|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
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.