Saturday, October 23, 2021

Paladins look to jump in SoCon title race

Furman coaching legend Dick Sheridan greets co-captain Devin Wynn prior to the
pregame coin toss of the Paladins' 24-14 win over Citadel. Photo courtesy of Furman

In the world of college football, nearly all coaches will remind you that a team's biggest game is its next one. For Furman, that wouldn't be a case of "coach speak" the next two weeks. Before traveling to face preseason Southern Conference favorite Chattanooga next Saturday, the Paladins host No. 14-ranked ETSU this Saturday on Homecoming at Paladin Stadium.

The next two weeks could prove to be the biggest determining factor in Furman's hopes of winning the SoCon championship. After Chattanooga handed ETSU (6-1) its first loss of the season last Saturday, there are no undefeated teams in league play. There are five teams with one league loss. ETSU, Mercer and VMI are 3-1 in league play, while Chattanooga and Furman (4-2) are 2-1.

The Paladins will look to get their offense going against a Bucs' defense that has been stingy in the last two gritty matchups in the series. Two years ago in Greenville, Devin Wynn's fourth quarter touchdown lifted Furman to a 17-10 win. This past spring at ETSU, Wynn had a pair of third quarter touchdowns as the Paladins rallied from a 10-0 halftime deficit for a 17-13 win.

Having Wynn back this week would obviously be a boost to Furman. After rushing for 203 yards in a 42-20 win at Wofford two weeks ago, Wynn missed last week's 24-14 win over Citadel with a groin injury he first suffered in August. Earlier this week, Furman coach Clay Hendrix said Wynn was progressing but still questionable to play Saturday.

After Furman's offense was reenergized at Wofford in freshman Jace Wilson's first start at quarterback, it took a step back last week. Against Citadel, the Paladins had just 52 offensive snaps and finished with 289 total yards of offense. More than half of that total came on two first quarter touchdowns - a 90-yard run by Dominic Roberto and a 58-yard pass from Wilson to Ryan Miller.

Sheridan honored

Dick Sheridan was honored at halftime of the Citadel game for his upcoming induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. The Furman coaching legend was also joined on the field by former assistants and players for the pregame coin toss.

Prior to all the on-field celebrations, the Furman Football Players Association (FFPA) had a drop-in for Sheridan where he was inducted into Furman's new Ring of Honor. He was presented with a ring emblazoned with the school's iconic purple diamond F logo that he made famous surrounded by diamonds.

While it's been nearly 40 years since Hendrix played for Sheridan, his old coach still has the same effect on him.

"They asked me to make the introduction on the ring ceremony. I was meeting with recruits at 4 p.m. and then went to do that," Hendrix said. "I got up there and told them, 'I'm a lot more nervous about this than I am about the game.' That's just how it is with Coach (Sheridan). He didn't ever try to be intimidating, he just always kind of was.

"We've stayed in touch a good bit over the years. He's always been a great supporter. ... A lot of the things I've tried to do as a coach, especially as a head coach, most of them came from him."

Brinson just misses another punt block

After missing the Wofford game with an injury, Kam Brinson returned last Saturday. He started at strong safety in place of DiMarcus Clay, who was out for the first half after being flagged for targeting in the third quarter at Wofford.

Brinson made four tackles and possibly the most memorable tackle-for-loss in school history. Late in the first quarter, Brinson just missed his second punt block of the season. He only missed it because Brinson tackled the Citadel punter before he could put toe to leather.

"I think I've seen it from time to time, but it's been a long time. ... Kam just has a knack for getting in there. There's not a timid bone in his body," Hendrix said. "It was actually a pretty smart play by their kid because if he punts, it's getting blocked and we only ended up with a field goal.

"Their guy has been one of the better punters in the league, but obviously it affected him the rest of the night because he didn't punt very well."

Greenville News links

Here are links to recent stories I've written for The Greenville News.

On the Furman's defensive depth paying off in the win over Citadel and the challenge of facing ETSU's dynamic duo of running backs:

On co-captain Elijah McKoy making the most of his first start since 2019 as he made the play of the game against Citadel:

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