Oct. 29, 2011
Birmingham, Ala. - Western Carolina's Rock Williams returned a second quarter interception to the goal line where Brandon Vaught cashed in on his fumble for a touchdown to pull the Catamounts back within four-points after trailing by two touchdowns early in the going on Saturday afternoon. However, starting with the ensuing kickoff return for a score, Samford recorded 24-consecutive points en route to knocking off WCU, 52-24, in Southern Conference action at Seibert Stadium.
The loss was Western Carolina's eighth-consecutive in the all-time series with Samford, and kept the Catamounts winless on the road this season with the sixth-straight seasonal defeat.
Western Carolina rushed for 172 yards as a team - the second-most on the season and the most against a SoCon foe this year. Junior Michael Vaughn carried the ball 30 of WCU's season-high 57 times for 83 yards while Michael Johnson added 62 yards on 16 rushes in the loss.
Samford (5-3, 3-3 SoCon) climbed on top early after a quick three-and-out by the Catamount offense. Equally as quick, Bulldog tailback Fabian Truss took a handoff in the backfield, stretched the play to his left and found the corner for a 61-yard rushing score.
Following a second WCU punt on its second possession, Western Carolina took advantage of the game's first turnover to knot the game at seven apiece. One-play after Brandon Vaught jarred the football loose on a big hit and Christon Gill scooped it up, Brindise found George Richardson down the right sideline after a run-fake in the backfield for a 20-yard scoring strike.
It was the first career receiving touchdown for Richardson.
The Bulldogs responded with back-to-back scores including a 20-yard Stanley Robinson TD rush and a 33-yard interception return by Alvin Hines to lead 21-7. WCU was able to trim it back to a two-possession game as Clark Sechrest capped a 12-play, 66-yard drive with a 26-yard field goal just before the end of the first quarter.
The two teams combined to light the scoreboard for 31 points in the opening 15 minutes.
On the second play of the second quarter, WCU punter Blake Cain - who was injured in the second quarter just two punts shy of tying the school career punts record - pinned the Bulldogs deep in their own territory. Two plays later, Rock Williams floated back into coverage and stepped in front of a Dustin Taliaferro pass, returning it to the one-yard line where he fumbled. Fortunately for the Catamounts, Vaught was able to corral the bouncing ball and finish the final yard of the return for a touchdown, pulling the Catamounts back to within four points, 21-17.
It would be as close as WCU would get the remainder of the day, though.
Just as the Catamounts had seized momentum with the defensive touchdown, a Samford score on special teams swung the tide back to the home sideline. Truss, who like WCU's Richardson ranks among the league leaders in kickoff return yards, took the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown and a 28-17 lead.
Truss added 99 yards rushing on 12 carries and three receptions for 29 yards for Samford.
The Catamounts missed two golden opportunities in the red-zone late in the first half including being stopped on fourth-and-goal and a blocked field goal to trail at intermission, 31-17, after Cameron Yaw punched one through the uprights from 39 yards out as time expired.
In the second half, the pace of play slowed with the two squads trading punts early. However, the Bulldogs were able to continue to pull away on Robinson's second touchdown gallop from 21 yards out and a six-yard scoring pass from Taliaferro to Kelvin Clay that capped an 11-play, 70-yard drive to put Samford up, 45-17.
WCU (1-7, 0-6 SoCon) did add a late third quarter touchdown as Gary Green hauled in a 29-yard strike from Brindise for his first career touchdown reception. But Samford answered as Taliferro caught a scoring pass from wide receiver Kelsey Pope to conclude the scoring.
Green finished with a career-best 74 yards receiving while Jacoby Mitchell paced the team with five receptions totaling 38 yards. Brindise found seven different receivers including both tight ends, Andrew Rogers and Taylor Spangler, completing 16-of-32 passes for 196 with the two touchdowns and one interception.
Taliferro finished 14-of-25 for 124 yards with the one interception and one TD pass. The Catamount defense held Bulldog leading receiver Kelsey Pope to a season-low, one reception for 23 yards. Pope had caught at least five passes in each of the previous seven games.
Defensively for the Catamounts, Williams finished with a team-high seven tackles with the interception while Ace Clark finished with six tackles including five solo stops. Defensive lineman Brian Johnson tallied a pair of tackles for loss from his end position, finishing with four total stops.
Western Carolina returns home next Saturday to host the nationally-ranked Wofford Terriers on Hall of Fame Day before a live television audience. The four latest inductees into the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame - Todd Harkins (football, 1989-92), the late Terry Helms (cross country and track & field, 1968-72), Chris Moore (baseball, 1996-99) and Nardia Moore (women's soccer, 1999-2002) will be honored during a special in-game ceremony. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 pm.