive week, big plays on offense plus big sacks on defense equated to a big win for Furman Saturday. The Paladins piled up 609 yards of total offense and had six sacks in a 56-35 win over ETSU at Paladin Stadium.
Furman had 28 first downs, ran for 308 yards, and passed for 301 in amassing the 12th-highest output of total yardage in a single game in school history. It's just the third time that the Paladins had more than 300 yards rushing and passing in the same game and the first time at home. The last time Furman pulled off that feat was a 662-yard performance (332 passing, 330 rushing) in a 56-35 win at Chattanooga in 2005.
"At the end of the day, you've got to score points and I thought we were really productive," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "I thought P.J. (Blazejowski) played really well just managing the game and hitting throws.
"I still just want us to finish games a little better."
The Paladins' defense collected six sacks Saturday, one week after a five-sack performance at Colgate. After netting 12 sacks last season and 8 in 2015, Furman has a Southern Conference-best 17 sacks this year.
While ETSU's Austin Herink completed 24-of-37 passes for a school-record 434 yards, the Bucs had just 22 yards rushing on 28 attempts. Herink took a beating all day as Furman also had nine quarterback hurries.
"I kind of thought the key to the game for us would be to stop the run, which we did and made them one-dimensional," Hendrix said. "Do you give up more yards than you want to throwing? Yeah, you do, but we had a number of sacks and we hit (Herink) a bunch. They couldn't run the ball and I thought that was the difference in the game."
It was easily Furman's most consistent game offensively. That was evident on the scoreboard as the Paladins (2-3, 1-1) scored 14 points in each quarter.
While Furman dominated statistically much of the day things were well in doubt in the first half. After stopping Furman on a 4th-and-1 deep in its own territory in the second quarter, ETSU (2-3, 1-2) put together a nine-play, 95-yard drive. It was capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Blake Rodgers as the Bucs pulled even at 14-14.
Two plays later, ETSU recovered a fumble and returned it to the Furman 21-yard line. While a controversial pass interference call on third down gave the Bucs a first down at the 2-yard line, the Paladins held ETSU to a 31-yard field goal. That gave the Bucs their only lead at 17-14 with 6:22 left in the first half.
Furman answered with the first of four consecutive touchdown drives.
P.J. Blazejowski hit a wide-open Andy Schumpert for a 30-yard score to put the Paladins back in front 24-21 with 4:02 left in the first half. After a three-and-out, Furman got the ball back at its own 30 with 2:36 left.
After Blazejowski connected with Logan McCarter for a 51-yard gain to ETSU's 5-yard line, Darius Morehead scored from three yards out as Furman took a 28-17 lead into halftime.
"I think the series of the game was when we turned it over then held them to a field goal," Hendrix said. "Then we responded with two scores before the half. That's how we've got to win games."
The Bucs got the ball to start the second half, but Furman's defense forced a three-and-out capped by Dru Seabrook's sack on third down. With the Paladins facing 4th-and-2 on their ensuing drive, Kealand Dirks took a handoff 32 yards for a touchdown.
Furman capped the 28-0 run when Blazejowski found McCarter standing all alone at midfield. After the catch, McCarter raced to the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown as the Paladins led 42-17. It's the fourth consecutive game that Blazejowski has thrown a touchdown pass of at least 61 yards.
McCarter capped his career-high day of seven catches for 178 yards receiving with a 47-yard kickoff return of an ETSU onside kick in the fourth quarter.
"It was just kind of one of those days where I was blessed to have opportunities to make plays," McCarter said. "All over our offense, there are guys that will make plays. I guess today was just one of my days."
Blazejowski completed 17-of-22 passes for 301 yards with no interceptions. Dirks finished with 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while Morehead ran for 97 and two scores.
When it came to sacks on defense, Furman spread the wealth. Jonah Tibbs, who had 1.5, Jordan Willis, Tyler Voyles joined Seabrook in collecting their first collegiate sacks. Joe Farrar and Alec Hanff (0.5) were in on the other two.

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