Thursday, October 18, 2018

New offensive wrinkle pays off for Paladins

Furman tailback Devin Wynn hauls in a 49-yard pass from Harris Roberts
in the Paladins' 34-14 win over Wofford. Photo courtesy of Furman
Now fully recovered from a broken thumb suffered in the preseason, Furman senior quarterback Harris Roberts has shown improvement with every passing Saturday - no pun intended. Roberts earned Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors this week after accounting for five touchdowns in the Paladins' 34-14 win over then No. 4-ranked Wofford Saturday.

Roberts completed 16-of-19 passes for 235 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He was also rushed for 32 yards and a pair of scores. Combined with a 3.66 GPA, that effort helped the pre-engineering major earn SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week honors as well.

"Harris is a smart, tough kid who likes to play and prepares well," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "I think (offensive coordinator) George Quarles and our offensive staff have a really good understanding of what his strengths are.
"I knew they (Wofford) were going make him keep the ball (on the option), and he's shown he can be an adequate runner."

Senior receiver Thomas Gordon helped set the tone for Roberts' big day as he had three receptions for 41 yards by Furman's fourth play of the game. While Gordon led the Paladins with six catches for 70 yards, it was some unexpected targets that were big difference makers.

Entering Saturday, Paladin running backs had totaled 27 yards receiving on four catches with no touchdowns over the first four games. On Saturday, tailbacks' Devin Wynn, Darius Morehead and Corey Watkins combined for six receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Over last season's 13-game schedule, a total of six Furman running backs combined for 27 receptions, 262 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Much like last season's signature "big play" that saw bombs to a wide open receiver - typically tight end Andy Schumpert - over the middle, Saturday's big passing plays were also play-action things of beauty. Seemingly each throw to a running back happened after Roberts faked a handoff and rolled out to find his intended target standing all alone.

"One of the things I struggle with in those situations sometimes is I underthrow them a little bit just to make sure I don't overthrow them," Roberts said. "But it's nice when they're wide open and they can go run for 60 yards."

Was it really that shocking?
Often times when a supposed underdog is facing a top five team, the "experts" will claim that said underdog must play a near-perfect game and win the turnover battle to have a chance at the upset.

So for underdog Furman to pull off a 20-point win in which it held a double-digit lead from the first quarter on, they must have dominated statistically, right? Not really.

Furman had one more first down, 13 more total yards of offense and a 1:22 advantage in time of possession. Each team had five penalties and one turnover. The Terriers ran 41 times and the only time they fumbled came on a play that was initially ruled an interception.

Based on those factors - and the fact that the home team has now won 11 of the last 12 games in the series - it's kind of hard to consider Saturday's result a stunning upset. Hendrix certainly didn't think it was.

"You can throw those two records (Furman and Wofford) out there, but I knew we'd lined up against some really good teams," Hendrix said. "I think if you watch those first two games, that's not who we are. I think we're showing who we can be and who we want to be.
"I think we've got 18 of 22 guys on offense who are freshmen or sophomores. The o-line is getting better. ... You never know, but I thought we'd defend them pretty well and we did."

Washington's day gets even better
That change in the official scoring from an interception to fumble by Wofford quarterback Joe Newman made Chris Washington's big day even bigger. Furman's junior bandit finished with six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.

Atkins' streak snapped
Furman sophomore kicker Grayson Atkins missed the first extra point of his career Saturday, snapping the longest active streak in the SoCon. The former Boiling Springs High standout made the first 68 extra points of his collegiate career, which is the seventh-longest streak in SoCon history.

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