GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Chris Forcier passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 64 yards to propel unranked Furman to a 20-10 upset victory over FCS consensus third-ranked Appalachian State in Southern Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.
Forcier, a senior and the nation's passing efficiency leader, completed 9-of-16 passes and threw first half touchdown strikes covering 4 and 79 yards in keying Furman (6-3, 5-2 SoCon) to its third consecutive league victory and second triumph over an FCS Top-5 ranked opponent this season.
The victory also snapped the Paladins' six-game series losing skid to Appalachian State (6-3, 4-2 SoCon), who as a consensus No. 3-ranked team marked the second highest ranked foe an unranked Furman squad had ever defeated. The triumph also moved Furman firmly into the FCS playoff picture and kept the Paladins in the SoCon championship picture with next week's SoCon home clash with Elon remaining. Furman closes out the regular season on Nov. 19 at Florida.
"This was a total team victory, and I'm very proud of the effort of our players and coaches," said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler. "We did some really nice things offensively early to get the lead, and defensively we played gritty, tough football, forced some turnovers, and made some big stops when we had to. That's what it took to win this football game."
Forcier's first scoring strike of the game, a 4-yard hook-up with Ryan Culbreath, staked the Paladins to an early 7-0 lead.
A Tersoo Uhaa 3-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter upped the Paladins' lead to 14-0, and Furman made it 20-0 when Forcier connected with Sederrik Cunningham behind the Mountaineer secondary for a 79-yard scoring strike with 5:56 to go in the first half.
Appalachian State got on the board on a Travaris Cadet 2-yard touchdown plunge with less than a minute to go before intermission.
The Mountaineers' bid to narrow Furman's lead came up short in the third quarter when quarterback Jamal Jackson was stopped inches shy of the goal line on a fourth-and-goal play from the Furman 1. After taking over on downs the Paladins used a 54-yard pass from Forcier to tight end Cameron Mason to the Appalachian State 37 to re-gain field position.
ASU eventually cut the Furman advantage to 20-10 on a Drew Stewart 41-yard field goal with 13 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Furman's defense kept ASU in check in the fourth quarter, forcing a Mountaineer punt from the Paladin 43 with just under 10 minutes remaining, and later with a Ricky Lang sack of Jackson, whose fumble on the play was recovered by E.J. Vinsang at the Furman 37 with 1:22 to go.
Appalachian State forged a 399-365 advantage in total offense, running 83 plays to Furman's 51, but the Paladins' averaged a stellar 7.2 yards per offensive play and effectively closed out the Mountaineers in the fourth quarter with a 68-yard drive that featured 13 consecutive rushes, including Forcier third down runs of 13 and 12 yards for first downs.
Ryan Steed recorded his third interception in consecutive weeks in the first quarter, halting a Mountaineer scorign threat on the game's first possession.
Furman recorded three sacks in the game, running its season total to 21, and recorded a 4-2 advantage in turnovers to remain atop the SoCon in turnover margin.
FURMAN GAME NOTES
Furman has now won three straight games: Wofford (26-21), Chattanooga (14-7), and Appalachian State (20-10).
In knocking off both fourth-ranked Wofford (26-21) and third-ranked Appalachian State (20-10), Furman notched wins over two top-five ranked squads in the regular season for the first time in program history. Counting Georgia Southern (ranked No. 1 at the time), Furman has faced three teams sporting Top 5 rankings during the 2011 regular season. In 2001, counting playoffs, Furman played five teams ranked in the FCS (formerly I-AA) Top 5.
As an unranked team Furman defeated the second highest ranked opponent in its history with today's triumph over Appalachian State. A 17-3 victory over second-ranked Marshall in 1993 marks the Paladins' biggest takedown of a ranked foe when Furman has been unranked.
With today's triumph Furman improves to 15-13 all-time versus NCAA FCS Top-10 ranked opponents in Paladin Stadium.
Today's win over Appalachian State snapped Furman's six-game series losing skid to the Mountaineers. Furman is now 22-17-3 all-time versus Appalachian State.
Furman is now 151-40-1 all-time in Paladin Stadium and 10-6 versus Appalachian State in the facility. The Paladins are 14-6-1 all-time versus the Mountaineers in Greenville.
Western Carolina (1983, '84, '86) remains as the only SoCon foe to ever win three straight games over Furman in Paladin Stadium. The Catamounts' 1984 win came in NCAA I-AA playoff semifinal action.
The last SoCon foe to defeat Furman in three consecutive regular season games in Greenville is Chattanooga (1978, '79, & '81).
In recording three sacks today versus Appalachian State, Furman upped its season sacks tally to 21. Last year Furman ranked last in the SoCon with nine sacks.
Counting the three sacks versus ASU, Furman has notched nine sacks in its last two games, including six in a 14-7 road win at Chattanooga (Oct. 29).
Ryan Steed's interception today versus Appalachian State was his third in consecutive weeks and 13th of his career. He moved into a sixth-place with Lavern Barrs (1964-66). Steed's 37 career passes defensed is the third most in Furman history, just four shy of Richie Jackson (1998-01), who notched a FU career best 41 in his career.
Steed and the Paladin secondary combined to limit Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick to just four catches for 60 yards. Two of Quick's four catches went for a combined 35 yards on the Mountaineers' final drive, when the game's outcome was all but sealed.
Quarterback Chris Forcier's two touchdown passes versus Appalachian State upped his season tally to 19, tying him with Bobby Lamb (1985) for the fourth highest total in Furman history. Ingle Martin (2004) holds the record with 22.
Chris Forcier's 79-yard touchdown pass to Sederrik Cunningham marked the 13th longest touchdown pass in Furman history and longest by a Paladin since 2005, when Ingle Martin connected with Grant Brigham on an 87-yard TD strike versus Gardner-Webb.
The 79-yard touchdown reception was the longest of Sederrik Cunningham's career. Cunningham now has 94 receptions for 1,149 yards and six touchdowns. The 94 catches rank 14th in Furman history.
Tersoo Uhaa's 3-yard touchdown run versus Appalachian State gave him 31 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks seventh in Furman history. Uhaa is tied for 16th (with Billy Canty, 1958-61) with 32 touchdown responsibilities, and has scored 222 points in his career, the ninth highest tally in program history.
Senior linebacker Kadarron Anderson's nine tackles today versus ASU upped his career tally to 364, which ranks 13th in Furman history.
With the missed PAT today, Furman is now just 25-for-32 on PATs in 2011. Last year the Paladins converted 40-of-41 PATs.
Redshirt freshman nose guard Tyreek Phillips earned the first start of his career today, stepping in for the injured Neal Rodgers. Phillips tallied four tackles, including one for-loss, and a forced fumble.
Chris Wiley's fumble recovery versus Appalachian State marked the eighth of his career, moving him one behind Furman's all-time leader, the late Jeff Snipes (1978-80) who had nine recoveries.