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The offensive numbers were staggering in Samford’s 55-45 Southern Conference victory over home-standing East Tennessee State University on Saturday at Greene Stadium.

Obviously, that begins with the 90 points on the scoreboard. Samford ran 94 plays and gained 609 yards. The Bulldogs had 34 first downs, were 7 of 13 on third down and converted on both fourth down attempts. ETSU ran 76 plays for 513 yards with 28 first downs. ETSU had the ball for 30 minutes and six seconds. Samford had the ball for 29 minutes and 48 minutes.

Samford quarterback Michael Hiers was efficiently fantastic, completing 45 passes in 51 attempts for 442 yards with four touchdowns through the air and another on the ground. Kendall Watson had 11 catches for 146 yards with a touchdown and Chandler Smith had 11 catches for 97 yards and a score. D.J. Rivas had five catches for 83 yards with a touchdown and the other touchdown reception was by Michael Mitchler.

Just reading those numbers kind of makes one tired.

With all that said, though, the Samford win wasn’t completely sealed until Brayden Devault-Smith’s interception with just over three minutes left.

“I'm really excited for our guys, in a back-and-forth game, to find a way to win," said Samford coach Chris Hatcher, whose team improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in SoCon. "We made some big stops defensively in the second half. Offensively, the first half we played about as good as we played in quite some time. We made some really good plays in the special teams when we needed to. All in all, a great victory especially when you go on the road in this league."

A back-and-forth first half ended with 10 Samford points in the final five minutes to take a 34-24 lead at halftime. Chandler Smith’s 5-yard scoring pass from Hiers accounted for seven of those points.

Jay Stanton’s 3-yard touchdown run with 12:20 left in the third quarter lifted Samford to a 41-24 lead. The teams traded touchdowns with Mitchler’s 6-yard scoring play giving Samford the 48-31 lead with 3:23 left in the third quarter.

The Bucs (3-5 overall, 1-5 SoCon) scored on back-to-back fourth-quarter possessions to pull within 48-45 with 8:24 remaining. Samford responded with a gut-check drive that was fueled by the running game. Stanton opened the drive with runs of 11 and 15 yards. The only pass on the 10-play, 79-yard drive was a 23-yard connection from Hiers to Watson that gave Samford first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Jaylan Thomas scored on the following play to provide the final points of the game.

Samford’s running game contributed 167 yards on 43 carries. Stanton led the way with 87 yards on 17 carries.

“Offensively, other than two drives, we played about as good as we can play on that side of the ball,” Hatcher said.

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

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