SPARTANBURG – Devin Wynn arrived at Wofford with something extra on Saturday. Whatever reason – breaking out of a little slump, tired of losing to the Terriers, who knew? Who cared?
Wynn, who rushed for 204 yards, and the Paladins burst out together and vanquished the foe by a score of 42-20.
“We had a great game plan,” Wynn said, soft-spoken. “We had a lot of tough reflecting we had to do, and it helped us because we could look in the mirror and see what we had to do.”
But, Wynn said later, reflecting on his obvious fire, “It definitely came from the rivalry. We had a lot to prove: this rivalry included, this offense included, this team included.
“Going that extra mile, showing people that extra gear, I think it shows people that we established something. We’ve still got to work on it, but it’s a great feeling.”
“I think we played a little angry,” said head coach Clay Hendrix, “and that’s the way we need to play. Our backs ran that way."
After any normal game, the chief topic might have been the showing – and surprise start – of freshman Jace Wilson at quarterback. Wilson, he of geography-rich Missouri City, Texas, twirled 14 strikes in 23 offerings, totaling 189 yards and hitting Wynn for a 26-yard touchdown.
“His mobility brings an extra dimension for a defense,” said Hendrix. “It’s a work in progress, but I can’t say enough about how he prepared. He’s got a good grasp of what we’re doing. He missed 10 days of our 25 (practices) in August.
“Jace will only get better. And I’m proud of him.”
“The extra week of practice really helped,” Wilson said. “They told me early in the week that I was going to be the starter. It was just reps, reps and more reps during practice. My dad’s been telling me since August to prepare like you’re the starter every week, and he really helped, as well.
“When I came out, the game felt slow to me, smooth, and the offensive line and Devin Wynn really helped me a lot."
It was about as lovely a day as a lovely day can be, at least for those with a preference for purple.
Yet it wasn’t always thus.
The Paladins’ opening drive looked familiar in that it ended fruitlessly in Wofford territory and unfamiliar in that Wilson started at quarterback instead of Hamp Sisson and that Timmy Bleekrode trotted in, not for a field goal but what turned out to be a shanked punt. This prefaced Irvin Milligan’s 72-yard run, largely uncontested, that put the Terriers on top, 7-0, with 7:37 remaining in the 1st quarter.
Walker Gliarmis kicked a 27-yard field goal to hike the Terrier edge with 3:46 remaining in the 1st quarter.
The early hints that Wofford might run away with the game were, however, dispelled in the 2nd quarter when Furman (3-2, 1-1 SoCon) mounted 3 touchdown drives (to Wofford's 1) and took a 21-17 halftime edge.
Ryan DeLuca’s 7-yard TD run -- yes, DeLuca the senior wide receiver -- pushed the Paladin lead to 11, with the benefit of Bleekrode’s extra point, with 7:04 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
Thus did it become thus.
Oh, the Terriers came back a bit. They knew it was a rivalry, too.
Alec Holt put Wofford (1-4, 0-3) in business with a 29-yard reception to the Furman 13. Micah Robinson thought he had an interception but officials ruled him out of bounds in the end zone, and Gliarmis kicked a 29-yard field goal to draw Wofford within 8.
No matter. Wynn commandeered the offense, even as Wilson was nominally in charge, and his 7-yard scoring burst bled the Paladins into the 4th quarter and restored the lead to 15 after Bleekrode’s kick at the 14:54 mark.
The Furman offense was ruinous to the Wofford defenses: more than twice as many 1st downs, 108 more rushing yards (yes, Wofford), 56 more passing, 10 out of 15 3rd-down conversions and no 4th-down conversions needed.
Wynn netted his 204 yards in 31 carries, scoring twice on the ground and thrice altogether. Wofford’s Mulligan rushed for 126, but 72 were on the Terriers’ 3rd offensive play.
For at least a day, Furman fixed just about everything that had been missing recently.
“It’s the little things,” said Wynn. “Small details. Reading the defensive alignment. Reading our keys on where to run and just how to do stuff based on how the defense is lined up.”
Little things. They mean a lot. Check out the stats here.
The Citadel visits next.