Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Paladin soccer teams roll into postseason

Furman seniors Sanon Williams (16) and Quinn Lombard (17) were two of six
Paladins on the All-SoCon women's soccer team. Photo courtesy of Furman.
By Forest Stulting

The Furman men and women’s soccer teams saw much success on the pitch this regular season, earning multiple accolades along the way. Both ended the regular season on the right foot entering Southern Conference Tournament play.

The women captured their eighth regular season SoCon title, compiling a 13-2-2 overall mark and an 8-0-1 record in conference play. A school-record six players were selected to the All-SoCon team announced Tuesday.

“It’s been a great run and been fun,” said Furman women's coach Andrew Burr, who earned SoCon Coach of the Year honors Tuesday. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

The Paladins finished the regular season on an 11-game unbeaten streak. Their only blemish coming in a tie against SoCon co-champ Samford in the final match of the regular season.

But how Furman ended the year might be more impressive than the win-loss-tie column. The Paladins outscored opponents 24-1 during their unbeaten streak.

One of the reasons for the scoring differential has been goalkeeper Kellsey Weaver, a sophomore from Newnan, Ga., who earned All-SoCon first team honors.

“She has been really, really strong,” Burr said. “We still have two goalkeepers fighting for that spot, but we needed one to step up and say 'this is my spot.' Kellsey has certainly done that.”

Weaver was joined on All-SoCon first team by forward Molly Dwyer, midfielder Rachel Shah, defensive midfielder Sanon Williams, defender Jordan Evens and defender Quinn Lombard. Former Dorman High standout Mo Trnavsky represented the Paladins on the SoCon All-Freshman squad.

Top-seeded Furman opened play in the SoCon women's tournament last Sunday at Stone Stadium with a 2-1 win over ETSU. After falling behind 1-0 on a penalty kick in the 21st minute, the Paladins answered. In the 34th minute, ETSU was whistled for a foul, just to the left of the 18-yard box. Shah stepped up to take the free kick and curled it inside the far post to even the score. Five minutes later, another ETSU foul resulted in another free kick just a few paces in front of the midfield stripe. Evans lofted the shot in the air, over the leaping heads of attackers and defenders, and into the net for the game-winning goal.

The Paladins will face fourth-seeded Western Carolina Friday at 6 p.m. in the semifinals at Samford. The winner faces the Samford-UNCG winner in Sunday's championship.

• Furman finished third in the men's standings this year at 5-2-3 in the conference.

After starting the year 7-0 and ranked in the top 25, the Paladins (11-4-3) struggled in the middle of the season. They went 4-0-1 to close out the regular season though. During that stretch, Furman earned tough road wins against Mercer, 2-1, and Wofford, 2-0.

“Playing well this time of the year is very important,” Furman men's coach Doug Allison said. “Only giving up three goals in 10 games, that’s not too bad. The guys are picking it back up.”

A key switch was when Allsion moved senior Kevin Edelmann forward from his center back position.

“I like the way the guys are playing,” Allison said. “I moved Kevin Edelmann to the midfield to play with Lawrence Wyke to have two very experienced guys play in the midfield.”

The move not only helped the defense, but the offense. Over their last five matches, the Paladins have scored 12 goals.

Furman capped the regular season with a dramatic 2-1 victory over UNCG on Senior Day last Sunday night. Trailing 1-0 with 12 minutes remaining in regulation, Rocky Guerra settled the ball just beyond the 18-yard box on the right side. Guerra shot into the penalty area deflected off a UNCG defender then found the back of the net to help force overtime.

In overtime, it took the Paladins just two minutes to find the winning goal. After a steal on defense, sophomore Emory May led a 3-1 breakaway. May led junior Josiah Baker with a pass into the box for the game-winning goal.

Third-seeded Furman will open the SoCon men's tournament Saturday, hosting sixth-seeded VMI at 5 p.m. The winner will face No. 2 seed UNCG in the semifinal round on Nov. 10. Stone Stadium will serve as host site for the men's semifinals and championship.

Note: The All-SoCon men's soccer selections and postseason awards will be announced next week.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Defense, big plays help Furman run past WCU

CULLOWHEE, N.C. - On a rain-soaked, chilly Saturday at Western Carolina, conventional wisdom might've been that Furman needed to try to grind out another victory. That's what the Paladins did last Saturday in a gritty win over Mercer. That game marked the first time this season that Furman didn't have a play of at least 44 yards.

On Saturday, the grind stayed around, but the big plays returned. The Paladins' one-two fullback punch combined for 321 yards and Furman's defense had its best game in years. All of it added up to a 28-6 win over the 18th-ranked Catamounts. It's the sixth consecutive win for the Paladins (6-3, 5-1 Southern Conference), who remain tied for first place in the SoCon with Wofford.

While Western Carolina lost its dynamic sophomore quarterback Tyrie Adams to a leg injury in the second quarter, the Catamounts (6-3, 4-2) still had plenty of star power on an offense that entered leading the SoCon in scoring (38.6 points per game) and total offense (467.8 yards per game). That included standout running back Detrez Newsome, who returned to the starting lineup Saturday. Despite missing three games, Newsome still had the 15th-most rushing yards in the FCS entering the game with 626.

Furman coach Clay Hendrix said he would've never imagined holding Western Carolina to six points - its lowest total since being shutout by Chattanooga in 2014.

"I knew we had to score some points," Hendrix said. "Our defense continues to play well - with a bunch of young guys - against a team that really stretches you in a bunch of ways.
"Our kids prepared well. ... It's just a great win for us."

Newsome rushed for 110 yards Saturday, but only had 27 on seven carries in the second half as Furman dominated after halftime. Newsome averaged 4.2 yards per carry, well below his season average of 7.4 yards. Despite snapping 20 more plays than Furman, Western Carolina was held to 348 yards of total offense. Only a Western Carolina touchdown with 1:39 left prevented the Paladins' first shutout since 2004.

"They've got some really good backs and our main emphasis this week was stopping the run," said linebacker Joe Farrar, who had eight tackles Saturday. "It makes it so much easier when you see the offense clicking like that (after halftime). It just gets us more fired up to go out and get them the ball back."

