Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2020 Football Preseason Preview: Furman Paladins

Throughout this preseason, Purple & Gold will preview all of Western's 2020 football opponents.

For the fourth game of the season, the Cats travel down the mountain to Travelers Rest, SC for the 2020 football edition of The Battle for Purple Supremacy.

The Cats have dropped four straight to the Paladins and are looking for a victory in Paladin Stadium.

Game #4 - Furman Paladins

When: Saturday, September 26 at TBA
Where: Paladin Stadium, Travelers Rest, SC
Radio: Catamount Sports Network
TV/video: TBA

The Series:  The Cats are 12-32-2 overall against the Paladins in the series that started back in 1972. The Cats have lost 4 in a row to the Paladin, with the last win coming in 2015 in Cullowhee, by a final score of  48-10.  Coach Speir is 2-6 overall vs. the Paladins.

The last game played vs. Furman:  October 26, 2019 - Second Half Surge Lifts No. 14 Furman over Western CarolinaCullowhee, N.C. – Upset-minded Western Carolina went toe-to-toe with No. 14 Furman over the opening two quarters on a rain-soaked Homecoming Saturday afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. However, in the end, the nationally-ranked Paladins used a strong second-half defensive effort and a ball-control offense to bounce back with a road win, fending off the Catamounts, 28-7.

Games that will be played by the Paladins this season before the WCU contest:  (3 games)  The Paladins open at home against Wofford, then travel to Charleston Southern and Tennessee before returning home to face the Catamounts.

Head CoachClay Hendrix - Introduced as Furman’s new head football coach on December 19, 2016, Clay Hendrix in three seasons has reinvigorated a Paladin football program accustomed to success. Hendrix, a former standout Paladin offensive guard and assistant coach who returned to his alma mater following a decade as an assistant coach at the US Air Force Academy, directed Furman to an 8-5 campaign and Football Championship (FCS) playoff appearance in 2017, improving on a three-win 2016 season and defying a preseason No. 7 Southern Conference tab by playing for a share of league title in the regular-season finale en route to finishing a consensus No. 20 in two major FCS polls.

Last Season's Record (Furman): 8-5 overall, 5-1 home, 3-4 away, 6-2 in the SoCon - In 2019, the Paladins had conference wins over WCU, Mercer, ETSU, Samford, Chattanooga, and VMI.

Offensive Formation:  Multiple (option - flexbone look)
-2019 Offensive:  33.5 ppg. (23rd in FCS)
Defensive Formation:   3-4
-2019 Defensive:  20.5 ppg (14th in FCS)
Starters returning/lost:    14  /  8
Offensive starters - Returning/Lost:  8  /  3
Defensive starters - Returning/Lost: 6  /  5
Specialist - Returning/Lost:  0  /  2

Furman is coming off an 8-5 campaign in 2019 that saw the Paladins post a 6-2 SoCon slate en route to an at-large berth to the FCS playoffs. The Paladins return 14 starters and 47 lettermen from that squad, which finished the season ranked inside the top 25 nationally. Furman earned a spot in the 2020 HERO Sports FCS Preseason Top 25, checking in at Nos. 14.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Paladins return QB Darren Grainger (79-for-161, 1,222 yards, 13 TD, 93 rushes, 316 yards, 5 TD), TB Devin Wynn (179 rushes, 1182 yards, 14 TD), and RB Devin Abrams (100 rushes, 615 yards, 6 TD)

Defensively, Furman returns, LB Braden Gilby (70 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 PBU), DB Travis Blackshear (59 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 INT, 1.0 sacks), and BAN Adrian Hope (40 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 4 QB hurries).

Paladin standouts Adrian Hope and Devin Wynn were named to the HERO Sports 2020 Preseason All-American teams.

2019 Furman Statistics
Rushing Offense: 3434 yards
Yards per game: 264.2
Yards per rush: 6.0 yards
Rushing 1st downs: 157
TDs rushing: 39
Passing Offense: 1880 yards or 144.6 yards per game
Avg. per pass: 7.6 yards
Passing 1st downs: 76
Passing Comp-Att-Int: 131-248-6
TDs Passing: 16
Total Offense: 5348 yards or 408.8 ypg
3d Down Conversions: 73/160
4th Down Conversions: 9-19
Field Goal: 13 of 16
On-side kicks: 1 of 3
Red Zone Scores: 40 of 44 (91%)
Red Zone Touchdowns: 37 of 44 (84%)
Avg per punt:  43.8 yards
Fumbles-Lost: 18-9
Sacks: 26

Game prediction: Per the Massey Ratings, the Cats have only a 10% probability of winning (17-37) against the Paladins. According to Massey, Western Carolina should be 1-3 after this game.