For the second time in the Clay Hendrix era as Furman’s head coach, North Carolina State handed him and the Paladins a decisive loss, which was in stark contrast to Hendrix’s experiences as a player for his alma mater in the early-mid 1980s against that same Wolfpack program.
Saturday night’s 45-7 win by the Wolfpack over Hendrix’s Paladins came 1,463 days after N.C. State’s 49-16 triumph back in 2017, which was Hendrix’s first year at the helm of his alma mater, and the season in which he began to turn the Paladins back into a consistent perennial title contender in the SoCon.
In 1984, Hendrix was part of a Paladin team that was led by recent College Football Hall-of-Fame inductee Dick Sheridan that helped the Paladins to a 34-30 win over the Wolfpack.
A year later, Hendrix was a part of Furman’s second-most demonstrative win in its history over an FBS foe, as the Paladins took a knee driving down in the red zone late in a 42-20 win over the Wolfpack in ’85. Only Furman’s 28-3 win at North Carolina on Oct. 30, 1999 in Chapel Hill equals a more decisive margin of victory.
It would eventually lead to Sheridan being hired at NC State in 1986. Sheridan led the Wolfpack to some great successes during his seven seasons as Wolfpack head coach, experiencing just one losing season, which came in 1987.
The loss sees Furman fall to 2-1 on the young season, while the Wolfpack improved to 2-1. Both teams host their respective league openers next Saturday.
NC State was a team that entered week three of the 2021 college football season questioning itself, and fielding questions from its media and fans in the wake of a 24-10 loss on the road at Mississippi State.
But while that game might have been cause for concern just two weeks ahead of a crucial clash with ACC favorite Clemson, Saturday night’s 45-7 win against one of its oldest gridiron foes, Furman, went a long way of giving next weekend’s clash with the Tigers a completely different feel, as the Wolfpack walked away from the win over Furman with a pep in their proverbial step.
Meanwhile, Furman was wondering how it might fare as the appetizer for next week’s ACC showdown in Raleigh. Furman headed into Saturday night’s road test–the first against an ACC power five foe since a 24-17 loss at Virginia Tech in 2019– with hopes of being more like a main course than the Wolfpack might have anticipated, especially after N.C. State might have been wavering in confidence following a lackluster road performance against the Bulldogs a week ago.
After a 38-point setback Saturday night, however, it’s now Furman, which seemingly heads into its conference opener against Mercer next Saturday that having to answer some of those same question marks than that the Wolfpack answered against the Paladins Saturday night.
The Wolfpack’s performance on both sides of the football was near flawless for much of the night. Aside from a fumble on its opening series of the game, N.C. State could do no wrong for the better part of three quarters of play in getting its second win of the season.
Leading the way for the offense was quarterback Devin Leary, who did much of his damage in the first two quarters of the contest, and exited the lineup early in the third quarter after helping the Wolfpack to a 45-0 lead early in the third quarter.
Leary’s numbers were impressive. He connected on 23-of-29 passes for 257 yards with three scoring strikes and no INTs, while also adding a seven-yard scoring run in the second quarter, pacing an NC State offense that ended the night posting a 505-196 in total offensive yards, including an impressive 218-92 edge on the ground.
Zonovan Knight did much of the damage on the ground for the Wolfpack in the opening half of play, as he posted 104 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. The 505 yards surrendered to the Wolfpack marks only the second 500-yard performance surrendered by Furman’s defense in its last 10 games, dating back to 2019.
The only other Paladin foe to accomplish that feat against a solid Paladin defense was Mercer, who rolled up 507 yards of total offense in a 26-14 triumph over the Paladins in Macon last spring.
Following a recovered fumble by Furman standout cornerback Travis Blackshear at the NC State on the opening series of the game, the Paladins garnered its only first down of the opening half of play on a 12-yard pass connection between Hamp Sisson and tight end Ryan Miller.
However, after the Paladin drive stalled at the Wolfpack 31, the Paladins were forced to settle for a 48-yard field goal attempt from Timmy Bleekrode. But after having connected on 7-of-8 field goal attempts in the first two games of the season against North Carolina A&T and Tennessee Tech, Bleekrode’s 48-yard attempt didn’t lack the distance, but was just wide right, and Furman’s best
North Carolina State got on the scoreboard on its second possession of the contest, as Zonovan Knight rushed for 56 of the team’s 75 yards on the drive, which included a 42-yard rumble on a 3rd-and-3 play, setting up his 1-yard scoring plunge a play later, giving the Wolfpack a 7-0 lead with 8:29 remaining in the opening quarter.
After forcing a three-and-out on Furman’s next possession, the Wolfpack would take a 10-0 lead courtesy of a 32-yard field goal from Christopher Dunn with 3:06 to play in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter, the Wolfpack would score their second touchdown of the night, as quarterback Leary hooked up with tight end Dylan Parham for a 4-yard scoring pass to make it a 17-0 game with 13:52 left in the opening half.
Leary would call his own number on N.C. State’s next scoring drive midway through the second quarter, as he called his own number on a 7-yard scoring run to make it a 24-0 game with 6:49 left in the opening half.
The Wolfpack would tack on a couple Leary scoring tosses, as he posted TD passes of 42 and 12 yards to Anthony Smith and Thomas Thayer, respectively, as the Wolfpack took a 38-0 lead into the halftime locker room.
It was a complete and dominating performance in the opening 30 minutes of football for the Wolfpack, who had a 19-to-1 advantage in first downs, and out-gained the Paladins 379-49 in total yards in the opening half of play.
Both teams would get on the board in the third quarter, with the Wolfpack capitalizing on a Hamp Sisson interception early in the third quarter. N.C. State needed only five plays to cover 39 yards, which was capped off by a Ricky Person 1-yard touchdown plunge, giving the Wolfpack 45-0 lead with just under 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Paladins would get on the board with 2:09 remaining in the third frame, as Sisson found tight end Ryan Miller for a 16-yard scoring connection to make it a 45-7 game. The Furman drive covered 56 yards in seven plays to prevent the Paladins from being shutout.
Sisson finished the night completing 8-of-19 passes for 86 yards with one touchdown and an INT.
Miller continued to build off his All-America season in the spring, hauling in his second touchdown of the spring to account for the only Furman points of the night. He hauled in two passes for 31 yards and a score. Through the first three games of the 2021 fall campaign, Miller has nine catches for 197 yards and a pair of TD, averaging 21.9 yards-per-catch.
Over the past 10 games, Miller has put up some pretty jaw-dropping numbers at tight end for the Paladins, having caught 24 passes for 451 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 18.8 yards-per-catch.
Furman looks to rebound when it opens Southern Conference play against Mercer (1-1) at Paladin Stadium next Saturday, with kickoff set for 2 p.m. N.C. State hosts Clemson at Carter-Finley Stadium in a 3:30 p.m. ACC showdown.