BIRMINGHAM, ALA. -- Jon Croft Hollingsworth kicked a 19-yard field goal as time expired to complete an historic second half comeback that powered Furman to a 20-17 victory over Samford in Southern Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Seibert Stadium.
Furman (4-4, 2-2 SoCon), which trailed 17-0 at halftime and appeared headed for its third straight defeat, pitched a second half defensive shutout and turned to an old friend, the ground game, to fuel its second half comeback — the largest, points-wise, for victory since 1973. Limited to just 41 yards rushing in the first half, the Paladins ran for 211 yards over the final two periods to finish with a season high 252 yards rushing and 426 total yards — Furman's highest output since its season opener versus Coastal Carolina.
"We kept together, remained poised, and made some adjustments at halftime that really helped," said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler following the win. "I'm very proud of the grit the guys exhibited. It was a complete team victory. Stopping the run and being able to run the football consistently were the deciding factors."
Sophomore Antonio Wilcox, getting the start at running back for the injured Triston Luke, ran 17 times for a career high 133 yards, and Issac Garcia added a career high 82 yards on 11 carries, to power the Paladin ground game.
Wilcox's 43-yard touchdown run on the Paladins' first possession of the second half got Furman on the board.
Hollingsworth made it 17-10 with a 21-yard field goal, his first of two field goals in the fourth quarter, and the Paladins later tied it up when quarterback P.J. Blazejowski, making his first start of the season for the injured Reese Hannon, connected with Chad Scott between two defenders for a 26-yard scoring strike with 6:52 remaining.
On the ensuing possession Samford (3-5, 1-4 SoCon) quarterback Devlin Hodges' deep pass attempt was picked off by Paladin cornerback Reggie Thomas at the Furman 25 with 6:17 to go.
From that point the Paladins used 14 plays, featuring 12 rushes and two passes, to cover 73 yards to the Samford 2 and burned the entire clock for Hollingsworth's 19-yard game winning kick, which followed a Furman timeout with one second remaining.
Garcia accounted for 36 yards on the game winning drive with consecutive runs of 22, 5, and 9 yards that moved the Paladins to the Samford 19. From that point Furman turned to senior fullback Ernie Cain, who rushed five times for 13 yards, and Kealand Dirks for a four-yard carry to help set up the decisive field goal.
Blazejowski completed 14-of-28 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown in the victory. He was intercepted twice but fashioned an impressive fourth quarter, connecting on six of his final seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown and converting four consecutive third down plays with completions.
Furman's final three scoring drives covered 71, 72, and 73 yards, and the Paladins dominated possession time, posting a 39:14-20:46 advantage, including an 11:56-3:04 edge in the fourth quarter.
Samford appeared ready to extend its recent run of success against Furman by doing all the first half scoring. K'rondis Landry's 1-yard scoring plunge on the game's first possession helped give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
It remained that way until the second quarter when Samford used a Shaheed Salmon interception return to the Furman 31 to set up a Hodges 31-yard touchown strike to Karel Hamilton on the next play.
Anthony Pistelli's 31-yard field goal with 3:30 to go in the first half stretched the advantage to 17-0, seemingly putting Samford in control heading into halftime.
Senior linebacker Cory Magwood led all defenders with 16 tackles to up his career tally to 299. Carl Rider had 10 stops.
Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information