Chanticleers face first tough test against Furman Paladins

One week after Coastal Carolina and first-year football coach celebrated their first victory together, the honeymoon is over.

The Chanticleers’ 29-13 victory over NC A&T was fairly impressive, but not the opponent itself. The Aggies were a mere appetizer to the main course, which is served Saturday at 5 p.m. when they travel to take on Furman.

The Chants are picking on someone their own size in the Paladins, a traditional Southern Conference power that has fallen on mediocre times. Furman finished 6-5 last season and failed to make the FCS playoffs, while Coastal went 8-3 and also stayed home in the postseason, so this is a true test for both teams.

Furman (0-1) yielded a last-minute field goal to fall, 24-21, to Samford last Saturday in Birmingham in the Southern Conference season opener for the Paladin. Meanwhile, the Chanticleers were breaking Moglia’s maiden.

“They’ve done well in the Southern Conference,” Moglia said of the Paladins in Wednesday’s weekly press conference. “Samford played really well against them. That game could have gone either way

“Furman is a better team that A&T. We’ve got to play well. That’s our job. … our mistakes from last week we have to improve.”

The Chants own a 2-1 advantage in the young football series, having posted a 30-23 victory over the Paladins a year ago in Conway.  Furman claimed a 27-17 win over Coastal Carolina in 2007 in the only clash between the two programs in Greenville.

If recent history is any indicator, Furman may be tough to beat on Saturday. The Paladins have won 12 straight home season openers, 13 consecutive non-conference home games since 2005, and 21 straight non-conference regular season home clashes dating back to 1999.

For those streaks to continue, Furman will need to cut back on mistakes.  The Paladins suffered four turnovers against the Bulldogs, including three interceptions and a fumble, and failed to generate to a single takeaway in the contest.

Furman will attempt to build its game plan around senior All-SoCon running back Jerodis Williams, who rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown against Samford en route to becoming only the 11th player in program history to top the 2,000-yard rushing plateau.  Last year Williams ran a career high 28 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns against Coastal Carolina.

Quarterback Dakota Derrick from Conway, will look to improve on a season opening performance that saw him complete just 11-of-25 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown against Samford, which picked him off three times. Derrick’s leading target is senior All-America tight end Colin Anderson (2 rec., 56 yds. vs. Samford) and senior wide receiver Will King (4 rec. 89 yds., 1 TD vs. Samford).

Defensively, senior linebacker Mitch McGrath and sophomore linebacker Gary Wilkins both racked up team high 10 tackles in the season opener. But Moglia is more concerned about the matchup of his defense against the Paladins’ disciplined running game and his secondary’s ability to avoid giving up the big play.

The Paladins defense also faces a major challenge in Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary, who passed for 274 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 35 yards and a score in the win over North Carolina A&T.  Running back Jeremy Height added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Chants.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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