Saturday, September 28, 2019

Defense lifts Paladins past ETSU

Furman's DiMarcus Clay returns an interception on ETSU's final offensive
play in the Paladins' 17-10 win Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
Furman coach Clay Hendrix said ETSU's defense would present the 15th-ranked Paladins with its stiffest challenge yet - outside of Virginia Tech. As it turns out, that wasn't just "coach speak." But on a day when the Buccaneers routinely locked up Furman's offense, the defense kept providing the bail money.

For the second week in a row, the Paladins defense held an opponent under 300 yards of total offense as Furman held on for a 17-10 win at Paladin Stadium Saturday. Furman (3-2) improves to 2-0 in the Southern Conference for the first time since 2011.

"I'm thrilled to get a victory. ... I told them it was going to be exactly like it was. I knew it was going to be a fight," Hendrix said. "Defensively, just a phenomenal job by our guys. They just continue to get better and better.
"You've gotta find a way to win games like that and good teams do."

After putting up 45 points and 600 yards of total offense in last Saturday's win over Mercer, Furman looked to pick up where it left off after receiving the opening kickoff. But on a cloudy day in front of a sparse crowd, the energy level seemed a little low as the Paladins went three-and-out to start the game.

However, Furman came back with a nine-play, 80-yard drive on its next possession. On a day when Darren Grainger's cannon arm misfired a few times, it was on point when he zipped a pass to a well-covered Ryan DeLuca in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.

After a three-and-out for ETSU (2-3, 0-2), Furman's offense went back to work. The Paladins were at the Bucs' 15 again going the opposite way in the second quarter when they ran a similar play as the touchdown. This time, the ball slipped off DeLuca's fingers for an incompletion and Furman ended up settling for a 28-yard field goal by Grayson Atkins. Atkins' 15th consecutive made field goal established a new SoCon record.

It appeared more like business as usual for the SoCon's No. 1-rated offense as Furman led 10-0 and looked for more as it got the ball back with 11 minutes left in the second quarter. But a massive hit that resulted in a turnover seemed to shake up the Paladins. On 2nd-and-2, Corey Watkins easily got the first down and was looking for more when he was blindsided by ETSU's Artevius Smith. The Bucs recovered the ball at the Furman 42 as Watkins laid on the field motionless for a couple of minutes before leaving the game.

After the turnover, it took all of four ETSU runs to get on the board as Cameron Lewis ran for a six-yard touchdown. It remained a 10-7 game going into halftime.

"The fumble was huge," Hendrix said. "I really felt like we were getting ready to kind of take the game over.
"We didn't respond very good on defense. We missed a couple of tackles, they go down and score and the whole game changed."

ETSU tied the game on a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Keltner midway through the third quarter.

After going 3-of-10 passing in the first half, Grainger's first pass of the second half came on Furman's third possession after halftime. Grainger nearly slipped down for a loss after the snap but regained his stance and fired a deep ball to DeLuca, who fought through the defender and somehow made a 40-yard catch to the 11.

"I got past the corner and I thought it was going to be a little late, but I obviously didn't see Darren slip. He did a great job of recovering and making a play," DeLuca said. "He put it up there and I definitely thought there might have been interference, but I just tried to make a play."

Three plays later, Devin Wynn ran for six yards on 3rd-and-6 on the final play of the third quarter. For Furman, which entered Saturday ranked No. 1 in the SoCon in third down conversions at 49 percent, it was the first third down conversion of the game. Wynn scored from a yard out to open the fourth quarter to as the Paladins took a 17-10 lead.

Furman's defense came up with a pair of turnovers in the fourth quarter. Cally Chizik forced a fumble that Parker Stokes recovered at the ETSU 37. Two plays later, Grainger fired to the end zone but was picked off by Smith. With 3:06 left in the game, Furman's DiMarcus Clay intercepted Trey Mitchell's pass on third down.

"We just continued to talk about having more energy, especially in the second half," said captain Jordan Willis, who had 10 tackles. "We seemed kind of flat coming out, but once we picked it up everybody just continued to keep going and let loose."

With the Bucs still having all three timeouts, Furman needed at least a couple of first downs to run out the clock. The Paladins avoided disaster on the first play as Wayne Anderson fumbled an option pitch but recovered it. That was the last pitch of the day, but the ball did go in the air one more time when Grainger hit Avery Armstrong for 13 yards on 3rd-and-11. On 3rd-and-4, it appeared there was supposed to be a handoff but Grainger kept it and rolled to his right for a gain of four and a first down. Furman then kneeled out the clock.

"I think I said something to (offensive coordinator) George (Quarles) about that play (option pitch), but we didn't crack the safety. If we had cracked the safety, we might have had a big, big play," Hendrix said. "We executed that (3rd-and-11) about as well as you could execute it. ... Then (on 3rd-and-4) luckily, Darren made a heck of a play.
"I was proud we didn't have to send our defense back onto the field."

While ETSU was held to 290 yards, it outgained Furman by 22 yards and had a seven-minute edge in time of possession. The 268-yard total for the Paladins are the fewest in a victory since a 221-yard effort in a 17-3 win over S.C. State in 2015.

Watkins, who never returned after taking the big hit, finished with 58 yards on five carries to lead the Paladins. Wynn, who sat out the first quarter, and Devin Abrams each had 43 yards on 11 carries. Grainger was 6-of-14 for 97 yards passing and rushed for 24 yards on seven attempts.

"Offensively, we've had a lot of people tell us how good we are. When you have days like today, you get brought back to earth a little bit," Hendrix said. "It's nice to learn that lesson and still get a win."

Amir Trapp set his career-high for tackles in a game by the end of the first quarter Saturday and finished with 11 to share the team lead with Braden Gilby. Travis Blackshear and Elijah McKoy each had eight. Dru Seabrook got his team-leading fourth sack this season. That came on third down and forced an ETSU punt from its 16-yard line in a 10-10 game. After Trapp made a fair catch at the Furman 49, Grainger hit the 40-yard pass to DeLuca on the next play.

In addition to breaking the SoCon record for consecutive made field goals, Atkins was vitally important in the field position battle. He averaged 42.6 yards on five punts and put three of those inside the ETSU 20-yard line.

