ELON, N.C. — Donovan Perryman blocked the potential game-tying extra point with 11:26 remaining and Furman’s defense made it stand in helping the 22nd-ranked Paladins clip 15th-ranked Elon, 28-27, in Football Championship Subdivision first round playoff action Saturday afternoon at Rhodes Stadium.
The win pushes Furman (8-4) into a second round playoff matchup against Southern Conference regular season champion Wofford next Saturday in Spartaburg. Kickoff at Gibbs Stadium is set for 2:00 p.m.
“Our kids found a way to get the win because we certainly didn’t make things easy on ourselves with the three turnovers,” said Furman head coach Clay Hendrix, the consensus SoCon Coach of the Year, following the game. “You do that and it’s hard to win a football game, but somehow our kids hung in there, even when we got down twice, and came back. After our last turnover, our defense stepped up with a big stop, and it was nice to get a first down there and run out the clock.”
Perryman’s game deciding blocked PAT came after Elon’s De’Sean McNair scored on a 28-yard touchdown run with 11:26 remaining.
Furman then drove 70 yards to the Elon 6, but on second and goal Paladin quarterback P.J. Blazejowski’s pass into the end zone was intercepted by Daniel Reid-Bennett with 4:20 to go. The Phoenix tried to capitalize on the opportunity, moving to the Furman 48 but could advance no deeper into the Paladin territory as four Davis Cheek passes fell incomplete, allowing the Paladins to take over on downs.
A seven-yard run Kealand Dirks run on third down netted a first down at the Elon 40, after which the Paladins to run out the clock.
Elon’s failed PAT was the final special teams miscue in the contest that saw Elon capitalize on a pair Furman fumbles — one on a punt return and the other on a kickoff return — to convert short fields into touchdowns.
After Thomas Gordon fumbled a punt five minutes into the contest, Elon grabbed the lead on the next play on a McNair 26-yard touchdown burst up the middle.
Furman answered with two Blazejowski touchdown strikes to Andy Schumpert covering 6 and 70 yards to go up, 14-7.
Elon opened the second half with a 12-play, 79-yard drive to tie it at 14-14, and less than three minutes later went up 21-14 after Chris Blair pounced on a fumbled Furman kickoff return at the Paladin 25-yard line and McNair scored on a 3-yard touchdown run seven plays later.
The Paladins responded with a pair touchdown drives to grab the lead. Antonio Wilcox’s 14-yard scoring burst tied it 21-21, and following an Elon punt Wilcox set up the go-ahead score with a 62-yard bolt to the Phoenix 11. A pair of runs by Dirks got the ball the 1, where Blazejowski pushed it over the goal line on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 28-21 lead.
Elon’s bid to tie the game appeared in order after McNair’s 28-yard run into the end zone pulled Elon to within 28-27 at the 11:26 mark, but Perryman denied the tying kick attempt by breaking through the line and deflecting the kick by Elon’s Owen Johnson.
The victory earned Furman revenge for a 34-31 loss to Elon in Greenville on Sept. 9.
The Paladins finished with 408 yards in total offense, rushing for 239 and passing for 176.
Blazejowski connected on 12-of-22 passes and threw two touchdowns — both to Schumpert, the Paladins’ All-SoCon tight end who upped his season touchdown receptions tally to nine.
Wilcox paced Furman’s ground game with seven rushes for 92 yards.
Freshman cornerback Darius Kearse, who didn’t play in the season’s first clash with Elon due to injury, led Furman with nine tackles. The Paladins registered three sacks — all in the first half — to run their SoCon leading tally to 34.