Thursday, November 8, 2018

Paladins earned throwback win Saturday

Furman senior captain Jaylan Reid drops Chattanooga quarterback Nick
Tiano for a loss in the Paladins' 16-10 win. Photo courtesy of Furman
There are a few reasons why having the Colgate game cancelled by the threat of Hurricane Florence has grown to really stink for Furman this season. Given the mismatch that took place on Colgate's home turf last season, the thinking would have to lean toward the Paladins sitting at 5-4 currently rather than 4-4 had the game taken place.

No matter if Furman won or lost that day, what if some of the kinks that weren't fully worked out with a healthy Harris Roberts at quarterback for Furman against ETSU the next week were worked out against Colgate? Perhaps then the Paladins don't squander a 27-6 lead at ETSU and would be currently alone in first place in the Southern Conference.

There's nothing Furman can do about "what might have been" now, but there's still a possibility - with some help - that Furman could share a SoCon title and/or earn an FCS playoff bid. The Paladins are one of three SoCon teams with two league losses, trailing one-loss ETSU in the standings with two weeks left in the regular season.

One result of the cancelled game was postponing the planned events honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Div. I-AA national championship team to this past Saturday. Members of the team returned to campus to participate and took the field for recognition between the first and second quarter. Given how Furman grinded out a 16-10 win over Chattanooga, it was rather fitting that the 1988 team was remembered Saturday. Coach Clay Hendrix couldn't help but recall how similar it was to the 10-7 win over Chattanooga 30 years ago.

"In 1988 we went up to Chattanooga at the old Chamberlain Field and they were good and really good defensively," said Hendrix, who was the offensive line coach in 1988. "Our touchdown was a pick-six. Pat Turner picked one off I think in the first or second quarter. Today was kind of like that game. We just kind of hung on in a game that was in the later part of the year."

Defense stands tall
Furman's defense led the way Saturday with its best all-around performance this season. Chattanooga's only two scores came after Furman turnovers. The Paladins held the Mocs to 240 yards of total offense, marking the first time this season that Furman held an opponent under 318 yards.

Freshman bandit Adrian Hope had 2.5 sacks Saturday moving into fourth-place in school history for most sacks in a single season with 10.5. Hope averages 1.31 sacks per game with ranks second in the FCS. Elijah McKoy had 13 tackles Saturday and he now ranks second in the SoCon with 9.2 tackles per game.

Atkins honored again
For the third consecutive week, kicker/punter Grayson Atkins has earned SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Atkins hit all three of his field goals Saturday, including another 50-yarder, running his consecutive made field goals streak to 10 - two behind the school record held by Danny Marshall. Atkins has kicked the third-longest field goal (53 yards) and third-longest punt (81) in school history this season, while half of his 40 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.

"Grayson's just a cool guy. He just stands there and not a whole lot bothers him," Hendrix said. "He doesn't get enough credit for the kickoff stuff ... and he continues to punt the ball really well. He's certainly a weapon."

Auer an unsung hero
While a pair of Furman turnovers in the second half kept Chattanooga's hopes alive, it snapped a run of seven consecutive quarters without one for the Paladins. That run was nearly snapped in the first quarter Saturday though. Having allowed fumble returns for touchdowns in losses to Elon and Samford this year, the Paladins were fully aware how costly they can be and nearly suffered one on their opening possession.

With Roberts rolling to his right, Chattanooga standout defender Isaiah Mack forced a fumble from behind. As the ball bounced toward the Furman sideline, reserve left tackle Caleb Auer made a terrific hustle play to pounce on the loose ball to retain possession. The sophomore's dive landed him just ahead of streaking Chattanooga cornerback Kareem Orr. There was nothing between Orr and the goal line except for Auer.

Paladins receive votes
Coming off Saturday's win, Furman collected six votes in this week's FCS STATS (Media) poll - 57 fewer than Chattanooga. The Paladins received no votes in the FCS Coaches poll.

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