Football is being played in the spring, at least for smaller colleges across the country. One of them is Presbyterian, which opens on March 6 at Gardner-Webb. Since I had no idea what football in the spring is going to be like, I felt it important as a journalist to find a game to prepare me for what is to come.
I’m lying. I went to Furman University, both on Saturday and to college, which I love in general and its football program in particular. The Paladins have a knight on horseback who rides around brandishing his lance. When Furman played at Sirrine Stadium (pre-1981), the Paladin galloped behind the bench, where I once saw the white horse collide with a cheerleader. The knight sort of swept her off her feet. She was a damsel in distress.
Now he mostly gallivants around behind the end zone in front of the Paladin Stadium scoreboard. The horse dashes down the center of the field when the team runs out before the game.
Then “rolls the fighting onward, hail, full and free. Victory be now at Furman Uni-ver-sity!” The band sits, liberally spaced, at the top of the visitors’ stands, newly decorated in the familiar purple. This is a short-term concession to the ravages of COVID-19. The crowd is limited to students and season-ticket holders, at present. The parking lots don’t open until an hour before game time. It’s a needed shame. Furman is a great place for tailgates to fall and tents to pop up.
I wanted to play and sing the theme of Have Gun, Will Travel with my guitar, but this is no time for such foolishness.
Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam? Paladin, Paladin, so … far … from home.
On opening day, Clay Hendrix’s Paladins were hail, full and free in their first game in 448 days. After an early disaster – an interception by the Catamounts’ Jacob Harris set up the game’s first touchdown – Furman rolled past Western Carolina, 35-7. It was 28-7 at halftime, at which point the Paladins had accumulated 269 yards to the Cats’ 15. The final tally was 533-109. Timmy Bleekrode never got a chance to punt until late in the fourth quarter, and it was downed at the 1.
The scenic Furman campus is a great place to mingle, but that was tightly limited for good reason. The grandstands were marked with X’s to denote where fans could sit. Everyone including me was yelling at one another. Verbal communication is more difficult when the movement of lips isn’t visible. I don’t think I saw a soul who wasn’t wearing a mask.
On the way home, I stopped for a nice, celebratory meal after listening to the remarks of Hendrix and a few players on the radio. If Furman had lost, I probably would have settled for a McDouble and McChicken at a drive-through because I would have been McSad.
Now I’m ready for some footballllll. I’m ready for the Blue Hose, too, to get star-r-r-ted.