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Monday, October 24, 2011

Yes, This IS Your Father's Furman Team

After Furman’s football team beat Western Carolina on the first weekend in October, I said that the Paladins would probably not finish with a great record.  But I also said that they were good enough to surprise at least one (or more) of the better teams in the Southern Conference.

Last Saturday, the Paladins made me look like a genius.  Those who know me will tell you a much different story, but I’ll take what I can get.

Around 4:30 pm or so on Saturday afternoon, October 22, 2011, a rare sight was occurring on the campus of Furman University.  Furman’s quarterback was in the “Victory” formation, kneeling down to seal a win over a top-5 opponent.

Oh, it’s happened plenty of times at Furman.  It just hasn’t happened very often since 2005.  And it certainly wasn’t expected this past Saturday.  The Paladins were a 14.5 point underdog to the Wofford Terrier team that they defeated.  Nothing in recent memory, short of purple-colored glasses, gave any evidence that Furman could take out an opponent of this caliber.

But this Furman team is different.  They have the potential to create more scenes where players jump for the celebratory chest-bump and fans linger on the field to enjoy victory.

It’s not just that they won the game, but also the way they won it.  Forget the echoes.  The Paladins woke up the “ghosts” of Dick Sheridan and Bobby Johnson.

Furman’s Chris Forcier was 9-11 for 110 yards.  Not one of those very efficient attempts came in the fourth quarter.  Furman ran the ball on every offensive play, eating up over 8 minutes of game clock and leaving the option-heavy Terriers with little more than a fleeting attempt at a comeback.

The Paladins never trailed in the game.  They managed their lead with an old-school Furman formula for success:  A punishing rush attack, efficient passing, and rock-solid defense.  It’s a formula that Furman forgot in recent years.  Now, they are bringing it back with a vengence. 

It's the Furman football on which I was raised, and that the fan base came to expect.  It's the style that many longed to see again with the hiring of Bruce Fowler as head coach.

Coach Fowler is instilling a culture of discipline and toughness to the program.  It will take some time for that culture to be completely infused, but Saturday was a clear sign that Fowler has the Paladins well on their way to change.

Let’s also not forget that Furman and Wofford compete for a similar style of athlete with similar values.  They look for those rare athletes that are gifted in academics, athletics, and character.  This victory on Saturday gets Furman noticed and gives those types of players one more reason to take the 291 exit off of I-85

It remains to be seen how the rest of the season plays out, and talk of a late run to the playoffs is “fan-speak” at this point.  But for one Saturday, Furman fans and their Southern Conference rivals got a serious look at what they can expect from the “new” Furman Paladins.

It’s déjà vu, all over again.

You can hear "The Rev" Tom LeGrand and "Johnny Utah" on The Home-Field Advantage every day from 9-10 am on, 97.1fm/1400am.

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