Birmingham, Ala. - Karel Hamilton recorded 16 receptions for a game-high 208 yards and two receiving touchdowns to highlight a strong passing performance by No. 20 Samford as the Bulldogs handed Western Carolina a 30-17 defeat Saturday night in Southern Conference action at Seibert Stadium.
Catamount senior DB Fred Payne returned a first quarter interception 42 yards for a touchdown as a part of an improved defensive effort that saw WCU keep the game close including a one-possession, 13-7, score at halftime. However, the Bulldogs scored out of the halftime locker room and held the Catamounts off in the second half.
Saturday's game was billed as one between the top two passing offenses in the Southern Conference with the top two receiving corps. Sophomore QB Devlin Hodges completed 32-of-49 passes for 375 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Bulldogs air-raid attack, spreading the football around to seven different receivers. Hamilton was one of two Bulldogs with double-digit receptions as Kelvin McKnight hauled in 10 passes for 99 yards on the day.
Conversely, Catamount redshirt freshman QB Tyrie Adams was held to 122 yards passing on just 17 completions, both of which represented his second-lowest, single-game totals of the season. He spread the completions around to six different players, though the SoCon's top receiver - redshirt junior Terryon Robinson - was limited to just five touches for 37 yards. Adams did find Robinson late for a nine-yard touchdown.
Adams led the Catamount ground attack on Saturday, rushing for 48 total yards while Corey Holloway toted the football eight times for 41 yards. Freshman Connell Young rushed five times for 23 yards while Detrez Newsome rushed for 21 yards and caught five passes for 36 yards as a part of 147 all-purpose yards in the loss.
Making just his second career start, freshman DB Shamon Elliott paced the Catamounts with a game - and career - high 11 tackles including eight solo stops on the defensive side. Junior Keion Crossen posted his second-straight, double-digit tackle outing with nine solo stops while Trey Morgan finished with nine tackles and three pass break-ups.
Hamilton opened scoring midway through the first quarter with a 36-yard scoring reception from Hodges as the Bulldogs took the early, 7-0, lead. With the Bulldogs moving towards midfield, Payne jumped a crossing route for his second interception of the season, outrunning the Bulldogs 42 yards for the score to tie the game at seven.
WCU's defense stiffened twice in the second quarter to stall Samford drives, limiting the Bulldogs to a pair of Reece Everett field goals to provide the 13-7 halftime tally.
In the second half, Samford scored a pair of third quarter touchdowns including Hamilton hauling in a 20-yard score on the opening drive. The Catamounts countered with a 25-yard Logan Howard field goal to remain within two scores before Hodges capped an 11-play drive with a one-yard plunge up the middle to make it 27-10.
Everett added a third field goal from 36 yards out late in the fourth quarter to take a game-high 20-point lead before Terryon Robinson closed scoring with a nine-yard TD reception from Adams.
Samford's Jamerson Blount led the Bulldogs with 10 tackles including seven solo. Ahmed Gooden recorded four tackles including 1.5 of his squad's four sacks.
Western Carolina (1-6, 0-5 SoCon) returns home for back-to-back home games including next Saturday's Homecoming game against the nationally-ranked Chattanooga Mocs. Kickoff from E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field is scheduled for 3:30 pm.