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Some folks might suggest that statistics lie. It's probably closer to the truth to say stats don't always tell the entire story.

Take the case of the Samford football team's defense. The Bulldogs are ranked last in the Southern Conference in total defense, allowing 430.2 yards per game. Yet, Samford head coach Chris Hatcher said an important part of his team beginning the season with a 3-1 record is what he calls a "stellar defense."

In this case, if there was a total opportunistic defense category, then the Bulldogs would be closer to the top. Samford's defense is third in the conference in third down conversion defense and is one of the best at keeping the opposition from scoring touchdowns once arriving in the red zone. Samford opponents reached the red zone 19 times in the first four games and scored more field goals (8) than touchdowns (7) in those trips. Samford's two red zone interceptions are the most in the conference, and the Bulldogs are one of only five conference teams that have at least one red zone stop on downs.

Remember, Western Carolina had 456 yards against the Bulldogs last Saturday but only had 12 points and a loss to show for it. The bend-but-don't-break style worked wonders for the Bulldogs in that game.

"Like I said, time and time again (defensive coordinator Chris Boone) has done a great job of putting those guys in position to be successful," Hatcher said. "More importantly, we're executing at a high level right now. I'd like to see us not let them get down there as much. But, once they are down there, we're playing phenomenal in that area."

Furman's offense is not outstanding at getting into the red zone, converting on 11 of 14 attempts with just seven touchdowns.

"You win with defense, in any sport you play in," Hatcher said. "If you're going to be a championship team, you better have a good defense. Right now, our guys are playing with a lot of confidence. Winning is contagious. You can just see, each week, the confidence our entire team is gaining by winning some close games."

You flip to the other side of the field on Saturday when Furman's defense is on the field. The Paladins are opportunistic by forcing a conference-best 13 turnovers. Sophomore cornerback Dominic Morris leads the way with two of the Paladins' eight interceptions. Morris' second interception of the season ended Charleston Southern's final offensive possession in a 24-19 Furman win. Five other Furman defenders have an interception. The Paladins also have five fumble recoveries, with safety Kam Brinson grabbing two of those. Furman is fifth in total defense, allowing 330.2 yards per game.

For the most part, Samford has done a nice job of protecting the football. Quarterback Michael Hiers has just one interception in 122 pass attempts, and that came when his arm was hit while throwing in last week's win over Western Carolina. Samford lost four fumbles to give them five turnovers overall in four games.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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