The Bucs used a thrilling rally from a 21-point third-quarter deficit to hand the Paladins what turned out to be a damaging defeat last year. That one will surely be on both teams’ minds when they meet again Saturday at 1 p.m at Paladin Stadium in Greenville, South Carolina.
Furman went on a tear afterward, winning six of its final seven games to gain a share of the SoCon championship, along with Wofford and ETSU. It wasn’t good enough to make the FCS playoffs, however, and looking back, it was the loss to the Bucs that kept the Paladins out.
“They’re going to carry a chip on their shoulder,” ETSU cornerback Jeremy Lewis said. “We have to understand how close the game was and that they’re going to be willing to fight to the very last play. We need to be ready for a dog fight throughout the whole game. That game last year definitely gave us some more motivation for the rest of the season.”
Both teams come in 2-2. The Paladins’ two losses were a 48-42 defeat to Georgia State and a 24-17 setback at Virginia Tech. Furman beat Mercer 45-10 last week in its Southern Conference opener.
The Bucs (2-2) are coming off a 20-14 non-conference victory over Austin Peay. The victory was preserved by a defense that held tough for the entire second half and sealed the outcome with interceptions on the Governors’ final two possessions.
ON THE MEND
Two key ETSU defensive players who missed last week’s game with injuries, tackle Jason Maduafokwa and safety Tyree Robinson, were listed as starters on ETSU’s depth chart for Saturday.
Quarterback Darren Grainger has made Furman an offensive powerhouse this season. The red-shirt freshman has thrown for six touchdowns and run for four more. Last week, he passed for 190 yards and a touchdown and ran for 52 more with another score.
“He’s the guy that makes them go,” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said. “He makes accurate throws, makes good decisions with the ball and obviously he’s athletic and can run the football. He distributes the thing around like you want a quarterback to do and they’re good up front in the offensive line. They have good players and they are all playing with a lot of confidence. They’re not turning the ball over, not making a lot of mistakes and that's a tough combination to defend.”
The Paladins ran Mercer into the ground last week, rushing for 411 yards, their highest total in 16 seasons. Junior Devin Wynn averages 7.4 yards per carry while gaining 379 yards.
Furman leads the SoCon in total offense at 469.5 yards per game and two of those games were against FBS opponents. Defensively, the Paladins lead the conference with 11 quarterback sacks.
Grayson Atkins, Furman’s All-American kicker, was the SoCon’s special teams player of the week after making his 14th consecutive field goal against Mercer last week. He also had a 69-yard punt, the second-longest of his career.
While the game will be streamed on ESPN+, it will also appear on broadcast TV as part of the SoCon’s Ingles Game of the Week package. Locally, WJHL-TV will carry the game on a delayed basis beginning at midnight.
The station will also carry the Nov. 2 Citadel at ETSU game and the Nov. 9 ETSU at Western Carolina game. Both of those will air at midnight as well.