Saturday, November 10, 2018

Paladins get offense cranking, whip VMI

Devin Wynn rushed for a career-high 112 yards and three touchdowns
in Furman's 49-13 win at VMI Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
LEXINGTON, Va. - A week after grinding out a 16-10 win over Chattanooga, Furman made the long trek to VMI looking to get its offense sparked. That's exactly what it got. The Paladins piled up a season-high 590 total yards of offense to cruise to a 49-13 win.

The offense got a boost of confidence in all phases. The Paladins (5-4, 5-2 Southern Conference) had 302 yards passing and 288 rushing for its most productive day of offense since collecting 609 yards against ETSU last season. Furman had 14 first downs rushing, 14 passing and two via penalty Saturday.

Furman coach Clay Hendrix said he was proud of his team not falling into the trap of excuses for reasons to not play well. Such as making a long road trip, playing on a cold, windy day on a slick field against a team with nothing to lose.

"There's all kind of reasons not to go play well and we weren't going to go do that," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "We had a great week of preparation and I was proud of how we started, particularly offensively."

Furman got things going on its opening possession. On third-and-nine, Harris Roberts hit Ryan DeLuca on a 28-yard gain. On third-and-13, Roberts connected with Devin Wynn for 19 yards. On the next play, Roberts tossed an option pitch to Wynn and he could walk into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown.

The third-down conversions were just a sign of things to come. Furman converted nine of its first 10 third downs and went 11 of 14 for the game.

"If you do that (on third down), you've got a chance," Hendrix said.

After a 10-play, 83-yard drive to open the game, Furman went 80 yards on 10 plays on its next drive. Corey Watkins ran for 29 yards on the first play, Thomas Gordon caught a 21-yard pass on third-and-six, and Wynn capped the drive with a one-yard score.

Jordan Willis forced a fumble on the first play of VMI's ensuing possession and Furman's Aaquil Annoor recovered at the VMI 33. On the next play, Roberts went deep to Jake Walker for a touchdown that helped push the lead to 21-0 with 2:34 left in the first quarter.

Furman had another 10-play scoring drive in the second quarter, capped by Watkins' five-yard touchdown run. After stopping VMI on fourth down with an incompletion, Furman took over at its own 29-yard line with 2:13 left. Two plays later, Roberts threw a short pass to Walker that he turned into a 69-yard touchdown with 1:18 left.

"Jake runs really smooth. When you watch him on film, it doesn't look like he's running all that fast but he's a lot faster than he looks," said Roberts, who completed 13-of-17 passes for 261 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. "That's the touchdown you dream about as a quarterback - throw it about five feet and just let him go for 65 (yards).
"We mixed the run and pass really well today. We got fortunate and took advantage of that turnover early on, which really put us in a good position from the get go."

The Keydets drove to Furman's two-yard line on their ensuing possessions. But with four seconds left, VMI quarterback Reece Udinski tried a draw and was dropped for a one-yard loss to end the half, leaving Furman with a 35-7 lead.

The Paladins removed any doubt in the third quarter. Wynn found a hole up the gut and ran untouched for a 43-yard touchdown on Furman's first drive after halftime. Watkins scored from two yards out on the next one as Furman took a 49-7 lead with 6:13 left in the third quarter.

Wynn finished with a career-high 112 yards on 15 carries, while Watkins matched a career-high with 78 yards on 13 attempts.

While it didn't score the rest of the way, Furman was able to kill the clock. The Paladins had the ball for more than 37 minutes, including 11:24 in the fourth quarter.

"We got to play a bunch of guys the whole fourth quarter and part of the third," Hendrix said. "That will be invaluable for us."

Much like Furman's offense got going against a VMI defense that has struggled to stop teams, freshman bandit Adrian Hope padded his sack total against a Keydets' team that has had trouble protecting the quarterback. Furman had three sacks Saturday, pushing VMI's season total of allowed sacks to 46. Two of those were by Hope, pushing his SoCon-leading total to 12.5 this season.

The Paladins held VMI to its lowest point total in FCS play this season. While Furman excelled on third down, the Keydets were just 4-of-12 on third down, 2-of-4 on fourth down and 0-for-2 on scoring in the red zone.

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