Traditional power Furman takes on upstart Coastal Carolina

Thursday, October 5th 2006, 11:04 am
By: News On 6

It's South Carolina's traditional Division I-AA football power versus the ambitious upstart Saturday as Furman plays Coastal Carolina for the first time.

Both coaches have had this game circled. Paladins coach Bobby Lamb is treating it like a playoff game, while Chanticleers coach David Bennett insists Furman is the best I-AA team in the country.

In other games involving South Carolina's small colleges, The Citadel travels to Wofford, Norfolk State is at South Carolina State and Charleston Southern goes to Savannah State.

In Conway, expect a lot of excitement as Coastal Carolina (3-2) hosts Furman (4-1).

The game has high stakes. For the Chanticleers, a loss likely means no chance for a playoff bid. The Paladins' playoff chances could also be crippled with a loss, and Furman wants to leave no doubt who has the best Division I-AA program in South Carolina.

``We're trying to sell it to our kids, it's a playoff environment, it's a playoff game,'' Lamb said. ``Of course, Coastal's got a program that's on the rise and on the rise very fast.''

Coastal Carolina has a powerful offense averaging 447 yards a game, while Furman's defense is allowing just 251 yards a contest.

Lamb hopes it doesn't come down to special teams. He has opened the kicker and punter slots after Scott Beckler has gone 1-for-5 on field goals this year and Arthur Williams and R.J. Webb have combined to average just 33 yards a punt.

And expect a lot of emotion when the Chanticleers take the field. One of their biggest fans, coach Bennett's 71-year-old mother Margery ``Ma'' Bennett, died Monday from lung cancer.

``I hope she's up there getting the scouting report for us now and gives me a call,'' Bennett said just hours before going to his mother's visitation.

Ma Bennett graduated from Furman, but had no plans to pull for the Paladins this weekend, Bennett said.

``My mother will have the best seat in the house. I hope we don't embarrass her,'' Bennett said.

In Spartanburg, Wofford (1-3, 0-1 Southern Conference) will try to maintain its recent dominance of The Citadel (1-3, 1-0).

The Bulldogs have a commanding 40-17-1 record over the Terriers, but Wofford has won eight in a row. Even so, coach Mike Ayers isn't taking The Citadel lightly.

``Another challenge, just like it is every week in the conference,'' Ayers said. ``We've got to be a better football team.''

In Orangeburg, South Carolina State (1-3, 0-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) will finally get to play a game at home when the Bulldogs host Norfolk State (3-1, 1-0).

South Carolina State had to move one home game out of Oliver Dawson Stadium after installing a new artificial surface took longer than expected.

The Bulldogs are coming off a well-needed bye week that gave coach Buddy Pough time to figure out how to change the fortunes of a team off to its worst start in Pough's four years with the team.

``I'm thinking that we've had an opportunity to really go back and collect ourselves a little bit and clean up some of the problems that we've had,'' Pough said. ``We have to see what's in the pudding.''

South Carolina State's biggest struggles have come after halftime, being outscored 52-14 in the second half. They face a Spartan team off to its best start in 10 years.

In Savannah, Ga., Charleston Southern (4-0) will try to push its winning streak to 10 against Savannah State (0-4).

Look for another big day from quarterback Collin Drafts, who leads the Buccaneers with 152 yards rushing this season, while averaging 245 yards passing a game.

Savannah State is averaging six points and 213 yards, while allowing 32 points and 337 yards a game.

The Tigers have lost 18 in a row.