"Everybody's accountable for just doing their job. My job is to pin them inside the 20 and make my field goals when they come up," Atkins said. "Shout out to my coverage team because a lot of those inside the 20 have been downed. They've done an incredible job making me look good."

Friday, September 27, 2019

Furman set for redemption portion of schedule

Furman 5-foot-8 corner Amir Trapp deflects a pass intended for Mercer's 6-2
receiver David Durden in the Paladins' 45-10 win. Photo courtesy of Furman
After winning its first season opener since 2014 and first Southern Conference opener since 2015, the No. 15-ranked Furman football team is now set for the redemption portion of its 2019 schedule. The Paladins (2-2, 1-0) have the chance to avenge its only SoCon losses from last season each of the next two weeks, as they host East Tennessee State on Saturday before playing at Samford on Oct. 5.

A win in either of those games last year would've given Furman the outright SoCon championship and saved a whole lot of heartbreak on the FCS version of "Selection Sunday." Instead, the Paladins settled for a share of their league-best 14th football title and became just the second SoCon champion to not receive a bid to the FCS playoffs.

Last season's loss at ETSU was particularly painful for Furman. After taking a 13-6 lead into halftime, the Paladins seem unfazed by a 50-minute lightning delay that extended the break. Furman scored touchdowns on two of its first three possessions of the second half to push its lead to 27-6 with 8:19 left in the third quarter.

Then everything went belly up for the Paladins. The Buccaneers switched quarterbacks and senior Austin Herink threw for more than 200 yards over the last quarter-and-a-half. Meanwhile, Furman's offense completely disappeared with respective drives of five, nine, minus-10, minus-3 and six yards the rest of the way as ETSU rallied for a 29-27 win.

"I remember that feeling sitting on the bus after that game. If we would've just made one play anywhere...," Furman coach Clay Hendrix recalled. "They just played better than we did. At the end of the day, they made more plays than we did.
"I don't know how much that will play a part (Saturday), I just know they're a pretty good team coming in here."

The good news for Furman is Herink - who threw for a school record 434 yards in Furman's 56-35 win over ETSU in Greenville two years ago - is now a graduate assistant. The better news is the Paladins are on a completely different level from last September. This is especially true on offense where Hendrix says the difference is "night and day."

Because of injury and the weather cancellation the week before, last year's ETSU game marked Harris Roberts' first meaningful snaps at quarterback. Hendrix has said that it took the half the season last year for Furman to figure things out, especially when it came to developing an identity on offense.

This year, Darren Grainger has looked like more like a seasoned veteran rather than a redshirt freshman. Grainger has thrown for 694 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception, while rushing for 149 yards and four touchdowns. Coming off its 600-yard performance last Saturday, which included 410 yards rushing, Furman leads the SoCon in total offense at 469.5 yards per game.

"We're not remotely close to that same team that went up there last year," Hendrix said.

The Paladins should be tested Saturday by an ETSU unit that ranks No. 2 in the SoCon in total defense (343.8 yards allowed per game), No. 2 in rush defense (140.8) and No. 3 in pass defense (203). The Bucs (2-2, 0-1) are led by SoCon preseason defensive player of the year Nasir Player, who leads the team in sacks (1.5) and quarterback hurries (4).

That defense shined last week in ETSU's 20-14 win over Austin Peay. The Bucs didn't allow a point in the second half and held the Governors to 79 yards of total offense after halftime. The week before, Austin Peay won at Mercer 48-34.

"They're a physical, fast group with a lot of good players," Hendrix said. "They have a physical running game on offense, so they get to practice against that. That shows up in how they play (defensively)."

Like ETSU last Saturday, Furman's defense also posted a second half shutout in the Paladins' 45-10 win over Mercer. In handing the Bears their most lopsided FCS loss ever, Furman allowed just 283 yards of total offense, forced four turnovers and had two sacks. Mercer entered last week averaging 42.7 points and 432.3 yards per game and had only allowed two sacks for the season.

What particularly stood out is the improvement shown by Furman's pass defense since the 48-42 shootout loss at Georgia State. Furman 5-foot-8 corner Amir Trapp held his own against Mercer's 6-2 David Durden. Trapp had three pass break-ups while limiting Durden, the Bears leading receiver, to six catches for just 54 yards. Meanwhile on the other side, Travis Blackshear helped hold Tucker Cannon to two catches for 17 yards. Cannon entered last week with 13 receptions for 285 yards (21.9 per catch).

Also for Furman's pass defense last week, Bryan Okeh, DiMarcus Clay and Hugh Ryan each had their first collegiate interception, while Dae'One Wilkins had two break-ups and Darius Kearse had one.

"Amir's a guy who's really competitive. The Durden kid is a heck of a player and Amir took that as a challenge. He's played some really good football for us in the short time he's been here. For him, it's just about staying healthy," Hendrix said. "Travis doesn't play like a lot of corners from a tackling standpoint. He's had some big hits for us.
"I thought our secondary easily had their best day - maybe one of the better days that I remember having around here."

An intangible that might be interesting to track Saturday could be the weather. The game is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff, just like every other Furman home game this year. It will mark the earliest kickoff this season for ETSU, which hasn't started a game before 7:35 p.m. in September.

Temperature at 1 p.m. is forecast to be 84 degrees with a heat index of 90, and both those figures are predicted to rise throughout the afternoon. Hendrix made no bones about why he likes the early afternoon kickoffs this week.

"Our conditioning is one of the reasons I like to play at one o'clock. I think we're in really good shape and our depth has been good," Hendrix said. "I think we're playing through a few more bumps, bruises and dings than we could have in the past, so we've been a little more durable. We try to play a physical style on both sides of the ball."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Third-and-long: What, Furman worry?

Darren Grainger's elusiveness helped Furman convert quite a few third
downs in its 45-10 win over Mercer Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
It's hard to imagine a more demoralizing feeling for a defensive player than doing your job on first and second down, only to give up a first down on third. It's got to be especially frustrating on third-and-long situations. Those hard times are exactly what Furman put on Mercer during the Paladins' 45-10 win at Paladin Stadium Saturday.

