Furman Throttles VMI to Capture First Outright SoCon Crown in 33 Years

Furman clinches first SoCon title in 33 years! Redshirt Freshman QB Carson Jones shines with 4 TDs in a dominant 37-3 win over VMI. Paladin defense impresses with 8 sacks. Perfect 7-0 in SoCon play. Playoff-bound!

Furman defender tackles VMI's QB #1 Collin Shannon
Source: Furman Athletics - Jeremy Fleming

On a day when FCS second-ranked Furman honored 42 seniors, it was fitting that the Paladins finished off their first outright SoCon football crown in 33 years, dispatching VMI, 37-3, on a cloudy, cool Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.

In what was his first-career start, redshirt freshman Carson Jones fashioned a memorable performance, completing 18-of-23 passes for 226 yards and four touchdowns, without. throwing an INT. Jones’ four scoring tosses went to four different receivers, as he tossed scoring passes of 14, 34, 12, and 34 yards, respectively.

The Paladin defense was equally impressive, posting eight sacks on the day to up their total to 33 through 10 games, with 27 of those quarterback takedowns coming in the past five games.

The win in dominating fashion against a foe that has proven to be a tough out for most in the league throughout the season helped Furman further enhance its argument to the FCS selection committee for a No. 2-4 seed in the upcoming FCS playoffs.

The win saw Furman improve to 9-1 overall and 7-0 in Southern Conference play, as the Paladins tied a school-record, which was set from 1988-90, with their 13th-straight Southern Conference win.

A win at Wofford (1-9, 1-6 SoCon) next Saturday and the Paladins would set a new school-record for consecutive league wins. VMI falls to 4-6 overall and 3-4 in league play. Furman’s 7-0 start to Southern Conference play marks its best start to a league since 1989. Dating back to the final two games of the 2021 season, the Paladins have now won 21 of their past 25 games.

The win saw the Paladins finish out the season a perfect 5-0 at Paladin Stadium, as Furman has now won nine-straight inside the friendly confines. The Paladins improved to 188-64-1 since the facility opened in 1981.

The Paladins held a 351-189 advantage in total offense. VMI was led in contest by quarterback Collin Shannon, who finished connecting on 14-of-27 passes for 148 yards, with one INT.

Furman’s defense, which hasn’t allowed more than 21 points to any SoCon opponent and 28 points to any FCS foe, held its second foe in its last three outings to just single digits. The Paladins amassed 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, with of those having been quarterback takedowns. Luke Clark had a pair of sacks, while Braden Gilby finished with a 11 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, a sack and a pass breakup.

Furman’s 33 sacks through the first 10 games this season are the third-most in school history, trailing only the 2017 (34 sacks) and 1989 (39 sacks) teams.

The Paladins have now won eight-straight games, and 21 of its last 25 games dating back to the final two games of the 2021 season. It marks the best run since a stretch from the end of the 1987 season through the halfway point of the 1990 campaign, which saw Furman win 29 of 33 contests.

How It Happened

It’s been a trend Furman had hoped to change, and that was slow starts in games. That certainly wouldn’t be the case on a day when Furman honored 42 seniors, taking the field with a noticeable urgency to make a statement that would give them a greater chance to play multiple postseason games in the friendly confines of Paladin Stadium.

Carson Jones looked unflappable in his 2.5 quarters of work. Furman won the toss, and it has it every other time this season, deferred. Following three incompletions by VMI starter Collin Shannon, as he got a taste of the Furman’s pressure—a theme that would be prevalent throughout the afternoon—the Keydets were forced to punt it away.

Jones would then calmly lead the Paladin offense down the field, and a faster start that it was accustomed to in front of the home fans, as Jones used a 40-yard completion to cover a major chunk of the 78-yard scoring drive. The Maryville HS product concluded the drive with a 14-yard scoring strike to Mason Pline, who made a one-handed snag in the corner of the end zone to give the Paladins an early 7-0 lead.

Following Dan Scianna’s second INT of the season, the Paladins took over at the VMI 22. However, after not being able to generate much of anything offensively, the Paladins had to settle for the first of three Ian Williams field goals in the game, and he converted from 27 yards out to give Furman a 10-0 lead with 8:01 left in the first quarter.

Hunter Rice would rush for four yards on VMI’s next possession, however, back-to-back incompletions by Shannon forced the Keydets into a punting situation once again.

The Paladins would make it 3-for-3 on scoring possessions, as the Paladins needed just five plays to cover 63 yards and assume a 17-0 lead when Jones found speedy wideout Nick Cannon streaking down the middle of the field for a 34-yard scoring strike to give the Paladins a three-score lead with five minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

The Paladins would equal their first quarter total on touchdown passes of 12 yards to Luke Shiflett before connecting with Kyndel Dean on a 34-yard strike with 1:44 left in the half. Ian Williams added a 49-yard field goal with four seconds left in the half, and the Paladins went to the break with a commanding 34-0 lead. Dean, who transferred into the Furman football program prior to the

After out-gaining the the Keydets 186-(-2) in the opening quarter, the Paladins went to the half with a substantial 288-8 advantage in total yards at the half, which exemplified the complete domination in the opening half of football by the second-ranked team in FCS football.

Furman’s lone points of the second half came on Williams’ third field goal of the day, as he connected on a 36-yard effort in the third quarter with 6:30 left, allowing the Paladins to take a 37-0 lead. Caden Beck booted through a 27-yard field goal with a little over two minutes left, setting the final margin.

Furman will close out the 2023 regular-season next Saturday in the Nexstar Southern Conference Game of the Week, traveling to Wofford. Kickoff for that contest is set for noon. VMI will conclude its regular-season by hosting Western Carolina in Lexington next Saturday, with kickoff set for noon at Foster Stadium.