It’s hard to believe its been 10 years since the 2004 season, but looking back at that particular campaign, there are some distinct memories that come to mind from that particular campaign.
What most will remember is that it was a season that featured two great teams that ended up meeting in what was an epic game in Greenville near the close of the season, as No. 2 Georgia Southern and No. 3 Furman squared off in a game that will long live in the memory banks of both fan bases.
There was the buzz surrounding Furman coming into that 2004 campaign, as the Paladins welcomed in one of the highest profile recruits in the history of the Southern Conference, with Ingle Martin transferring in from Florida.
The five-star quarterback recruit was a Parade All-American, but somewhat surprisingly, he struggled early in that campaign, including throwing a combined five INTs in his first two starts as a Paladin quarterback against both Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian.
But by season’s end, Martin was hitting on all cylinders, as he would eventually lead the Paladins to a share of the Southern Conference title and end up having a record-setting season by the time the campaign was complete.
He was so good by season’s end that he would lead Furman to its highest seeding in the FCS postseason since 1989, as the Paladins entered the postseason as the No. 2 overall seed, primarily due to the late-season win over Georgia Southern at Paladin Stadium in front of what was a capacity crowd. But before we get to that story, let’s talk about some of the other storylines coming into the 2004 season.
Among many of the eyebrow-raising results early in the season, which involved Southern Conference teams vs. FBS members, and the first time folks really started to get an idea that Furman’s new signal-caller was just at a different level came on Sept. 25, 2004, at Heinz Field against Pittsburgh.
Against a team that ended up making the Fiesta Bowl as the Big East champion, the Paladins had their foot on the proverbial throats of Pittsburgh, leading the Panthers 38-17 in the third quarter following an Isaac West-to-Brian Bratton wide receiver pass play midway through the third quarter.
However, with three key defensive players having gone down with injuries in the game, Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko ended up eventually leading the Panthers back to tie the football game, and the Panthers would eventually start turning the efficient Paladin offense over, as the Panthers posted a 41-38 overtime win to survive a major scare.