Furman held a 7-0 lead at the half despite having only 144 yards of total offense, including 84 on the ground. After P.J. Blazejowski left with a shoulder injury in the first quarter, he returned for the Paladins' first drive of the second and made a brilliant play to account for the lone score of the half. After faking a handoff to the fullback, Blazejowski spun like he was beginning an option run. Then he pulled back and fired a bomb that hit Andy Schumpert in stride for a 44-yard touchdown.

Blazejowski threw just two more passes the rest of the day and finished with only four attempts. But the Paladins didn't need to throw after halftime. Furman had 279 total yards in the second half - all on the ground.

"We just cleaned up a couple of things (after halftime)," Hendrix said. "I thought our coaches did a phenomenal job of making just a couple of minor adjustments."

After Antonio Wilcox broke off a career-long 68-yard run on the second play of the second half, fellow fullback Kealand Dirks looked like a whirling dervish, twisting his way into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown run.

With Furman ahead 14-0, Western Carolina needed to make something happen and did when Marvin Tillman made a diving catch of Blazejowski's third interception this season and first since Sept. 23. On the next play though, Washington forced Newsome to fumble and Bryan Okeh recovered. The Paladins made the Catamounts pay for the second chance as two plays later, Dirks rumbled 53 yards for a touchdown.

Wilcox removed all doubt midway through the fourth quarter when he broke free for a 48-yard touchdown run, giving him a SoCon-best 10 rushing scores this year. Wilcox finished with 202 yards on 21 carries, while Dirks had 119 on 15 attempts.

"There were a lot of yards we left out there in the first half. We just had to stick with what we do and execute a little better," Wilcox said. "When you're running the ball for 300 yards, that has a lot to do with the o-line. It's not hard to run for 200 yards with those holes."

After an off week next Saturday, Furman hosts rival Citadel at 2 p.m. in the regular season home finale Nov. 11.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Paladins-Catamounts set for first-place battle

Furman captain Jaylan Reid takes down Mercer's Kaelen Riley for
a loss in the Paladins' 28-21 win. Photo courtesy of Furman.
So here's something that's not been written in a few decades: Furman travels to Western Carolina Saturday for a showdown of first-place teams in the Southern Conference.

Over the years, the Paladins and Catamounts have often played early in the SoCon schedule. So this could be the biggest regular-season meeting between the teams this late in the season since Nov. 11, 1978. A Furman team that was 2-1 in the SoCon traveled to Cullowhee, N.C. to face a Western Carolina team that was 4-0 in the league. The Paladins won 24-7 that day and set the stage for perhaps the most important moment in program history the following week.

Back home at Sirrine Stadium the next week, Furman stopped Stump Mitchell on a game-ending goal line stand as the Paladins beat rival Citadel, 17-13. The win clinched the first of Furman's record 13 SoCon championships.

Back to 2017. While part of this "battle of first-place teams" required Samford holding off Wofford last Saturday to leave four SoCon teams with one loss, that's not detracted from this unexpected showdown. After going a combined 5-17 last season, Furman and Western Carolina were picked to finish sixth and seventh, respectively, by the SoCon media this year.

With four weeks left in the regular season, the Paladins (5-3) and Catamounts (6-2) are tied atop the SoCon with Wofford at 4-1. Samford is a half-game back at 3-1. Western Carolina leads the league in scoring offense (38.6 points per game) and total offense (467.8 yards per game), while Furman is second in both categories with 35.2 point and 426.5 yards per game.

"They're easily the most dual-threat team we play. They run the ball really well and their quarterback is a good athlete who can hurt you rushing or throwing," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "This is the kind of game where you're going to be in a lot of 1-on-1 situations and you've got to tackle.
"It's a pretty intriguing matchup. I know how we will be challenged, but I think we can challenge them as well."

The Catamounts' offense features outstanding sophomore quarterback Tyrie Adams, who's thrown for 1,678 yards, ran for 575, and accounted for 17 touchdowns. This week, it should also feature the return of arguably the best running back in the FCS. Despite missing three games with injuries, Detrez Newsome still ranks 15th in the country in rushing with 626 yards and is averaging 125.2 yards per game.

With Newsome out, Corey Holloway (376 yards) and Donnavan Spencer (273) have stepped up. The trio each have at least six rushing touchdowns as Western Carolina is four shy of the school record of 25.

Both teams are also improved on defense this season. Furman leads the SoCon with 23 sacks, while the Catamounts are second with 19. Western Carolina's defense features eight senior and three junior starters, while the Paladins' entire two-deep on defense has a total of two seniors and six juniors.

"I love this defense. Our first thing is to always stop the run, then when it gets to the pass we just get after it," said Furman linebacker Chris Washington, who has 42 tackles, three sacks, three quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and fumble recovery this season.

A key matchup could come when Furman faces third down. The Paladins rank fifth in the FCS, converting 50.9 percent of their third downs. Furman's also been successful on 12-of-16 fourth down conversions, which ranks second in the country among teams with at least seven attempts. Western Carolina is second in the SoCon in third-down defense, allowing 34.4 percent.

While Newsome is expected to return for the Catamounts, this could be the healthiest Furman has entered a game in some time. Tailbacks Triston Luke and Devin Wynn are expected to be available for the Paladins. Hendrix said quarterback P.J. Blazejowski, who sprained a knee at Chattanooga on Oct. 7, is just about to back at full health as well.

"It'll be nice to have those two (tailbacks) back. Triston Luke especially brings a little toughness to the table, blocking and doing things," Hendrix said. "Just to be able to practice this week and not wear (tailback) Darius (Morehead) out has been good."

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at what's expected to be a rain-filled day at E.J. Whitmire Stadium. Furman will be looking to extend its winning streak to six consecutive games, which was last done in 2005.

"I told them 'usually the team that has the advantage in the weather is the one that thinks it has the advantage,' " Hendrix said. "I'd like to think we're built to deal with some of that and grind a little bit if we have to do that."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Paladins beat Mercer with substance over style

After sealing Saturday's 28-21 win with an interception, Joe Farrar celebrates
with outside linebackers coach Duane Vaughn. Photo courtesy of Furman.
As much fun as was had during Furman's first four games of its five-game winning streak, Saturday's gritty win over Mercer may have been just what the doctor ordered.

The 28-21 victory marked the Paladins' first win in a game decided by 10 points or less since Oct. 31, 2015. After nine such losses over that time frame, winning a close game heading into the final third of the season could prove beneficial.

