Furman’s ‘Jace’ and Wynn force Wofford to fold

Furman senior running back Devin Wynn/photo courtesy of Furman’s sports information

In the words of the late country singer Kenny Rodgers, sometimes you have to know when to hold em and know when to fold em.

For Furman head coach Clay Hendrix, he knew exactly when to play his ‘Jace’ and if all else failed, he could trust running back Devin Wynn to make Wofford’s defense eventually fold given enough times to violently pound them with his relentless pad-popping power and speed.

After having only 11 carries in the loss to Mercer two weeks ago, that’s exactly what he did with 20 more carries against a bitter rival, with many of those bruising runs to be felt much later in the week by the unfortunate Terrier would-be tacklers.

That probably wasn’t the exact thoughts of the head coach heading into Gibbs Stadium for Saturday’s game, however, that’s how it would play out in Furman’s resounding 42-20 win over Wofford.

The win saw Furman improve to 3-2 overall and even its SoCon ledger at 1-1, while Wofford dropped to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in league play.

Furman’s two main offensive cogs were a true freshman quarterback–Jace Wilson–and a seasoned veteran running back ascending the program’s all-time rushing charts–Devin Wynn.

By the time the time the day was done, it was the Terriers doing most of the panting trying to catch up with the speed and tempo of a Paladin offense led by a new gunslinger.

The Texan showed us flashes of what made Paladin coaches so excited upon his signing last year. He connected on 14-of-23 throws for 189 yards with a TD and no turnovers, while also rushing for 26 yards and a score on just five attempts.

Wilson was enough of a threat to keep the Terrier defense much of the afternoon, and that had Wynn running around, over, and through the Terrier defense for much of the afternoon.

All told, the Greensboro, GA native finished the sun splashed afternoon by rushing for 204 yards and a pair of scores on 31 attempts, while hauling in three passes for 39 yards and a score to have easily his most productive performance of the season for the Paladins.

Putting history in perspective

It marked Furman’s first win in the Hub City since 2006. Fifteen years is a long time, and perhaps the change in trajectory of the rivalry was mentioned a time or two during the off week

At the time of Furman’s last win over Wofford–a 35-21 win over the Terriers-no one had a sense that the rivalry was getting ready to shift heavily in the favor of Wofford, as the Terriers would win nine of the next 14 games in the series, which included six shared or outright SoCon titles.

A deeper dive into the numbers reveals an even more in-focus picture of how dominant Wofford has been among its SoCon brethren. Since winning its first SoCon title and posting its best season in program history, finishing league play unbeaten (8-0) and winning 11 total games prior to losing to eventual national title winner Delaware in the Division I-AA semifinals, the Terriers have been a perennial power in the SoCon.

Over the past 18 years, the Terriers have posted an 83-47 record in league play, and have finished in the top four in the league standings in 15 of the past 17 seasons. No one has had a better winning percentage (.643) in league play in that span.

In that same span, Furman, who has won a league standard 14 titles as a charter member, won just two.

Wofford has half of Furman’s title haul in less than three decades, however, the Paladins were not interested in playing to that narrative of the SoCon’s new money Saturday, as the Paladins played like it.

The Paladins played with the type of anger and frustration that makes you wonder if the coaching staff didn’t remind each Furman player of Wofford’s dominance in the series over the past decade and a half.

Devin Wynn punishes Wofford on a 20-yard run

Originally tweeted by Furman Football (@PaladinFootball) on October 9, 2021.

With the momentum of both team’s seasons on the line, there was a much different pressure than that of having a league title on the line like there was in 2019. That day Wofford showed the maturity and pedigree that had been associated with the Mike Ayers tough, no-non-sense era even though Josh Conklin was in just his second season as the head coach.

With Ayers now sailing off into a legendary retirement, Furman brought back Wofford football back to the reality of how things were back in 1997 and ’98 in those early transitional years into the hard-nosed SoCon.

