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.

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