Friday, October 18, 2019

Furman set to face rival Citadel for 99th time

Furman redshirt freshman linebacker Braden Gilby has
41 tackles this season. Photo courtesy of Furman
After concluding the first half of the regular season in style, No. 8-ranked Furman will look to pick up where it left off when the second half of the schedule begins this week against rival The Citadel. The 99th edition of the Southern Conference's oldest rivalry will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday on homecoming at Paladin Stadium.

The Paladins (4-2, 3-0 SoCon) are coming off a 58-14 win at Samford on Oct. 5. Furman piled up 647 yards of total offense in the victory, while its defense shut down the Bulldogs' explosive offensive attack.

Saturday's version of Bulldog will offer the Paladins a completely different challenge. While Samford's pass happy attack has it ranked last in the FCS in time of possession at 21:55 a game, Citadel's triple-option offense is second in time of possession, averaging 36:15 per game. Citadel has 441 rushing attempts this season, 90 more than any other team in the country.

"We've invested in heavily in the offseason. It won't be our first time defending the triple option," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "We do a lot of the same things ourselves offensively. It's nice when you can go out there give (the defense) a look you're going to see.
"We knew no matter what happened, we were going to have possessions against Samford. This game, you're going to have limited possessions. They go for it a lot on fourth down as well, so you've got to be ready."

While the Paladins have 162 fewer rushing attempts than the Bulldogs, they actually have more rushing yards than Citadel (3-4, 1-2) this season. Furman ranks fourth in the country at 298 rushing yards per game, while the Bulldogs rank No. 13 at 241.1 yards per game. In the blowout win at Samford, the Paladins piled up 460 yards on the ground led by Devin Wynn's career-high 217 yard effort.

Citadel is led by junior quarterback Brandon Rainey, who's taken a beating this season but is still producing. He's second in the country in rushing touchdowns with 13 and leads the Bulldogs in rushing at 72.2 yards per game. Rainey has also been an effective passer as eight of his 36 completions have gone for touchdowns. Raleigh Webb is Citadel's biggest receiving threat as he's caught 18 passes for 373 yards (20.7 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns.

In the Bulldogs' 35-17 win over Western Carolina last Saturday, Rainey ran for 87 yards and two touchdowns and completed 3-of-5 passes for 73 yards and three touchdowns.

"I think they're averaging over 18 yards a completion. They haven't thrown it a lot, but when they have, they've thrown it really well," Hendrix said. "It's the nature of the offense. ... That guy's been blocking, blocking and blocking you. Then he acts like he's going to, but runs by you.
"It just goes back to being disciplined individually."

Furman should be fully aware of the threat Webb is. During last year's game in Charleston, Webb hauled in the longest pass in school history as his 91-yard touchdown gave Citadel a 17-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter. With reserve quarterback JeMar Lincoln, who's since transferred, the Paladins rallied for a 28-17 win that day - their 60th victory in the series.

A 91-yard pass play notwithstanding, Furman's defense was terrific that day. It held Citadel to 157 yards rushing - 125 fewer than Citadel was averaging entering that day - on 46 attempts. A similar effort by a Furman defense that's allowed 34 combined points in SoCon play, including three in the second half, could make for a happy homecoming.

"I knew when I came back here, one thing you have to do to win a championship is defend the option because you're going to see it several times," Hendrix said. "You've got to just do your job.
"They're going to get their yards rushing. I'd rather look at what they're getting per rush. ... It's eliminating big plays, creating some negative plays and getting them off the field. You'd better be ready to play four downs."

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