Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

#4 Furman Sneaks by Samford 27-21; Tough Matchup ahead at WCU

The Paladins were able to sack Samford’s QB Michael Hiers nine times in last Saturday’s 27-21 victory over the Samford Bulldogs. However, a tough road lies ahead as the Paladins will travel to Cullowhee, North Carolina, to face the #8 Western Carolina Catamounts, a matchup that could decide the SoCon champion.
Courtesy of Furman Athletics

The #4 Furman Paladins escaped undefeated in Homewood, Alabama, against arch-rival Samford last Saturday 27-21.  The victory followed an impressive defensive performance that saw nine sacks on Samford’s QB Michael Hiers and holding the Bulldogs to only 46 yards rushing total.

Furman even emerged in the national spotlight after an ultra-athletic one-handed touchdown grab by WR Ben Ferguson to extend the Paladins’ lead late in the first half. However, the Paladins were slow to get going offensively in the first quarter, an issue plaguing the team all season. 

The Paladins will travel this weekend to Cullowhee, North Carolina, to face the #8 Western Carolina Catamounts. If the Paladins will learn anything from the game against Samford, it is that a strong defense will not always bail out a slow-moving offense. The key to silencing the roaring WCU crowd this weekend is to arrive at the game alert and ready to play offensively from the start. 

The game against WCU will likely decide the Southern Conference champion (excluding any hiccups in the remaining games for Furman). The game will be sold out, filled with the WCU students and locals sporting Western Carolina purple. They will be loud and determined to intimidate Furman. Going scoreless in the first quarter against Samford and playing conservatively in the second half, with miscues on both sides of the ball, will not be acceptable against WCU. If the Paladins make any early mistakes, it could result in WCU getting an early lead.

Does this sound familiar? The Paladins have already faced a challenge of this size this season when they traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, to face the South Carolina Gamecocks. The stadium was rocking with nearly 79,000 screaming fans. Yet Furman remained undeterred, silencing the crowd with multiple touchdowns early in the game that saw South Carolina fall to an early deficit. Even though South Carolina overcame later in the game, the memory of silencing 79,000 people with physicality and athleticism should be a massive motivator for Furman in their match against WCU. 

WCU has not enjoyed a winning season of this magnitude since 1983 when Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” were the hottest songs on the radio. WCU fans and administration are so happy about this football season that they recently unveiled a new “Catamount statue” that is supposedly “bigger, meaner, and more ferocious” in front of their central administration building. The Furman Paladins must let them know that the buck stops with them. 

Being ready to play from the start will be crucial to securing the game. The drive from Furman to WCU is roughly two hours. On a drive of similar length, LSU football head coach Brian Kelly stopped his team’s buses at a car dealership for a stretch and walkthrough on their four-hour commute from Baton Rouge to Starkville, Mississippi, to face Mississippi State. This game kicked off early at 11:00 a.m. 

From the start of the game, LSU was wide awake and prepared to play, while MSU was slow to get its bearings, causing LSU to win 41-14. Furman’s Head Coach Clay Hendrix should employ a similar tactic to LSU to keep his team awake on the drive to Cullowhee on gameday, which begins at 2 p.m. rather than the typical 2:30 to 3:30 Furman kickoff times. Hendrix and his team need this “signature” win this season to make a better case for Furman as a top-three team in the FCS, and being prepared from kickoff will be paramount against the Catamounts. 

Road games in college football are challenging for many reasons, but Furman can make the challenges much more manageable by quieting the crowd early and showing up ready to go. Although it is disappointing that a crucial game has to be played on the road, the Paladins will thankfully return to Paladin Stadium next week for Homecoming against East Tennessee State. Go Dins, and beat WCU!

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