SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Brian Kass' 52-yard touchdown strike to Jeff Ashley midway through the third quarter lifted FCS fifth-ranked Wofford to a 20-17 victory over Furman in Southern Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Gibbs Stadium.
With the win Wofford improves to 5-0 on the season and 3-0 in SoCon play. Furman falls to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the SoCon. The game marked the 86th clash between the Paladins and Terriers, owners of the oldest collegiate football rivalry in South Carolina.
Trailing 17-13 after Furman's Ray Early kicked a 24-yard field goal, Wofford took the ensuing kickoff and covered 75 yards in five plays for the game winning score on Kass' strike, which went over the top of Furman's secondary.
"We're disappointed in not winning the game," said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler. "They (Wofford) are a good football team. They hit the long pass and had some good runs in the second half, but we know we had our chances...we just didn't convert them."
After Wofford took the 20-17 lead, the Paladins' suffered through an offensive possession that included holding and personal foul penalties. Ray Early, however, got the Paladins out of a hole in a big way with the second longest punt in school history — an 82-yard effort that sailed over Wofford's return unit before being down at the Terrier 2.
Furman's defense forced a punt to the Paladin 39. A pair of 13-yard runs by Jerodis Williams and a 15-yard pass from quarterback Reese Hannon to Will King moved the ball to the Wofford 20, but on a third-and-13 play from the Terrier 23, Wofford's Mike McCrimon intercepted a Hannon pass to terminate the scoring threat.
Wofford then drove to the Furman 3 but failed to convert a fourth-and-goal play. The Paladins responded by moving to their own 43 before punting with 5:55 remaining.
The Terriers took possession and racked up three first downs before punting to the Furman 13 with 1:19 to go. Hannon was sacked on first down and then intercepted by Blake Wylie at the Paladin 21, effectively ending the game.
Furman grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Williams took an option pitch from Hannon and raced around right end for 27 yards into the end zone.
Wofford knotted it at 7-7 on a Cam Flowers 10-yard scoring run around left end at the 11:09 mark of the second quarter, capping a short 7-play, 36-yard drive that was set up by a Tarek Odom interception off a batted Hannon pass.
The Paladins took a 14-7 lead into intermission following a 10-play, 69-yard march that culminated with a Williams 1-yard run off right guard with just under a minute to go in the half.
Williams led Furman offensively, rushing 26 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns. His work against the Terriers pushed him up two notches on the school's career rushing ledger, surpassing Jerome Felton (2004-07) and Cedrick Gipson (2004-07) to move into sixth place all-time with 2,693 yards.
Hannon completed 15-of-25 passes for 170 yards but suffered three interceptions.
Wofford, which entered the game as the FCS leader in rushing offense (385.2 ypg) and ranked second in scoring (53.5 ppg) and total offense (549.2 ypg), finished the game with 364 total yards, including 303 yards rushing. Eric Breitenstein led the Terrier ground attack with 21 carries for 158 yards.
Furman netted 149 yards rushing, 170 through the air for 319 total yards.
Ray Early's career best 82-yard punt helped him average 57.3 yards on three punts, two of which were downed inside the Wofford 5, including his final effort, a fourth quarter 54-yarder than turned over, checked up at the Wofford 1 before rolling out of bounds at the 3-yard line.
Mitch McGrath led all defenders in 11 stops, including two for-loss, and a forced fumble.
Furman entertains Chattanooga next Saturday in a 1:30 p.m. game.