For the first time in the 23-game history between Georgia Southern and Furman, somebody scored 50 points.
It happened to be the No. 1 Eagles, who became the first home team to win a game in the series in five years with a 50-20 blowout Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
“It feels amazing. You just can’t get enough of it,” said GSU cornerback Laron Scott, who blocked a field goal and returned a blocked Furman extra point in the win.
The Paladins (3-3, 2-2 Southern Conference) picked their poison against the GSU triple option, electing to focus on the fullback dive.
The slotbacks for Georgia Southern (6-0, 5-0) took advantage, combining for 255 of the Eagles’ 361 rushing yards.
Junior Johnathan Bryant led the way with 10 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown.
“They were making us pitch the ball, I guess, and turning it into a perimeter game,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said. “There’s a lot of teams that have done that in the past, and you better be good on the perimeter blocking, or it’s going to be a long day if they make you pitch it all the time.”
The only group having a long day was the Furman defense, which gave up an average of 7.7 yards every time the Eagles touched the ball.
Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw completed six passes, all to different players, for 171 yards, including a 27-yard strike to Bryant.
The Eagles struck first in the contest, with a 5-yard touchdown run by J.J. Wilcox, but on the ensuing kickoff, Furman’s Sederrik Cunningham ran 96 yards for a score to cut the GSU lead to 7-6. That was as close as the score would get.
The extra point was a disaster for the Paladins, as Brent Russell blocked it and Scott returned it all the way to the opposite end zone for two Georgia Southern points and a 9-6 lead.
The Paladins still had to kick off to the Eagles, who marched down the field and scored again on a keeper by Shaw.
The Eagle built a 26-13 first-half lead and came up big with the Paladins knocking on the door at the end of the second quarter.
Just before the half, Furman marched to the GSU 5-yard line, but quarterback Chris Focier forced a pass into double coverage when he was hurried by Javon Mention, and the pass was picked off in the back of the end zone by Hudson Presume.
“If they get seven points there, or even three, we’re in for a different ball game at the half,” Monken said.
The Eagles scored all six of their touchdowns on the ground, while the Paladins did most of their damage through the air. With the help of backup Dakota Derrick’s 76 fourth-quarter yards, Furman finished with 293 through the air.
“We gave up a lot of yards in the pass,” Monken said. “They hit us over the top twice there in the fourth quarter. We had one long pass over the top where the safety got caught with his eyes looking in the backfield and they were down 30 points. I said, ‘They’re not going to score 30 points by running it up the middle. Keep those guys in front of you.’”
After running only eight plays in the first quarter, the Furman offense came to life in the second, reaching the red zone on all three drives, but only got points out of one of them.
The Paladins cut the GSU lead to 16-13 on the first drive of the second, marching 89 yards on nine plays and scoring when Forcier (13 for 23, 217 yards) hit fullback Tersoo Uhaa on an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Furman didn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles responded quickly to the Uhaa touchdown, needing only five plays to answer. A Shaw pass to true freshman Zach Walker was good for 50 yards and a first down from the Furman 14-yard line. Bryant scored on a pitch from Shaw on the next play to put GSU up, 23-13.
A 23-yard field goal by Adrian Mora put GSU up, 26-13, at halftime.
The Paladins knocked on the door on their final two drives of the second quarter, but the Eagles came up big both times.
Scott blocked a 41-yard field-goal attempt by Furman’s Ray Earley, and Lavelle Westbrooks returned the blocked kick 18 yards to set up Mora’s field goal, and the last defensive play of the half was Presume’s pick.
The Eagles play their second nonconference game of the season Saturday at Paulson Stadium against Presbyterian.