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.

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