For the first time since 1999, Furman has won four-consecutive road games within one season, as the Paladins posted a 41-3 Southern Conference win over VMI Saturday afternoon at Foster Stadium.
The Paladins knocked off William & Mary (W, 52-6), Western Carolina (W, 27-19), The Citadel (W, 31-17), and North Carolina (W, 28-3) in consecutive fashion during the 1999 season. So far in the 2022 season, Furman has knocked off East Tennessee State (W, 27-14), Charleston Southern (W, 24-19), The Citadel (W, 21-10) and VMI (W, 41-3) in succession.
The Paladins will look to make it five-straight on the road when they travel to face Mercer for the regular-season road finale on Nov. 11.
The 6-2 start to a season marks Furman’s best start to a campaign since 2008. Since 1982, Furman has started a season 6-2 or better 18 times, with 16 of those resulting in FCS playoff bids. Only 1991 and 2008 did the Paladins fail to qualify for the FCS postseason. It is important to note that Furman has one non Division I win on its schedule, which was a 52-0 win in the season opener over North Greenville.
Furman’s 38-point road win also marked its fifth-straight road victory against FCS competition, dating back the final game of the 2021 regular-season, which saw the Paladins knock off Samford, 41-34, in what was the final regular-season game of the 2021 campaign in Birmingham.
The win sets up a monumental clash next Saturday, as Chattanooga (6-1, 4-0 SoCon) will pay a visit to Paladin Stadium for a Homecoming clash on Oct. 29. The Mocs moved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the SoCon with a 41-21 win over No. 11 Mercer earlier Saturday in a matchup of SoCon unbeaten at Finley Stadium in the Scenic City.
The Paladins would finish the contest holding a 456-340 advantage in total offense, which included a 244-48 in rushing yards. Tyler Huff engineered an efficient outing for the Furman offense, as he connected on 18-of-25 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown, while Dominic Roberto turned in another solid performance rushing the football, as he finished with 104 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries. For the second-straight week, Roberto had a TD run of more than 50 yards, as he scampered 57 yards for a score as part of a 21-point second quarter, which out-score the Keydets 21-3 to eventually take what was a 24-3 lead into the halftime locker room.
Ryan Miller was again at the forefront of the Furman receiving efforts once again today, as he ended up hauling in five passes for 71 yards and a score. It marked Miller’s 24th-career scoring catch, as he is now within two of tying the school record of 26, which was set by Chas Fox (1983-86).
Defensively, Furman was led by linebackers Evan DiMaggio and Braden Gilby, who posted nine tackles apiece, while Bryce McCormick added six stops, and Jack Barton added five tackles. DiMaggio also added half-a-tackle-for-loss, while Gilby added 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack. Barton had two tackles behind the line-of-scrimmage and a sack as part of a day when Furman’s defensive collectively recorded nine tackles-for-loss and four sacks.
Furman recorded a pair of INTs on the day, bringing their season totals to 19 takeaways and 12 INTs. The Paladins rank second nationally with 12 INTs and lead the nation with 19 takeaways. In the 38-point win over the Keydets, Travis Blackshear recorded a 41-yard INT return for a score, marking the second of his career. He also had a 49-yard INT return for a score in a win over Point back in 2019. The Savannah, GA., native also added four tackles.
Additionally, Furman got an INT from Hugh Ryan—his third of the season and second in as many weeks—as he picked off a Collin Shannon pass a little over midway through the opening quarter of play.
The Keydets employed the services of two quarterbacks in Saturday’s contest, with both Collin Shannon and Wyatt Hagan getting the snaps for the Keydets, after Wyatt replaced an injured Shannon late in the first quarter. Shannon finished the contest completing 3-of-9 passes for 24 yards with an INT. Hagan finished the contest connecting on 22-of-40 passes for a career-high 268 yards with one INT.
The top target in the VMI passing game for both Shannon and Hagan were Leroy Thomas and Isaiah Lemmond. Thomas finished the day hauling in three passes for 87 yards, while Lemmond caught six balls for 79 yards. Korey Bridy led the VMI ground attack with 64 yards on 18 carries.