There's no reason to believe that Furman's final three games - at Western Carolina Saturday, at home versus rival Citadel Nov. 11 and at Samford Nov. 18 - couldn't also be close outcomes.

"The one thing I learned about us those first couple of weeks (of close losses to Wofford and Elon) is that we had guys that we get in and fight," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said after Saturday's win. "That's the way we have to win games. We're growing up as we go.
"I think this was more about just winning a big football game ... against a team that's been playing their best."

The Paladins saw their school record run of four consecutive games with at least 40 points snapped. P.J. Blazejowski's run of a touchdown pass of at least 57 yards in six straight games was snapped. Furman's streak of rushing for at least 290 yards ended at three games. In fact, the Paladins' longest offensive play Saturday was 21 yards. The previous low for a longest play in a game this season was a 44-yard run against Wofford in the season opener.

For the first time this season, Furman (5-3, 4-1 Southern Conference) broke out the I-formation Saturday with fullbacks Kealand Dirks and Antonio Wilcox starting in the backfield. They pounded right at the Mercer defensive front all day as the duo combined for 38 carries and 126 yards and Wilcox ran for three touchdowns.

After getting dominated statistically in a first quarter that saw Mercer possess the ball for 10:17, it appeared the offensive game plan might have to be changed. But sticking with it paid off. The Bears had the ball for less than 19 minutes the rest of the way as Furman had a slight edge in time of possession. That was in large part to four grinding, lengthy scoring drives. On each one, the Paladins converted a fourth down and finished 4-for-4 on fourth down for the game.

"Looking back at our plan going in, would I have done some things differently? Maybe. We had to make some adjustments," Hendrix said. "It's interesting to see how people play us now. We see something a little bit different each week.
"Everybody makes so much about yards and points. At the end of the day, you've got to convert, score on timely possessions, get off the field on third down, and all that other stuff kind of takes care of itself."

Reversing trends
While some impressive trends turned for Furman Saturday, so did some of Mercer's. Entering the game, the Bears ranked ninth nationally in red zone defense at 65 percent (13 of 20). But the Paladins scored touchdowns on all four of its trips to the red zone Saturday.

No other team this season scored four touchdowns in the red zone against Mercer. The 28 points tied for the most allowed by the Bears this season as Wofford also scored 28. The third most allowed by Mercer this year was Auburn's 24.

The Bears also had forced the seventh-most turnovers in the country entering Saturday, but Furman had just one turnover - its first in 230 consecutive offensive plays.

Poll watch
With eight weeks gone in the season, the FCS polls continue to display that how teams performed in 2016 influence rankings in 2017.

Furman received one vote in the FCS coaches poll - for the first time this year, and 33 points in the FCS STATS media poll. Meanwhile in the computer rankings, the Paladins are ranked No. 19 by Sagarin and No. 22 by Massey.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Furman tied atop SoCon after fifth straight win

It wasn't exactly the same script as the other games in Furman's winning streak Saturday, but getting the "W" is all that matters. Antonio Wilcox's third touchdown of the day helped the Paladins grind out a 28-21 win over Mercer for their fifth consecutive win.

Thanks to other Southern Conference results Saturday - most notably Samford handing Wofford its first loss - Furman (5-3, 4-1) is tied for first in the standings. Wofford and Western Carolina are also 4-1 in the SoCon with four weeks left in the regular season. Samford is a half-game back at 3-1, while every other SoCon team has at least three league losses.

The Paladins have a showdown next Saturday when they travel to Western Carolina for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

"We probably didn't play our best football at times today, but that's what happens when you play good teams," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "Whether we needed a stop or needed to move the football, I thought we did a good job of looking out for each other.
"It was a complete team win, there's no question about that."

After four straight weeks of 40-plus points and lots of offensive yardage, it was evident early on that Mercer would be present a different challenge. Thanks primarily to a 15-play, 91-yard scoring drive, the Bears held a 7-0 lead and a 153-29 advantage in total yards after one quarter Saturday.

Undaunted, the Paladins stuck with their gameplan which featured plenty of pounding the football up the middle offensively. That began to pay off in the second quarter. Wilcox fumbled a pitch, picked it up and ran six yards for a touchdown to cap a 9-play, 77-yard drive Furman's defense then forced a three-and-out before the Paladins put together a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Wilcox scored from a yard out with 29 seconds left as Furman took a 14-7 lead into halftime.

A huge shift in momentum happened on the opening play of the third quarter when Kealand Dirks fumbled and Mercer's Eric Jackson recovered at Furman's 30-yard line. After the Bears converted a 3rd-and-15, C.J. Leggett scored from a yard out to tie the game 14-14.

It was the Paladins' first turnover in 230 offensive plays, dating back to the second quarter against ETSU on Sept. 30.

On Mercer's next drive, Marquise Irvin made a remarkable one-handed catch along the sideline to convert a 3rd-and-6 play. Kaelen Riley then found Irvin all alone in the end zone as the Bears took a 21-14 lead midway through the third quarter.

Furman answered with a 13-play, 89-yard drive capped by P.J. Blazejowski's 18-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Andy Schumpert to tie the game 21-21. Early in the drive, the Paladins faced 3rd-and-9 from their own 12-yard line when Blazejowski scrambled around and hit Wilcox for a 21-yard gain. Later in the drive, Furman went for it on 4th-and-2 at Mercer's 47 and Blazejowski kept on the option for three yards.

On their next drive, the Paladins went 70 yards on 14 plays, shaving seven minutes off the clock. On 4th-and-less than 1 at the Mercer 5-yard line, Furman passed on a potential go-ahead field goal. Instead Wilcox picked up the yard converting the Paladins' fourth fourth down try in as many attempts. On the next play, Wilcox twisted his way across the goal line as the ball popped free. While Mercer signaled turnover, the officials signaled touchdown and Furman led 28-21 with 4:48 left.

With no timeouts and 1:44 to go, the Bears drove from their own 15-yard line to Furman's 26. On third down, Joe Farrar came up with an interception in the end zone with three seconds left to wrap up the win.

Despite outgaining Furman 435-340, Mercer (4-4, 3-3) saw its three-game winning streak snapped.

"I think they played well and we did too," Hendrix said. "Fortunately, we made enough plays to pull it out."