Furman has converted nearly half (24-of-49) of its third downs this season. That 49 percent showing leads the Southern Conference and ranks 17th nationally. If not for Saturday's lopsided score, that percentage would likely be even higher. The Paladins (2-2, 1-0) were 7-of-12 on third down Saturday despite not converting any of their three in the fourth quarter. With a 35-point lead going into the fourth, Furman was more invested in running the clock than anything else.

Of those 7-of-9 conversions in the first three quarters, six came on plays where the Paladins needed at least six yards. The success they had could largely be attributed to the decision-making, patience and quick feet of redshirt freshman quarterback Darren Grainger.

On Furman's 12-play touchdown drive in the first quarter, it faced 3rd-and-10 at the Mercer 28. After finding no open receiver, Grainger took off for a gain of 17. On their next drive, the Paladins had 3rd-and-12. Perhaps recalling what Grainger did on the previous third-and-long, Mercer's defense lost track of tight end Ryan Miller who was running free down the right sideline when Grainger hit him in stride for a 41-yard touchdown pass.

Furman had 3rd-and-13 on their last drive of the first half. A designed pass again turned into a run as Grainger scrambled for a 21-yard gain. Three plays later, Dominic Roberto ran for a two-yard touchdown and the Paladins pushed the lead to 28-7.

"I've been on both sides of that, so I'm glad he's on our side," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said of quarterbacks scrambling for first downs. "We tell our offensive linemen, 'just give him a chance.' Whether its a protection deal or a chance to make a play with his feet."
"That ability changes everything. ... He's had good anticipation for that kind of stuff and I think he's a real confident kid. He can recover sometimes because of his arm strength too."

Midway through the third quarter, Grainger rushed for five yards on 3rd-and-3, but was sacked for a loss of 14 on the next play. Mercer's lone sack led to a 3rd-and-24 situation. While they didn't convert, the Paladins made something out of it when Grainger hit Avery Armstrong for a gain of 14. That set up a 41-yard field goal by Grayson Atkins to make it 38-10.

Furman faced 3rd-and-6 on its final play of the third quarter. Grainger pitched on the option to Corey Watkins, who raced 83 yards for the final score of the game.

"We've historically been a good third-down team, but I would say most of that's probably because we've had a lot of third-and-shorts," Hendrix said. "You always hope to not have a lot of (third-and-longs), but certainly his feet bring a whole new dimension.
"You feel like you've got a chance."

Atkins honored again
For the second time this season, Atkins earned SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week honors. In addition to extending his school record streak for consecutive made field goals to 14, Atkins averaged 51 yards per punt thanks to a 69-yarder that rolled out of bounds at the six-yard line.

Perhaps more important than any of that was the job Atkins did on kickoffs. Mercer's David Durden entered Saturday ranked second in the country at 40.3 yards per kick return, but he had just three returns for 52 yards (17.3 per return) against Furman.

Four of Atkins' seven kickoffs went for touchbacks, while another was a perfect onside kick recovered by the Paladins - which they got to keep after a review this week. The three that Durden fielded were returned to the Mercer 29-, 19- and 14-yard lines, respectively.

"We did a great job in covering (kickoffs). That's something we've stressed and done a good job of that all year," Hendrix said. "Coach (Corico) Wright has done a great job with that kickoff team, instilling a demeanor in them, and we've obviously got a great kicker. I think they were kinda wanting (Durden) to bring one out and they did a good job of getting after him."

Red zone perfection ends
With a 45-10 lead and less than five minutes to play Saturday, the Paladins weren't likely to trot out Atkins on fourth-and-goal at the Bears' seven-yard line and they didn't. While it was the right thing to do, it snapped Furman's perfect run in the red zone this season.

The Paladins have scored on 15 of their 16 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line this season, with 14 touchdowns. Furman's 11 rushing touchdowns in the red zone is tied for tops in the country.

Vann suffers injury
Hendrix said that junior bandit Dillon Vann (knee) would likely be out a while after he was carted off the field Saturday. It's a tough break for the team player, who switched from offense to defense this season after switching from defense to offense prior to last season.

Not much change in polls
After moving down a total of four spots following close losses to FBS opponents over the past two weeks, Furman remained No. 15 in this week's FCS Coaches poll following the blowout win. The Paladins moved up one to No. 16 in the FCS STATS poll.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Paladins put it all together, rout Mercer

Furman's Corey Watkins races for an 83-yard touchdown during the
Paladins' 45-10 win over Mercer Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
Even at 1-2 entering Saturday, the thought for Furman's football team had to be what if it all came together. That is, what if the 15th-ranked Paladins could run like they did against Charleston Southern, pass like they did at Georgia State and defend like they did at Virginia Tech. It all happened Saturday at Paladin Stadium and it resulted in a 45-10 win over Mercer.

Furman piled up 600 yards of total offense and held the previously No. 1-ranked offense in the Southern Conference to 283 total yards to win its SoCon opener for the first time since 2015. Saturday marked the first time a game in this series was decided by more than seven points and was Mercer's most lopsided loss to an FCS team ever.

"It's good to be 1-0 in the Southern Conference. I'm really pleased with how we started the game," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "We did some really good things and played a ton of kids."

Perhaps the most impressive part of the 35-point win was what the Paladins overcame to get it. After having just one fumble on offense this season, Furman (2-2, 1-0) fumbled four times Saturday and lost two of those. The Paladins had 102 yards worth of penalties after entering Saturday with a total of 94 for the season. Without injured tailback Wayne Anderson Jr. and fullback Carson Maples, Furman rushed for 410 yards.

"At times we were a little bit sloppy, so we've got some correctable mistakes," Hendrix said. "It's always great to learn when you get a win."

After close losses to FBS teams each of the past two weeks, the Paladins came out breathing fire Saturday. Devin Wynn ran for 26 yards on the first play of the game. On the second, Darren Grainger threw a perfect bomb to Thomas Gordon for a 47-yard gain to the Mercer six-yard line. Two plays later, Corey Watkins scored from a yard out and Furman led 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.

The next drive was a more traditional Furman effort as the 12-play, 77-yard march took 6:10 and was capped when Devin Abrams twisted his way into the end zone for a three-yard touchdown.

Mercer cut the lead in half after a 14-play, 71-yard touchdown drive in which the Paladins suffered quite a few missed initial tackles. Furman answered on its ensuing possession when Grainger found tight end Ryan Miller all alone down the sideline for an easy 41-yard touchdown. The Paladins drove 85 yards on 11 plays on their next possession as Dominic Roberto's two-yard touchdown helped push the lead to 21 with 1:10 left in the half.

