Saturday, September 8, 2018

Paladins whipped at Elon

Furman's Kealand Dirks rushed for 72 yards in the Paladins'
45-7 loss at Elon Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
ELON, N.C. - It was a bad case of deja vu all over again for Furman early on at Elon Saturday night. Instead of another near-comeback like in last year's regular season meeting, Furman was dealt a beatdown. No. 15-ranked Elon piled up 448 yards of total offense in a 45-7 drubbing of the 21st-ranked Paladins at Rhodes Stadium.

After the teams split of a pair of thrilling games last season, another thriller was anticipated Saturday. Instead, it was Furman's most lopsided loss to an FCS foe since a 45-0 home loss to Samford in 2014. It was the Paladins' worst road showing in FCS play since a 54-0 loss at Marshall in the 1996 Division I-AA playoffs.

"First, I've got to give Elon a ton of credit. They played really well. They just really outclassed us and outcoached us in everything," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "You've got to get everybody doing their job and right now ... not many times do we have everybody doing what they're supposed to do."

In the second week of last season, Elon took advantage of two Furman turnovers to jump out to a 21-0 lead at Paladin Stadium. The same thing happened 364 days later at Elon Saturday.

True freshman Darren Grainger earned the start at quarterback Saturday. On the second play of the game, he was hit from behind and fumbled. Elon's Greg Liggs Jr. scooped up the loose ball and ran 18 yards for a touchdown 53 seconds into the game.

Furman had a 10-play drive on its ensuing possession - all on the ground - but it ended when a 48-yard field goal attempt by Grayson Atkins sailed wide. It took the Phoenix three plays to score on its first possession. Malcolm Summers capped it with a 54-yard touchdown run right up the gut.

Later in the first quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback JeMar Lincoln came on and scrambled for a first down on 3rd-and-8 inside Elon's 35. However he was hammered on the play and fumbled, which the Phoenix recovered.

Furman put together an 11-play drive to open the second quarter, driving to Elon's 20-yard line. A holding penalty doomed the drive and Grayson Atkins' 50-yard field goal attempt again had plenty of distance, but again missed wide.

On Elon's ensuing possession, Davis Cheek completed four consecutive passes and De'Sean McNair capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown to make it 21-0. At this point in last season's game, Furman outscored the Phoenix 31-3 to take a 31-24 lead into the fourth quarter.

Not this time.

Elon added another touchdown when 242-pound tight end Matt Foster took a screen pass from Cheek 30 yards for a touchdown with 1:40 left in the first half. Furman drove to the Elon 24-yard line on its ensuing possession, but Grainger's throw to the end zone on the half's final play was easily intercepted.

"In the first half, we had 12 first downs and were moving the ball on offense but we just killed ourselves with mistakes and turnovers," Hendrix said. "Then we came out in the third quarter and couldn't get anything going."

The Phoenix (1-1) didn't let up after halftime pushing the lead to 45-0 early in the fourth quarter. The Paladins (0-2) finally got on the scoreboard when Lincoln ran for a seven-yard touchdown with 6:20 left in the game.

Elon finished with 275 yards rushing and 173 yards through the air on 12-of-16 passing.

Furman had 195 yards rushing, led by Kealand Dirks' 72-yard effort, The Paladins, who didn't have a pass completion until just under six minutes were left in the second quarter, finished with just 67 yards passing. Obviously, the inability to pass consistently hampered any comeback attempt as Furman is 0-2 to start a season for the sixth time in the last seven years.

"At the end of the day, you've got to make blocks offensively and defensively, you've got to get off blocks. We couldn't get off blocks and so many times we couldn't get off the field on third down," Hendrix said. "There's plenty of blame to go around.
"Everything we want to accomplish this season is out there. We're sitting exactly where we were a year ago at 0-2 and we haven't played very well. I believe in this group. ... We've just got to quit making dumb, immature mistakes and we've got to coach better."

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