GREENVILLE, S.C. (Furman University) -- Gary Wilkins returned an interception 98 yards and Furman feasted on five Appalachian State turnovers to whip the Mountaineers, 27-10, in Southern Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.
The contest closed out the league rivalry between the Paladins (3-4, 2-2 SoCon) and Mountaineers (1-6, 1-3 SoCon) with Furman winning two of the final three meetings to improve to 23-18-3 all-time against App State, which is departing the SoCon and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Sunbelt Conference next year.
Appalachian State suffered five turnovers in the game, fumbling the ball eight times and losing four, in addition to Wilkins’ interception, which marked the second longest pickoff return in Furman history.
Ray Early gave Furman a 6-0 first quarter lead with a pair of field goals covering 50 and 32 yards.
After App State’s Drew Stewart cut it to 6-3 early in the second quarter with a 37-yard field goal, the Mountaineers appears poised to take the lead by driving to Furman 6, but on a second and goal play App State wide receiver Anrew Peacock’s pass attempt off a reverse play went right into the hands of Wilkins, who tucked the ball away, leaped over a Peacock’s tackle attempt, and sprinted 98 yards down the sideline into the end zone to help give Furman a 13-3 lead.
Furman took command on its first possession of the second half, which was set up by a forced fumble by linebacker Cory Magwood that was recovered by Austin Williiams at the Paladin 44. A Reese Hannon 41-yard pass to Andrej Suttles on the next play gave Furman the ball at the Mountaineer 15, and six snaps later fullback Ernie Cain bulled over from 1-yard out to stretch the lead to 20-0 following the PAT.
A Wilkins fumble recovery at the Appalachian State 25 midway through the third quarter set up the Paladins’ final touchdown. Quarterback Reese Hannon delivered the tally on the next play when he floated a 25-yard strike into the Ryan Culbreath’s hands in the corner of the end zone with 6:01 on the clock.
The Mountaineers’ Simms McElfresh found the end zone with a 39-yard touchdown catch from Kameron Bryant with 3:01 to go in the contest.
App State forged a 473-336 advantage in total offense, but the differential was primarily compiled on the Mountaineers last two possessions after trailing 27-3.
Hannon, who returned to the starting lineup after missing two games due to injury, completed 13-of-19 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. Hank McCloud paced the Paladins running game with 13 rushes for 89 yards.
Bryant finished with 307 yards passing for Appalachian State, completing 32-of-40 passes and a touchdown. Marcus Cox led all rushers with 118 yards, but Bryrant and Cox combined for two fumbles apiece in the contest.
Magwood paced all tacklers with 13 stops, followed by Jairus Hollman with 12, Carl Rider with 11 and Reggie Thomas with 10 stops for Furman.
The Paladins play LSU next Saturday in a 6:00 p.m. ET game.
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