The Bears (2-2, 1-1) rapidly moved down the field in the final minute before Bryan Okeh came up with an interception on the final play of the half. However, a roughing the passer penalty wiped out the pick and Mercer used an untimed down to kick a 35-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 28-10 at the half.

Given how Furman has performed in the third quarter this season and with the Bears getting the ball to start the second half, there may have been pause about just how in control the Paladins were. Each of Furman's first three opponents scored touchdowns on their first drives of the second half as the Paladins were outscored in the third, 42-16, for the season.

It became evident pretty quickly that there was no need for concern on Saturday. Mercer got one first down on its opening possession of the second half, but that was it. On Furman's first offensive play following the punt, Devin Abrams rumbled 69 yards to the Bears' 19. Three plays later, Grainger ran for a four yard touchdown to make it 35-10.

Mercer went three-and-out on its next possession and the next two ended on interceptions by DiMarcus Clay and Okeh, respectively. Meanwhile, Grayson Atkins extended his school record to 14 consecutive made field goals and Watkins took an option pitch 83 yards for a touchdown late in the third to make it a 17-0 third quarter and wrap up the scoring for the game.

"We hadn't been real good in the third quarter this year, and I couldn't be more pleased with how we came out (of halftime Saturday)," Hendrix said. "That was big. Even with the mistakes, it was good to play a complete football game on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game.
"I wasn't worried about them catching Corey when he popped out there."

Grainger, who left after three quarters, was 9-of-16 passing for 190 yards and no interceptions. He also officially had 52 yards rushing on 13 attempts, as he lost 37 due mostly to a 14-yard loss on a sack and a 20-yard loss on a fumble. Wynn led Furman with 99 yards on 13 carries. Watkins had 97 on five attempts and Abrams had 85 on six rushes.

The 410 yards are the most on the ground for the Paladins since rushing for 436 yards against Chattanooga in 2003. The 600 total yard output is the most for Furman since putting up 609 against ETSU in 2017.

"The running back group is really deep. In practice, I'm being pushed by Wayne behind me and I have Devin Wynn in front of me, so it's a grind every day to be better," said Watkins, who appears fully recovered from a turf toe injury that sidelined him earlier this year. "I love being in this offense. It puts so much on a defense's mind."

Mercer quarterback Robert Riddle, who entered Saturday leading the SoCon in passing a 273 yards per game and leading the country in touchdown passes with 11, was held to 149 yards on 18-of-34 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. After being sacked on twice all season, he was sacked twice on Saturday as well.

"Coach Hendrix challenged all of us this week to elevate our game," said Okeh, who tied Braden Gilby for the team-high with six tackles Saturday. "We saw who their key guys were and we just worked hard all week to make sure we were in the right spot at the right time. I think we did a better job of executing this week than any other this season, especially in the second half."

Friday, September 20, 2019

Revamped defense enters SoCon play confident

Furman redshirt freshman linebacker Braden Gilby had 12 tackles in his
first career start at Virginia Tech last Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
Coming off a 48-42 shootout loss at Georgia State in which Furman allowed 566 total yards of offense, the defensive lineup was shuffled last Saturday at Virginia Tech. Three Paladin defenders made their first career starts and the results seemed to pay off. While Furman fell at the ACC foe, 24-17, it held the Hokies to 350 yards of total offense. That's the third-fewest amount of yards allowed by the Paladins over the last two seasons.

With a boost of confidence under its belt, Furman's defense will likely be tested again Saturday when Paladin legend Bobby Lamb brings his Mercer team to Greenville. While early season stats can be taken with a grain of salt, the Bears enter as the No. 1-ranked offense in the Southern Conference at 432.3 yards and 42.7 points per game.

Mercer (2-1, 1-0) is led by sophomore quarterback Robert Riddle, who's come back from a broken collarbone suffered last season to lead the SoCon in passing (273 yards per game) and lead the country in touchdown passes (11). Without its top two quarterbacks during last year's 35-30 Furman win in Macon, the Bears turned Tyray Devezin loose. The 233-pound running back looked like Herschel Walker that day, running 30 times for 185 yards. However, he's second on the team in rushing this season at 52 yards per game. Deondre Johnson (61.3 yards per game) leads Mercer and is averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

"Riddle is a big, athletic kid who can run and throw. I think I heard Coach Lamb say at some point that he was the most talented guy he's coached since Ingle Martin," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "Anybody around here knows how talented Ingle Martin was.
"I think they're kind of like us though in they'd like to run it and throw it."

One of Furman's new starters last week was redshirt freshman linebacker Braden Gilby. He took advantage of his opportunity to the tune of a team-high 12 tackles and a forced fumble, which earned him SoCon Defensive Player of the Week honors.

"He's a talented kid with good speed and physical. For him, it was just getting to the point of the mental side of running the defense," Hendrix said of Gilby. "He's done more and more of that, showing us he needs to be in there a lot more.
"We've got a few more younger guys who have earned a little more playing time."

Adrian Hope and Hugh Ryan, who also made their first start last week, are listed atop the depth chart again this week. Hope, who led the nation as a freshman last season with 15 sacks, was in on a sack on Virginia Tech's third pass of the game. He could remain in the starting lineup as Furman is set to face pass-happy teams in VMI and Samford after Mercer. Ryan, who was helping Dutch Fork win its third consecutive Class 5A state championship this time last year, had six tackles and a pass break-up last week.

With as much depth as Furman has displayed on both sides of the ball, starting may not be as big a deal here as it is elsewhere. Three games into the season, there are already 15 different Paladins that have at least one tackle-for-loss. That's led by backup defensive end Dru Seabrook, who has a team-high three of Furman's SoCon-best nine sacks. Defensive pressure could be a key Saturday as Mercer has allowed only two sacks this year.

"We improved our game compared to Georgia State, but we still had some busts where they had explosive plays on us," Gilby said after Saturday's game. "We're coming into conference play so we've got to peak, and we've got a long way to go.
"The game plan the coaches put together really put us in a great position. We know what we had to do. We've just got to execute a little better and get the W next time."

