How Furman football is preparing for its big opportunity against South Carolina

Tyler Huff didn’t sound like someone who would be intimidated playing at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.

The Furman quarterback was confident as he talked with reporters Tuesday about this week’s matchup against South Carolina.

“They are not unbeatable by any means, especially from what we have been watching on film,” said Huff, who transferred from Presbyterian College last year. “It is a tall task for sure, but something we can definitely manage. We are all excited to go prove that.”

Huff said he was probably a little more nervous going into last week’s opener against Tennessee Tech and less pressure on the team against the Gamecocks.

“They are telling of what they do on defense,” he said. “They are going to think their defensive backs are better than our receivers and play man coverage. It is about our guys winning our one-on-ones. As a quarterback, it is a lot more fun to throw against man teams.

“... I am excited about what our guys are going to do with this opportunity. It’s going to be fun.”

This is the second straight year the Paladins face a Power 5 in-state opponent. Furman lost at Clemson, 35-12, but held the Tigers to just seven points in the second half. The Paladins outgained the Tigers, 384-376, in the game.

Huff and Furman coach Clay Hendrix referenced last year’s game against the Tigers and the confidence it gives them going into this week.

“Best feeling last year playing Clemson was seeing the shock and surprise in their face when we did what we did against them,” Huff said. “They didn’t expect to have their starting defense out there after the second quarter, and I think they played until all the way until early in the fourth.

“... A team like us, we go in there with a lot to prove and a chip on our shoulder to prove we aren’t nobodies. We are here to play and compete. We are here to push everybody and make sure we have a chance to win at the end of the game.”

To feed more to the underdog role, Hendrix pointed out none of the players on Furman’s roster were recruited or offered a walk-on opportunity.

“We hadn’t talked about it much until this week, but this is the most important game on our schedule,” Hendrix said.

Furman won its opener last week against Tennessee Tech and is ranked No. 6 in the latest FCS Coaches Poll. The Paladins return 20 starters and 38 of the team’s 44 players from last year’s final two-deep.

Furman finished ranked No. 10 in the country last season and made it to the second round of the playoffs.

“This is a hell of a football team coming in here this weekend,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “That’s not coach speak and Shane trying to rally the guys on Tuesday.

“They won’t be wide-eyed coming in here Saturday night. … If anybody thinks this is a “take-a-breath week,“ you are sorely mistaken.”

The Gamecocks are coming off a 31-17 loss to UNC on Saturday. South Carolina gave up nine sacks and had lost several key players in the game because of injuries.

Starting tackle Cason Henry was one of those and Beamer said he is out this week. USC’s offensive line took a brunt of the criticism last week.

But Hendrix knows he expects a better effort this week from the Gamecocks.

“I know they want to run the football, and I’m sure they’re going to try to run it right down our throat,” the Furman coach said. “They’ve got talent everywhere. But again, we’ve got enough of our own problems. I think we’ll see a much, much different team out of them than what they played.”