Once again, the availability of Samford quarterback Michael Hiers will come down to a game-time decision on Friday night in the NCAA FCS playoff quarterfinals against North Dakota State in the Fargodome.
Once again, if the decision is that Hiers can’t play against the country’s most accomplished FCS program then the Bulldogs have plenty of confidence in backup quarterback Quincy Crittendon.
No doubt that Hiers is one of the best FCS quarterbacks in the country. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound junior college transfer, who played high school football locally at Briarwood Christian, is the nation’s most accurate passer, hitting 76.8 percent of his 431 attempts. He’s thrown for 3,317 yards with 35 touchdowns and a FCS low three interceptions.
His absence makes an impact, especially when playing a program that has nine of the past 10 full-season FCS national championships.
But Samford head coach Chris Hatcher almost handles his quarterback’s absence with a shrug.
“Offensively, we have great confidence that we have guys that can make plays with Quincy and Mike,” Hatcher said. “When you’re calling offensive plays, you just call them and expect them to go out there and perform them to a high level.”
Hiers’ injury came on a touchdown pass to Judd Cockett on the opening possession of the first overtime against Mercer on Nov. 19. On the play, Hiers bought time by rolling left, waited for a receiver to work their way open and delivered the football while being hit. Hiers grabbed the wrist of his throwing hand while coming off the field. Crittendon came on in the second overtime to score the winning touchdown on a 25-yard run.
Samford got a first-round bye in the FCS playoffs, which meant Hiers had an extra week to heal. Hatcher said Hiers got limited reps during practice during the two weeks in between games. On Saturday, Hiers came out early to see how effective he could be throwing the football.
“I looked like an old bullpen baseball coach, watching him warm up before the game when nobody was out there, to see if he could go,” Hatcher said. “He said he felt good. We had already made the decision that, if he felt good, he had earned the right to start. I just told Quincy, it could be three or four plays, but he’s going to have to come out of the game [at some point]. Sure enough, it was about that many and Quincy went in there and did his thing.”
This week the plan is the same. They are managing Hiers’ injury during the week, limiting the reps and at some point on Friday night, Hatcher will make the decision.
One big difference, though, is Samford knows exactly what they will get if Crittendon, a redshirt freshman walk-on, who accounted for 408 yards and five touchdowns in the 48-42 overtime win over Mercer, is taking the bulk of the snaps.
“Talking about Quincy, he’s practiced well all season long,” said Hatcher. “We felt like he could go in there and play really well. We just had never seen him do it, just like you guys hadn’t seen him do it underneath the lights, if you will. Our calls were the same as they would have been if Mike was in there. He executed at a high level. I think, with Quincy, the team believed in him.”
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