NC State football 2021 schedule countdown: No. 12, Furman
Introducing part one of a 12-part series in which we rank NC State’s 2021 strength of schedule from the easiest opponent (No. 12) to the most challenging (No. 1).
Checking in at No. 12 is Furman, the Wolfpack’s third opponent this fall.
The Pack is scheduled to host the Paladins in Carter-Finley Stadium on Sept. 18 at a time to be announced.
Head Coach: Clay Hendrix (3rd season) — 19-12 (.613)
2020 Record: 3-4
Western Carolina — W, 35-7
at VMI — L, 14-13
Samford — W, 44-37 OT
at East Tennessee — W, 17-13
Chattanooga — L, 20-18
At Mercer — L, 26-14
At The Citadel — L, 26-7
Wofford — Canceled
*- Furman’s 2020 season was played in the spring of 2021 from Feb. 20-April 17
2020 Season Review
After a 3-1 start to the 2021 spring campaign, Furman finished the season with three consecutive losses.
Ultimately, the Paladins were a middle-of-the-road FCS team this spring.
Furman ranked 50th in total offense, averaging 339.1 yards per contest, and 31st in total defense among 97 FCS programs, pacing 323.4 yards per game.
The Paladins’ offensive strength this past season was in the run game, although they weren’t necessarily efficient. Furman ranked 36th among FCS programs in rushing yards per game (158.7 yards per game) but tied for the 11th-most rush attempts (313).
The Paladins’ analytics were slightly more promising than the results suggested. Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave them the 28th-highest overall season grade in 2020 (82.2). Furman’s offensive grade ranked 39th (67.2), and its defensive grade ranked 23rd (90.1).
Did You Know?
•Former NC State head coach Dick Sheridan was Furman’s head coach for eight seasons prior to his arrival in Raleigh in 1986. Sheridan coached the Wolfpack for seven seasons from 1986-1992 with an overall record of 52-29-3. He had the second-most wins in program history for 28 years before current Pack head coach Dave Doeren passed Sheridan on the all-time wins list last fall. Sheridan was 69-23-2 overall in eight years at Furman.
•NC State is 5-8-4 against Furman all-time in a series that dates back to 1902. The Wolfpack won the most recent meeting in a 49-16 home victory in 2017. Prior to that, the two schools last met in back-to-back seasons in 1984 and 1985, when Sheridan was still the head coach of the Paladins. Sheridan’s Furman team defeated the Wolfpack in both meetings, claiming a 34-30 victory in 1984 and a 42-20 win in 1985, both of which in Raleigh. After defeating NC State in back-to-back seasons, Sheridan became the head coach of the Wolfpack the following year.
Short of significant offseason roster turnover, Furman should improve from a decent 2020 campaign. The Paladins return each of the team leaders in passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards and tackles.
Junior quarterback Hamp Sisson is expected to return as the team’s starting quarterback. In seven games this spring, Sisson completed 51.7 percent of his passes for 1,258 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also netted 30 rushing yards and ran in one touchdown.
Fifth-year senior running back Devin Wynn will also be back as Furman’s leading rusher this spring. In seven starts, Wynn rushed for 511 yards (4.8 per carry) and five touchdowns on 107 attempts. He also reeled in seven receptions for 72 yards.
Fifth-year senior receiver Ryan DeLuca returns as the Paladins’ leading pass-catcher this spring. He caught 24 balls for 441 yards and one touchdown in seven starts this past season.
Sophomore linebacker Nick Kuzemka will anchor the defense after leading the team with 49 tackles this spring. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss and one interception.
Why No. 12 In The Countdown?
Furman is the only FCS program on NC State’s schedule, which essentially made its spot at No. 12 automatic.
Furman also just completed its spring season, which will make the task of upsetting a Power Five opponent on the road even more challenging. After playing seven games this spring, the Paladins are scheduled to play 11 more this fall. 18 football games in one calendar year is a physically demanding task, particularly at the college level.
There is no reason the Wolfpack should have a problem with the Paladins this fall. The biggest potential pitfall is when the game will be played. NC State will host Furman the week after traveling down to Starkville to take on Mississippi State and a week before it’s set to host Clemson in Carter-Finley Stadium.
If the Pack can win its first two games against South Florida and Mississippi State, the likely ranked matchup with the Tigers in Week Four will be what is on everyone’s minds.
As long as the Wolfpack gives its full attention to Furman and doesn’t look ahead to Clemson the following week, this matchup is the closest thing to an automatic victory on the schedule.