BIRMINGHAM, ALA. -- Jerry Williams' 2-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter broke a third quarter tie, and Furman's defense recorded a second half shutout to help deliver a 27-10 victory over Samford in Southern Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Seibert Stadium.
With the score knotted at 10-10 in third quarter, Furman downed a punt at the Samford 1-yard line, bottled up the Bulldogs on three plays to force a kick, and then covered 42 yards in four plays for Williams' 2-yard scoring plunge that put the Paladins ahead 17-10. Williams' go-ahead score was set up by a 29-yard completion from Sederrik Cunningham to David Hendrix to the Samford 2.
The Paladins then stopped the Bulldogs on downs at the Furman 34 and responded with an 11-play, 53-yard drive to the Samford 13, where Ray Early delivered a 31-yard field goal just inside the left upright for a 20-10 advantage with 10:35 remaining in the game.
Furman defensive end Josh Lynn's fumble recovery at the Samford 43 set up the Paladins' final score, which came on a third-and-nine play from the Bulldog 16. Quarterback Cody Worley connected with flanker Adam Mims at the 5-yard line, and Mims turned to the outside and beat his defender into the end zone for the touchdown and a 27-10 lead with 6:06 remaining.
"I thought our special teams play and defensive effort, especially in the second half, were the story of the game for us," said head coach Bobby Lamb following the win, Furman's seventh straight over Samford. "It was a physical game, and I thought we really met that challenge and did what we had to do to win -- namely play hard, take care of the football, and make enough plays. I'm proud of our effort."
The Paladins used a 52-yard interception return by Ryan Steed three minutes into the game to take a 7-0 lead.
Later in the quarter freshman kicker Ray Early drilled a 52-yard field goal, the second longest in school history, to stake the Paladins to a 10-3 advantage before Samford tied the contest on a 33-yard scoring run by Chris Evans early in the second period.
Furman's defense helped preserve the tied when free safety Nathan Wade gathered in a deflected pass in the end zone with 12 seconds left before intermission, short-cicuiting a 6-play, 77-yard Samford march to the Paladin 11-yard line.
Samford outgained Furman 348-283 in the contest, but the Paladins blanked the Bulldogs on the scoreboard and yielded only 115 total yards over the game's final 30 minutes.
Nathan Wade and Ryan Steed paced the Paladins defensively with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively. Both players also notched interceptions, helping Furman to claim a 3-1 decision on turnovers. The Paladins, who entered the game as the least penalized team in the SoCon, were flagged twice for 29 yards while Samford was whistled 10 times for 78 yards in penalties.
In addition to making good on his two field goal attempts, Ray
Early averaged a season best 66.0 yards on six kickoffs, only two
of which were returned. Chas Short,
meanwhile, averaged 44.2 yards on four punts, with his third
quarter 61-yard effort that was downed at the Samford 1 one of the
game's biggest plays, according to Lamb.
Cody Worley completed 14-of-25 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Adam Mims, playing in his hometown for the final time, was credited with seven catches for 74 yards, including the 12th touchdown reception of his career.
Mike Brown paced Furman on the ground with 10 rushes for 52 yards.
Chris Evans topped all ball carriers with 23 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Saturday's victory over Samford was Furman's fourth straight over the Bulldogs in Birmingham.
Sederrik Cunningham had his consecutive games with a reception streak halted at 27 games, but his 29-yard completion to David Hendrix that set Furman's decisive third quarter touchdown made him 2-for-2 passing for 58 yards (1 TD) in his career.
Ryan Steed's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown was the second pickoff of his career he has returned for a TD (44 yards vs. Ga. Southern, 2009). It was also the ninth interception of his career.
Counting Steed's interception return for a score vs. Samford Furman has now returned three pickoffs for TDs this year (Shawn Boone 3 yards vs. South Carolina; Sterling Johnson 29 yards vs. Howard; Ryan Steed 52 yards vs. Samford)
In recording seven catches for 74 yards and a TD versus Samford, Adam Mims upped his Furman career receptions mark to 179 and increased his career receiving yards tally to 2,217 yards, good for second place on the school's all-time ledger.
Pictured: Furman All-Southern Conference cornerback Ryan Steed