GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Winners of its last two Southern Conference games, including a 35-17 triumph over 20th-ranked Samford last Saturday, Furman will look to continue its late season surge this Saturday when it travels to Cullohwee, N.C., to take on Western Carolina in a 3:30 p.m. Southern Conference contest at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.
Furman (5-5, 4-2 SoCon), whose three-game SoCon win streak features triumphs over Appalachian State (27-10), Georgia Southern (16-14), and Samford, is currently tied for second place in the SoCon standings with Samford and Wofford.
Western Carolina (2-8, 1-5 SoCon) is coming off 35-19 loss at Georgia Southern last Saturday.
The Paladins are still alive in the race for the SoCon championship and league's automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs. To win a share of the crown, the Paladins have to beat both Western Carolina (Nov. 16) and Wofford (Nov. 23), and Samford must defeat Chattanooga (Nov. 16). For the Paladins to claim the SoCon's automatic bid to the playoffs, all of the above must transpire , as well as the following: Georgia Southern must beat Elon (Nov. 16), and Samford must defeat Elon (Nov. 23) to create a three-way tie among Furman, Chattanooga, and Samford, which the Paladins would win due to Georgia Southern finishing fifth the standings, ahead of The Citadel.
Furman sports a 28-10-2 advantage over Western Carolina in a series that began in 1971. The Paladins have won the last seven meetings and 14 of the last 15 clashes with the Catamounts, including a 45-24 verdict last year in Greenville. Furman sports a 13-5-1 slate versus the Catamounts in Cullowhee and has won three straight and six of the last seven contests at E.J. Whitmire Stadium, including a 47-21 triumph in 2011. Western Carolina's last win in the series was a 41-21 decision in Cullowhee in 2005.
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.
Western Carolina offers a video live stream of the game to subscribers through www.catamountsports.com
Fans can access live stats through a link on Furman's schedule page at www.furmanpaladins.com or through www.catamountsports.com. Twitter updates will be provided @FurmanPaladins and @PaladinFootball.
The Paladins' resurgence has been aided by a young, opportunistic defense that has helped Furman register the league's best turnover ratio (+0.9) this year and interception returns for touchdowns in three of the last four games. The Paladins sport just two seniors on defense and freshman backups at eight of the 11 positions.
Making his first start at linebacker, junior Marcus McMorris, who started the first nine games this fall at free safety, keyed a Furman defensive unit with an 11-tackle performance that also featured a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, and 89-yard interception return for a score — all of which helped him garner SoCon Defensive Player of the Week and Sports Network National Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The Paladins surrendered 372 yards passing to the Bulldogs, who connected on 44-of-70 passes, but Samford failed to score with its passing game and suffered a pair of interceptions and three sacks.
Offensively Furman is paced by quarterback Reese Hannon, who has returned from injury to complete 51-of-79 passes (64.5%) for 577 yards and three touchdowns over the last four games, including an 85-yard connection with redshirt freshman wide receiver Andrej Suttles against Samford. Suttles (34 rec., 463 yds., 2 TDs) has emerged as the Paladins' top receiver after junior Gary Robinson (24 rec., 351 yds., 2 TDs) sustained a fractured ankle early in the Paladins' 27-10 win over Appalachian State (Oct. 19).
Junior Hank McCloud heads into Saturday's contest as the Paladins' leading rusher with 855 yards and four touchdowns. He is bidding to become the Paladins' third straight 1,000-yard rusher and 15th running back in program history to reach the coveted season rushing mark.