GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Jon Croft Hollingsworth kicked a 42-yard field goal with just over four minutes remaining to lift Furman past VMI, 24-21, in Southern Conference season opening action for both schools Saturday afternoon at misty Paladin Stadium.
Hollingsworth's game winning kick, which followed last Saturday's game deciding, 55-yard fourth quarter field goal in Furman's 16-15 victory over UCF, capped the Paladins' comeback from a 14-0 first half deficit.
The victory improved Furman (2-2, 1-0 SoCon) to 11-0 all-time versus VMI (1-3, 0-1 SoCon) in Paladin Stadium and marked the 12th consecutive triumph over the Keydets in Greenville since 1979.
"It's good to get the win. It was a hard-fought game where we had to overcome a lot of mistakes and a lot of adverse situations," said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler. "VMI has a good offense and can move the ball, particularly through the air, so it was good to get some turnovers, which allowed us to come back and play at lot better in the second half."
Furman fell behind 14-0 in the first half after the Keydets' Derrick Ziglar followed up a 44-yard pass completion from quarterback Al Cobb to Dontae Mauck with a 1-yard scoring run, and Cobb connected with Matthew Nicholson on a 3-yard scoring strike midway through the second period.
The Paladins got on the board just prior to intermission on a 1-yard plunge by fullback Ernie Cain that ended a 12-play, 73-yard drive and made it 14-7.
Furman's defense and special teams fueled the comeback in the first minute of the second half, forcing a punt that was blocked by junior defensive end Brian Ross, who scooped up the ball and covered the short five yards to the end zone for the touchdown. Hollingsworth's PAT tied it a 14-14.
Furman checked VMI on its next three possessions, forcing an interception and two punts before the Paladins' offense fashioned a 12-play, 57-yard drive for the go-ahead score, which quarterback Reese Hannon delivered with a 4-yard run with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Keydets ended Furman's 21-point run on the ensuing possession, covering 75 yards on 16 plays for Ziglar's second touchdown of the contest, a 2-yard run that tied the game at 21-21 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
VMI threatened on its next possession, moving to the Furman 20, but on a second and nine play cornerback Reggie Thomas intercepted a Cobb pass at the Paladin 12 and returned it to the 50. His fumble on the play was recovered by teammate Carl Rider at the Keydet 46, and eight plays later Hollingsworth converted his game deciding 42-yard field goal.
Brian Ross forced the Keydets to turn the ball over on downs by tackling Cobb on a fourth-and-10 play from the Paladin 45 with 3:49 to go. The Paladins then drove to the VMI 27 before being stopped short on a fourth down play with 48 seconds remaining.
The Keydets advanced their own 47 before a sack, an incompletion, and penalty sealed the game's result.
Furman, which outgained VMI 322-279 in total offense and posted a 15-minute advantage in time of possession (37:55-22:05), managed just 125 yards rushing on 40 carries. Quarterback Reese Hannon completed 22-of-40 passes for 197 yards.
Cobb threw for 235 yards and a touchdowns, connecting on 21-of-42 passes, but he was picked off twice and sacked three times.
Furman's bottled up the Keydet running game, limiting it to 44 yards on 27 carries.
Rodney Anderson headlined the Paladin defense with a career high 11 tackles, a tackle for-loss, and one of Furman's eight pass deflections in the contest.
VMI linebacker Allen Cratsenburg topped all defenders with a 15 tackles.
Furman entertains South Carolina State next Saturday at Paladin Stadium. Kickoff for the ESPN3 broadcast game is set for 7:00 p.m.
In erasing the 14-point deficit, Furman matched its second largest comeback, deficit-wise, en route to a victory since 1973, tying it with eight previous 14-point comebacks.
The victory marked Furman's third straight SoCon season opening triumph and improved the Paladins to 7-1 in their last eight conference inaugurals.
Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information