Furman football started fast in its FCS playoff opener, taking down Elon 31-6 on Saturday at Paladin Stadium.
Furman’s defense was the story of the game as the Paladins (10-2) didn’t allow a touchdown. The defense forced three punts and two turnovers on downs through the first half to help take a 14-3 lead over Elon (8-4) by halftime.
“I really thought other than maybe some third-and-longs and quarterback scrambles, I don’t know if we could’ve played any better,” Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. “But again, it was certainly a big challenge for us … We knew we had to be in attack mode. Our goal is also to mentally and physically out-tough somebody. That was our goal today and we did a pretty good job of that.”
Furman takes a seven-game win streak into its second-round matchup against University of the Incarnate Word (10-1) on Dec. 3.
SCOUTING REPORT:Furman football vs. Elon: Scouting report and score prediction
On Saturday, Elon didn't string together successful plays mainly due to the pressure from the Paladins’ front seven. Elon quarterback Matthew McKay was forced to scramble often, and Furman defensive tackle Xavier Stephens led the pack with 2.5 sacks by the end of the first half.
"I think that’s exactly what (the gameplan) was, try to contain the quarterback,” Stephens said. “And honestly great coverage is what leads to that. So, that’s what the plan was.”
When Elon struck its longest play of the first half with a 45-yard completion, redshirt sophomore Luke Clark forced a fumble on the next play to negate Elon’s progress and give the Paladins possession. That play swung momentum to Furman as Elon was on the edge of field goal range.
Overall, the Paladins contained Elon in every aspect. They held freshman running Jalen Hampton in check after Hampton entered the playoffs averaging 102 rushing yards per game.
“We did struggle to establish the run game,” Elon coach Tony Trisciani said. “Which is something we’ve been able to do here all season is be a balanced offensive attack. And establishing the run game has opened up so much for us on the perimeter and vertically down the field in the passing game … We just really struggled to get going just as a football team offensively and defensively, early in the football game.”
Furman’s two-time All-American tight end Ryan Miller was a factor on offense. Through the first three quarters, Miller had nine catches for 74 yards and a touchdown to power Furman’s attack.
The rest of the offense wasn’t as productive until late in the game. Furman could’ve won the game by a much more lopsided margin, but several empty drives led to six punts by the Paladins before the fourth quarter began.
Late in the fourth quarter, Furman finally got back in the end zone to extend the lead 23-6, sealing Elon’s fate. The Paladins poured on another touchdown shortly after with under three minutes to go just to bury Elon even deeper.
Joshua Miller covers high school sports for The Anderson Independent-Mail. Have questions, story ideas, scores and stats involving high school athletics? Send them to his email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @NameIsJoshua
This article originally appeared on Anderson Independent Mail: Furman football takes down Elon to advance past FCS playoff opener