Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Furman-Wofford to open 2020 football season

Furman will open the 2020 football season by hosting Southern
Conference rival Wofford. Photo courtesy of Furman
When Furman traveled to Wofford in the next-to-last week of the regular season this past football season, the Southern Conference championship was on the line. If the league title turns out to be at stake again when the teams meet next fall, there may not be too much drama for most of the season.

For the second time in four years, the Paladins and Terriers will face off in the season opener on Sept. 5, 2020 at Paladin Stadium. The Upstate rivals opened the 2017 season in Spartanburg when Wofford held on for a 24-23 win after Furman's two-point conversion with 46 seconds left failed in Clay Hendrix's head coaching debut.

From an X's and O's standpoint, facing Wofford as early in the season as possible seems like a positive for Furman. The Terriers will be breaking in a new quarterback with the departure of 2019 SoCon Offensive Player of the Year Joe Newman, and run-heavy, option-based offenses traditionally get more polished and crisp as the season goes along. However, Hendrix isn't particularly giddy about opening up the season with a conference foe - especially one like Wofford.

"I've expressed my concern to the commissioner. I don't think it's good for the conference when you have two of the best teams playing in week one. What's happened is all these money (FBS) games at the end of the year and we're one of the few leagues that do it. I totally get why - because we need the resources, but it leaves us with fewer conference games at the end of the year," Hendrix said. "I don't think you'd have Alabama-Auburn or Georgia-Auburn in the first game of the season, but we're probably the only two teams that could play that first week the way they let the schedule play out. Conference games are fit in around non-conference schedules. Most (conferences) don't do that."

While Wofford will have someone new under center, Furman will also have questions entering the opener - just like most every team will.

"If you look back at the first week of this past year, you had a lot of games where teams were trying to figure out who they are. We were that way," Hendrix said. "Wofford will obviously have a new guy taking snaps, but they'll have a good team because they have enough other guys coming back."
"We will play them when they tell us to play them. ... It ought to be a good game that everybody can point to this offseason."

After the season opener, Furman has just two more home games until November. The Paladins will play at Charleston Southern in week two before playing at Tennessee the next week. Furman's trip to Rocky Top will be its first game against an SEC opponent since playing South Carolina in 2014 and first trip to Knoxville since 1942.

"As much as we've struggled finding FCS home-and-home games - particularly that have any regional value, we're really thankful for Charleston Southern. We've got them coming on again in a couple of years for another home-and-home," Hendrix said. "Tennessee will obviously be a huge challenge, but our kids will be excited and it's something that will help us in recruiting. We have a fair number of kids from Tennessee."

SoCon play resumes on Sept. 26 when Furman hosts Western Carolina. The Paladins play at VMI the first Saturday in October before returning home to face Samford the next week. Furman travels to Mercer and The Citadel before its bye week on Halloween. Coming back from the off week, the Paladins will have their final non-conference game when they host Presbyterian on Nov. 7.

Chattanooga will visit Paladin Stadium on Nov. 14 before Furman ends the regular season at ETSU on Nov. 21. This will mark the sixth consecutive season that the Paladins wrap up SoCon play on the road.

"We tried to do a home-and-home with (PC), but couldn't," Hendrix said. "We've tried to set up some home-and-homes with other schools who won't call us back ... so I'm just glad to get it this one all taken care of. It really has been a challenge."

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