Sixth-ranked Furman to kick off 2023 season Thursday versus Tennessee Tech

Sixth-ranked Furman to kick off 2023 season Thursday versus Tennessee Tech
(Furman University)

By Hunter Reid, contributing writer:

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. – Coming off a 10-3 season that included a second round FCS playoff appearance and with excitement the highest in almost two decades, the Furman Paladins are set to begin the 2023 season on Thurs., Aug 31 when they play host to Tennessee Tech at Paladin Stadium. 

Kickoff for the Pepsi sponsored contest, billed as "FU After Dark," is set for 7:00 p.m.

The game, which represents only the second Thursday game in Paladin Stadium's 42-year history, will also open the 118th gridiron season for Furman.  It will be televised over the Nexstar Network, live streamed via ESPN+, and aired over flagship The Fan Upstate and its four powerhouse stations: 97.7 FM/1330 AM in Greenville, and 97.1 FM/950 AM in Spartanburg.  Broadcasts can be secured via, as well as through

Fans can also follow the action through StatBroadcast live stats, accessible via, and receive timely updates through the "X" platform.

In a nod to its past, Furman will sport new silver helmets in Thursday's contest for the first time since the 1970s, as the program celebrates the 50th anniversary of its iconic Diamond F logo.

Two versions of the Riddell Speed Flex, silver chrome helmet are now part of the Paladin inventory — one with a purple Diamond F and another sporting a black Diamond F.  "FU" will be featured on the right side opposite the Diamond F, along with player jersey numbers and the program's "FU All The Time" slogan on the back.

All Furman helmets this season, including the traditional white lid sporting the purple Diamond F, will feature a special decal honoring Paladin great Dick Sheridan, who passed away on July 6, 2023.  The decal bears the coaching legend's initials "DS" inside the Furman Diamond logo he created and introduced as the Diamond F in 1973, and which has served as the primary logo of Furman Athletics for the last 50 years. Framing the diamond are the years 1978 & 1985, representing his eight seasons as head coach, during which he directed the Paladins to a 69-23-2 record and six Southern Conference championships.

To celebrate his legacy, 5,000 replica Dick Sheridan decals will be given away to fans upon entry to Thursday's contest.  In addition, representatives of the 1973 squad, which posted a 7-3 record following a 2-9 finish the year before to earn Sports Illustrated recognition as the nation's most improved team, will serve as honorary captains.

The season opener will again showcase exciting experiences for fans heading to Paladin Stadium, including the Furman Fan Zone, the Wicked Weed Endzone Experience, and beer & wine sales from the concession stands. 
The Furman Fan Zone, located adjacent to the Paladin Statue in front of the stadium, will be open to all fans before the game and include the live music of Commodore Fox on the Ingles Concert Stage, food trucks, inflatables, tailgate games, tailgate opportunities, and beer & wine sales. It is an energetic and fun pre-game atmosphere that fans can enjoy for free. The area opens at 4:00 p.m. and closes 30 minutes before the start of the game. 
The Wicked Weed Endzone Experience is slated to open 30 minutes prior to kickoff and is available to all fans free of charge.  It is accessible from both the west and east stands and will feature food sales, as well as the outdoor brewery experience, while offering fans an up-close view of on-field action.

Furman, a consensus No. 1 pick by SoCon polls conducted by coaches and media, heads into the season opener ranked No. 6 in both Stats Perform and AFCA polls — its highest preseason ranking since 2006. The Paladins, who return 20 starters and 38 of the 44 players listed on the team's two-deep at the end of 2022, placed 15 players on the preseason All-SoCon squad, including seven first team selections.

Among Furman's top returnees on offense are quarterback Tyler Huff(199x292, 2,199 yds., 15 TDs in '22), running back Dominic Roberto(197 rush, 1,120 yds., 11 TDs, in '22), wide receiver Joshua Harris(48 rec., 667 yds., 5 TDs in '22), and a trio of veteran offensive linemen — guards Jacob Johanning and Wyatt Hughes, and tackle Pearson Toomey.

Huff's first season with the Paladins also included a school quarterback rushing record 694 yards and eight touchdowns.

Roberto's strong 2022 campaign, which vaulted him to 12th on Furman's career rushing ledger (2,143 yds., 21 TDs), also earned him inclusion on the Water Payton Award's Preseason Watch List.

Harris played a pivotal role in the Paladins' strong stretch run a year ago, positioning him as a preseason All-SoCon selection.

Furman's veteran defense, which led the FCS with 29 takeaways (18 INTs, 11 FRs), counts a host of experienced veteran performers, led by inside linebacker Braden Gilby(94 tackles, 15 tackles for-loss, 4.5 sacks), tackle Matt Sochovka (28 tackles, 5.5 TFL), cornerback Travis Blackshear (46 tackles, INT, 4 PBU), and free safety Hugh Ryan (69 tackles, 4 INTs, 8 PBU).

Gilby, an All-SoCon performer and veteran of 47 games and 32 starts, counts 263 tackles in his career.

Sochovka has seen action in 40 games and owns 28 starts.  He contributed three blocked kicks a year ago, contributing significantly in Furman leading the FCS with 10 blocks.

Blackshear, a two-time All-SoCon pick, is Furman's most experienced player, owning 40 starts in a career that has seen him register nine interceptions, two of which came in 2021 in the Paladins' 26-0 shutout of Tennessee Tech.

Ryan returns for his third season of starting duty as one of the top safeties in the FCS, confirmed by his preseason Stats Perform All-America selection.  He counts 171 tackles and eight interceptions in his Paladin tenure.

The Paladins' special teams boast proven talent in every area, most notably in placements, where Ian Williams(10x12 FGs in '22) and Axel Lepvreau(8x9 FGs, 52x54 PATs in '22) combined to make 18-of-21 field goals last fall.

The Game: Furman Paladins (0-0) vs. Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (0-0)
Game Sponsor: Pepsi
Date: Thursday, August 31, 2023
Site: Greenville, S.C. (Paladin Stadium, on the campus of Furman University)
Kickoff: 7:02 PM ET
TV/Video Stream: ESPN+/Nexstar Network (Pete Yanity, pbp), Jay Sonnhalter (analyst)
Radio: Van Wagner/Furman Sports Network (The Fan Upstate: 97.7 FM/1330 AM, Greenville; 97.1 FM/950 AM, Spartanburg);; Dan Scott (pbp), David Cobb (analyst); Marcus McMorris (sideline); Tom Van Hoy (spotter/pre-game & halftime host)
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at the Paladin Stadium Box Office, located at the Defenders Gate, and at the East Stands Box Office of Paladin Stadium beginning at 5:00 p.m.  All tickets are mobile and fans should have their cell number ready when purchasing at the stadium. Tickets will be texted to walk-up buyers. All ticket sales are final. No exchanges. No refunds.