Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Furman's defense rises to the occasion again

Adrian Hope gets one of his two sacks Saturday in Furman's
60-21 win over VMI. Photo courtesy of Furman
Each of the last two weeks, Furman has been faced with slowing down a leading rusher in the country. While Chattanooga's Ailym Ford and VMI's Alex Ramsey each got their yards against the Paladins, the vast majority of those were posted in the first half.

Ford, who was injured after only three rushing attempts Saturday against Samford and now ranks fifth in the FCS in rushing, had 179 yards on 21 carries on Nov. 2 against Furman. However, he had only 34 yards on six carries in the second half that day as the Paladins pulled away for a 35-20 win.

On Saturday, it was deja vu all over again. Ramsey, who's second in the country in rushing, had 132 yards on 20 carries for VMI. In the second half though, Ramsey had 20 yards on six carries as Furman pulled away for a 60-21 win.

Making Ramsey a non-factor after halftime was truly a team effort. Ramsey's national-best 22nd rushing touchdown - and second Saturday - cut Furman's lead to 22-21 with 3:36 left in the first half. Between that point and the 9:07 mark of the third quarter, VMI had only three offensive snaps while the Paladins had pushed their lead to 39-21. In the third quarter, Ramsey had four carries for six yards and by the time he touched the ball in the fourth, the scoreboard read 53-21.

"It's all about effort getting to the football, which will be huge this week as well," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said during Monday's weekly press conference. "If you take about three plays away ... I think we played incredibly well against him. I think the same thing happened against the Chattanooga kid the week before."

In addition to their efforts against Ramsey, the Paladins also controlled VMI's vaunted passing attack. Keydets' quarterback Reece Udinski was 23-of-34 passing for 213 yards, his lowest output of the season against FCS competition. Furman had a pair of interceptions Saturday giving Udinski - who set an FCS record this year with 368 consecutive passes without an interception - three this season.

"All week we planned to get after the quarterback. Coach (Duane) Vaughn put us in some great schemes and we were able to get after him," said sophomore Adrian Hope, who had two of Furman's four sacks Saturday to move into third place on the school's career ledger with 20.5.

Those efforts were part of the fourth second-half shutout this season for Furman, which also held VMI to its lowest point total in Southern Conference play. In seven SoCon games this year, the Paladins have allowed a total of 31 points in the second half with 20 of those owned by Citadel.

"They have a kid who leads the conference in rushing and another who leads the conference in passing, so we knew they were a good offensive team whose scored on everybody," Hendrix said. "The biggest thing was how we handled some adversity (of VMI's three consecutive touchdown drives). We probably didn't adjust as much as you think we did. We tried to tighten up a few things and played a little better."

Players of the week
Furman running back Devin Wynn and kicker/punter Grayson Atkins earned SoCon Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week honors, respectively, Monday.

Atkins owns 36.4 percent of the SoCon Special Teams weekly honors this season as he was cited for the fourth time. He had a chip shot 48-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, averaged 50.5 yards on two punts and had four touchbacks.

It's the second weekly honor this season for Wynn, who rushed for 102 yards on 15 carries despite VMI stacking the box against the run Saturday. Out of those 15 carries, four went for touchdowns and he was on the receiving end of another score. Wynn capped his day with a 59-yard touchdown run, giving him 982 yards rushing this season.

"Whether they were in goal line defense or not, we won a lot of 1-on-1 battles and our guys up front dominated," Wynn said Saturday. "Even when they forced us to pass, we were so good in that element too. It's just a credit to all our guys."

Top 20 battle set
When Furman (7-3, 6-1) travels to Spartanburg Saturday to face Wofford (6-3, 5-1) for the Southern Conference championship, it will be a battle of top 20 teams. The Paladins moved up three spots to No. 7 in this week's FCS Coaches poll, while the Terriers also moved up three to No. 20. Furman remained at No. 9 in the STATS poll, while Wofford moved up three to No. 21.

A Furman win Saturday would give it outright ownership of SoCon championship No. 15. A Wofford victory would put the Terriers in the driver's seat as the only team with one league loss, but could set up essentially another SoCon title game when the Terriers play at Citadel (6-4, 4-2) the following week. That scenario is dependent on what happens when Citadel plays at Chattanooga (5-5, 4-2) this Saturday.

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