GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Reese Hannon passed for a career high 326 yards and a touchdown, and Furman roared back from a two-touchdown deficit by scoring 27 unanswered points to defeat Wofford, 27-14, and claim a share of the 2013 Southern Conference championship Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.
The victory, the fifth straight league triumph for Furman (7-5, 6-2 SoCon), earned the Paladins a share of the SoCon crown with Chattanooga and Samford, which beat Elon, 33-32, late Saturday afternoon in Birmingham to complete the three-way tie for the championship. Furman, however, claimed the three-way tiebreaker and the SoCon's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs by virtue of its aggregate record (4-0) against fourth place finishers Wofford, Georgia Southern, The Citadel, and Appalachian State.
The FCS 24-team playoff field will be announced Sunday at 11:30 a.m. on ESPNU, with first round action set to begin Saturday, Nov. 30.
The championship, Furman's first since 2004, is the 13th in program history and most ever by one school since the league was formed in 1921. A preseason No. 7 SoCon pick and sporting a 2-4 overall record and 1-2 league mark in mid-October, Furman paved its way to the championship with wins over Appalachian State (27-10), Georgia Southern (16-14), Samford (35-17), Western Carolina (32-20), and Saturday's verdict over Wofford — its third straight over the Terriers in Greenville.
Hannon, a sophomore from nearby Greer, S.C., completed 23-of-37 passes in the contest, highlighted by a 21-yard second quarter touchdown strike to Andrej Suttles, to top his previous standard of 255 yards recorded against Coastal Carolina in 2012 in his first collegiate game.
Suttles finished with nine catches for 146 yards to tie the Furman freshman receptions mark first set by David Hendrix in 2008.
Junior running back Hank McCloud ran for 78 yards and touchdown to finish the regular season with 1,020 yards, thus becoming the 15th 1,000-yard rusher in program history.
Furman bounced off the deck after Wofford's Jonny Martin scored on 5-yard touchdown run and quarterback Evan Jackson bulled over from two yards out to stake the Terriers to a 14-0 first half lead.
Paladin defensive end Ira McCune's fumble recovery at the Wofford 21 with 2:28 remaining in the first half set up Hannon's 21-yard touchdown strike to Suttles on the next play to cut the lead to 14-7.
Furman forced Wofford to punt and used a 15-yard penalty on the return to take over possession on its own 46 with 1:05 left in the half. A Hannon connection to Jordan Snelling for 15 yards and a 19-yard hook-up with McCloud to the Wofford 14 set up an Early 31-yard field goal to make it a 14-10 game at halftime.
The Paladins stopped the Terriers on the first possession of the third period and then covered 68 yards in eight plays for a McCloud 2-yard touchdown plunge for a 17-14 lead with 8:05 to go in the third quarter.
Furman set up its next score after making Wofford pay for a failed fake punt. Facing a fourth-and-one at the Terrier 38, punter Kasey Redfern took the snap, rolled right, and lofted a pass down field that was intercepted by Nick Miller at the Furman 35. From there the Paladins marched 65 yards in 11 plays for the score, which came on a Tanner Skogen 7-yard run off an option pitch from quarterback Richard Hayes to stretch the advantage to 24-14.
Wofford answered with a seven-play, 64-yard drive but saw its scoring chance thwarted when Austin Williams intercepted a pass by quarterback James Lawson in the end zone.
Ray Early booted a 48-yard field goal — his second of the contest and school record 19th field goal of the season — to push Furman's lead to 27-14 with 6:41 remaining.
The Paladins closed out the contest by stopping Wofford on fourth down at the Furman 7 with 2:55 showing on the clock.
Furman fashioned a 417-381 advantage in total offense, rushing for just 91 yards while passing for 326.
Wofford racked up 356 yards rushing but only 25 through the air. The Terriers were also shut out in the second half, joining Presbyterian and Elon among teams blanked by the Paladins over the final two quarters.
Turnover margin, which had played a major role in Furman's late season surge to the championship, again proved to be a big factor Saturday as the Paladins, the SoCon leader in turnover margin, fashioned a 3-1 advantage in miscues versus the Terriers with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Over its last six games Furman posted a 19-6 advantage in turnovers.
Sophomore Cory Magwood earned the start at linebacker and racked up a game high 16 tackles for Furman. Gary Wilkins followed with 12 stops and a sack, along with Marcus McMorris and Carl Rider, who also registered 12 tackles apiece. Greg Worthy, whose forced fumble ignited Furman's comeback, finished with 11 tackles, and McCune rounded out the Paladins' corps of double figure tacklers with 10 stops and a fumble recovery.