Louis Ivory rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown to lift NCAA I-AA third ranked Furman to a 31-6 Southern Conference win over East Tennessee State in front of 11,009 homecoming fans at Paladin Stadium. Furman (6-1, 5-0 SoCon) claimed only the second decision in its last six meetings with East Tennessee State (2-4, 1-3 SoCon).
"I was really proud of our guys. We were really banged up on defense, but we played hard and made some big plays when we had to," said Furman head coach Bobby Johnson. "They had a lot of guys up there on the line of scrimmage, but Billy (Napier) did a great job getting the ball off in front of a big rush and Bear Rinehart made some catches I couldn't believe."
"We came down here and played one of the best teams in the nation, and we competed well," said East Tennessee State head coach Paul Hamilton. "I commend our defense. I feel like there are some areas that we progressed in today against a very good football team. We are a young team, and we're only going to get better."
In rushing 26 times for 146 yards, Ivory, the 2000 Walter Payton Award winner as the top offensive player in I-AA, recorded his school record 26th 100-yard rushing performance and became the first Furman player in history to top 5,000 rushing yards in a career. The Paladin senior tailback now has 5,014 yards.
Special teams play gave Furman the first break of the game when the Paladins blocked Aaron Bass' (Clinton, Tenn.) first punt attempt of the afternoon after Furman had halted the first Buccaneer drive of the game. The Paladins recovered the ball on the ETSU seven-yard line and two plays later scored on a seven-yard run by Ivory at the 10:34 mark of the first quarter.
East Tennessee's defense came up with the big play that led to the Bucs first points of the day. On a third-down play, Mike Cornegay (Fayetteville, N.C.) forced a Furman fumble when he sacked the Paladin's Billy Napier. The Bucs' Travis Williams (Bristol, Tenn.) recovered the ball on the ETSU 48. The Bucs then drove 32 yards in eight plays, with the drive capped off by a 37-yard Scott Salmons (Smyrna, Tenn.) field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 with 2:34 left in the first.
Furman then moved 69 yards in 11 plays for its second touchdown, which came on a 1-yard run by fullback Eric Emerson at the 12:58 juncture of the second quarter.
Another Paladin turnover led to East Tennessee State's next score just before the half. Tony Tiller (Lithonia, Ga.) picked off his team-leading fourth pass of the season and returned it 37 yards to the Furman 25 with five seconds left in the half. Salmons, subbing for an injured Con Chellis (Summerville, S.C.) then booted 42-yard field goal to make it 17-6 at the half.
Furman's defense then shut down the ETSU offense in the second half, holding it to just 87 yards and no points. Meanwhile the Paladins added touchdowns in both the third and the fourth quarters to push the final score to 31-6.
Corey Carter (Greenwood, S.C.) led ETSU on the ground, gaining 47 yards on eight carries, while quarterback Matt Wilhjelm (Johnson City, Tenn.) was held to just 10-of-27 in the passing department for 88 yards. Furman, which outgained East Tennessee State 364-199, got 166 yards passing from Napier, who completed 15-of-23 passes.
East Tennessee State returns to action next week when it hosts top-ranked Georgia Southern in Johnson City in a 7:00 p.m. game. Furman is off next Saturday and will next play at Georgia Southern in Statesboro on Nov. 3 at 3:30 p.m.