The victory snapped Furman's nine-game losing streak in games decided by 10 points or less. That dates back to a 20-17 win at Samford on Oct. 31, 2015. Included in those nine, were each of the last two heartbreaking games against Mercer.

"This game meant a lot to a lot of people. We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game," said Blazejowski, who completed 16-of-19 passes for 158 yards with no interceptions. "Our goal is to win. We don't know how we're going to do it, but we're going to go try to execute.
"We didn't play our best game, but we won and that's the big thing."

Friday, October 20, 2017

Furman-Mercer part of a big SoCon Saturday

Furman's Aaquil Annoor celebrates during the Paladins'
42-10 win over VMI. Photo courtesy of Furman.
October 21st may sound like an awfully early date for scoreboard watching, but on Saturday there are some football games that could prove crucial to the Southern Conference's final standings. For the first time in quite awhile, Furman is involved in one of those.

It will be homecoming in more ways than one at Paladin Stadium Saturday, as Bobby Lamb's Mercer team visits. It will be the first time Furman coach Clay Hendrix and Lamb, who were teammates in high school and at Furman, assistants together at Furman and lifelong friends, have been on opposing sidelines.

"We're facing a really good opponent and I think the uniqueness of the game itself because of the connection between Bobby and I can stir up some interest," Hendrix said. "I think we typically have one of our better crowds (for homecoming), which I'm kind of hoping we can continue to build.
"I'd like to really see that environment get back to where it was and I think this week could be a good start. ... I'd like that for our kids."

When Furman (4-3, 3-1) and Mercer (4-3, 3-2) kick off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, so will Samford (4-2, 2-1) and Wofford (6-0, 4-0) in Spartanburg, and Western Carolina (5-2, 3-1) and VMI (0-7, 0-4) in Lexington, Va. Wins by Furman, Samford and Western Carolina Saturday would leave four SoCon teams with one league loss apiece with four weeks remaining in regular season.

Meanwhile, Citadel (3-3, 1-3) plays at Chattanooga (1-6, 1-3) Saturday at 2 p.m. in a matchup that could've been considered the biggest game of the week in the preseason. But both the Bulldogs and Mocs enter on three-game losing streaks, and it could be considered a "must win" for Citadel's postseason hopes.

Furman-Mercer features the two hottest teams in the SoCon not named "Wofford." The Paladins have won four consecutive games for just the second time since the 2005 season, while the Bears have won three in a row.

"They're balanced (on offense). ... They have three transfer kids playing running back and they're all good, productive players. They have a good corps receivers and a big quarterback, who throws it well and runs it well," Hendrix said. "They're athletic on defense and probably one of the better defenses statistically in our league."

In addition to being a big game within the SoCon standings, the Paladins should be hungry to try to avenge excruciatingly frustrating losses to Mercer each of the past two seasons. Two years ago, Furman rallied from a 20-0 second half deficit, tying the score 20-20 on a touchdown run by Kealand Dirks with 43 seconds left. After Dirks was flagged for a weak celebration penalty, Furman missed the 35-yard extra point and the the Bears went on to a 27-20 overtime win.

In last year's season finale at Macon, Ga., Mercer got a 33-yard touchdown on a 4th-and-10 play with 31 seconds left to pull out a 27-24 win.

The good news for Furman is that this 2017 squad is playing like a completely different one from the past few years. The Paladins have rushed for at least 290 yards in three straight games for the first time since 2005 and have scored at least 40 points in a game four consecutive weeks for the first time in school history.

"The run game has really started to come around like I hoped it would," Hendrix said. "We're heading to those numbers (yards rushing and passing) where we'd like to see it, making it difficult to defend."

Furman quarterback P.J. Blazejowski continues to lead the FCS in yards per pass attempt (11.10) and yards per completion (19.13). He ranks fourth in the country in passing efficiency (180.1). The Paladins are second in the country in fewest penalties per game (3.43), fourth in the country in third-down conversion rate (51.1 percent) and lead the SoCon with 20 sacks.

Mercer is enjoying success by taking advantage of its opportunities and denying opponents of theirs. The Bears have forced a SoCon-best 16 turnovers, which is tied for seventh-most in the FCS. Mercer has scored on 26 of 28 trips to the red zone, a 92.9 percentage that ranks sixth in the country. The Bears are also ninth in the country in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score on just 65 percent of its red zone visits.

• As for the big subplot of Saturday's game, I'll let one Furman legend tell the story of two others. Hunter Reid, the best sports information director in the business, wrote a wonderful piece about the relationship between Lamb and Hendrix this week and did it more justice than I could ever do. It can be found here: www.furmanpaladins.com/sports/m-footbl/2017-18/releases/20171016guvhx3.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Depth paying off for Furman running game

Furman fullback Kealand Dirks runs against VMI. Photo courtesy of Furman.
While injuries continue to pile up in Furman's offensive backfield, so do the rushing yards.

In Saturday's 42-10 win over VMI, the Paladins were without two of their top three tailbacks as Triston Luke (hamstring) and Devin Wynn (knee) sat out with injuries. Meanwhile, starter Darius Morehead ran four times for 20 yards in his only half of action as Furman continues to play it safe with its speedy freshman who redshirted last season after suffering a serious concussion in week two.

Despite the injuries, Furman (4-3, 3-1 Southern Conference) put up a season-high 354 yards rushing on 61 attempts Saturday. It's the third consecutive game with at least 290 yards rushing for the Paladins, who've rushed for 952 yards during that span. The last time Furman had a three-game stretch rushing like that came in 2005.

From 2006-16, the Paladins had at least 290 yards rushing in a game just five times - three against Western Carolina (2007, 2012, 2016) and twice against Colgate (2008, 2010).

In addition to the running backs, Furman quarterbacks were also hampered by injuries much of last week. Starter P.J. Blazejowski didn't practice until Wednesday after suffering a knee injury at Chattanooga. Backup Harris Roberts was hobbled by a sprained ankle. Both of them looked just fine against VMI though. Blazejowski ran five times for 74 yards, while Roberts had 72 yards on two carries.

Leading the way for the Paladins Saturday was fullback Kealand Dirks with 82 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Dirks, a 244-pound junior, has rushed for 283 yards over the last three weeks.