Saturday was Wofford’s seventh-straight matched its worst string of Southern Conference losses since joining the SoCon as an official member in 1997. In contiguous seasons in ’97 and ’98, the Terriers lost seven-straight league games to Appalachian State (L, 21-26), The Citadel (L, 3-7), East Tennessee State (L, 28-31), The Citadel (L, 14-20), Georgia Southern (L, 10-45), and Chattanooga (L, 3-31).

The week following the loss to the Mocs, Wofford ended that streak of futility on the road at VMI with a 42-20 win. Interestingly enough, Wofford’s first four wins as a SoCon member in both the 1997 and ’98 seasons, respectively, came against VMI (2) and Western Carolina (2).

The first win over a team than the aforementioned tandem of bottom tier league competitors came on a rainy Saturday at Gibbs Stadium against bitter rival Furman, defeating the Paladins 40-20 in a game that would seemingly almost have success altering effects and gave the program the kind of injection of confidence that would lead it to nine wins and a playoff snub just four years later in 2002, and one of the best season’s in program history in 2003.

It could be argued that gave the Wofford football program the injection of confidence it needed to make a significant progression forward as a foundation for the seven league crowns and 10 FCS postseason appearances the program has claimed in the 23 years since that memorable 20-point trouncing of the Paladins for Wofford fans.

Clay Hendrix played his ‘Jace’ at the perfect time and might have turned the tide of the season

Furman head coach Clay Hendrix wouldn’t be described as much of a riverboat gambler like Tommy Tuberville came to be known as during his coaching career during his time in the SEC at both Auburn and Ole Miss, however, he played his hand at maybe the exact perfect time on Saturday against Wofford.

While it might not have been a big secret to those around the program, as he hinted at it in Monday’s Furman Football show hosted by Dan Scott, as well as in the post-mortem of Furman’s disappointing SoCon-opening 24-3 loss to Mercer, alluding to Wilson being a significant part of the quarterback equation going forward.

He stopped short of saying he would be the starter. During the off-week for the Paladins, Wilson did enough to earn that responsibility. One thing that became readily apparent to me through observation after taking in several preseason scrimmages is that Wilson had the type of moxie and body language as a quarterback that was going to serve him well whenever he got the opportunity to take the reins of the offense.

I had little doubts to him getting a shot in 2021, but I didn’t know at what point that would be, nor did I have any inclination as to whether or not he would be a starter at all during the season. All I knew is he appeared to be too good to keep off the field.

After inserting Wilson late in the third quarter of that contest with the Paladins trailing 21-3 and almost an impossible ask for the freshman. Wilson showed glimpses with his athleticism.

Hendrix didn’t shy away when asked about the future going forward under center, saying it was an open competition and both would be competing for the job. With Wilson’s performance Saturday, it was clear that he was the one being prepped during the off-week for Saturday’s contest.

played a true freshman under center as its ace to try and jumpstart the Paladin offense. It worked. True freshman quarterback and Missouri, TX native Jace Wilson entered the game late in the third quarter of Furman’s SoCon-opening loss to Mercer in a game, which saw Furman trailing to try and resurrect the game. The freshman was put in a tough spot needless to say.

However, the true freshman shined when given the opportunity to start for the first time in his career, un-phased by the moment or without any inclination of the rivalry that has developed between the two school’s separated by about 30 miles.

While Furman exploded for a season-highs of total offense (478), rushing offense (297) and points (42), it certainly didn’t start out that way. Wofford’s offense had a big opening quarter of play, but Furman shut the door after the initial flurry to deliver a message in what was its most dominant and complete 15 minutes of football all season to take control of the football game.

Entering Saturday’s 95th renewal of the rivalry, Wofford was no stranger delivered scoring plays of 43, 47, and 63 yards gave credibility to the fact that despite the fact the unit had been inconsistent all season, the Terriers had the players to make team’s pay for a missed assignment. Even defenses as good as East Tennessee State’s last week, or Furman’s this week.

The Terriers showed off that ability to make big plays in a variety of ways, as the opening half featuring big plays on the ground, through the air, and on special teams. All three plays led to or directly led to Wofford’s 17 points in the opening half of play.

