BOILING SPRINGS —
The Gardner Webb offense racked up 484 yards while Kenny Cook and Juanne Blount scored two touchdowns apiece as the Runnin’ Bulldogs opened the season with a stunning 28-21 come from behind win over Furman Saturday night.
The victory is GWU’s first over a Southern Conference team since 2009.
“It feels good,” said first year coach Carroll McCray. “It feels good for me, it feels good for the players and it feels good for the fans. Our goal was to restore pride in the red and black of the Bulldogs and I think we did that tonight.”
The defense also played a major part in the comeback, holding Furman to just 65 total yards in the second half allowing GWU to erase a 21-7 third quarter deficit.
A three and out to start the contest, Furman returned the favor. Thanks to a 19-yard punt, the Paladins had excellent field position. Two plays later, Terry Robinson took an option pitch 24 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was good as Furman took a 7-0 lead.
Gardner–Webb responded on its next drive behind quarterback Lucas Beatty. He was 5-5 including a key fourth down pass in the red zone to Deonte Swinton. Kenny Cook then brought down a jump ball in the corner of the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The defenses settled down in the second as neither offense could move the ball. Cook did catch a 54-yard pass to move GWU off their goal line, but the home team was forced to punt later in the drive.
Furman displayed its quick strike ability late in the half as Gary Robinson got behind the defense and raced 70 yards to pay dirt that accounted for the 14-7 halftime tally,
A bad snap on GWU’s first possession of the third quarter set the Paladins on the Bulldog 1 yard line. Dillon Woodruff snuck the ball across the goal as Furman grabbed a two score lead 21-7.
GWU did not go quietly as the Running Bulldogs found success downfield with long pass. Swinton brought in 49-yard pass and Richard Jules ran 20 yards after catching a swing pass. Beatty scrambled for 20 yard gain to put GWU on the four yard line. Juanne Blount covered that distance on the next play as GWU pulled to 21-14 with 9:14 left in the third quarter.
A deep kickoff by former soccer standout Jordan Day pinned Furman inside their 10 yard line Corner Ivan Toomer then jumped a route and picked off a Woodruff pass to set GWU up at the 15. A series of Blount runs put the Bulldogs in the end zone again, this time from one yard out. Day missed the extra point, however to leave his team down 21-20 going into the final frame.
A lengthy drive by Furman pushed them in Bulldog territory, but All-American linebacker Tanner Burch snuffed out a fake punt on fourth down to force a turnover with 11:35 left in the game
The Bulldogs marched down the field thanks to Blount who to got the edge for several big gains.
Cook capped the drive with his second touchdown catch of the night, this time from five yards away to give GWU their first lead of the night. A successful two point conversion pushed the advantage to 28-21 and the defense was able to stop the Paladins the rest of the way to account for the win.
GWU now must go on the road to face the FBS Marshall Thundering Herd next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 6:30 pm.