"Kealand might have come as far as anybody on our football team. It's funny to watch him grow into a guy who kind of likes to practice, and that's not an easy position to play," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "We do inside drills every Tuesday and Wednesday and we run two plays, so it's not like we're fooling them with what we're doing.
"He's always had really good running skills, but now he's just buying into everything - practice, blocking, toughness."

Furman's running game will be tested this week against Mercer (4-3, 3-2), which has won three straight games. The Bears rank third in the SoCon - behind The Citadel and Furman - in rush defense allowing just 138 yards per game.

Taking care of the ball
Even though the Paladins have been putting up many yards on the ground lately, they haven't been putting the football on the ground. Furman hasn't had a turnover since a lost fumble in the second quarter against ETSU on Sept. 30. The Paladins have had 198 offensive plays since then, including 154 running plays without a fumble of any kind.

In SoCon play, Furman has forced eight turnovers and committed just one.

Better starts and finishes
During the Paladins' three-game losing streak to open the season Furman was outscored 42-6 in the first quarter and 24-9 in the fourth quarter. In the four-game winning streak since, the Paladins have outscored opponents 49-10 in the first quarter and 35-25 in the fourth quarter.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Big second half helps Furman cruise past VMI

After a bit of a dysfunctional first half for Furman Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium, the Paladins put it all together after halftime and cruised to a 42-10 win over VMI.

It's the fourth consecutive victory for Furman (4-3, 3-1 Southern Conference) and the fourth straight game it's scored at least 41 points. In 112 years of football, Furman had never before scored at least 40 in four straight games.

"I think it was just a matter of playing better (after halftime)," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "The only thing I really said to them at halftime was that we weren't going back to mediocrity. That was a really mediocre first half."

The first half came after a challenging week of practice, which saw third-string freshman quarterback JeMar Lincoln take a lot of snaps the first two days.

After suffering a knee injury at Chattanooga last Saturday, quarterback P.J. Blazejowski didn't practice until Wednesday. Backup quarterback Harris Roberts was also hobbled all week with an ankle injury. On Saturday, Furman played without injured tailbacks Triston Luke (hamstring) and Devin Wynn (knee), then starter Darius Morehead sat out the second half for precautionary reasons.

While the week got a little hairy, Furman's opening drive Saturday showed no signs of it. Blazejowski ran 44 yards to the VMI 1-yard line setting up an Antonio Wilcox touchdown.

Things changed though as the Paladins sputtered the rest of the half. Furman was able to take advantage of a big break as a punt hit a VMI blocker and Ridge Gibson recovered at the Keydets' 20-yard line. Four plays later, Kealand Dirks scored from a yard out as Furman went up 14-3 with 5:20 left in the second quarter.

VMI (0-7, 0-4) answered on its ensuing drive as Daz Palmer's 51-yard run set up a three-yard touchdown pass from Duncan Hodges to Rohan Martin cutting the deficit to 14-10 with 3:18 left.

The Paladins looked like they would respond as they drove inside VMI's 5-yard line. But after calling its last timeout with 37 seconds left, Furman ran Dirks up the middle three straight plays. On the last one, Dirks got one yard to the one-yard line as time expired in the half.

"That end of the half was on me," Hendrix said. "We wasted a couple of timeouts earlier. ... We should've just called where we'd have a run-pass option and have a chance to stop the clock. Thankfully it didn't come back to bite us."

The four-point halftime deficit was VMI's closest against Div. I competition this year. The Keydets' 10 points tied for the most points they'd scored in any half this season. VMI also scored 10 in each half of its 27-20 loss to Div. II Catawba.

Furman got the ball to start the second half and looked like a different team from the first half. Wilcox capped that opening drive with a 16-yard touchdown, helping push the lead to 21-10.

VMI then drove to the Paladins' 28-yard line, but reserve linebacker Dillon Vann had his second interception in as many weeks. Vann returned it 42 yards to the VMI 33-yard line. Furman then converted a pair of fourth downs on an 11-play drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown by Dirks.

"That was a huge play (by Vann)," Hendrix said. "We did a really good job of cramming that next score in."

On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Paladins connected on yet another long touchdown pass in  a season full of them. Blazejowski hit Andy Schumpert over the middle and the senior tight end raced to the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown. It's the sixth consecutive game that Blazejowski has thrown a touchdown of at least 57 yards.

"We started out a little slow and weren't executing like we should have," Schumpert said. "We came out in the second half and got back to what we've been doing."

All told in the second half, Furman had touchdowns on each of its first four possessions and ran out the clock at the VMI 20-yard line on its fifth. The Paladins outgained VMI 317-107 after halftime.

Furman finished with 523 yards of total offense, including 354 rushing, and no turnovers for the second week in a row. Dirks had 82 yards rushing to lead the way. Blazejowski had 74 yards rushing on five carries, while Roberts had 72 on two attempts.

"I was really proud of how we responded," Hendrix said. "We played really well in the second half and I thought we probably finished the game better than we have all year."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Furman looks to extend streak against VMI

Furman freshman linebacker Dillon Vann returns an interception
for a touchdown at Chattanooga. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Furman returns home Saturday looking to extend its three-game winning streak as the Paladins host VMI at 1 p.m. A victory would put Furman (3-3, 2-1 Southern Conference) above the .500 mark for the first time since Oct. 3, 2015.

Furman is coming off an impressive 41-17 win at Chattanooga that snapped a five-game losing streak in the series. The Paladins piled up 290 rushing yards against a talented Mocs' defensive front in what Furman coach Clay Hendrix called his team's most complete game of the year.

"One of the things we've talked about is, if you want to be a championship football team, you've got to go win on the road in some places where you maybe haven't had success," Hendrix said afterwards. "They prepared well and responded well."

The Paladins have scored 142 total points over their three-game winning streak and have tallied at least 41 points in each of the three. The last time Furman scored more than 40 points in three consecutive games came in Ingle Martin's senior year of 2005.

In its struggles the past few seasons, the biggest problem for the Paladins came in running the ball and stopping the run. That's turned around this season. Furman ranks fourth in the SoCon at 214.7 yards rushing per game, and is second in rushing defense (123.5 yards allowed per game).

That rushing defense total has dropped significantly during the win streak as Furman has allowed just 95 total yards on the ground over the last three weeks. After giving up 22 yards rushing to ETSU two weeks ago, the Paladins allowed just seven last Saturday at Chattanooga.