While back-to-back losses by a touchdown to FBS opponents have left Furman at 1-2 entering its SoCon opener Saturday, there have been standout performances from different aspects of the team each week. The Paladins ran for 369 yards in the season-opening 33-point win over Charleston Southern. The next week, redshirt freshman Darren Grainger threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns at Georgia State. Last week, it was the defense - which also had four sacks and two turnovers - that shined.

Coming off the close calls against the FBS teams, in which Furman certainly didn't get many breaks, the thought could be that the Paladins could put all those elements together and unleash some frustration out on the SoCon. Despite coming off a 48-34 home loss to Austin Peay, Mercer might not be the one on the wrong end of a lopsided score. That's especially true given the Bears' history in league play.

Since the start of the 2015 season, Mercer has gone 15-17 in SoCon play. Of those 17 losses, 12 have been decided by seven points or less. As if the Furman-Mercer series didn't have enough storylines with Lamb's ties to Furman and his lifetime friendship with Hendrix, the games have been thrilling. Since Mercer joined the SoCon in 2014, the Paladins lead the series 3-2 and each result has been a margin of seven points or less.

"They had a tough loss against a really good Austin Peay team. ... They've (Mercer) got a good football team with a lot of weapons. ... We had a battle down there to win the conference championship a year ago and I expect the same kind of game this week," Hendrix said. "We're excited to be back at home and starting the Southern Conference schedule. At this point, nothing (that's happened this season) really matters going forward."

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Paladins come up short at Virginia Tech

Furman's Dru Seabrook had 1.5 sacks Saturday in the Paladins'
24-17 loss at Virginia Tech. Photo courtesy of Furman
BLACKSBURG, Va. - For a game that was such a polar opposite from Furman's last one, the similarities were striking. Some of those striking similarities struck down the 13th-ranked Paladins' hopes of a victory Saturday at Virginia Tech.

For the second consecutive week, Furman:

  • Took a double-digit lead in the first half against an FBS opponent
  • Saw that lead evaporate quickly.
  • Had a controversial replay review go against it.
  • Lost by a touchdown.
A Furman offense that entered averaging more than 500 yards per game was held to 231 Saturday as the Hokies rallied, then held on for a 24-17 win before 52,314 fans at Lane Stadium. They held on after recovering a second onside kick by Furman with 1:49 left before running out the clock.

That second kick came after the Paladins' Ryan Miller recovered the first one, but that play went to the video review booth. The ball wasn't touched by a Paladin before traveling 10 yards and there was no flag on the play, but officials ruled that Furman's Dae'one Wilkins made a block before the ball went 10 yards. Typically, the only penalty that is called on a review with no flag on the play is targeting.

"I saw what I saw on the review and I don't agree with it, but nobody has any say so. It's just disappointing because we had all kind of other chances to win the football game," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "We just couldn't do enough on offense and I knew it was going to be tough.
"At the end of the day, we were plus-two (on turnovers) in the first half and minus-two in the second half. That's the difference in the game."

A week after putting up 526 yards of total offense in a 48-42 loss at Georgia State, the Paladins (1-2) had just 107 in the first half Saturday but took a 14-3 lead into halftime as Hokie fans booed their team into the locker room. Furman grabbed that lead by cashing in on its opportunities.

The Paladins trailed late in the first quarter when linebacker Braden Gilby - a redshirt freshman making his first career start - forced a fumble that Bryan Okeh fell on at the Tech 41. On the next play Devin Wynn popped a 20-yard run for Furman's first first down. On 4th-and-1 at the 12, Darren Grainger's hard count drew the Hokies offsides. Two plays later, Devin Abrams opened the second quarter by muscling his way into the end zone on a four-yard touchdown run.

After the teams exchanged punts, Travis Blackshear's interception set up Furman at the Tech 42. The Paladins converted three third downs, including a 3rd-and-7 play in which Grainger rolled right and had nothing but grass ahead of him. His 15-yard touchdown run helped push the lead to 14-3.

Furman missed a golden opportunity to take a bigger lead into halftime as it drove to midfield with less than a minute to play. However, a bullet from Grainger went off the hands of Avery Armstrong incomplete and the Paladins ran out the clock with a run on the final play of the half.

The Paladins got the ball to start the second half and got runs of six and 10 yards to start their drive, but it ended when Grainger was dropped for no gain on third-and-long. Just as Georgia State did last week, Virginia Tech (2-1) quickly marched down the field on its ensuing possession. After runs of 15 and 54 yards by Keshawn King to open the drive, it was capped when tight end James Mitchell's first career carry went for a three-yard touchdown.

On the next play, Devin Wynn was twisting for more yards when he lost Furman's first fumble of the season at the Paladins' 26. Four plays later, Ryan Willis hit Tre Turner on a two-yard touchdown run and the Hokies turned an 11-point deficit into a 17-14 lead in one minute and 48 seconds.

The score remained 17-14 until midway through the fourth quarter. Grainger had the rare opportunity Saturday of enough time to go deep, but threw into double coverage and suffered his first interception of the season. Five plays later, Turner took a jet sweep handoff down the right sideline and was ruled to have stayed in bounds all the way for a 29-yard touchdown. That score wasn't reviewed.

Furman answered with it's lone scoring drive. On 3rd-and-2 near midfield, Abrams broke free on a 48-yard run to the three-yard line. The Hokies' defense stiffened and Furman settled for a 22-yard field goal by Grayson Atkins to cut the lead to 24-17 with 1:49 left. That kick broke the school record for consecutive made field goals at 13.

Hendrix said officials told him they were reviewing to see if Wilkins made a block before the ball went 10 yards.

"That is the rule, but my whole thing is, 'if he hits us, are we trying to block him?' I wouldn't see it that way," Hendrix said. "That's two weeks in a row that we've had three of them. It's been kind of crazy because they've all been huge plays in the game, but we had a bunch of chances to win.
"I thought we'd be right there (with a chance to win). I wasn't surprised we were."

After recovering the second onside kick, Virginia Tech picked up a first down and was able to run out the clock. King had 119 yards on 12 carries to lead the Hokies, while Willis was 17-of-21 for 123 yards.

