Domination. Supremacy. Superiority. Those words describe #7 Furman’s commanding win against the conference rival #21 Mercer Bears. Even though fall had officially begun, the summer sun lingered over Paladin Stadium. Still, the heat was no factor for the Paladins, as they dominated every facet of the game: offense, defense, and special teams.
Quarterback Tyler Huff’s impressive performance from last week continued into this week. He finished the game with 20/24 passing for 168 yards and one touchdown pass. He also led the team in rushing with 82 yards on 11 attempts. The run-pass-option attack for the Paladins was lethal again this week, opening up running lanes for running back Dominic Roberto and Huff as well as for passes to wide receiver Joshua Harris. Harris led the team in receiving yards with 48 yards on five receptions. Huff made connections to nine different receivers throughout the game, with six receivers racking up double-digit yardage.
The bulk of the Paladin’s yards came from their diverse rushing attack, which totaled 222 yards by the final whistle. Running back Jayquan Smith saw more touches and led the way with rushing yards from non-quarterbacks with 46 yards, including one touchdown. Roberto followed close behind with 37 yards and one touchdown. Running back Ben Croasdale also saw more playing time this week, finishing with 23 yards. Wide receiver Wayne Anderson Jr. and running back Myion Hicks also finished with 15 yards rushing and one touchdown a piece.
After two rough games at South Carolina and Kennesaw State, the Paladin defense rallied together and played a complete game with intense physicality from whistle to whistle. They held the Mercer Bears to only 267 yards of total offense, locking down Mercer’s receivers and holding quarterback Carter Peevy to 123 yards passing.
Despite the much-improved performance, the Dins still need to fix some mistakes before their next game. The Paladin defense needs to work on two-minute drills, as the Bears were able to score off a long touchdown pass from Peevy with one minute to go in the second quarter. Also, the Paladins might have finished the game with two or more turnovers, but bad drops by the defense from errant passes by Peevy prevented this from happening. Defensive coordinator Duane Vaughn and cornerbacks coach Tafon Mainsah will be looking to work on the dropped passes in practice.
The Paladins’ special teams played a perfect game. Kicker Ian Williams was excellent from 31 yards and nailed all his extra points as he should. Kick returns were also outstanding from the Paladins. To make their already solid performance better, the Paladins kept their heads on a swivel during a punt situation, recovering a muffed punt from Mercer’s Devron Harper inside their 20-yard line. This move set up a quick pass to Wayne Anderson Jr. from Tyler Huff for a touchdown.
All-in-all, it was a game the Paladins were determined to win from the opening whistle. They will enjoy a much-needed rest period as they have more than a week to prepare for their fierce rival, The Citadel. The Citadel has been blown out every game, scoring only 20 points in four games. They will have a home game against Western Carolina before traveling to Paladin Stadium on Oct. 7 to face the Paladins for a 2 p.m. kickoff.
The Paladins must be on the lookout for The Citadel this time, though. The Citadel has seemingly abandoned their signature triple-option rushing attack, transitioning to a more familiar run-pass-option. The key to victory will be stopping the run and forcing mistakes on the opponent. The Citadel will be determined to ruin Furman’s championship-contending season. Be sure to head to Paladin Stadium at 2 p.m. on Oct. 7 to cheer on your Furman Paladins. Go Dins!