Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Huff’s Domination Leads #7 Paladins past Kennesaw State, 31-28

Behind quarterback Tyler Huff’s incredible performance, the Paladins squeaked by the Kennesaw State Owls outside Atlanta last Saturday. Despite the victory, the game raised concerns about the vitality of the Paladin defensive front.
Courtesy of Furman Athletics

Furman quarterback Tyler Huff carried the team on his back, as the #7 ranked Paladins narrowly escaped defeat by the Kennesaw State Owls, 31-28.

Throughout the game, Huff, quick on his feet, escaped the pass rush or simply outran the Owls’ defense, running for 79 yards and a Furman-record of four touchdowns. He also threw for 237 yards on 24/32 passing.

However, the Paladin defense allowed an uncharacteristic 490 total yards of offense from the Owls, backed by high-performing, dual-threat quarterback Jonathan Murphy. What went wrong?

By all means, this game was an incredible victory for the Paladins. KSU’s tenure as an FCS school is ceasing at year-end, and they will transition to the FBS and Conference USA. Any school that can do this has had unprecedented success and utilizes great talent, and Saturday’s game against Furman showcased this.

Last week’s game against South Carolina was frustrating for the Paladin defense. Quarterback Spencer Rattler dazzled the Paladins, dropping dime after dime from short, medium, and deep. He then gave the defending FBS National Champs, the Georgia Bulldogs, a run for their money last Saturday. 

The theme of a lack of execution by the Paladin defense carried over into this week. It all started solidly for the defense, allowing just seven points in the first half and third quarter. But in the fourth quarter, Murphy opened the floodgates and kept the Owls in the game.

Was the root of the defensive woes Murphy’s uncommon left-handedness or his quick-thinking to avoid pressure? Was it the late kickoff at 5 p.m. rather than the usual early afternoon? No matter the defensive problem’s source, the lack of execution was evident. Nonetheless, Murphy threw for over 300 yards and ran for 63 more, with two passing touchdowns and one interception, which sealed the deal late in the game for the Paladins from spur Cally Chizik. 

All the Paladin defense needs to work on this week is open-field tackles and playing for the full 60 minutes, a point head coach Clay Hendrix stressed after last week’s game against South Carolina. It can be inferred that defensive coordinator Duane Vaughn will condition his squad better to accommodate this need against Mercer. Luckily, this is the last late kickoff for the Paladins for the rest of the regular season, but, come playoff time, the Paladins will likely have to deal with another. 

For the offense, they played one of their best games. Huff put the team on his back with his incredible performance. The run-pass-option attack from the Paladins on the Owls was lethal. Throughout the game, the Owl’s defense was left guessing if the ball would go to the power back in Dominic Roberto or the elusive Huff. The ball was like a hot knife through butter in either direction. 

This Saturday, the #7 Paladins finally return home to Paladin Stadium to face another ranked opponent, the #21 Mercer Bears. The Bears have had an extra week to prepare for the Paladins. A pocket-passing quarterback leads their offense in Carter Peevy. The Paladin defense will undoubtedly work on pressuring him. The game will be challenging, but if the defense can play an entire 60 minutes, the job for Huff and the offense will be much easier as they can manage the game’s pace. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. Be there, and be loud! Go Dins!

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