COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Stephon Gilmore's 80-yard interception return for a touchdown with under six minutes to go in the game allowed FBS 13th-ranked South Carolina to put away FCS 25th-ranked Furman, 38-19, in football action Saturday evening at Williams-Brice Stadium.
With South Carolina leading 31-19, Furman used a 47-yard pass completion from quarterback Cody Worley to Adam Mims to advance into USC territory, but on a second-and-seven play from the Gamecock 30, Worley's pass to Tyler Maples sailed high and into the grasp of Gilmore, who returned it 80 yards for the score.
"We came here to win the football game, and although we didn't achieve that goal, I was pleased with the effort and intensity of our squad from start to finish," said Furman head coach Bobby Lamb. "We had some adversity with injuries and didn't take advantage of some opportunities that we were presented, but we played hard and made some plays, too, and that's what we'll try to build on going into next week."
The game, which marked the first clash between the Paladins and Gamecocks since Furman's 28-23 win over USC in 1982, featured a record setting performance by Paladin senior wide receiver, who matched a career high 10 receptions for a another career high 202 yards and a touchdown. The 202 yards marked the third highest tally in program history.
It was Mims' 72-yard touchdown connection from Tersoo Uhaa on a halfback pass with 11:59 to go in the fourth quarter that made it a 31-19 game.
South Carolina, which used a 9-yard Brian Maddox scoring run to take a 21-6 lead into intermission, increased its advantage to 28-6 when quarterback Stephen Garcia found D.L. Moore open in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass at the 8:50 mark of the third quarter.
Furman responded with a big play of its own when true freshman defensive end Shawn Boone gathered in his own batted pass and crossed the goal for a 3-yard interception return that made it a 28-13 game at the 4:54 mark of third period.
A Spencer Lanning 51-yard field goal stretched USC's advantage to 31-13, but Furman answered with Uhaa, who took a pitch from Worley and found Mims open behind the Gamecock secondary for the 72-yard scoring play.
The Gamecocks forced a 374-325 advantage in total offense in the contest, which included two turnovers and interception returns for scores by both teams.
USC grabbed a 14-0 lead in first quarter on a Garcia 15-yard touchdown pass to Tori Gurley and a Marcus Lattimore 4-yard scoring run.
The Paladins countered with a pair of 37-yard Ray Early field goals to slice the lead to 14-6, but USC closed the half with a 6-play, 62-yard drive highlighted by a 9-yard Brian Maddox scoring run around left end.
Furman entertains The Citadel next week at 2:00 p.m. at Paladin Stadium in the Southern Conference season opener for both teams.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Storms earned his first career start at right guard after senior Nic Ayoob was scratched from play due to a concussion sustained in last week's 45-15 victory over Colgate. Storms exited the game at intermission with a bruised shoulder and was replaced by redshirt freshman Will White, who played the entire second half.
True freshman defensive end Shawn Boone's 3-yard interception return for a touchdown was the first by a Paladin since Ryan Steed's 43-yard return for a TD in a 30-22 win over Georgia Southern in 2009.
Adam Mims' 72-yard touchdown reception matched the longest of his career, first set against Appalachian State in 2009.
Mims' 202 receiving yards marked a new career high, topping his previous standard of 154 registered versus Missouri in 2009. The 202 receiving yards are the second most in Furman history, tying the 202 registered by Donald Lipscomb vs. William & Mary in 1990.
Mims increased his Furman career leading receptions total to 157 and upped his career receiving yards tally to 1,951, which moved him from eighth to third on Furman's all-time ledger. Next up is Chas Fox (2,045, 1982-85). Mims now has 10 career TD catches.
Mims posted a game high 254 all-purpose yards versus South Carolina (202 receiving, 26 rushing, 26 punt returns).
Furman's 19 points were the most registered against the six nationally-ranked FBS opponents the Paladins have faced since being reclassified to FCS (formerly I-AA) in 1982.
For the second consecutive week senior rover Max Lerner paced Furman in tackles, recording 11 stops against USC.
Junior quarterback Chris Forcier sustained a broken left shoulder in the second quarter and is out for the season according to head coach Bobby Lamb.