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Stingy Defense Propels No. 18 Furman Past Gardner-Webb In Season Opener, 13-3

Jon Croft Hollingsworth
Jon Croft Hollingsworth

Furman vs. Gardner-Webb Video Highlights  / Post Game Interviews Video

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) 18th-ranked Furman limited Gardner-Webb to just 25 yards in the second half to secure a 13-3 victory over the Runnin' Bulldogs in season opening football action for both teams Saturday evening at Paladin Stadium.

Furman (1-0) led 10-3 at halftime and used a 47-yard third quarter field goal by freshman Jon Croft Hollingsworth to stretch the advantage to 13-3 before salting the game away with its defense, which racked up five sacks and kept the Gardner-Webb (0-1) bottled up on its side of the field all six second half possessions.

The Runnin' Bulldogs had 169 total yards in halftime but finished with only 194.

Furman totaled 328 yards, led by quarterback Reese Hannon, who went 21-for-30 for 221 yards and a touchdown, but the junior from Greer exited the game late in the third quarter with a fractured left ankle, which was later confirmed by examination.  He is expected to undergo surgery next week and will miss the remainder of the season, according to Craig Clark, Furman's head athletic trainer.

"We're devastated by the loss of Reese Hannon to injury," said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler.  "He put in a ton of work in preparation for the season and is a major part of our team from a performance and leadership standpoint, so this is a big blow to our squad and creates a huge void we'll have to fill.  Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with Reese and his family at this time."

Despite the tough news surrounding Hannon, Fowler saw a lot of positives from his squad, which claimed its first season opening win in Fowler's now four-year tenure.

"I thought we overcame some adversity with the turnover and injury to Reese to perform pretty well, especially on special teams and defense," said Fowler.  "We did a nice job increasing our intensity as the game went along, and that really contributed to a very solid second half for us, especially from a defensive standpoint."

Hollingsworth, a true freshman from Greenwood, S.C., gave Furman a 3-0 first quarter lead by converting his first collegiate attempt, from 28 yards.

Gardner-Webb threatened to take the lead midway through the second period after Juanne Blout's seven-run gave the Runnin' Bulldogs a second-and-goal at Furman 1.  The Paladin defense stiffened, however, limiting the Bulldogs to a game tying 19-yard field goal by Paul Schumacher.

Furman put together a six-play, 56-yard drive to take a 10-3 lead on a Hannon 6-yard pass to Jordan Snellings with 1:08 left before intermission.

Hollingsworth's 47-yard third quarter field goal highlighted a strong collegiate debut for the former Greenwood High School standout, who converted both field goal attempts, averaged 39.0 yards on nine punts, and deposited all four kickoffs into the end zone.

Senior All-Southern Conference defensive end Gary Wilkins collected 2.5 of Furman's five sacks, with Ira McCune and Brian Ross accounting for one each, and John Mackey a half sack.  All told the Paladins registered 10 tackles for losses of 34 yards.

True freshman Antonio Wilcox led Furman's ground game with 14 carries for 50 yards, and Jordan Snellings topped all Paladin receivers with eight catches for 51 yards.

Lucas Beatty passed for 125 yards but managed to complete just 15-of-31 attempts with an interception.

Furman opens SoCon play next Saturday when it travels to Macon, Ga., to face new league member Mercer in a 6:00 p.m. game that will televised by ESPN3.  The Bears are coached by former Paladin mentor Bobby Lamb.

Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information