Furman started the game well, moving the ball and gaining a pair of first downs before having to punt the ball away for the first time and the Terriers took full advantage.

Irving Mulligan raced 72 yards on a 3rd-and-2 play on the opening drive of the game to give Wofford a 7-0 lead with 7:37 remaining in the opening quarter. 

After Furman’s offense went three-and-out on its second possession, Wofford wideout R.J. Khayo put the Terriers in good stead once again, returning a Timmy Bleekrode punt 45 yards to the Furman 20, however, the Paladin defense, despite yielding one first down, held the Terriers out of the end zone and Walker Gliarmis trotted on to kick a 24-yard field goal to make it a 10-0 lead with 3:46  remaining in the opening quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Furman’s offense awakened from its spring hibernation to produce of quarter on offense that no one could have foreseen based on recent history.

The 21-point explosion in the second frame was more points than the Paladins scored in 10 of its last 14 games against against Division I competition dating back to the latter part of the 2019 season.

Furman would get on the board early in the second quarter courtesy of a 2-yard scoring run from Devin Wynn—his 28th-career scoring run—to get Furman within a field goal, with 9:36 remaining in the half. It concluded what was an impressive 9-play, 66-yard drive to end a streak of six quarters without finding the end zone for the Paladins and made it a 10-7 game.

However, on the ensuing drive, the Terriers got those points right back, as Peyton Derrick hooked up with Devin Matthews, who did his best Max McGhee impersonation, reaching back to snag a one-handed grab from Peyton Derrick pass and turn it into a on 62-yard scoring connection to allow Wofford to re-establish its 10-point advantage, 17-7, with 7:57 to play in the half.

From that point forward, Furman took control and imposed its will. The Paladins responded with a 75-yard scoring drive, which saw them utilize seven plays and conclude the drive with Wilson’s first rushing score as a Paladin on a seven-yard option keeper around the left side of the Terrier defense to make it a 17-14 game with with 5:41 left in the opening half. That score would spark a string of 28 unanswered points for the Paladin offense.

The game would change on Furman’s next possession. Wofford jumped offsides on a 4th-and-5 play with Bleekrode lined up to punt the ball back to the Terriers late in the opening half of play. However, after the Terriers jumped offsides, while it wasn’t enough to give the Paladins an automatic first down, it made it too tempting of a situation for Paladin head coach Clay Hendrix.

Instead of going the conservative route, Hendrix called the offense back out onto the field at Furman’s own 36 Wilson gave the Paladins a new set of downs on one-yard sneak.. Furman then put the foot on the peddle even more to expedite the process as time wound down in the opening half.

Wilson did the rest with his arm, completing three-straight passes to get the Paladins into the end zone for the third time on the day.

First, Wilson found tight and Ryan Miller over the middle, and he made one defender miss before going down for a gain of 26 yards. After a five-yard pass to freshman wideout Joshua Harris, Wilson found a wide open Wynn over the middle for a 26-yard TD connection giving the Paladins a 21-17 lead with 37 seconds remaining in the game.

The drive had the feeling that it might be a season-changer for the Paladins, although that still remains to be seen, as there is a lot of football to be played yet in 2021.

Wofford got the ball to open the second half, however, the Paladins made the most of their first drive of the second half, using 12 plays to cover 80 yards, with 39 of those yards coming on the ground from the workhorse battering ram Wynn, who continued to make violent instagram reels against Wofford’s hapless initial and sometimes second and third tackle attempts.

Wynn was a man running angry and looking for contact, rather looking to avoid it. The drive ended with a beautifully executed option pitch around left end to wideout Ryan DeLuca and suddenly Furman had a two-score, 28-17 lead a little over midway through the third quarter.

Wofford would produce its only points of the second half on the next possession, getting back to within eight, as Gliarmis connected on a 29-yard chip shot to cut Furman’s lead to eight, at 28-20, with 3:46 left in the third.

