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21st-Ranked Furman Falls At No. 17 Samford, 26-20

Thomas Gordon
Thomas Gordon

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. -- Devlin Hodges passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns to help 17th-ranked Samford turn back 21st-ranked Furman, 26-20, in the Southern Conference regular season finale for both teams Saturday afternoon at Seibert Stadium.

The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak by Furman (7-4, 6-2 SoCon) and dropped the Paladins, who entered the contest seeking a share of 2017 crown with Wofford, into a second place tie with Samford (7-4, 6-2 SoCon) as both programs hope to secure an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs, which begin next week.

The NCAA will announce the 24-team field at 11:00 a.m. ET Sunday.

Trailing 17-10 late in the first half, Furman used a throwback pass from quarterback P.J. Blazejowski to tight end Andy Schumpert to cover 55 yards to the Samford 20. Five plays later Kealand Dirks bulled off right tackle on a fourth down for a 1-yard touchdown plunge to tie the game at 17-17 with 25 seconds remaining in the half.

Samford took the second half kickoff and covered 75 yards in six plays to go up up 23-17 on a 29-yard scoring strike from Hodges to Kelvin McKnight.

After a Furman punt, the Bulldogs threatened again, moving to the Furman 17, but Paladin freshman cornerback Darius Kearse interepted a Hodges pass to halt the threat.  The Paladins then marched to the Samford 33 but couldn't convert a fourth-and-two play, turning it over on downs.

The Bulldogs answered on the ensuing possession by moving to the Furman 29, where Jordan Weaver drilled a career long 46-yard field goal to stretch the advantage to 26-17 three minutes into the fourth quarter.

Furman mounted a 16-play, 64-yard drive that consumed almost eight minutes of clock.  After getting first and goal at the Samford 5, the Paladins lost six yards on their next two plays, and a third down pass fell incomplete, leading to a Grayson Atkins 28-yard field goal that pulled FU to within 26-20 with 5:18 to go.

Samford registered a couple of first downs to burn up nearly four minutes of clock before Furman forced and punt and took over at its own 20 with 1:12 remaining.  On the third play of the Paladins' final possession, Samford's Shaheed Salmon intercepted an overthrown pass to secure the win.

Furman scored on the game's opening drive, getting a 3-yard touchdown run by Antonio Wilcox.

Later, with the game tied 7-7, the Paladins used a 54-yard pass from Blazejowski to Thomas Gordon to earn first-and-goal at the Samford 7.  After getting to the 1-yard line on third down, Furman turned it over on downs after Antonio Wilcox was stopped short of the goal line on two rushes.
Both team finished with 411 yards in total offense.  Blazejowski completed 11-of-20 passes for 229 yards, and the Paladins rushed for 182 yards, getting a game high 82 yards on 17 carries from Darius Morehead.  Gordon had five receptions for 123 yards.

Samford converted all three fourth down attempts while the Paladins cashed in on just one of three tries on fourth down after entering the contest having converted 14-of-18 attempts.

Reynard Ellis and Jaylan Reid led Furman with eight tackles apiece.  The Paladins recorded two sacks to run their SoCon leading tally to 31.