GREENVILLE, S.C -- Antonio Wilcox rushed for three touchdowns and Joe Farrar intercepted a Mercer pass in the end zone as time expired to give Furman its fifth straight victory, a 28-21 Southern Conference win over the Bears on Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.
The Paladins erased a 21-14 third-quarter deficit, tying it on quarterback P.J. Blazejowski's 18-yard touchdown pass to Andy Schumpert with 40 seconds remaining in the period, and taking the lead for good on Wilcox's third touchdown of the game — a four-yard scoring run with 4:48 remaining in the contest.
The win improved the Paladins to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the SoCon, while Mercer slipped to 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the league.
"It was a complete team win, no question about it," said Furman head coach Clay Hendrix following the game, which marked the first meeting as head coaches between Hendrix and Mercer's Bobby Lamb, the two Commerce, Ga., natives and former prep and Furman standouts who later served for many years as Paladin assistant coaches.
"We probably didn't play our best ball at times today, but that's what happens when you face really good teams. I thought P.J. played really well, making a bunch of plays for us. Whether we needed a stop or something to keep moving the football, we did a good job of looking out for each other getting it done. We had to take what they gave us. I figured it would be that type of game."
Furman overcame a 7-0 deficit with a pair of second quarter Wilcox scoring runs to forge a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Mercer took advantage of a Furman fumble on the Paladins' first offensive play of the third quarter, getting an Eric Jackson recovery at the Furman 30 to set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by CJ Leggett that tied the game at 14-14.
The Bears went up 21-14 lead on their next possession, covering 74 yards in nine plays for a 25-yard touchdown strike from Kaelan Riley to Marquise Irvin.
Furman answered on the ensuing possession when Blazejowski lofted an 18-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to Schumpert, who slipped behind the Bear linebackers into the end zone.
The Paladins completed the second half comeback with a 14-play, 70-yard drive that consumed seven minutes of clock and featured a pair of third down conversions, as well as a fourth-and-one play at the Mercer 5. Wilcox secured the first down with a 1-yard gain to the Mercer 4, and on the next play the senior running back slanted off right tackle to the goal line for the go-ahead score.
After an exchange of possessions, Mercer moved from their own 15 to the Furman 26, but on third and eight, Riley's pass into the front corner of the end zone was picked off by Farrar with three seconds remaining.
Wilcox paced Furman's ground attack, running 17 times for 63 yards and three touchdowns. Blazejowski, meanwhile, completed 16-of-19 passess for 158 yards and a touchdown.
Riley connected on 26-of-34 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown to lead Mercer.
The Paladins play at Western Carolina next Saturday in a 3:30 ESPN3 broadcast contest.
Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information