Friday, November 2, 2018

Paladins host Chattanooga in elimination game

Furman linebacker Donavan Perryman had 12 tackles, a sack and a fumble
return for a touchdown last week at The Citadel. Photo courtesy of Furman
When all is said and done in the Southern Conference Saturday, there could be as many as five teams with two league losses with two weeks left in the regular season. One of those will be the winner of the Furman-Chattanooga game. The loser will have three league losses which will virtually extinguish any hopes of a conference championship or playoff bid.

After missing last week's 28-17 win at The Citadel with a concussion suffered the previous week against Samford, Furman starting quarterback Harris Roberts is expected to be back under center Saturday.

"He came in Monday raring to go and was able to practice all week, so he's ready," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said Friday.

Last season, Furman (3-4, 3-2) snapped a five-game losing streak against the Mocs with a 41-17 victory in Chattanooga. The Paladins dominated in the trenches that day, outgaining Chattanooga 290-7 on the ground.

The Mocs (6-2, 4-2) are much improved this year having already double last season's win total. Its another week in which Furman's defense must shift gears once again. After facing a passing-heavy offense in Western Carolina, Furman faced run-heavy Wofford the next week, followed by pass-heavy Samford and run-heavy Citadel. While the Mocs strive to be more balanced, they are third in the league in passing at 262.8 yards per game.

Chattanooga is led by junior quarterback Nick Tiano. The Mississippi State transfer has thrown for 2,102 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions, and ran for 199 yards and a score. His favorite target is sophomore Bryce Nunnelly, who ranks fourth in the FCS with 953 yards receiving. He's caught 60 passes, including seven touchdowns. The Mocs' Tyrell Price has rushed for 567 yards and nine touchdowns on a SoCon-high 154 attempts.

"Hopefully we can stop the run, makes them one-dimensional and have a chance to get after them," Hendrix said. "They run about as true of a pro-style offense as we will see ... and he's a big, tall kid who looks like a prototypical NFL quarterback."

Furman could use another big day from junior linebacker Donavan Perryman, who had a career-high 12 tackles, a sack and the game-sealing fumble return for a touchdown last week to earn SoCon Defensive Player of the Week honors.

"I don't know if we have anybody who works any harder than Donavan on our team," Hendrix said. "We moved him to play that 'Mike' (linebacker) position on Wednesday (for the matchup against Citadel) and he was really solid."

While Chattanooga's offense has put up solid numbers otherwise, the Mocs are eighth in the SoCon in scoring (26 points per game) ranking only ahead of Furman (24.2). Chattanooga has leaned on a stingy veteran defense that ranks second in the SoCon in sacks (28) and scoring (19.1 points allowed per game).

Furman's offense should get a boost by the return of Roberts, as well as possibly tailback Darius Morehead. Morehead, who's averaging 7.6 yards per carry, has missed the last two weeks due to injury. With Morehead out, Devin Wynn made the first two starts of his career and made this most of his chances. After rushing for 83 yards on 13 carries against Samford, Wynn had nine rushes for 86 yards against Citadel.

"I think those three guys (Morehead, Wynn and Corey Watkins) together are averaging seven yards a carry, which probably tells you that we haven't handed the ball to them enough," Hendrix said.

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