By Greg Peterson
On the road against the reigning Big-10 champions Michigan State, Furman held its own all four quarters before falling 28-13 in valiant effort. Despite playing a team that was literally out of their league, an outstanding performance on defense and a chippy game on offense allowed the Paladins to take the Spartans to the wire.
Junior quarterback P.J. Blazejowski and freshman running back Darius Morehead led the offense which finished with 226 yards of total offense. Blazejowski threw for 130 yards and Morehead took another 83 on the ground. Preseason FCS All American Trey Robinson led the defense with 13 tackles and played a huge role in limiting Michigan State’s offense
Head Coach Bruce Fowler was proud of the effort that his team displayed.
“Our players played really hard. Everyone displayed a phenomenal effort, had great focus and showed a lot of enthusiasm. We could have executed better, but we did a good job.” Fowler said.
Furman was down 21-13 with 13:37 left in the fourth quarter after an Antonio Wilcox 6-yard rushing touchdown. On the ensuing Spartan possession, the Paladin’s defense stood their ground and forced a third down and 16, which led to senior linebacker Byron Johnson intercepting redshirt senior Tyler O’Connor’s pass at the MSU 44-yard line.
The Paladins were not able to capitalize on the turnover, however, as MSU’s Andrew Dowell made a diving, one-handed interception on Furman’s first play of the drive. The Spartans then conducted a nearly seven minute touchdown drive that made it 28-13 with 4:55 left in the game, finishing off any hope the Paladins had of pulling of the upset.
The game began with Michigan State putting the first points on the board when running back L.J. Scott scored a touchdown with just four minutes off the clock in the first quarter. The Paladins defense held the Spartans offense scoreless for the rest of the first quarter.
The Spartans put another score on the board with 3:19 left in the second quarter with O’Connor’s touchdown pass to Felton Davis. The Paladins then put together a 72-yard drive that resulted with a John Hollingsworth field goal from 20 yards out with 15 seconds left on the clock.
True freshman running back Morehead had 20 carries for 83 yards in his first collegiate game. “The atmosphere was really great. It was a blessing to have the ability to go out and play” said Morehead.”
Fowler was pleased with the freshman’s performance. “Darius did a fantastic job. Last year only four other running backs rushed for more than 80 yards against MSU, and Darius did that in the first game of the season.”
“I am thankful for this God given gift. Everyone did their job. The coaches and players were all on the same page so we were able to execute pretty well,” Morehead said.
Despite a great showing against Michigan State, Furman was unable to take the win on the road against The Citadel. What could have been an nice upset to start conference play was spoiled by Furman’s inability to hold onto the ball.
Blazjowski was intercepted three times by the Bulldogs and a fumbled punt kept the Paladins from finding their groove despite a defense that stifled the Citadel for most of the game. The Paladins held the Citadel to a meager 25 yards of offense in the third quarter allowing the Paladins to have a one point lead at the start of the fourth.
Furman was not supposed to win either of their first two games of the season. That did not stop them from taking both teams deep into the game with the possibility of stealing a victory. That being said if Furman wants to make a run at the SoCon title it will have to start turning strong performances into wins, and that needs to start this weekend when they play Chattanooga for the home opener on Saturday Sept 17 at 7 pm.