Back to the drawing board: #22 WCU loses to #3 Furman, 42-7

Western took high hopes into Greenville, SC, on September 23, but those hopes were dashed as #3 Furman demolished the Catamounts 42-7. While the Cats were beat handily, Coach Kent Briggs of Western still thought his team could bounce back from the effort. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s early in the season. We’re 2-1 and the sun is going to shine,” said Briggs. “We played very poorly, and obviously we got embarrassed the way the outcome was, but hopefully that is going to help motivate us to learn from it and get better from it.” After beating #19 Eastern Kentucky at home, the Cats (2-1, 0-1 SoCon) jumped up to #22, but Furman (3-1, 1-0 SoCon) did not care as the Paladins exacted their revenge for last year and then some. Last year, Furman was ranked #1 in the country when they came into Cullowhee, but the Cats took care of business and won 42-21 to upset the Paladins. This year the Cats were no match as 6’0″, 248 lbs. fullback Jerome Felton of Furman had a career day on the ground. Felton set a school and SoCon record as he rushed for six touchdowns in the game. Felton finished the night with 20 carries for 102 yards. The big fullback had touchdown runs of 13, 2, 2, 5, 1, and 1 to beat the previous touchdown record by one. The Paladins scored 35 of their 42 points in the first half to jump out to a 35-7 halftime lead. On the first drive of the game, they returned a WCU punt 28 yards and had a 15-yard penalty tacked on the end to give them starting position on the Western 17-yard line. On the next Catamount drive, tailback Darius Fudge fumbled and gave the Paladins the ball on the Western 5-yard line. With six minutes gone, it was already Furman 14-0. Western struck back at that point and scored their only touchdown of the day. With a 15-play drive, the Cats drove the ball down the field using five completions by Bennett Swygert for 44 yards. Fudge had five carries for 24 yards rushing on the drive, while Mike Malone had three carries for 11 yards. Fullback L.J. Davis punched the ball in from one-yard out to make the score 14-7 and give the mirage that Western was going to make it a game. But it was only a mirage as Furman’s offensive line manhandled the Catamount defense en route to 28 more points and the victory. The Catamount defensive line sustained four injuries in the game as Jeff Bradley, Randy Birch, Felipe Foster, and Keanon Orr had to leave the game. John Martin was injured beforehand and did not play, so the Catamount defensive line was in a shambles by the end of the game. The defensive line outlook for the next game against Georgia Southern (1-2, 0-1 SoCon) doesn’t look too great either. “I think we’ll be okay over the next several weeks, but I don’t expect our situation on the defensive line to improve very dramatically for this week. We’ll have to step up at other positions to overcome. It’s going to be a real challenge, and maybe one or two can come back, but I don’t know how effective they’ll be when they come back,” said Briggs.