Sunday, November 3, 2019

Furman's defense slows Ford in second half

Donavan Perryman (44) broke up a touchdown pass and made a big fumble
recovery in Furman's 35-20 win at Chattanooga. Photo courtesy of Furman
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Ailym Ford's outstanding season statistics have really soared during Southern Conference play. Prior to Saturday's game against Furman, the Chattanooga freshman was averaging 161.8 yards rushing per game. He got to that point again Saturday, but it came in a very different way.

After a 145-yard rushing performance on 15 carries in the first half, Ford finished with 179 yards on 21 carries for the game. Eleven of those 34 yards in the second half came on the meaningless final play of the game. It was part of another solid effort from the defense, which was a key in Furman's 35-20 win.

"I actually thought we didn't play bad defense all day. We just gave up explosion plays (in the first half) that we have not done," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "Our defense hung in there and the turnover they got was huge."

The Paladins' defensive effort against the seventh-leading rusher in the country was highlighted by two plays during a stretch of the third quarter in which Furman took command.

With Chattanooga starting at its own two-yard line after a 62-yard punt by Grayson Atkins, Ford got a handoff and was dropped for a loss of one by Josh Agbenou and Parker Stokes. That started a three-and-out that gave Furman the ball at the Mocs' 32 before Hamp Sisson threw a touchdown to Ryan Miller on the next play.

The Mocs' next possession also went three-and-out when Elijah McKoy and Bryan Okeh stopped Ford for no gain on third-and-one with five minutes left in the third quarter. Ford had only two carries the rest of the game.

"That was a great team win. We knew we weren't playing our game at the beginning, but as the game progressed we put it together." said linebacker Donavan Perryman, who had six tackles, broke up what could've been a touchdown pass to Ford, and recovered a key fumble deep in Furman territory in the first quarter.
"Our game plan as a defense was to stop the run. It wasn't perfect. ... We need to tackle better, but a win is a win."

Atkins special again
Grayson Atkins' resume for being the best special teams player in the country grew Saturday. Four of his six kickoffs went for touchbacks and he averaged 48.8 yards on four punts. Two of those went inside the 20. Chattanooga did return one for five yards which gives Furman opponents a total of three yards on eight returns this season.

The highlight of Atkins' day might have been the biggest play of the game. His 62-yard punt that was downed at the Chattanooga two-yard line flipped the field and momentum. After the third-longest punt of Atkins' career, Furman's defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs while the offense scored a pair of touchdowns to take a 28-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.

"I needed to flip the field. That's my job. When I hit it, I knew it was good ... but I was like, 'long, long, long, get down the field!' because I was scared it was going to bounce in the end zone," Atkins said. "The defense did a great job of stopping them and forcing the 31-yard punt right after that. That was a huge momentum play for us."

Moving up the charts
Thomas Gordon caught two passes Saturday to move into third place on Furman's all-time receptions list with 142. At 2,300 yards receiving in his career, he's currently 38 behind Isaac West for third place on that career list. ... Adrian Hope had Furman's lone sack Saturday, giving him 18.5 for his career. That ties him with Brian Pitts for fourth place on the school's career sack ledger.

Road warriors
Saturday's win was Furman's sixth consecutive Southern Conference road win dating back to last season's 29-27 loss at ETSU on Sept. 22, 2018. That's the Paladins' longest SoCon road winning streak since they won seven consecutive from Oct. 15, 1988 to Sept. 15, 1990. Furman lost at Marshall the week before and the week after that run.

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