"We'll always take that," Hendrix said.

Running the ball effectively has opened up big play opportunities in the passing game and P.J. Blazejowski has taken full advantage. He's thrown a touchdown of at least 57 yards in four consecutive games. The senior captain has helped Furman produce a well-balanced offense as the Paladins average 210.2 yards passing per game, which also ranks fourth in the SoCon.

That passing attack hasn't tapered off the last three weeks despite playing without injured leading receiver Thomas Gordon, who could return Saturday vs. VMI. As has been the case throughout Furman's team this year, others have stepped up in Gordon's absence. Most notably has been senior Logan McCarter, who has caught 18 passes for 403 touchdowns and three touchdowns. McCarter has come through up at a big time personally for the Sevierville, Tenn. native as well.

"To beat ETSU and Chattanooga back-to-back weeks is a really good feeling," McCarter said. "I had family that went to ETSU so that was personal, and (Chattanooga) was personal because we (seniors) had never beat them.
"I think this was a statement game to show the rest of the SoCon that we're not the Furman of old."

VMI (0-6, 0-3) enters Saturday having struggled all season. The Keydets rank last in the SoCon in scoring offense (8 points per game), scoring defense (41.7), total offense (211.2 yards per game) and total defense (463.7). However, VMI is coming off possibly its best showing in a 26-7 loss to Samford last Saturday. The Keydets limited the Bulldogs' high-powered offense to two first-half touchdowns and none in the second half.

While VMI is just 3-22 in the SoCon since rejoining the league prior to the 2014 season, it hasn't been a pushover for Furman. The Keydets beat the Paladins 31-15 in 2014, while Furman won the last two meetings, 24-21 and 24-10.

• Saturday's game is Military Appreciation Day at Paladin Stadium. All active military personnel and veterans can receive two complimentary tickets and purchase additional tickets for the reduced rate of $10 per ticket at the gate.

• Furman will honor its 2017 Athletics Hall of Fame class also Saturday. This year's class includes All-American football cornerback William Middleton, basketball forward Chuck Vincent, tennis player Monica Arguello, and men's golfer Ken Ezell.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Paladins continue to step up

Freshman Reynard Ellis grabs one of Furman's four interceptions Saturday
in the Paladins' 41-17 win at Chattanooga. Photo courtesy of Furman.
As Furman's winning streak reached three consecutive games Saturday at Chattanooga, so did the Paladins streak of having new players contribute.
While sophomore offensive lineman Jacob Conrad made his first start of the season, cornerbacks Darius Kearse and Bradford Lemmons made their first-ever collegiate starts.
Conrad stepped in at right tackle for injured starter Bo Layton and was part of an offensive front that helped Furman rush for 290 yards in the 41-17 win, which snapped a five-game losing streak to UTC.
Lemmons, a junior who converted from receiver this offseason, had three tackles at left corner in place of injured starter Quandarius Weems. Kearse, a true freshman who was injured for the first four weeks of the season, had four tackles. Kearse also made a key three-yard tackle for loss when he fought through a block to blow up a screen pass as Furman was in the process of going up 27-10 in the first half.
"We didn't have either of our corners today and had a brand new tackle in there, but it's fun to see kids step up," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said afterwards. "It's still a work in progress ... but the (offensive line) and running back group is coming along.
"Those three fullbacks have been a pretty good bunch to get in there and make some hard yards and push piles. ... We've got a bunch of guys that can make plays."
Kearse is one of 25 freshman who have played this season for the Paladins, and one of 10 who have registered starts.
Another one who made a splash Saturday was reserve defensive tackle Landon Lawrence, who had 1.5 sacks. That was one of eight tackles-for-loss Saturday as Furman held the Mocs to just seven yards rushing. Over the last three games, the Paladins have given up a total of just 95 yards on the ground.
Blazejowski listed as starter
On Furman's weekly depth chart released Wednesday, P.J. Blazejowski is listed as the starter at quarterback. Blazejowski left in the third quarter of the Chattanooga game with a knee injury and didn't return.
Also on the depth chart, Weems and Layton are listed as backups this week after missing last week with injuries. Tailback Triston Luke, who's averaging 9.6 yards per carry but missed Saturday's game due to injury, is not listed on this week's two-deep.
Statistical national rankings
Despite missing much of the second half Saturday, Blazejowski threw for 138 yards and three touchdowns. It was also his fourth consecutive game with a touchdown pass of at least 57 yards. That's helped him remain No. 1 in the FCS in yards per completion (19.25) and yards per attempt (11.30). He's also third in the country is passing efficiency (183.3).
With three sacks Saturday, Furman now has 20 this season which is tied for third-most in the FCS. A total of 14 different Paladins have been in on those sacks. That's the most Paladins with a sack since 16 combined for 38 sacks in 2001.
Furman and Presbyterian are tied for third in the FCS in fewest penalties per game (3.67).
The Paladins have converted 51.2 percent of their third downs, which ranks eighth-highest in the country.
Absurd national rankings
For the first time in quite a while, Furman received three votes in this week's STATS FCS (Media) poll, but none in the FCS coaches poll. It could probably be argued that the Paladins are worthy of a bit more national attention. Their three losses have been to: fifth-ranked Wofford, 24-23 on the road; 16th-ranked Elon, 34-31; and FBS' 20th-ranked N.C. State, 49-16.
Meanwhile, Furman's three wins have been by an average margin of more than 25 points.
The Paladins definitely deserve more votes than Colgate (2-4), and there's no argument otherwise. After jumping out to a 38-0 second quarter lead at Colgate on Sept. 23, Furman went on to a 45-14 win. Despite the blowout, Colgate received three votes in the following week's poll.
A week later, Colgate recorded a 21-7 win at a Cornell team that's currently 1-3 and received six votes in the next ranking. Last Saturday, the Raiders lost 41-38 at home to a Lehigh team that entered 0-5 this season. Inexplicably, Colgate got even more votes after that showing with nine this week.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Paladins end losing skid vs. UTC with authority

