Saturday, August 31, 2019

Paladins rout Charleston Southern in opener

Devin Wynn rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in Furman's
46-13 win over Charleston Southern. Photo courtesy of Furman
On a day when it wanted to get off on the right foot, 17th-ranked Furman stomped Charleston Southern 46-13 Saturday at Paladin Stadium. Playing in their first home opener in four years, the Paladins won their first season opener in five years by rushing for the most yards they've had in three years. It's the most points Furman has ever scored against a Division I opponent in an opener, and the most since a 62-14 win over Mars Hill in 2008.

Furman piled up 369 yards on the ground, the most it's had since rushing for 387 in a 49-21 win over Western Carolina in 2016. The Paladins enjoyed a solid day in all phases though. They completed more passes Saturday (17) than in any game last season and matched last season's high for sacks in a game with five.

"I'm just really pleased with how our kids prepared for the season. ... Whether it was spring practice, offseason lifting, running throughout the summer. We had a really good August," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "All that certainly paid off. We wanted to start fast and I thought we did that.
"There's some we've got to do better, but it's certainly a good place to start the building process for having a good year."

Furman's "3D" backfield accounted for its first three scores of the game. Quarterback Darren Grainger twisted his way into the end zone from four yards out for the first points of the season midway through the first quarter. Later in the first, fullback Devin Abrams ran into a pile around the two and the pile moved into the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown.

After Charleston Southern got on the board on the first play of the second quarter, Furman answered when tailback Devin Wynn scored on a 13-yard run. When Grainger double clutched a bit on the shotgun snap, a trio of Buccaneers zeroed in on him before he pitched it to Wynn who went in untouched.

Grayson Atkins' 12th consecutive made field goal pushed Furman's lead to 24-6 at the half. The 39-yard effort tied Danny Marshall's school record for consecutive makes.

Charleston Southern marched down the field to start the second half. When quarterback Jack Chambers scored from a yard out, suddenly Furman's commanding lead was cut to 11. The Paladins answered with their best drive of the day. The 13-play, 79-yard drive was capped when Grainger hit a wide open Ryan DeLuca for a six-yard touchdown on third down. Third string quarterback Jack Hardin hit snapper/tight end Evan Vaughn on a two-point conversion to make it 32-13.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game occurred on that drive when Furman was faced with 3rd-and-10 from its own 35-yard line. Grainger found true freshman running back Wayne Anderson Jr. down the middle of the field for a 28-yard gain.

"I knew No. 21 (Anderson) was going to show up somewhere and that play was huge," Hendrix said. "Darren threw a really good ball there."

The Buccaneers didn't quit though. They reached the Furman 12-yard line on the ensuing drive before freshman Travis Blackshear came on a blindside blitz. In addition to the sack, Blackshear forced a fumble that was recovered by Jonah Tibbs.

While a sack and fumble ended that drive, Furman had two other sacks on third down to end others. Dru Seabrook had 1.5 sacks Saturday while Adrian Hope, the nation's leader in sacks last season, split a pair.

"One of things we go by is leaving no doubt, every single play," said linebacker Donavan Perryman, who had seven tackles and a sack. "We were bringing that great effort and tenacity to the game today."

Three plays after the fumble recovery, backup fullback Carson Maples opened the fourth quarter by taking a handoff on a third-and-one play. After getting the first down, Maples squirted out of the pile and took off for a 66-yard touchdown.

"I didn't know Carson had 66 yards in him," Hendrix said with a smile. "I'm gonna have to give him a hard time about tying the tailbacks for the longest run today."

On Furman's next offensive play, Anderson rumbled for a 66-yard touchdown to wrap up the scoring. That made it five different Paladins with rushing touchdowns, which last happened in a 51-31 win over Chattanooga on Nov. 20, 2004.

Wynn led the Paladins with 131 yards on 12 carries. Anderson finished with 90 yards and Maples had 86. Grainger was 14-of-20 passing for 130 yards and ran for 25 yards on six attempts. The Paladins finished with no turnovers and 27 first downs, 20 of which came in the first half.

"Our offensive line is pretty exciting to run behind. We've been harping on dominating and they certainly dominated today," Wynn said. "We showed we could get out in open space and make long runs and it started off because of them."

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