Four different Paladins found the end zone and No. 11 Furman held Elon to just a pair of field goals to down the 12th-ranked Phoenix, 31-6, in the opening round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday …
Four different Paladins found the end zone and No. 11 Furman held Elon to just a pair of field goals to down the 12th-ranked Phoenix, 31-6, in the opening round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.
“We are fortunate and happy to get a win against a good Elon program,” said Furman coach Clay Hendrix. “Their 1,000 yard guy had 30 yards in 10 carries. We tried to make them one dimensional. We knew we had to be in attack mode.”
The Paladins (10-2) will travel to seventh-seeded Incarnate Word in the round of 16 next Saturday, Dec. 3. Kickoff at Benson Stadium in San Antonio, Texas, is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST.
Furman’s defense surrendered just 77
rushing yards, forced two fumbles, and sacked Elon’s Matthew McKay four times to key the Paladins’ first home playoff win since 2005. The victory marked the third time this season Furman has held an opponent without a touchdown, and Elon’s six points were the fewest allowed by the Paladins in a playoff game in school history, spanning 37 games.
With Elon (8-4) leading 3-0, Furman transfer quarterback Tyler Huff (Ridgeview High, FL/Presbyterian College) connected with tight end Ryan Miller on a 30-yard touchdown pass to put the Paladins in front 7-3 with 6:17 left in the first quarter. On the Furman’s next possession, Devin Abrams capped a nine-play, 73-yard drive with a 10-yard rushing touchdown around right end to extend the margin to 14-3 with 14:33 to go in the half.
“Our defense has done a tremendous job all year,” said Huff. “They are doing everything to keep us in games.”
Also on the Furman roster are Fleming Island High graduates Jeremiah Jackson, a redshirt sophomore, who has four games played with five tackles and one sack for 11 yards, and redshirt freshman Alex Maier, a bandit linebacker, who linebacker with game time in all 2022 games with 17 tackles; 3.5 tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks. Maier also has one fumble recovery. Against Elon, Maier had three tackles, 1.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks for eight yards. Maier was named to the Southern Conference All Freshman team.
Axel Lepvreau drilled a 24-yard field goal with under five minutes left in the third quarter to increase the Paladin advantage to 17-3, before Elon’s Skylar Davis answered with a 51-yard kick to trim Furman lead to 17-6 with 14:39 to play.
“We kind of told the defense to be great in the Red Zone,” said Hendrix. “We are kind of no-name group, but just play hard.”
The Phoenix stopped Furman on a third-and-two rush with 8:10 remaining, but Elon was flagged for running into the punter, which resulted in a Paladin first down at the Phoenix 40. The Paladins took advantage, and seven plays later Huff finished off the 16-play, 75-yard drive with a nine-yard run around the left end to give Furman a 24-6 lead with 5:00 to go.
“I’m not doing much,” said Huff, who transferred to Furman after a quality career at Presbyterian College. “I just get the ball to the playmakers and they do their thing. These guys are like brothers to me.”
The Paladins compiled 391 yards out total offense, including 251 yards on the ground. Dominic Roberto rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries, while Huff went for 93 yards on 10 carries. Huff completed 16-of-26 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown.
“Tyler just brings a certain physical toughness to the game and that’s kind of how we are as a team,” said Hendrix. “After he threw that last touchdown, I told him I would forgive him for some of his other throws and runs.”
Roberto’s work pushed the Paladin redshirt junior over 1,000 rushing for the season (1,061) and 2,000 yards in his career (2,055), the latter moving him up to 12th on Furman’s career rushing yards ledger.
Linebackers Bryce McCormick and Braden Gilby led Furman’s defensive effort with seven tackles apiece, and defensive lineman Xavier Stephens registered 2.5 sacks in a four-tackle effort.
McKay led the Elon offense, completing 20-of-40 passes for 238 yards. He also rushed for 53 yards on 11 carries.
With Saturday’s victory, the Paladins secured their ninth double-digit win season and first since 2005.