By Jacob Waldrip
As Furman alumni return home for the weekend, recalling stories of days gone by here at Furman, the Paladin football team looks to add another memorable chapter to a rivalry with Georgia Southern.
The Furman/GSU rivalry may not date back nearly as far as the series with Wofford, but has had many more important football games between extremely good football teams to add fuel to a heated rivalry.
Georgia Southern renewed their football program in 1981, the same year Paladin Stadium opened, and only a couple of years after Furman turned the corner in winning its first of a league-leading 12 SoCon titles.
Only four short years later, Furman and GSU would meet for the first time in Idaho for the Division I-AA National Championship game. GSU took that initial matchup, 44-42.
Three years later, in 1988, those same two squads would once again do battle for a national title, with Furman knocking off the Eagles 17-12.
The Furman/GSU rivalry was therefore born, forged in intense battles for National Championships.
It was five years later; in 1993, that GSU would join SoCon and became one of the conference’s alongside Furman and Appalachian State.
Since then, the yearly renewal of the Furman/GSU rivalry has been looked forward to by fans of both universities. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Georgia Southern had a powerful tailback by the name of Adrian Peterson (but not the one playing for the Minnsota Vikings of the NFL), and Furman had a powerful back by the name of Louis Ivory.
Ivory was from a town near Statesboro, GSU’s home, but was overlooked by the Eagles. Having come to Furman, in 2000 he put together arguably the greatest rushing performance in Furman history. Ivory erupted for 301 yards during that home game and the ‘Dins knocked off eventual national champion GSU 45-10.
The very next year, in 2001, Furman would travel twice to Statesboro to play against the Eagles: once a loss in the regular season, then once again in the National Semi-Finals.
GSU had never lost a home playoff game, and Furman had yet to knock off GSU in Statesboro in the young but heated rivalry.
After GSU jumped out to a 17-7 halftime lead, Furman stormed back in the second half to claim a 24-17 victory to send GSU home and make a return to the national title game for the third time in Paladin history.
Needless to say this rivalry has a rich and heated history.
Here’s to the Paladins and the Eagles adding another intense battle to memory lane as the alumni and students of our beloved Furman celebrate, remember, and move forward together.