FCS Playoffs: Gardner-Webb gets 1st playoff win

RICHMOND, Ky. — Narii Gaither rushed for a career-high 245 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Bailey Fisher ran for three more and Gardner-Webb made its first-ever FCS playoff appearance memorable with a 52-41 win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs (7-5) led 31-27 at half and took the game over in the third quarter when Fisher hit T.J. Luther for a 12-yard touchdown pass and ran in from 12 and 16 yards for a 52-27 lead. It’s the most points they scored this season since the opener against a Division II playoff qualifer.

Now the Big South automatic qualifier goes to fifth-seeded William & Mary next Saturday. Gardner-Webb lost in the NAIA championship 30 years ago and became FCS eligible 20 years ago. In the two years the Bulldogs won Big South titles, the league didn’t have an automatic berth in the playoffs.

Eastern Kentucky (7-5) had a chance to mount a comeback as Parker McKinney, a Payton Award finalist, threw his fourth touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter but on the next possession was picked off in the end zone. His fifth touchdown pass came with 1:02 to play and Gardner-Webb recovered the on-side kick.

The Colonels, who got the inaugural ASUN-WAC berth, were making their 22nd playoff appearance since 1978 but have not won a playoff game since 1994.

The Bulldogs ran for 405 yards as Fisher had 88 on seven keepers and Jayden Brown had 83 on 12 with a touchdown.

Parker finished 37 of 57 for a career-high 454 yards. Jaden Smith had nine catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Cornelius McCoy had 155 yards on six receptions with a touchdown.

Furman 31, Elon 6

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Tyler Huff threw for one touchdown and ran for another to lead Furman to a 31-6 victory over Elon on Saturday in the first round of the FCS Championship.

Furman led 14-3 at halftime on the strength of a 30-yard TD pass from Huff to Ryan Miller and a 10-yard touchdown run by Devin Abrams.

The Paladins wrapped it up with a 75-yard drive that took more than nine minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter, capped by Huff scoring on a 9-yard run. Grant Robinson later added a 25-yard touchdown run.

Huff completed 16 of 26 passes for 140 yards and Dominic Roberto had 98 yards rushing for Furman (10-2). Huff added 93 yards rushing and the Paladins had 251 yards on the ground.

The Phoenix (8-4) gained 315 yards but were 5 for 17 on third down, 1 for 5 on fourth and reached the red zone once.

Elon’s Skyler Davis kicked 51- and 52-yard field goals, making him 7 of 8 on 50-plus-yard attempts this season. He tied the FCS single-season record for 50-plus-yard kicks. ULM’s Jesse Garcia in 1983 and Western Carolina’s Kirk Roach in 1987 were 7 of 12 each.

Furman was the Southern Conference runner-up and Elon finished tied for third in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Furman will play Incarnate Word in the second round.

Richmond 41, Davidson 0

RICHMOND, Va. — Reece Udinski threw two touchdown passes, Milan Howard ran for two more and Richmond beat Davidson 41-0 on Saturday in the first round of the Football Championship Series playoffs.

Richmond (9-3), ranked 14th in the FCS coaches poll, will face second-ranked Sacramento State in the second round.

Udinski was 28-of-31 passing for 246 yards. He threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jakob Herres early in the second quarter, and his 30-yarder to Jerry Garcia Jr. about seven minutes later stretched the Spiders’ lead to 24-0.

Howard carried the ball 12 times for 73 yards. He broke one tackle, spun and then carried one defender into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was his second score on the day and his first multi-touchdown game.

Trailing 24-0 late in the first half, Jayden Waddell drove Davidson (8-4) to the Richmond 8-yard line. But on third-and-goal, he scrambled back to the 25 trying to avoid a sack and then threw an ill-advised underhand toss that was picked off by redshirt freshman Matei Fitz. It was Fitz’s first career interception and the Wildcats only trip into the red zone.