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Furman's "throwback" season continued Saturday.
While the Paladins traveled to Chattanooga on a five-game losing streak in the series, Furman coach Clay Hendrix didn't. In 19 years as an assistant with the Paladins, Hendrix was part of 17 wins and just two losses against the Mocs.
Furman gave its new head coach another victory over Chattanooga in convincing fashion Saturday at Finley Stadium. The Paladins ran 61 times for 290 yards, overpowering their way to a 41-17 win.
While Furman ran wild, Chattanooga ran nowhere. The Paladins allowed just seven yards net rushing on 17 attempts. That's the fewest allowed by Furman since Presbyterian ran for four yards on 10 attempts in 2001.
"I could tell how big this was just the way they responded in the locker room after the game," Hendrix said. "They prepared well and came out and played maybe our most complete game."
Furman (3-3, 2-1 Southern Conference) set the tone on the opening drive. The Paladins drove 75 yards on 14 plays in 6:07, capped by P.J. Blazejowski's 11-yard touchdown pass to Logan McCarter. Furman ran 11 times for 56 yards on the march.
That was the the first of six possessions of at least eight plays for the Paladins, including two 14-play drives.
Early in the second quarter, UTC true freshman Cole Coleman - who made his collegiate debut - threw a deep pass to Alphonso Stewart. Stewart was well-covered, but went up and made a terrific catch for a 40-yard touchdown as the Mocs took a 10-7 lead.
The Paladins answered in a big way. After Antonio Wilcox ran for a four-yard touchdown that put Furman back in front, freshman linebacker Reynard Ellis had an interception three plays later. That led to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Blazejowski to Andy Schumpert pushing Furman's lead to 20-10.
The Paladins' two-minute offense produced a drive that ended on a 12-yard touchdown run by Darius Morehead with 40 seconds left as Furman took a 27-10 lead into halftime.
"What I like best is that we responded well. I think our bunch - offense, defense, whatever - they've been pretty good at responding in the right situation," Hendrix said. "Getting that score right before the half was big."
The 27-point first half was more scoring than Furman had against UTC in any of the last six meetings. The Paladins' 20 first downs in the opening half were the most in a game against UTC in 10 years.
The Mocs (1-5, 1-2) had planned to redshirt the highly-touted Coleman this season. But after injuries to its top two quarterbacks last week, UTC turned him loose Saturday in hopes of turning its season around.
After completing each of his first eight passes for 121 yards, Coleman's next eight throws produced five completions but just one negative yard of passing. Ellis' interception highlighted that turnaround.
"I kind of messed up because we were supposed to back up (on third down), but I just saw the ball, everything slowed down for me and I made the play," Ellis said. "This was an important conference win, but we just want to keep getting better moving forward."
Chattanooga got the ball to start the second half in dire need of a score. The Paladins gave up one first down, but forced a punt. Furman then got the backbreaker with yet another bomb. This one was a 57-yard touchdown from Blazejowski to McCarter that capped an 85-yard drive and pushed the lead to 34-10.
It's the fifth consecutive game that Blazejowski has thrown a touchdown of at least 57 yards.
The only drama the rest of the night for Furman came when Blazejowski left the game on the next drive with a knee injury. He didn't return, but was seen riding an exercise bike on the sideline after getting checked out.
"I think he's got a slight sprain," Hendrix said. "Could he have gone back in there? Maybe.
"We will see how he feels tomorrow. You usually don't know about those things for a day or two."
Furman wrapped up its scoring with a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown with 3:56 left in the game. While the Mocs desperately tried to get another score on the board, the Paladins ended the game in fitting fashion - with its third sack and fourth interception on the final two plays.
Kealand Dirks finished with 101 yards rushing - his second consecutive 100-yard game - to lead Furman. Blazejowski threw for 151 yards and rushed for 51.
Copeland finished with a UTC single-game record 317 yards passing for the Mocs.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Furman hopes big play fun continues at UTC

Kealand Dirks runs for a 32-yard touchdown for Furman.
Photo courtesy of Furman.
Following last week's 56-35 win over ETSU, Furman coach Clay Hendrix noted how much his team has bought in to what the first-year head coach and his staff have been teaching. It's been evident lately on Saturdays and every other day of the week as well.
"It's almost like they like to practice," Hendrix said. "We have kids with different class schedules ... I'll look up and those guys will be running over the hill to get to practice from labs.
"That's really encouraging to me."
It looks like the Paladins (2-3, 1-1 Southern Conference) are are having more fun by the week. Scoring 101 points on offense and racking up 11 sacks on defense over a pair of wins the last two weeks certainly helps the "fun" level rise.
The new offense, with input from Hendrix, new offensive coordinator Drew Cronic, new assistant head coach George Quarles and receivers coach Brian Bratton, has clicked more and more each week.
"As coaches, we're making adjustments and getting more on the same page," Hendrix said. "It's been new for us too. ... We want to be a hard-to-prepare-for team."
While it appears to be a run-based offense - and certainly relies on effectively running the ball - quarterback P.J. Blazejowski is thriving passing in it. The senior captain has thrown a touchdown pass of at least 61 yards in four consecutive games. Each one of those featured a wide open receiver.
Blazejowski is currently fourth in the country (FCS) in passing efficiency at 178.4.
"P.J.'s smart. He will take risks, but he won't do anything that's out of nowhere. I love having a guy back there in the pocket that will do that," said senior wide receiver Logan McCarter, who had career highs in receptions (7) and yards receiving (178) last week.
As for getting wide open on long strikes this year, McCarter said, "It's just fun. The blocking part kind of drags you down, but you know that just opens up the passing game.
"Coach Bratton just tells us to stay with it and when we pass it, just make a play."
After putting up more than 300 yards rushing, more than 300 yards passing and 56 points against ETSU, Furman ranks third in the SoCon in total offense (421.6 yards per game) and second in scoring (34.2).
Just two years ago, the Paladins ranked dead last in the SoCon in scoring (17.5) and total offense (318.7). That 2015 team scored 24 offensive touchdowns and its longest offensive play was 61 yards.
At the near-midway point this year, Furman has 22 touchdowns and 16 offensive plays of 30 yards or more. Seven different players have collected them:

RUNS (3)
Triston Luke (44*, 45)
Kealand Dirks (32*)

Thomas Gordon (30, 36, 77*, 41)
Darius Morehead (31)
Logan McCarter (35, 43, 51, 64*)
Andy Schumpert (71*, 32*, 30*)
Cam Burnette (61*)

