Birmingham, Ala. – Three lost fumbles in the first quarter by Western Carolina aided a strong offensive output by Samford on Saturday afternoon as the Bulldogs claimed a 66-28 victory over the Catamounts at Seibert Stadium. Samford cashed in the early takeaways that came on three of WCU’s first four possessions for a decisive 35-0 first quarter lead in halting a four-game slide with the victory.
Samford’s Devlin Hodges – the SoCon preseason Offensive Player of the Year – set or tied six school records and a pair of SoCon benchmarks in the win. Hodges set or tied school records for passing yards (562), total yards (586), touchdown passes (6), touchdowns responsible for (7), completions (44) and consecutive games with a touchdown pass. He set SoCon records for passing yards (562) and total yards in a single-game (586).
Hodges spread the football around to 11 different receivers with two – Kelvin McKnight (8-for-138) and Jai’rus Creamer (9-for-101, TD) eclipsing the century mark. Hodges added 24 yards rushing despite a pair sacks and a rushing TD.
Ailing from the lingering effects of a chest injury suffered last week at Furman, WCU starting quarterback Tyrie Adams attempted to play on Saturday, guiding the offense on its first four possessions before being lifted in place of redshirt freshman backup Will Jones. The Greensboro, N.C., native threw for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns while adding 46 yards rushing and a score on the ground in the loss.
Adams finished 3-for-3 for a career-low 14 yards passing and rushed three times for a negative-9 yards on the ground before being lifted.
Samford (2-4, 1-2 SoCon) enjoyed short fields for three of its first-quarter scores thanks to the turnovers, posting drives of 24, 35, and 33 yards as a part of its opening barrage. Trailing by five scores after the opening 15 minutes, the Catamount offense got on track in the second quarter, outscoring Samford, 21-to-7, in the second stanza to close to within 21 points. It marked the second-straight week WCU had a 21-point deficit at intermission.
Jones converted the second career interception by Ty Harris into points with a 26-yard scoring romp to put WCU on the board early in the second quarter. The Bulldogs responded with its longest drive of the day with a 10-play scoring drive to push the margin to 42-7. A second Hodges’ interception set-up the Catamounts’ next score as A.J. Rogers tallied his first career pick at the 4:35 mark of the second quarter. Jones and the WCU offense marched 43 yards in six plays spurred by a 26-yard pass completion to tailback Corey Holloway to the one-yard line before the he finished-off the drive with a one-yard TD run.
A third, second-quarter pick by Hodges’ gave the Catamounts a chance to trim the deficit back to 21 before the break. Marvin Tillman jumped a rout on the near sideline for the INT, the seventh of his Catamount career. Jones connected with tight end Owen Cosenke who hit the right pylon for the score with under a minute to play before halftime to make it 42-21 at intermission. It was the fourth-straight game that Cosenke had recorded a receiving touchdown.
Western Carolina was unable to capitalize on the defensive stop out of the halftime locker room, keeping the margin at 21 until the second time the Bulldogs touched the football. Hodges connected on three-straight passes including a 68-yard pitch-and-run to Yassar El-Amin to push the margin to 49-21 and the Catamounts would get no closer.
Freshman Kenny Benton tallied the final TD for WCU with his first career score on the first play of the fourth quarter. Coming in motion across the formation, Benton took a forward under-hand pitch from Jones for the pass completion, scooting around the right edge for the three-yard touchdown reception. Samford closed scoring with a 40-yad Mitchell Fineran field goal and a 19-yard scoring run by DeMarcus Ware.
Senior Mitchell Chancey led three WCU defenders with double-digit tackles with 15 stops while Ty Harris (14) and Michael Murphy (12) also reaching double figures. It was the fifth-straight game that Chancey has reached double-digit tackles. Harris came up with his second career interception as a part of three picks for the Catamount defense, joined by Tillman and Rogers.
For the Bulldogs, Aaron Harris recorded a team-best 10 tackles including one for loss while Tre’Shun Floyd finished with a pair of interceptions as Samford recorded five takeaways with the three fumble recoveries.
Western Carolina (3-2, 1-2 SoCon) returns home to host the Chattanooga Mocs (4-2, 2-2 SoCon) next Saturday, Oct. 13 at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field with a 3:30 pm kickoff. Saturday’s game has been billed the “Celebrate 828 Game” with fans across Western North Carolina invited to the game. WCU will also celebrate the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) with special tribal ticket prices in advance. On Saturday morning, WCU will induct its 29th class into its Athletics Hall of Fame including the 1969 football team and two former football student-athletes in Keith Elliott (1965-68) and Joe D’Alessandris (1972-76).