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Samford Holds Off Furman, 26-21

Kadarron Anderson
Kadarron Anderson

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Dustin Taliaferro passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns to power Samford to a 26-21 victory over Furman in Southern Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.

Taliaferro, a senior, completed 22-of-35 passes and threw scoring strikes covering 6, 21, and 8 yards in helping the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2 SoCon) snap a seven-game series losing streak and earn their first victory over the Paladins (3-2, 2-1 SoCon) since 1969. 

Taliaferro's 8-yard touchdown hook-up with Kelsey Pope with 8:21 to go in the game gave Samford a 26-14 lead and helped blunt a Furman comeback that saw the Paladins rally from a 16-0 halftime deficit with two third quarter scores.

Furman cut it to 26-21 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Chris Forcier to Tersoo Uhaa with 6:09 remaining, but the Paladins misfired on their final two possessions, first when the Bulldogs' Omar Johnson picked off a Forcier pass at the Samford 17 with 1:52 to go, and then on the final play of the game when Tersoo Uhaa was tackled at the Bulldog 38-yard line before getting out of bounds.

"We didn't play very well in the first half but fought back in the second half and had some chances," said  Furman head coach Bruce Fowler.  "Our effort was good, but our lack of execution hurt.  Give Samford credit for the win.  They played hard and did a nice job against our running game."

"Our team needed a win like this," Samford head coach Pat Sullivan said. "We've been harping on it since this season started that we had to finish. We're a young football team, and they can draw on this and know that they can win when it gets tough and that somebody will make a play if they'll keep hanging in there." 

Forcier tied a Furman single game passing record with 356 yards, completing 27 of 45 attempts on the day, including tosses of 14, 66, and 13 yards.  He was, however, picked off three times, the first two following batted balls.

Fabian Truss headlined an effective Samford ground game, rushing 26 times for a career high 136 yards.  Furman, meanwhile, managed just 71 yards on the ground.  The Paladins forged a slight 427-415 advantage in total offense. 

Samford grabbed a 3-0 lead on a Cameron Yaw 39-yard field goal three minutes into the game.

After Furman missed a pair of 35-yard field goals, the Bulldogs put together a 12-play, 82-yard drive for the game's first touchdown, which came on a 6-yard connection from Taliaferro to Chris Cephus with 2:23 to go in the first half.

On the ensusing possession, a Forcier tipped pass was gathered in by Samford's Alvin Hines at the Furman 25, and four plays later Taliaferro placed a 21-yard pass into Riley Hawkins' hands two yards into the end zone for the score to make it 16-0 with just under a minute to go before intermission.

The Paladins opened the second half with a Sederrik Cunningham 56-yard kickoff return to the Samford 38, and seven plays later Forcier hit tight end Colin Anderson with a 14-yard touchdown pass to get Furman on the scoreboard.

The Paladins scored again on their next possession, with Forcier hitting Tyler Maples in stride on a 66-yard touchdown pass to pull the Paladins to within two at 16-14 midway through third quarter.

At that point Samford's defense regrouped and forced punts on the Paladins' next three possessions.  The Bulldogs' offense, meanwhile, took advantage of a 27-yard Furman punt to set up Yaw's second field goal of the day, a 32-yard effort less than a minute into the fourth quarter, to stretch their lead to 19-14.

Samford's game winning score, which came on Pope's 8-yard reception and run to the pylon at the 8:21 juncture, cashed in a 9-play, 85-yard drive.

Pope paced Samford's receiving corps with eight catches for 104 yards and a score.

Furman was led by Colin Anderson's career high nine receptions for 110 yards.  Tyler Maples' seven catches covered a career best 143 yards.

Kadarron Anderson paced all tacklers with a career high 20 stops, two tackles for-loss, and one forced fumble. 

Alvin Hines nine tackles topped the Bulldogs' defense, which registered four sacks in the contest.

Furman Notes:

Chris Forcier's 380 yards in total offense (356 pass, 24 rush) versus Samford established a new Furman single game record, breaking the previous standard of 374 set by Cleve Hightower vs. Mississippi College, 1969

Chris Forcier's 356-yard passing performance against Samford tied the Furman single game record originally set by Cleve Hightower (32-of-67) vs. Wofford, 1969.

The six top passing performances in Furman history have all come in Paladin losses.

Forcier's 27 pass completions and 45 pass attempts tied the second highest totals in Furman history.

Tight end Colin Anderson's nine receptions for 110 yards versus Samford both marked new career highs, topping previous standards (5 rec., 87 yds. vs. Western Carolina, 2011).

Wide receiver Tyler Maples' seven receptions for 143 yards against Samford also represented new career highs, improving on previous standards set vs. Missouri (6 rec. vs, Missouri, 2008) and Western Carolina (105 yds. vs. Western Carolina, 2011).

Kadarron Anderson's 20 tackles versus Samford is a new career high.  His previous best was against Samford, 2009.

Sederrik Cuningham's 57-yard kickoff return against Samford topped his previous career long of 50 yards versus Coastal Carolina, 2011.

Strong safety Nathan Wade's fumble recovery and free safety Greg Worthy's interception in the first half gave Furman a 10-0 stretch of takeaways that began in the 4Q of the Citadel game and included wins over Presbyterian and Western Carolina.  The run ended with a Chris Forcier 2Q interception vs. Samford.