Furman's unpredictable offense presents strong challenge for UTC Mocs

Furman's unpredictable offense presents strong challenge for UTC Mocs

October 5th, 2017 by Gene Henley in Sports - College
Furman quarterback P.J. Blazejowski's passing ability gives the Paladins an extra dimension on top of the triple-option plays that have been incorporated in coach Clay Hendrix's first season in charge. UTC hosts the Paladins for homcoming Saturday.

Furman quarterback P.J. Blazejowski's passing ability gives the...

Photo by Al Goldis

Furman's football team appears to be in the process of converting to a triple-option offense.

Meanwhile, the Paladins are doing just fine running their current scheme.

Furman (2-3, 1-1 Southern Conference) enters Saturday's game against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with the second-best scoring offense in the league this season, having averaged 34.2 points per game. They are third in the league in total offense, fourth in rushing offense and fourth in passing offense.

The Paladins and Mocs (1-4, 1-1) are similar in that each of their Football Championship Subdivision losses have come to a team that has been ranked at some point this season. Furman could easily be 4-1, with a pair of one-possession losses to start the year to fifth-ranked Wofford and No. 18 Elon. In that same vein, UTC has losses to fourth-ranked Jacksonville State, 22nd-ranked Western Carolina and 25th-ranked UT-Martin, although the latter two have been by a combined score of 66-14.

Both the Paladins and Mocs have a loss to a Football Bowl Subdivision team as well — Furman to North Carolina State and the Mocs to LSU, which was ranked until losing back-to-back games.

"They're still finding themselves, but they've shown tremendous effort," UTC defensive tackle Derek Mahaffey said of the Paladins. "This week we'll really have to trust our teammates to do their job. That's what this game will be all about. Personally, I think they're a great team with a great coaching staff, and they do things very well. We've got to be very disciplined this game."

Clay Hendrix is a former Furman assistant who's in his first season leading the program, but he spent the past 10 seasons as an assistant at Air Force, and he brought some of the option concepts that are prevalent on most Falcons teams. But he also inherited talented Paladins quarterback P.J. Blazekowski, who has thrown for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns in five games this season.

The senior directed an offense that went over the 300-yard mark in both passing and rushing last week in a 56-35 win over East Tennessee State.

"They're doing more triple-option type stuff on offense, but they still have elements of a number of different types of offense," UTC coach Tom Arth said. "Typically when you play a triple team, you don't have a quarterback that's comfortable dropping back in the pocket and throwing, and they do. They have a guy that's comfortable — he can be accurate and make all the throws."

UTC defensive coaches and players have talked about "eye discipline." They've done a solid job in that regard this season — the Mocs rank in the top five in the SoCon in most defensive categories — but they expect to be especially tested this weekend by Blazekowski and a Furman rushing attack that has averaged nearly 200 yards per game this season.

"Week by week, I see more and more of the triple-option formation," UTC senior Tae Davis said. "They run a bunch of stuff, so it's definitely going to test our discipline this week."

Added fellow linebacker Hawk Schrider: "I think they have great personnel to pass the ball, so being able to pass and run the ball effectively is something that helps them and something we'll have to stop at the same time.

"It will be a good challenge for us."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.