A week after throwing for 311 yards, Grainger was held to 63 yards on 8-of-15 passing as he faced constant pressure. Abrams had 72 yards on 10 carries while Wynn ran 13 times for 66 yards, to lead the Paladins.

After giving up 566 yards last week, Furman's defensive starting lineup was shaken up and the changes paid off. The Paladins limited Virginia Tech to 350 yards of total offense and officially had four sacks.

The forced fumble was one of Gilby's team-high 12 tackles. He also had a tackle-for-loss that should've been ruled a sack. Gilby finished with 12 tackles and a tackle-for-loss that should've been ruled a sack. Also making his first start was freshman Hugh Ryan, who had six tackles and a pass breakup. Meanwhile, reserve defensive end Dru Seabrook pushed his team-leading sack total to 3.5 this season with 1.5 Saturday.

"The defense played really well and kept us in the game," Hendrix said. "I knew we'd been close to playing good defense, but it just had not shown."

Friday, September 13, 2019

Paladins set to face another FBS challenge

Furman freshman quarterback Darren Grainger runs
against Georgia State. Photo courtesy of Furman
Another week, another FBS test for Furman. This Saturday will be quite a different challenge though. After losing a shootout at a Georgia State program in its 10th year of existence last week, the 13th-ranked Paladins take on power-five FBS member Virginia Tech at noon Saturday.

Last week, the Paladins (1-1) faced a team not all that different from them - outside of the 20-something difference in scholarships. On a hot night in Atlanta, that difference played a role in Furman's 48-42 loss as the Paladins sorely missed injured starting cornerback Quandarius Weems as well as running back Carson Maples.

It's a different story this week.

"We have quite a few players on our team who got scholarship offers from Georgia State," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "We don't have anybody who received one from Virginia Tech. I don't think we have a player on our team that was offered a walk-on spot at Virginia Tech.
"The bodies will be bigger. ... The team speed will increase. We'll go from (playing in front of) 20,000 to whatever (Lane Stadium) holds."

Saturday will mark Furman's third game at Virginia Tech in the past 11 years. The Paladins fell 42-3 to the Hokies in 2015 and lost 24-7 in 2008. Two games this season isn't much to judge from but based on the Paladins' production thus far, another single-digit point showing Saturday would be a surprising disappointment.

Furman has tallied 1,035 yards of total offense and scored 88 points over the first two weeks this season. Thanks to injuries, a tough schedule and a cancelled game, the Paladins didn't score its 88th point last season until Oct. 13. It's the most points scored in the first two games of a season since 2004, when Furman opened with wins over Presbyterian (52-7) and Samford (45-10).

It's not just the gaudy offensive numbers the Paladins have put up, the way they've went about it has given defenses plenty to prepare for. After Furman rushed for 369 yards in week one, Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said during Saturday's postgame press conference that he anticipated more option runs from Furman. Instead, the Panthers got a first-hand look at quarterback Darren Grainger's powerful arm.

"The strength of our offense is we are pretty multiple in what we do," Hendrix said. "We've certainly shown we can throw the football."

Grainger was 16-of-25 passing for 311 yards and four touchdowns - to four different receivers. He also rushed nine times for 53 yards and a score to collect the fourth-highest single game of total offense (364 yards) in school history. The performance earned him the FCS national freshman of the week and Southern Conference offensive player of the week honors.

The numbers speak for themselves. What they don't show is the poise in the pocket and the confidence Grainger exudes. Most of his stats Saturday came after taking a vicious hit from a GSU defender who was ejected for targeting.

"I'm always going to compete until the end. I'm not getting taken out by a little injury or nothing like that," Grainger said. "I just love these guys so much, nothing's going to take me out."

During his limited time last season, Grainger had some turnover issues. Even while taking snaps from rotating centers this year, Grainger has protected the ball and made good decisions on throws. Furman's lone turnover this season came on an ill-advised wide receiver pass in the fourth quarter last Saturday.

"Sometimes guys don't want to run it, or they decide too early to run," Hendrix said. "I think Darren's been pretty good going through his progressions. He's a really aware kid of what's going on around him and the most important thing is taking care of the ball."

Grainger simply hasn't looked like a freshman with three career starts under his belt. Especially one who only played a year of quarterback in high school.

"Darren's a dog. He's young, but he can throw that ball for sure," said senior Thomas Gordon, who caught eight passes for 163 yards and a touchdown last week. "We just want to keep on getting better. We work on our connection every day. The sky's the limit for him."

Defensively, Furman may not be challenged by a true dual-threat quarterback for the first time this season Saturday. However, Virginia Tech quarterback Ryan Willis did run for 354 yards and four touchdowns last season. The 6-foot-4 senior also threw for 2,716 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2018.

This year, Willis has thrown for 616 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Hendrix expects Virginia Tech (1-1) to try to run the ball more Saturday. Thus far, the Hokies are averaging just 114.5 rushing yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry.

"We will probably continue to see offenses try to spread us out. ... I think they'll probably try to run it more just because of their size," Hendrix said. "We're really not that far from doing some really good things defensively. ... We've got to tackle better and do the things that we have total control over.
"One of our problems is when we get in a bad spot and we start trying to do somebody else's job. Next thing you know, you're not doing your job very well."

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Georgia State rallies past Paladins

Furman's Thomas Gordon make a diving catch of a 32-yard touchdown in the
Paladins' 48-42 loss at Georgia State Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
ATLANTA - A 17-point first half lead wasn't nearly enough for 11th-ranked Furman Saturday night at Georgia State Stadium. Not with standout quarterback Dan Ellington running the show for the Panthers. Georgia State had touchdowns on six consecutive possessions to rally for a 48-42 win over the Paladins.

GSU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brad Glenn has mentored some dual threat stars that have given Furman fits over the years. Those include guys like Armanti Edwards and Tyrie Adams. Ellington was a carbon copy Saturday. He was 29-of-37 passing for 367 yards with five touchdowns - to five different receivers - and no interceptions. He also led GSU in rushing with 86 yards on 15 attempts.

"Give them credit. They were better than us tonight. Probably not by a whole lot, but that doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be by a whole lot," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "We could never get to the quarterback. The guy's a great player. I knew we were going to have trouble tackling him, and we just never got to hit him very much.
"But we still had a chance at the end. ... I was really proud of how are kids hung in there and attacked."

