Wednesday, October 5, 2022

SoCon calls errors significant; Dins move on

Furman coach Clay Hendrix Photo courtesy of Furman

Less than 48 hours after a bizarre officiating sequence that proved to be a pivotal part of Furman's 34-27 loss to Samford, the Southern Conference released a statement Monday morning acknowledging that mistakes were made. The statement, which was distributed to media outlets and posted by the league on its social media platforms, read:

"After review of a play in question during the Furman-Samford football game on Oct. 1, the Southern Conference’s coordinator of officials believes there were significant errors in the officials’ approach and final ruling. The conference has enacted disciplinary measures for the officials and will have no further comment on the matter."

Video replays of the play in question show Furman's Ivan Yates making an interception early in the second quarter. That should've given the Paladins, who were leading 10-0 at the time, the ball at Samford's 26-yard line. After a 14-minute delay consisting of two reviews and lengthy discussions with coaches, the Bulldogs retained possession and went on a 20-0 scoring run over the next six-and-a-half minutes.

For more on the play, here's the link to my recap of the game: For those that subscribe the ESPN+, the sequence runs from about the 48-minute mark to 1:02 on the game's television broadcast.

A couple of hours after the statement was released, Furman coach Clay Hendrix held his weekly press conference. Hendrix said he could not recall the SoCon ever releasing a statement of this nature before. He praised the league's response and said his team had moved on, but he did answer questions about the incident.

"They've (SoCon) been great in communication with us since Saturday. I know what happened and what's been done, but we will leave it at that. ... I don't know what else they can do," Hendrix said. "There was a statement made that there was a forward progress stoppage, which was impossible on that play. That's where it all started. It was a really, really, really bad call. ... A stoppage of forward progress can't be reviewed. That's (the second review) what should've never happened. There was never a catch made and never possession. You can't have forward progress without that.

"There were certainly some unusual circumstances, but it's a loss we own. We didn't respond well. We had every opportunity to make plays on both sides of the ball and we didn't do enough of them. Give Samford credit."

Outside of the bad call in general, a big part of the absurd nature of the sequence was the 14-minute delay. Contrast what happened Saturday with Major League Baseball's rules involving replay. Under those rules, things would've gotten back to normal after the initial video review and Samford coach Chris Hatcher would not have been allowed to argue about it.

The delay, and uncertainty about what exactly was going on during it, was a problem.

"I look back at what I could've done differently. I even thought about grabbing (strength coach) Andre Bernardi and re-warming up our guys, but we were told we were getting the ball then told we weren't," Hendrix said. "Should I have walked across the field when the long conversation was going on after the (first) review, which I couldn't understand why it was happening? I don't know."

Heading back to Charleston

Making a road trip to face your oldest SoCon rival should help Furman refocus and turn the page from Saturday's chaos. After a win at Charleston Southern two weeks ago, the Paladins head back down I-26 this week to take on The Citadel at 2 p.m. Saturday.

In past years, facing the Bulldogs' style of run-heavy, option offense was something Furman would have to practice for a few weeks each season during league play. These days, Citadel is about the only team left that still does it.

"We used to do some of that offense too, so our defense would see it some then. It's certainly a challenge and I learned a long time ago, you'd better not try to figure it out in a week," Hendrix said. "We've been doing a little drill work on Sundays where we work on option responsibility stuff. I think our coaches are really comfortable and experienced (preparing for it).

"This is one of those weeks you've got to embrace. It tests your will a little bit. If you're a pass rusher, good luck getting opportunities this week. There's double teams and there's not a lot of nice stuff about it. ... And you've got to be great in the back half (of the defense), because you get so in tune with what's going on they raise up and throw one over your head."

Hendrix spent part of the opening portion of his press conference reflecting on Saturday's loss, but also on a broader, deeper thought. It was one concerning the overall state of Furman's program and the challenges it faces in how it has to go about winning in this day and age of college football.

"This is my 29th year as part of the program. We've been fortunate to win a lot of games and have a lot of success. I don't mean this in a negative way, but I don't think we've ever won tons of games around here by out-talenting people. We're not going to do that now. We have some talented players, but we're just not going to out-talent people," Hendrix said. "It's the nature of the world and it's the nature of our school as to who our pool of players is to recruit. I heartily embrace that and what our guys are about."

Hendrix said his team has to play with the mindset of "doing common tasks uncommonly well," and he said they're currently not doing those things. He said they're doing some really good things on defense, but have to stop giving up big plays. He added that the Paladins must tackle better.

"Do I expect us to make every tackle? Absolutely not, but we're better than we've done," Hendrix said. "Offensively, we're not getting enough production out of the number of plays we've had. We haven't been nearly good enough in the red zone scoring touchdowns and turnovers have killed us the last two weeks.

"We don't live in the transfer world. We're not renting players for the fall semester. ... We're not going to do that here. I love our guys and have a lot of confidence in them and our staff, but those are things we've got to do better going forward. ... Our kids are playing hard. If they're not doing that, none of this other stuff matters. We can still have a great year. It's all out there before us."

Poll watch

After creeping about as close to the weekly FCS Top 25 polls as you can get without getting in the last couple of weeks, Saturday's loss sent Furman reeling back down the ladder of "others receiving votes" land. After receiving 129 points, which would've ranked No. 27, in last week's Stats Perform (media) poll, the Paladins garnered 15 points this week. That rank would be No. 33.

This drop came after a seven-point loss to 16th-ranked Samford, which moved up to No. 13, in a game tinged with controversy and played without starting quarterback Tyler Huff. The resume for Furman (3-2, 1-1) also includes a 23-point loss at FBS' fifth-ranked Clemson, in a game where the Paladins outgained the Tigers, and a 13-point win at then No. 18-ranked ETSU. There are a few teams ahead of Furman that have a worse loss, which is kind of reflected in the Paladins being 22nd among FCS teams in this week's Massey Ratings. 

Injury update

Hendrix said Huff (dislocated elbow) participated in practice Sunday and that they'll see how it goes with him this week. He expects Dominic Morris, who missed the Samford game, to return this week. Morris has the team lead in interceptions (two) and pass break-ups (four). Dae'one Wilkins had surgery last week and will miss "hopefully just four weeks," according to Hendrix.

Hendrix confirmed that defensive end Jeremiah Jackson is out for the year after suffering an injury at Charleston Southern. With 8:16 left in the game, Jackson's knee twisted awkwardly as he was thrown to the ground from behind away from the play as it ended.

"It was a really bad injury that should've never happened," Hendrix said. "It was something totally not to do with the play. I just hate it for him. He had to have surgery."

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