Friday, October 25, 2019

Paladins look to get back on track at WCU

After having its eight-game win streak against FCS opponents snapped, Furman
will try to rebound Saturday at Western Carolina. Photo courtesy of Furman
For each of Clay Hendrix first two years as head coach at Furman, the Paladins had a big response when their backs were to the wall. After last week's stunning home loss to The Citadel, Furman is tasked with that again this season.

Unlike the past two years, in which Furman ended the regular season on winning streaks to make the FCS playoffs in 2017 and earn a share of the Southern Conference championship in 2018, the Paladins control their own destiny this time around. Being ranked No. 14 in both FCS polls could possibly allow Furman (4-3, 3-1) to suffer one more loss and still make the playoffs, but after being shunned last season the Paladins certainly want to secure the SoCon's autobid.

While potential showdowns for league supremacy at Chattanooga and at Wofford loom on the horizon, Furman cannot afford to look ahead. Given how poorly last Saturday went, one would expect the Paladins to be quite focused this Saturday when they play at Western Carolina (1-6, 0-4).

"There's nothing that matters anywhere except for beating Western Carolina. That's the only thing that should be on our mind," Hendrix said. "We took a punch and went down. We're sitting over there in the corner and the bell for round eight is fixing to ring. Now how are you going to respond? The fight's not over. ... I'll be surprised if our guys don't respond.
"I think part of our problem a little bit has been worried too much about the big picture and beyond."

Western Carolina goes as its dynamic, record-setting quarterback Tyrie Adams goes, and things have not gone well this season for the SoCon preseason offensive player of the year. A suspension, injuries and playing behind an entirely new offensive line have not equated for the kind of numbers Adams has been accustomed to. He's averaging 56.4 yards rushing per game with four touchdowns, and passing for 157.8 yards per game with six touchdowns and five interceptions.

Furman has been preparing to face either Adams or backup quarterback Will Jones as Adams is dealing with a turf toe injury. Adams played just four snaps in the Catamounts' 59-7 loss at Wofford last Saturday. In last season's 44-38 Furman win in Greenville, Adams threw for 424 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions and also rushed for 48 yards.

As a team, WCU ranks last in the SoCon in scoring offense (18.3 points per game), next-to-last in scoring defense (40.7 points allowed per game), last in total offense (323.6 yards per game) and seventh in total defense (452.1 yards allowed per game).

The Paladins, who average 280 yards rushing per game, could have a particularly juicy advantage there against WCU. Catamount opponents have rushed for 286.9 yards per game, 6.2 yards per carry and 22 touchdowns. Among FCS teams, only Gardner-Webb's run defense (292.1) is worse.

If Devin Wynn, who ranks fifth in the country averaging 7.91 yards per carry, and the rest of Furman's running backs get rolling Saturday, that should make life easier for quarterback Darren Grainger. Grainger is looking to bounce back from a 5-for-25 passing day for just 44 yards in last week's loss. The poor game resulted in Grainger's national passer ranking go from sixth to 27th.

"I think Darren will be fine (confidence wise)," Hendrix said. "I don't know if there's a guy on our team who cares more than Darren Grainger. You could see it in his eyes after that game."

No comments:

Post a Comment