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Furman Kicks Off 2016 Season Friday At 12th-Ranked Michigan State

T.J. Warren
T.J. Warren
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Furman vs. Michigan State Game Notes (PDF)

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- The Furman Paladins kick off the 2016 season on Friday against the defending Big Ten Conference champion and FBS playoff semifinalist Michigan State Spartans in a 7:00 p.m. game at Spartan Stadium.

Ranked 12th in the Associated Press preseason poll, Michigan State went 12-2 a year ago before bowing out to eventual national champion Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.

The contest will open the 111th season of football at Furman, a 4-7 finisher in 2015, and represent the Paladins' first clash against a Big Ten Conference foe.  It will also mark Furman's first Friday night foray since the 2001 FCS national championship game against Montana and first regular season Friday contest since 1964.

The Paladins, who defeated UCF, 16-15, last year, are 6-26-1 versus FBS opposition since being reclassified (along with the Southern Conference) to NCAA I-AA (now FCS) in 1982.

The game will be televised by the Big Ten Network and will be radio broadcast over the Furman IMG Sports Network headed up by flagship station FoxSports 1440/Greenville.  It will also be available via in-stadium transmitter (107.7 FM) and audio streamed over TuneIn.com, which is also accessible through FurmanPaladins.com.

Gametracker live stats driven by Michigan State will be available through FurmanPaladins.com

Fans can also follow the game via Twitter @PaladinFootball and @Furman Paladins

Furman, which returns 15 starters off last year's squad, hasn't named a starting quarterback, but it will be either redshirt senior Reese Hannon or junior P.J. Blazejowski.  Hannon, who on Saturday was introduced as a team captain for a fourth consecutive year, owns 29 career starts and enters the season ranked fourth in school history with 5,274 passing yards.  Blazejowski has 10 starts in his career, including four over the final five games last year, and has thrown for 2,092 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two seasons as a Paladin.

True freshman Darius Morehead is expected to get the start at running back, according to Furman head coach Bruce Fowler, who is entering his sixth season as mentor at his alma mater.

The Paladins boast an experienced receiving corps headed up by All-SoCon redshirt senior wide receiver Andrej Suttles (134 rec., 1,815 yds., 8 TDs) and senior All-SoCon tight end Duncan Fletcher (51 rec., 629 yds., 5 TDs).

Furman's offensive line features four experienced performers led by senior right guard Jackson Buonomia and junior center Matthew Schmidt.  The left tackle position will be manned by a true freshman — either Jacob Conrad or Tim Coleman — for the first time in a Furman season opener since at least 1979.

Defensively, seven starters return led by senior preseason All-America safety Trey Robinson, who is coming off a 68-tackle, four-interception campaign.  In front of him is redshirt senior All-SoCon linebacker Carl Rider, whose 260 career tackles tops all active Paladins.

Junior Jon Croft Hollingsworth appears set to again handle the squad's placement and punting chores.  A year ago he connected on 9-of-12 field goal attempts, including a school record 55-yarder against UCF, averaged 38.9 yards per punt, and posted 33 touchbacks on kickoffs.

Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information