FCS Playoffs First Round
The Matchup – Furman (7-4) at Elon (8-3)
Kickoff – 1 p.m. ET Saturday at Rhodes Stadium (11,250) in Elon, North Carolina
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – Elon leads 11-7 (last meeting: Elon won 34-31 at Furman on Sept. 9)
Players to Watch – Furman: QB P.J. Blazejowski (112 of 181, 2,208 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs), RB Antonio Wilcox (143 carries, 698 yards, 13 TDs), NG Jaylan Reid (41 TT, 8 1/2 TFL, 5 QBH), S Aaquil Annoor (55 TT, 2 INTs, 2 FF); Elon: QB Davis Cheek (166 of 280, 2,230 yards, 14 TDs, 7 INTs), RB Sean McNair (144 carries, 562 yards, 3 TDs), LB Warren Messer (104 TT, 10 TFL, 5 1/2 Sacks), S Chris Blair (346 career tackles)
The Skinny – This is a rematch of Elon’s 34-31 win at Furman, when Owen Johnson kicked a game-winning, 36-yard field goal with five seconds remaining. Both teams have first-year coaches who won conference coach of the year honors – Furman’s Clay Hendrix in the Southern Conference and Elon’s Curt Cignetti in CAA Football. The visiting Paladins will try to pound a bruising run game with Wilcox (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) and Kealand Dirks (6-0, 244), although when they pass the ball, the usually efficient Blazejowski gets time from his offensive line (only six sacks allowed). The Phoenix have youth in the offensive skill positions and they ended the regular season with two straight losses, scoring a combined nine points. Cheek, the CAA Football offensive rookie of the year, must avoid the Furman pass rush to work the ball to No. 1 WR Kortez Weeks.
Up Next – The winner plays at No. 7 seed Wofford (9-2) in the second round Dec. 2.
Prediction – The first-time meeting reflects how these teams are evenly matched. Furman, 0-3 against playoff teams by a combined 10 points, is due for a breakthrough. Furman 24-23.