By: Sammy Clough, Sport Editor
Family, alumni and students alike filed into to Paladin Stadium on Saturday with hopes of yet another home victory for the Furman football team to top off the homecoming festivities. However, the Samford Bulldogs spoiled the celebration after a 38-25 wrangling of the Paladins.
The first half began in a back-and-forth battle of the kickers. After falling behind by a field goal following Samford’s opening possession, the Paladins drove down the field, only to be stopped on the opponent’s 40-yard line. In came Furman’s sophomore kicker Grayson Atkins to attempt the 50-yard field goal to tie the game. Atkins’ kick sailed through the uprights with impressive pace and more than enough distance to tie the game at 3-3.
The boot of Atkins proved to be one of the few bright spots for the purple-and-white in front of a packed homecoming crowd. On the Paladin’s next possession, Atkins was again called on for the field goal, this time from 51-yards. And yet again the sophomore kicker out of Inman, S.C. nailed the kick to one-up his previous field goal by a yard.
As the first half came to close, the Bulldogs began driving down the field, trying to increase their 10-9 lead. Coming off a career game against rival Wofford, sophomore linebacker Elijah McKoy picked off a pass from Samford’s Devlin Hodges. McKoy returned to the Furman sideline to be coronated by the purple turnover crown, a new Paladin tradition this season.
With two seconds remaining in the half, Furman again turned to Atkins, this time for what would be a career high 53-yard field goal. As Atkins and the special teams unit set up, Samford burned all three of their timeouts in an effort to ice the kicker. Nevertheless, Atkins proved to have ice in his veins as his kick squeaked over the crossbar to give the Paladin’s a 12-10 lead at halftime.
The performance by Grayson Atkins was one of the few positives for the Paladins in Saturday’s game. Atkins tied the NCAA Division-1 record for most 50-plus yard field goals in one game with three, all coming in the first half.
On a more somber note for Furman, senior quarterback Harris Roberts was injured in the first quarter and did not return to play. Roberts completed an 18-yard pass to sophomore receiver Cam Burnette, but was hit hard as he threw the ball. He went to the sideline for treatment and eventually the locker room and was diagnosed with a concussion. Roberts, who was last week’s Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Week following a five touchdown game against Wofford, was replaced by true freshman Darren Grainger to the remainder of the game.
This loss against Samford put Furman at 2-2 in SoCon play and 2-4 overall. Not only was the loss painful in front of eager homecoming crowd, but the injury to team captain Roberts could prove to be precarious for the Paladins going forward. Coach Clay Hendrix will have to choose between the freshman Grainger and redshirt freshman JeMar Lincoln next week.
Furman travel to Charleston, S.C. next week on Saturday, Oct. 27 to face The Citadel in what they hope will be bounce back SoCon matchup.