On Saturday, Tyler Huff once again proved why he is the best quarterback in the FCS with #4 Furman’s 28-14 statement win against in-state rival The Citadel Bulldogs. The Paladins dominated the game but slightly waned on the defensive side of the football, specifically in defending the pass.
The Citadel arrived at Paladin Stadium on Saturday with one goal: beat their biggest rival. It was a tall task, but their fans showed out with tailgate tents boasting the motto, “Purple Makes Me Puke.” Citadel fans were loud and spirited from whistle to whistle, even when the Bulldogs were down 28-0.
The Citadel often employs a triple-option rushing attack, a confusing and challenging strategy to stop on defense. In this game, however, the Citadel abandoned this strategy and adopted a more familiar run-pass-option attack.
The Paladins held the Bulldogs to only 37 yards rushing throughout the game and forced multiple turnovers by the hands of Travis Blackshear, Cally Chizik, and Braden Gilby. The offense racked up 345 yards, with QB Huff accounting for 70% of the total offensive production with 146 yards passing, two touchdown passes (1 INT), and 94 yards rushing. Dominic Roberto rallied close behind with 77 yards rushing and one touchdown run.
However, injuries came into play late in the game for the running back room. Redshirt freshman Jayquan Smith suffered a leg injury, and redshirt sophomore Myion Hicks was seen limping near the final whistle. These injuries were concerning for the Paladins, as the running back room lacks depth without their presence.
The Paladin defense played a phenomenal game in the first half, but they began letting mistakes slip through the cracks in the second half. Bulldogs QB Graeson Underwood used blown coverage by the Paladin secondary and threw for 226 yards. The scoreboard does not show it, but the game could have easily been closer. The Citadel lacked an accurate place kicker, and paired with an unusually windy day, they could not make any field goals or extra points. Had they had a kicker like the Paladins, it could have been a one-score game for the Bulldogs. In practice, the Paladins will need to work on their pass protection as next week, they will face one of the best quarterbacks in the country and potential NFL talent: Samford’s Michael Hiers. Hiers has passed for 638 yards in the last two games for the Samford Bulldogs in their lethal run-pass-option attack.
The Paladins will face the Samford Bulldogs at Seibert Stadium in Alabama next Saturday at 1 p.m. For the Paladins, the main goal will be to stop the run and narrow the playbook, forcing Hiers to pass. The Bulldogs will look toward their speedy running backs, Jay Stanton and Damonta Weatherspoon. The ball-hawking corners of Blackshear and Chizik will be looking to capitalize on any mistakes Hiers makes if the Paladin defensive line can pressure Hiers early and force him to make quick passes.
The Paladins will travel again to North Carolina to face the #14 Western Carolina Catamounts before returning to Paladin Stadium on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. Go Dins!