The Keydet defense, which was without star linebacker Stone Snyder due to injury, was led by Aljareek Malry and Christian Dunn, who had eight tackles apiece. Dunn also added 1.5 tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks.
One area the Paladins will look to clean up Saturday will be penalties. The Paladins, which came in as one of the least penalized teams in FCS football, the Paladins finished the day with 11 penalties for 110 yards—its most in a single game since being penalized 11 times for 115 yards in 2013 in what was a 27-10 win over Appalachian State in Greenville.
How It Happened: Both teams started the game slow, with both teams playing some solid defense in the opening quarter. After winning the coin toss and deferring until the second half, the Paladins were able to breakthrough and score their only points of the opening quarter on a 41-yard field goal from Ian Williams with 9:52 remaining in the opening frame, concluding what was an 11-play, 60-yard drive.
Furman’s Hugh Ryan recorded his third INT of the season a little midway through the opening quarter, and after Bryce Stanfield broke through to sack VMI starting quarterback Collin Shannon later in the quarter, he was penalized for unnecessary roughness. As a result, Shannon left the game with an injury and never returned. He was replaced by Wyatt Hagan.
Early in the second quarter, the Paladins needed just two plays to cover 71 yards to find the Foster Stadium end zone for the first time on the day. After Tyler Huff completed a 14-yard pass to Luke Shiflett, Dominic Roberto would do the rest of the damage on the next play, taking the hand-off from Huff and rumbling and racing 57 yards down the visiting sideline for a TD to give the Paladins a 10-0 lead following Axel Lepvreau’s PAT.
Furman’s special teams would put it in prime position to increase its lead further on VMI’s next possession. Following a 97-yard return for a touchdown in last Saturday’s 47-40 win over Western Carolina, Wayne Anderson Jr. found a different way to get involved as a part of the Furman special teams on Saturday. He broke through to block and recover a Jack Culbreath, returning it seven yards to the VMI 2, setting up the Paladin offense in excellent field position just 59 seconds after Roberto’s long TD scamper.
It took only one play to put points on the board for the Furman offense, and for the third-straight week, it came on a direct snap to someone other than Tyler Huff. Luke Shiflett, who was a standout quarterback as a prep, scored on the first play of the drive, plunging into the end zone from two yards to increase Furman’s lead to 17-0 with 9:57 left in the half.
VMI broke through to score its only points on the next drive, with Jerry Rice capping a 9-play, 59-yard drive with a 33-yard field goal with 6:23 left in the opening half, trimming Furman’s lead to two scores, at 17-3.
It took just four plays for Furman to score its third touchdown of the second quarter. Huff capped the drive with his lone scoring pass of the day, finding All-America tight end Ryan Miller on an 11-yard pitch-and-catch to make it a 24-3 game with 5:10 remaining in the opening half. That would be the score as the two teams headed into the halftime locker room.
The lone points of the third quarter would come on a short field, as VMI opened the second half with an attempted onside kick, which was recovered by the Paladins at the VMI. Six plays later, Ian Williams came on to connect on his second 41-yard field goal of the day to increase the Furman lead to 27-3.
In the fourth quarter, the Paladins would tack on two more scores—one offensive and one defense—to cap the scoring in a fourth-straight road win. Kendall Thomas scored his first TD of the season 39 seconds into the final quarter, as his 18-yard scoring scamper capped an eight-play, 55-yard drive and increased Furman’s lead to 34-3.
The exclamation point in the win was provided by senior cornerback Travis Blackshear, who picked off Wyatt Hagan’s pass and returned it 41 yards down the far sideline for a score, making it a 41-3 Furman lead with 13:38 left.
Later in the fourth quarter, Carson Jones, a semifinalist for “Mr. Football” in the State of Tennessee at the 6A level, saw the first action of his collegiate career, completing three passes for seven yards. He also rushed for six yards in the win.