GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Thomas Wilson passed for 279 yards and four touchdowns to propel Elon to a 41-34 upset victory over FCS 17th-ranked Furman in Southern Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.
Wilson, who entered the contest with more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (17) through the Phoenix's first nine games, helped Elon (5-5, 3-4 SoCon) overcome an early turnover with touchdown strikes covering 2, 22, 15, and 55 yards to key the victory for the Phoenix, their fourth consecutive triumph in the series with Furman (6-4, 5-3 SoCon).
"Of course we're disappointed with today's result, especially after we got a big play from our defense to start the game, but we just couldn't get into any real rhythm," said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler. "Both teams got a score off a turnover, but Elon's ability to run the football effectively at times was a big factor. We just didn't do enough on either side of the football and on special teams to win the game."
Wilson's favorite target in the game was Aaron Mellette, who caught eight passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns, his second covering 55 yards in the fourth quarter to give Elon a 34-27 lead. The Phoenix also produced 163 yards on the ground, led by A.J. Harris, who ran 31 times for a game high 111 yards.
Furman was paced by quarterback Chris Forcier, who completed 18-of-33 passes for 344 yards and three scores, but the Paladin senior signal caller had one costly interception that was returned for a touchdown in the decisive fourth quarter.
The Phoenix trailed 20-13 at intermission but tied it at 20-20 on a 15-yard Wilson toss to Christian Dennis in the third period.
Dontay Taylor's 1-yard scoring plunge, which came after the Paladins were flagged for roughing the punter at the Furman 46, providing the Phoenix a first down at the Paladin 41, gave Elon a 27-20 lead -- its first of the game -- with 12:35 to go.
Furman answered with a Chris Foricer 2-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Mason to knot the score at 27-27, but Elon responded on its first play from scrimmage following the kickoff with Wilson's 55-yard connection to Mellette for a 34-27 advantage.
Elon linebacker Joshua Jones then delivered the game's signal play on the ensuing possession by stepping in front of a Forcier sideline pass and returning it 40 yards for a touchdown to give the Phoenix a 41-27 lead with 3:59 remaining.
Furman made it a 41-34 game on a 10-yard Forcier scoring pass to Ryan Culbreath with 2:52 on the clock, but the Paladins, after burning three timeouts, surrendered a 28-yard pass from Wilson to Harris on a 3rd-and-4 play from the Elon 36, allowing the Phoenix to whittle down the clock to only 36 seconds before Ryan Steed intercepted a Wilson fourth down pass at the Paladin 8 with just 0:30 remaining.
Steed, playing the final home game of his Furman career, had seven tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery, which he returned 48 yards to stake the Paladins to a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Elon made it 7-6 on Wilson's first scoring toss of the game, a 2-yard strike to Matt Eastman on the Phoenix's second possession.
Elon limited the Paladins to just 65 yards rushing in the contest. The Phoenix forged a 442-409 advantage in total offense.
Paladin tight end Colin Anderson caught six passes for a career high 132 yards and a touchdown, the 11th of his career, a new Furman career standard for tight ends.
Furman plays at Florida next Saturday in a 1:00 p.m. pay-per-view game.
Furman's current four-game series losing streak to Elon is the longest against any SoCon opponent.
Furman finishes its SoCon season with a 5-3 record, which is a two-game improvement over last year's 3-5 mark. At 6-4, the Paladins are assured a winning season this year after going 5-6 a year ago.
Senior quarterback Chris Forcier's 344-yard passing performance against Elon marked the second highest tally of his career (356 vs. Samford, 2011) and fifth highest mark in Furman history. Furman is now just 3-7 in its Top 10 passing yardage games.
Chris Foricer's 369 yards in total offense versus Elon represented the second highest total of his career and third highest mark in school history.
In throwing three touchdowns against Elon, Chris Forcier improved his season touchdown passes tally to 22, thereby tying Furman's single season standard set by Ingle Martin (2004).
Chris Forcier's four touchdown responsibilities against Elon (3 pass, 1 rush) give him 24 on the season, just one shy of Ingle Martin's school record 25 TDRs (2005).
Junior tight end Colin Andrerson's 4-yard touchdown reception against Elon upped his Furman record season TD reception tally to seven and also gave him 11 TD receptions for his career, a new school record. He entered the game tied with Brette Simmons (1974-78) with 10 career receptions.
With 38 receptions for 668 yards and seven touchdowns this year, Colin Anderson is now only two receptions shy of the Furman tight end season reception record held by Luther Broughton (40, 1996). Anderson already owns Furman's season receiving yards record, which he extended today with a career high 132 yards, giving him 668 yards on the campaign.
Senior linebacker Kadarron Anderson exited the Elon game in the third quarter with a sprained left knee, according to head athletic trainer Craig Clark. Anderson has played in 44 consecutive games and registered eight tackles today before his injury. He has 372 career tackles, good for 13th on Furman's career ledger.
Ryan Steed's interception against Elon extended his streak of games with an interception to four, and upped his career tally to 14, moving him into a tie for fourth place in Furman history with Don Calhoun (1968-70) and Mark Gordon (1974-76) for most career interceptions.
Steed's 48-yard fumble return for a touchdown against the Phoenix was the fifth score of his career, which includes three INTs and two fumbles.
Furman did not record a sack today against Elon after notching 11 takedowns in its previous three games (wins). The Paladins have 21 sacks on the season, which is 12 more than last year's SoCon low nine sacks.
Junior wide receiver Daniel McFadden's 61-yard second quarter reception was the longest of his career.
Furman honored 20 seniors in pregame ceremonies prior to playing their last home game.