GREENVILLE, S.C. -- One of the Southern Conference's most intense rivalries will draw to a close this Saturday when Furman travels to Statesboro, Ga., to face Georgia Southern in a 1:00 p.m. game at Paulson Stadium.
Saturday's contest will mark the final meeting between the Paladins (3-5, 2-2 SoCon) and Eagles (4-3, 2-3 SoCon) as league foes as Georgia Southern, a member of the league since 1993, has entered NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) transition status to join the Sunbelt Conference beginning in 2014.
Georgia Southern, which fell to Appalachian State, 38-14, last Saturday in Boone, is ineligible for this year's SoCon football championship and FCS playoffs due to its FBS transition status, but that won't lessen the passion both teams will bring to the playing field this Saturday in the 25th meeting between the two programs.
Any series whose first two games decided national championships is sure to fiery, and in the case of Furman-Georgia Southern, it has been just that. The Eagles won the series inaugural, a 44-42 victory over the Paladins in the 1985 NCAA I-AA (FCS) national championship game in Tacoma, Wash. Three years later Furman gained revenge by knocking off the Eagles, 17-12, to claim the 1988 national crown — the first by a SoCon program. GSU owns a 16-8 series lead and claimed last year's decision, 38-17 in Greenville, but Furman has split the last six meetings in Statesboro.
The Paladins are coming off a 48-16 loss at 12th-ranked LSU last Saturday. Two weeks ago Furman knocked off Appalachian State, 27-10, in Greenville in its last SoCon clash with the Mountaineers, who are joining Georgia Southern on the way out the league door and into the FBS ranks.
While Saturday's fracas will not be televised, the radio broadcast will be presented by the Furman Sports Network featuring flagship station WGOG-FM 96.3 in Seneca and Greenville's FoxSports AM 1440. In addition, fans can access the game broadcast via stadium transmitter at FM 105.9 and audio stream through Stretch Internet at FurmanPaladins.com. Dan Scott, the "Voice of the Paladins," will call the play-by-play and be joined by Corey Stewart with color commentary.
Georgia Southern will provide a live video feed of Saturday's game.
Live stats will be generated by Georgia Southern with links available through FurmanPaladins.com. Twitter updates will be provided @FurmanPaladins
Georgia Southern is averaging 36.4 points and 473.1 yards per game, including 385.4 yards rushing each outing — numbers that will surely test the Paladins defensively, who lead the SoCon in rushing defense, yielding 176.6 yards per game.
Furman fared well in its first test this season against a triple option team, limiting The Citadel to just 132 yards rushing on 37 carries in a 24-17 win over the Bulldogs in Charleston on Sept. 28.
Both teams have scuffled with injuries this fall, including the Paladins, who have played five quarterbacks and lost two signal callers to season ending injuries. Starting quarterback Reese Hannon sat out the season opener versus Gardner-Webb with a strained oblique and missed both the Elon and Chattanooga games with a knee and ankle conditions.
Furman has also lost its most experienced defensive lineman, senior Shawn Boone (knee), and top receiver Gary Robinson (ankle) to injuries this year. All told, over half of the 86 players in the Furman program are either redshirt or true freshmen, and 31 of the 44 players in the Paladins' offensive and defensive two-deep are either freshmen or sophomores.
Junior Hank McCloud tops the Paladins in rushing with 683 yards and four touchdowns, and redshirt freshman Andrej Suttles leads the team in receiving with 25 catches for 233 yards.
Defensively Furman is paced by sophomore Carl Rider with 78 tackles, including a squad high eight for-loss, and two fumble recoveries.
Rider and Paladin redshirt freshman teammate Chad Scott will be among seven graduates of North Gwinnett (Ga.) High School representing Furman and Georgia Southern on the field this Saturday.