But Furman slammed the door shut from there. While Wynn rushed for the first 31 yards of the previous 80-yard Paladin touchdown drive, he finished off the next drive with the the final 36 of of the 75-yard scoring drive, which was appropriately capped on a seven-yard scoring run to increase Furman’s lead back to two scores, at 35-20, with 14:47 remaining.

While Wynn rushed for a total of 42 yards on the drive, another key 22-yard run by Wayne Anderson Jr. saw the Paladins rip off all but 11 yards of the 75-yard scoring drive on the ground.

On Wofford’s next drive, the offensive overwhelming success on the day allowed Paladin defensive coordinator Duane Vaughn to be more liberal with his play-calling on defense.

On a 2nd-and-11 play, Furman forced its only turnover of the day when three Paladin defenders crushed Derrick as he got rid of the football and freshman safety Dominic Morris recorded his first-career INT and what was more of a pop fly than anything else, and returned it 19 yards just inside Wofford territory to the Terrier 49.

Furman would tack its final score on the board by fashioning a nine-play, 49-yard scoring drive, and it was Wayne Anderson Jr. capping the Paladin scoring onslaught by scoring on a six-yard to set the final margin at 22 points.

Aside from Wilson and Wynn, the Paladins had some other notable contributors to the offense in Saturday’s win. Seven different receivers hauled in at least one pass for the Paladins in Saturday’s win, with Ryan Miller leading the way with four catches for 56 yards, while Devin Wynn caught three passes for 43 yds and a score.

Furman wideout Luke Shiflett had his most productive afternoon as a part of the Paladin offense, as he hauled in two passes for 38 yards. Ryan DeLuca had one catch for 38 yards, while recording one rush for seven yards and a touchdown.

Aside from Wynn on the ground for the Paladins, Wayne Anderson Jr. posted five carries for 37 yards and a touchdown.

Along with Morris’ first-career INT for the Paladin defense, Furman’s tackle leaders were both Evan DiMaggio and Braden Gilby, who registered five tackles apiece. DiMaggio also added half-a-tackle-for-loss, and defensive end London Lewis ended the day with three tackles, recording Furman’s lone sack of the day.

Terrier quarterback Peyton Derrick finished the day by connecting on 7-of-15 passes for 133 yards, with a touchdown and an INT. The ground efforts for the Terriers were led by Irvin Mulligan, who finished with 126 yards and one TD on 10 carries. Derrick rushed seven times for 20 yards.

On the defensive side of the football for Wofford, strong safety Okachi Emmanwori finished the contest with a game-high nine stops.

Postgame Audio Interviews Below:

Clay Hendrix comments on the win
Furman running back Devin Wynn talks about a change in mentality of the Paladin offense
Furman true freshman signal-caller Jace Wilson comments on his first start as a Paladin
Furman wideout Luke Shiflett talks about his role as a key wideout in the Paladin offense after making some clutch catches in Saturday’s win

Notable Statistical Info Furman Wofford

Total Offense: 478 314

Rushing Yards: 289 181

Pass Yards: 189 133

Plays: 73 44

Time of Possession: 34:51 25:09

First Downs: 25 12

Third Down Conversions 10-of-15 2-of-8

Full Statistical Info: https://dbukjj6eu5tsf.cloudfront.net/furmanpaladins.com/stats/football/2021/pdf/20211009052504-26140.pdf

Other Notes From Saturday’s Game:

–Furman’s 22-point winning margin is its largest since a 58-21 victory over the Terriers in 2009

–Devin Wynn’s 37 yards receiving put him over 1,000 yards receiving for his career, as he now has 1.020 receiving yards receiving for his career.

–Wynn continued to move up Furman’s rushing ledger with his outstanding afternoon against the Terriers, sitting in seventh-place in Paladin history in rushing yards, with 2,897-career yards to sit seventh in school history in rushing yards.

–Wynn’s two TDs rushing gives him 29 rushing scores for his career, moving him into eighth place in school history, tied with both Mike Glenn (1978-81) and Jerodis Williams (2009-12)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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