While the Paladins (1-1) struggled against the Panthers' senior quarterback, GSU didn't fare much better against Furman's freshman quarterback. This was especially true early on as Darren Grainger guided the Paladins down the field for touchdowns on each of their first three possessions.

The last of those was capped with 12:55 left in the second quarter when Devin Wynn trucked a GSU defender into the end zone for a three-yard touchdown as Furman took a 20-3 lead. At that time, the Paladins had a 242-73 advantage in total yards and a 12:15 to 4:50 edge in time of possession.

Furman was still in control for most of the second quarter until it was finally forced to punt around midfield. Grayson Atkins had a perfect 43-yard effort that pinned the Panthers at their own six-yard line. Ellington then led a 16-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that ended on GSU's fourth third down conversion of the drive as Tra Barnett rushed for an 18-yard touchdown. That helped cut Furman's lead in half with 2:47 left.

It appeared Furman had ended the drive on the 15th play when freshman cornerback Travis Blackshear, who made his first start in place of an injured Quandarius Weems, had an interception along the sideline. However, it was likely ruled that Blackshear was bobbling the ball as he went out of bounds. "Likely" because there was never an explanation from officials as inexplicably, there was no review.

Furman likely would've gladly taken a 20-10 lead into halftime, but three runs netted just two yards and shaved only 1:20 off the clock before the Paladins had to punt back to the Panthers. On GSU's ensuing drive, Ellington completed 6-of-7 passes as the Panthers marched 66 yards in 1:27. The drive culminated when Ellington threw a screen pass to Terrance Dixon, who was wrapped up at the two but stretched the ball across the goal line as he went down for a touchdown on the final play of the half.

Much like on the previous drive, a controversial call didn't go the Paladins way. It looked as if Furman had stopped it when Darius Kearse forced a fumble that DiMarcus Clay recovered along the sideline deep in Furman territory. After initially ruling it a turnover, officials reviewed the play and claimed the ball was out of bounds when Clay recovered it.

"Those were two big red zone turnovers and I thought we had them both," Hendrix said. "But we've just got to respond and we've just got to make a few more breaks for ourselves."

While Furman held a 20-17 lead at the half, GSU held all the momentum and it carried over into the second half. The Panthers (2-0) went 85 yards in less than three minutes to take their first lead of the game, then pushed it to 31-20 on their next possession.

The Paladins never went away, but were in catch-up mode the rest of the way as the teams traded scores. The lone official turnover of the game came on a trick play by Furman when receiver Ryan DeLuca's pass was intercepted and returned to the Paladins' 15-yard line. After giving up six consecutive touchdowns, Furman's defense stiffened after the turnover and GSU settled for a 38-yard field goal to push its lead to 48-35 midway through the fourth quarter.

"We had the one turnover and they didn't have any. We've got to find a way to get the ball out," Hendrix said. "I told the team before the game, 'let's finish plus-two in turnovers and see what happens.'
"I think if we'd have been plus-two, we would've won the football game. We may have won it at plus-one."

Grainger's 12-yard touchdown run with 3:26 left helped cut the lead to six, but Furman's onside kick was easily recovered near midfield. The Paladins defense again held strong forcing GSU's first punt since early in the second quarter. Furman had just 2:18 left to try to go 90 yards to win the game, but Grainger's final three passes fell incomplete and the Paladins turned it over on downs. The Panthers ran out the final 1:35.

Grainger finished with 323 yards on 16-of-25 passing with four touchdowns - to four different receivers - and no interceptions. He also ran nine times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Wynn led Furman's rushing attack with 83 yards on 13 carries. Senior receiver Thomas Gordon finished with a career-high eight receptions for a career-high 163 yards, including a diving catch on a 32-yard touchdown. Senior captain Jordan Williams had a career-high 15 tackles.

"I'm glad Darren Grainger plays for us. I'm just really proud of him," Hendrix said. "He had a heck of a football game and I thought we did some really good things offensively. It's going to be fun to watch him continue to grow.
"One thing I know is we have a chance to have a really, really good football team."

After just 73 yards in the first quarter, GSU finished with 566 total while Furman had 538. The 42-point effort for Furman matched its all-time high output against FBS competition. The Paladins had a 45-42 loss at North Carolina in 2006 and a 42-20 win at N.C. State in 1985.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Paladins face new opponent, but familiar faces

Furman left tackle and team captain Bo Layton reacts during the Paladins'
46-13 win over Charleston Southern. Photo courtesy of Furman
Following its first ever meeting against Charleston Southern last week, Furman football faces another new opponent in Georgia State this week. There will be quite a few familiar faces on the Panthers' sideline Saturday night in Atlanta though. Georgia State's coaching staff has deep Southern Conference roots.

Those roots begin at the top with head coach Shawn Elliott. Elliott was a standout defensive end at Appalachian State in the 1990's before serving as an assistant on Jerry Moore's staff for 13 years. The Camden native went on to coach as an assistant at South Carolina before being hired by Georgia State two years ago.

GSU offensive coordinator Brad Glenn joined Elliott's staff this year after seven seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Carolina. Prior to Western, Glenn coached quarterbacks at Appalachian State. So during his career, he's been the position coach for Armanti Edwards, DeAndre Presley, Troy Mitchell and Tyrie Adams. The Seneca native, who played at Clemson, also had coaching stints at Greer High, Seneca High and North Greenville.

Panthers' defensive coordinator Nate Fuqua came to GSU in 2017 following 12 years as assistant to Mike Ayers at Wofford. Fuqua, who enjoyed a Hall of Fame playing career as a nose tackle for the Terriers, was the defensive coordinator at Wofford for his final three seasons there.

Fuqua was succeeded as Wofford defensive coordinator by Shiel Wood, who's now in his first season as inside linebackers coach at GSU. Wood, a Spartanburg native who played receiver at Wofford, was an assistant with the Terriers for eight years.

"They've tweaked the offense a little bit, but it's really similar to what we've seen from Western Carolina the past few years. They have a veteran quarterback who's truly a dual-threat guy," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "Their defense looks a lot like Wofford. The difference for their defense (this season) is they're a year older and they have a lot of kids back who are playing with more confidence. ... They've always been coached really well."

