Saturday, October 16, 2021

Furman's second half defense shines

Making his first collegiate start, Micah Robinson helped Furman's
defense in a 42-20 win at Wofford. Photo courtesy of Furman

Not to be lost in the revival of Furman's offense in last Saturday's 42-20 win at Wofford is a Furman defense that overcame a couple of early busts to have another solid day. The Paladins allowed 314 total yards, but 135 of those came on the Terriers' two touchdowns.

Furman's defense has been at its best after halftime. After allowing just a field goal to Mercer in the second half of its Southern Conference opener on Sept. 25, the Paladins allowed just a field goal to Wofford in the second half last Saturday. While N.C. State was in total control and - to a lesser extent - so was Mercer by halftime, the fact remains that Furman has allowed a total of just 13 points in the second half over its last four games. For the season, the Paladins (3-2, 1-1) have outscored opponents 30-8 in the fourth quarter.

"Outside of those two plays and the long punt return where we missed tackles, the defense did a great job," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "As (defensive coordinator) Coach (Duane) Vaughn told them in a team meeting, 'at the the end of the day, those two plays count.' If there's one negative we've had (defensively), it's that we've allowed too many big plays. We're really close. It's one or two guys not being where they're supposed to be and we've got to fix that."

The defensive effort against Wofford came with two players making their first collegiate starts. Freshman Micah Robinson started at cornerback for Ivan Yates, who is out for the season with a hand injury, while freshman Caden Richards started at spur for the injured Dae'one Wilkins. Robinson had three tackles and two pass break-ups. Richards, a Gaffney native whose father played at Wofford, had four tackles.

Freshman cornerback Dominic Morris didn't start, but did make his first collegiate interception. Morris' pick early in the fourth quarter led to the Paladins' final touchdown to seal the game.

"Micah competes hard and it's really important to him," Hendrix said. "He's like a lot of our young guys. They're a work in progress and they just need to keep playing."

Yes, that was Devin Wynn nearly blocking punts

Devin Wynn nearly doubled his season rushing output with a 204-yard effort against Wofford. His 31 carries were the most in a game by a Paladin since Louis Ivory toted it 31 times against Western Kentucky 20 years ago. He also caught three passes for 43 yards, including a wide open 26-yard touchdown from the slot. All that added up to the third SoCon Offensive Player of the Week honor of his career.

What may have gone unnoticed with Wynn was the fact that it was the same No. 0 who was the closest Paladin to Wofford's punter on a couple of punts. Wynn stepped in on that team in place of Kam Brinson, who was out with an injury.

"Kam's been one of our better special teams players. ... It's all about getting your best out there in a position to help you succeed," Hendrix said. "Devin was on the kickoff team early in his career. I think Devin's a guy that wants to play at the next level. I think in that world now, that's something you need to be able to do."

Brinson is expected to return this week against Citadel and should make the start at strong safety in place of DiMarcus Clay. Clay is out for the first half after being ejected for targeting in the second half against Wofford.

SoCon's oldest rivalry under the lights

A week after resuming the South's actual oldest rivalry, it's the SoCon's oldest rivalry this week as Furman hosts Citadel at 6 p.m. It will be the 101st meeting between the rivals who first played in 1913 and who each joined the SoCon in 1936.

October 16 is the latest date for a Furman home night game ever and it will be the Paladins' first night game at Paladin Stadium since Sept. 17, 2016. There will be a postgame fireworks show.

Sheridan to be honored

Furman coaching legend Dick Sheridan will be honored by the school and the National Football Foundation at Saturday's game. He will be honored for his upcoming induction into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2020 class. It comes on the 39th anniversary of one of Sheridan's signature wins - a 28-23 victory at South Carolina on Oct. 16, 1982.

In addition to Saturday's ceremony, Sheridan will be on hand for the pregame coin toss. Former players and assistant coaches will accompany him for the toss. 

Sheridan, whose already in the Furman and South Carolina Athletic Halls of Fame, will be the first Paladin ever in the College Football Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held at the NFF's 63rd annual awards dinner on Dec. 7 in Las Vegas.

Greenville News' stories

Links to some recent stories I've done for The Greenville News:

On Luke Shiflett's flexibility and sticking with Furman when things haven't gone as planned -

Recapping Furman's first win at Wofford since 2006 -

On Travis Blackshear's knack for getting to the football on defense -

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