Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Contenders, Not Pretenders: #4 Furman Bests #14 Western Carolina, 29-17

The #4 Furman Paladins escaped Cullowhee with their much-needed “signature” win of the season, bolstering their resumé. With four games remaining, what must the Paladins do to become Southern Conference Champions?
Courtesy of Furman Athletics

Winning in college football is a challenging task. It takes long hours on and off the field to even come close to having a winning season. Some schools begin strong but fizzle out and prove they are “pretenders” and not “contenders.” #4 Furman’s 29-17 victory over the #14 Western Carolina Catamounts indicates that the Paladins are contenders for the National Championship.

However, there is still the more significant task at hand of winning the Southern Conference. How can Furman earn their Southern Conference Championship? The answer is simple: move through the remaining four games in dominating fashion. 

Furman’s victory at WCU was well-earned. The Paladins came ready to play right from the beginning. The Paladin defense showed up like they always do and stopped WCU’s offense in their tracks on multiple occasions. Paired with the offensive thunder-and-lightning duo of QB Tyler Huff and RB Dominic Roberto, the Paladins were in control from the initial kickoff to the final whistle. 

Huff and Roberto kept it clean as they should have. Huff seldom made any dangerous throws to his receivers. If the ball found its way over the middle or in the flat, it frequently landed in the hands of TE Mason Pline. Huff only threw the ball 22 times, and 13 of them found their way into the hands of Paladin receivers, twice for touchdowns and 174 yards. 

However, RB Dominic Roberto proved to be the game-changer. Throughout the game, WCU struggled to stop the run. Noticing this, Roberto received the ball a career-high 31 times, paired with 154 yards, five yards per carry, and one touchdown. Offensive coordinators Chad Byers and Justin Roper also got Huff and WR Wayne Anderson Jr. involved in the running game. Both combined for 174 yards rushing. 

Defense proved to be decisive for the Paladins, as always. Safety Hugh Ryan came up with an interception late in the third quarter from WCU QB Cole Gonzales. However, CB Cally Chizik delivered the decisive blow late in the fourth quarter with an interception as WCU was nearing the end zone. This set up a 53-yard rushing touchdown for Huff, which was the nail in the coffin for WCU. The Paladins held WCU to only 84 rushing yards total. The Paladin defense also spared multiple mistakes by the Furman special teams. 

Many fans watching from home on both sides found themselves highly frustrated as ESPN suffered significant technical difficulties before the game, leading to the entirety of the game being blacked out on all TV networks. Many FCS football fans pay extra for ESPN Plus. This subscription service allows fans to watch games that cannot be aired on major networks (ESPN’s main TV channel, for example) due to higher demand for FBS football games like Alabama vs. Tennessee. Luckily, Furman and WCU uploaded a full-length replay of the game after the final whistle. 

Ultimately, the Paladins emerged victorious and have the SoCon Championship in sight. They have four games remaining against ETSU, Chattanooga, VMI, and Wofford.

The Paladins, who have risen to #3 in the country, should not, however, get ahead of themselves. They must play their best football of the season in this four-game stretch to impress FCS pollsters and make their resumé even stronger. If they win out, Furman could see themselves earning a top seed in the FCS playoffs, giving them a first-round bye and home-field advantage. Furman can ill-afford to lose a game between now and the playoffs, making the next few weeks a great test of their endurance. 

The first step in winning the SoCon comes this Saturday against East Tennessee State for homecoming. ETSU looks to earn a signature win this season after being trounced by #21 Chattanooga, 34-3. ETSU has suffered several upsets so far this season, and after these, they hope to put a bright spot on their resumé against Furman. The Paladins cannot take their foot off the gas against ETSU, as its team will utilize a balanced rushing and passing attack. Stopping the run is the first goal for the Paladins, but ETSU’s QB William Riddle will look to make the majority of his passes to veteran WR Will Huzzie. Shutting down Huzzie and pressuring Riddle will be critical.

If the Paladins can do both things, they should have no issues against ETSU. The game begins at 2:00 p.m. at Paladin Stadium. Be sure to be there and be loud from whistle to whistle. Go Dins!

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