Georgia State safeties coach Chris Collins previously was an assistant at Appalachian State and Western Carolina. Wide receivers coach Trent McKnight was an offensive assistant at Samford for four years before coming to GSU in 2017.

Panthers' tight ends coach Josh Stepp began his collegiate playing career at Furman before moving on to become the all-time leading passer in Newberry history. Offensive line coach Thomas Austin spent the previous four seasons on Clemson's staff, where he assisted offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell, who is set to be inducted into Furman's Hall of Fame this season.

The ties even extend to the athletic department staff. Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb previously spent nine years as Appalachian State AD. Cobb's the brother of former Furman offensive tackle David Cobb, who's now an expert analyst - especially of officials - for the Furman football radio broadcast team.

While this is the first of two FBS games for Furman, Georgia State is a program still relatively new to FBS and football in general. The Panthers began play in 2010 with the intention of moving to the FBS level from the start. After three seasons as an FCS member, GSU joined the FBS' Sun Belt Conference in 2013.

Despite a 17-10 loss to FCS member Tennessee State in Elliott's head coaching debut, he guided the Panthers to their best season ever in 2017 at 7-5. Georgia State went 2-10 last year, but opened this season with a 38-30 upset win at Tennessee.

"A lot of people were surprised but if you watch the tape, the best team won Saturday (in Knoxville). It may have not been the most talented team, but they were the best team," Hendrix said. "That's what's great about our sport - the most talented bunch doesn't always win.
"A non-power five (team) and a power five both have 85 scholarships, so it's not a total shock when that happens. Now we're going there with almost 25 scholarships less. That's a big difference."

Furman will look to build off a dominant 33-point win over Charleston Southern to open the season. The Paladins piled up 509 yards of total offense last Saturday, including 369 on the ground, and had no turnovers last Saturday. The showing moved Furman up in this week's FCS Coaches' poll to No. 11, its highest ranking in 12 years.

The Paladin rushing attack could receive an additional boost this week if Corey Watkins (turf toe) is able to play. One of the fastest players on the team, Watkins sat out last Saturday to give his toe another week to heal. Unlike last week when he wasn't listed on the depth chart, Watkins has an "or" designation with freshman Wayne Anderson Jr. as the backup to starter Devin Wynn this week.

Georgia State's defense allowed 251 rushing yards per game last season, but held Tennessee to 93 (3.0 yards per carry) last week.

"They're (Georgia State) a much improved football team from a year ago. That's obvious just watching them," Hendrix said. "We will certainly have our work cut out for us.
"It's been a good start to the year. It's just a matter of can we improve. Our goal is to just be the best team on Saturday, so that's what we're trying to be."

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Depth on display for Paladins

Furman freshman Travis Blackshear sacks Charleston Southern quarterback
Jack Chambers and forces a fumble Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman
As might be expected in a 33-point win, Furman emptied the bench during Saturday's victory over Charleston Southern. A total of 61 Paladins participated. Of those, 31 recorded at least one tackle. But there was plenty of rotation going on at many positions for Furman throughout the game, not just when the outcome was certain.

Of the five sacks recorded by Furman's defense, four were made by non-starters. Everyone knows what a force Adrian Hope is off the bench and the 2018 FCS leader in sacks picked up right where he left off last season with a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry. Backup defensive end Dru Seabrook led the unit with 1.5 sacks Saturday, while backup cornerback Travis Blackshear made perhaps the biggest.

Late in the third quarter with the Paladins leading 32-13, Charleston Southern had first down at the Furman 12-yard line. Blackshear came on a blindside blitz. Not only did the redshirt freshman get the sack, he also forced a fumble that teammate Jonah Tibbs recovered. Three plays later, fullback Carson Maples rumbled for a 66-yard touchdown to essentially remove all doubt.

"Travis is one of those guys that's only going to get better and better as he goes," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said during his weekly press conference Monday. "That was a big play in the game.
"I think Dru maybe had as good an offseason as anybody we have. He's a guy that just keeps showing up and being productive."

On the offensive side of the ball, freshman Wayne Anderson Jr. and Maples put up 90 and 86 yards rushing, respectively, off the bench. Anderson, who also had a 66-yard touchdown run, also caught two passes for 31 yards. That included a huge 28-yard catch to convert a third down on Furman's touchdown run midway through the third quarter.

Freshman center Evan Jumper essentially split time in a rotation with starter Cole Neely Saturday and the Paladins didn't miss a beat. Often a new center entering the game could mean issues with handling the ball on snaps, especially in a season opener. On Saturday, Furman had no turnovers and never even had a fumble offensively on 40 rushing attempts and 17 completions.

"We take snaps a lot. We do it after practice, before we go out on the field (during the game)," Furman quarterback Darren Grainger said following Saturday's win. "It's just getting out there and playing at that point."

In addition to Jumper, Hendrix praised fellow true freshman Pearson Toomey, the backup right tackle. Hendrix pointed out that on Anderson's long scoring run, Toomey blocked his initial defender then pancaked the safety to help spring the run.

Hendrix said seeing a lot of different Paladins take the field will be the norm.

"Our plan was to play a lot of guys. I think there's only one or two positions on our team where there's a really distinct difference between one guy and the next. I think we will practice better today because we played all those kids Saturday," Hendrix said. "We plan to go to Atlanta (Saturday at Georgia State) and play a lot of guys and then Virginia Tech the next week. That's our plan going forward."

Injury update
Anderson and Maples, along with Devin Wynn's 131-yard showing, helped Furman pile up 369 yards rushing. That was accomplished without the services of Corey Watkins (turf toe), who may be the fastest player on the team. Hendrix said Watkins could've played if needed, but another week off allowed him to get more fully healthy.

"He practiced pretty well last week. We just didn't feel like he was 100 percent," Hendrix said. "Hopefully, he will be back this week."

Moving up in the polls
Saturday's victory vaulted Furman up six spots to No. 11 in this week's FCS Coaches' poll. The Paladins went up two to No. 17 in the FCS STATS (media) poll.

Atkins earns weekly honor
Grayson Atkins is the SoCon special teams player of the week. The former Boiling Springs High standout averaged 45 yards per punt and put two inside the 10-yard line. He had six touchbacks and a 39-yard field goal to tie the school record for consecutive made field goals at 12.