In addition to those plays from scrimmage on offense, three different Paladins have kickoff returns of at least 39 yards.
Among SoCon teams, only Western Carolina has more 30-plus yard plays on offense this season:

Western Carolina - 19 in 5 games (7 runs, 12 receptions)
Furman - 16 in 5 games (3 runs, 16 receptions)
Samford - 13 in 5 games (1 run, 12 receptions)
Mercer - 10 in 5 games (10 receptions)
Wofford - 9 in 4 games (4 runs, 5 receptions)
ETSU - 9 in 5 games (9 receptions)
VMI - 8 in 5 games (1 run, 7 receptions)
The Citadel - 7 in 4 games (2 runs, 5 receptions)
Chattanooga - 2 in 5 games (2 receptions)

Those big plays for Furman are often set up by the running game - or at least the appearance of the run from a tight formation. Just like with the big plays in the passing game, several Paladins have contributed on the ground. Seven different players have rushing touchdowns this season, and there's been a different leading rusher in four of Furman's five games.
"We've got three tailbacks and three fullbacks that we can play and feel really good," Hendrix said. "We can be a little bit fresher and they each bring a little something different to the table."
Last week, fullback Kealand Dirks posted the first 100-yard rushing day for any Furman back this season and scored two touchdowns. Tailback Darius Morehead added 97 yards and a pair of scores as well.
"I really like this offense. I think it suits me better," Dirks said. "We've got (fullbacks) Ridge (Gibson), who's a great blocker, Antonio (Wilcox), who can run outside with those long legs, and I can run it inside."
• This week, Furman hopes those SoCon big play trends continue when it travels to Chattanooga Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff. After dominating much of the series, including a 15-game winning streak from 1995-2009, the Paladins have lost each of the last five meetings with the Mocs.
Furman's last win in the series came in a 14-7 victory in 2011 at Chattanooga. The last two trips to Finley Stadium have resulted in blowout losses for the Paladins.
Chattanooga (1-4, 1-1) enters Saturday struggling on offense (251 yards per game) and with a big question of who will start at quarterback.
Preseason all-SoCon second team member Alejandro Bennifield returned from a four-game suspension last week against Western Carolina, but left the game in the first quarter after a vicious hit that knocked his helmet off.
Mississippi State transfer Nick Tiano, who started the first four games with Bennifield out, left in the fourth quarter last week with a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman Dominic Caldwell played the rest of the game.
Bennifield and Tiano are listed as "or" as the starter on this week's depth chart. There seems to be a feeling that Tiano will get the start. The third quarterback on the depth chart is highly-touted freshman Cole Copeland, but the Mocs are trying to redshirt him.
While Furman's defense enters with an FCS-best 17 sacks this season, Chattanooga has allowed a SoCon-worst 18 sacks.
The Mocs ranks third in the SoCon in total defense (334.6 yards allowed per game) despite not having the services of senior linebacker Dale Warren. Warren, who led the SoCon with 19 tackles-for-loss in 2016, is serving a six-game suspension for an NCAA rules violation and won't be eligible to return until next week.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Paladins racking up points, yards, honors

Furman's Logan McCarter is all smiles following his 64-yard touchdown
reception against ETSU Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Saturday's 56-35 win over ETSU marked Furman's biggest offensive output since a 62-21 win over Presbyterian on Sept. 24, 2011. The Paladins have piled up more than 100 points over their last two games as they scored 45 the week before at Colgate. The last time that happened was also 2011 as the Paladins followed up that PC game with a 47-21 win over Western Carolina.
For the casual observer it could be tempting to dismiss Furman's offensive showing as it came against an ETSU program in just its third year of play since being resurrected. However, the Buccaneers entered Saturday having gone 2-2 in its last four SoCon games dating back to last season. All four had been decided by eight points or less, including a 15-14 win over Samford last season in which ETSU became the only team in recent memory to shut down the Bulldogs' prolific passing attack.
"It was a good day against a team that's played really good against everybody else," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said after Saturday's game.
As Furman continues to improve each week, its doing so with a multitude for players. The Paladins were substituting seemingly after every offensive play last Saturday and not missing a beat.
A total of seven different Paladins have rushed for a touchdown this season, while six different Paladins have caught touchdowns.
Overcoming injuries
Furman's also persevering while losing starters to injury. The Paladins put up more than 600 yards of offense against ETSU without leading receiver, Thomas Gordon. Gordon has a torn meniscus and will likely miss 2-4 weeks.
Without Gordon, Logan McCarter stepped up posting career highs in receptions (7) and receiving yards (178). He also had a 47-yard kickoff return for a touchdown off an ETSU onside kick.
"I'm glad it was 47 yards. I'm not sure how much further he could've gone," Hendrix teased McCarter afterwards. "He's an east Tennessee guy, so I know that was great for him."
Tight end Andy Schumpert's status was iffy all week as he missed three days of practice because of a virus. The Brentwood, Tenn. native didn't participate in pregame warmups as he received two IV fluid injections instead. He was able to go and continued his knack for big plays with touchdown catches of 32 and 30 yards, respectively.
"Schumpert was sick all week," Hendrix said. "He lost like 15 pounds, but you couldn't tell with how he played."
McCarter and Schumpert helped P.J. Blazejowski post the third 300-yard passing day of his career. He was 17-of-22 for 301 yards with the three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Defensively, the Paladins racked up six sacks without the services of injured starting defensive end Chinedu Okonya. Furman now has an FCS-best 17 sacks, which have been totaled by 13 different Paladins. Okonya, who shares the team lead for sacks (two) with Chris Washington, may be able to return this week at Chattanooga.
Weekly honors
Others took note of Furman's effort against ETSU. Blazejowski was named the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) National FCS Player of the Week, while McCarter was tabbed as the Southern Conference's Special Teams Player of the Week. Another weekly honor came Wednesday when Schumpert was selected as the SoCon's Scholar-Athlete of the Week.
McCarter is the first Paladin to earn SoCon Player of the Week honors since Oct. 31, 2015.
Schumpert is a three-time SoCon Academic Honor Roll selection and recipient of the 2017 Lawrence Kessler Award for Excellence in Accounting. He has a 3.77 cumulative GPA. On the field this season, Schumpert has nine catches for 192 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns.