Samford coach Chris Hatcher called the season-opening win over No. 8 ranked Kennesaw State a team win. It certainly was that, but one of the most pleasant things about the win was the play of a revamped defense.
The Bulldogs defense, playing under first-year defensive coordinator Chris Boone, limited what is generally a high-powered attack to 328 total yards and less than 200 yards on the ground. A year ago, Kennesaw State averaged nearly 300 yards on the ground and over 400 yards overall.
“I thought defensively, we played really good,” Hatcher said. “I was really proud of them. Our defensive staff, I think, like I said earlier in the year, Coach Boone is bringing a difference in the attitude for the defense.”
It wasn’t perfect. The Bulldogs had trouble getting off the field at times. Kennesaw State converted on 9-of-18 third-down plays and 2-of-3 fourth-down plays. The Owls held the football for nearly 40 minutes in the game. But the Samford defense was able to make big plays in tough situations.
Late in the game, the Owls hit a 72-yard pass to put themselves in a good position to slice into a 10-point deficit. Kourtlan Marsh ended the threat with an interception in the end zone.
“The bad thing was we told them that [72-yard] play was getting ready to come and they executed a little better than we did,” Hatcher said. “They ran the boot down there, which we practiced, and Kourtlan made a great play in the end zone. It’s just exciting to see these guys have success early. Hopefully, we can build off this.”
*Next up for Samford is a trip to play at Georgia. Chris Hatcher’s first staff as the head coach at Valdosta State included current Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and current Georgia co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Smart was the Valdosta State defensive back coach in 2000 and defensive coordinator/linebacker coach in 2001. Muschamp was the defensive coordinator in 2000.
*Obviously, Thursday night at Protective Stadium was about interim UAB head coach Bryant Vincent and what his team did during the game in the season-opening win over Alabama A&M. A couple of special moments away from game action were also highlights.
The first came two hours before game time when the team buses arrived for Blazer Walk outside the stadium. About 50 former UAB players met the buses and led the way for the current players. Former quarterback Joe Webb was toward the front of the group, riding a scooter and pumping up the crowd.
Vincent said it was important to have the former players with them before the opening game.
“Number one our former players here are part of the reason we are where we’re at,” Vincent said. “Those guys bled, they sweated, they fought fights together. Every team that’s come through here is a piece of where we’re at today. Those guys deserve respect. They are part of the history here and if you don’t respect the history, if you don’t validate the importance of those guys then we really don’t have a football program in my opinion.”
Players from all eras of UAB football were represented, including some that Vincent coached.
“It was great to see Colby Ragland out there, it was great to see Jakoby Jones, it was great to see Walt Maddox, it was great to see all those guys, Justin Craft, you can go on and on,” Vincent said. “Those guys are part of the history and they’re extremely important. We need everybody coming together. If we want UAB to be an elite program, which we do, and we’re on our way, we need everybody in the Blazer family tied in together, fighting together.”
This one includes Joe Webb on a scooter. pic.twitter.com/WOnHsvGIbd— Steve Irvine (@SteveIrvine04) September 1, 2022
The other moment came at halftime when former head coach Bill Clark was honored. The UAB players stopped on their way to the halftime locker room to greet their former coach. They dropped to their knees for a minute while he spoke to them.
“Everything he’s done here, everything he’s built here is unprecedented,” Vincent said. “It was a special moment. We went through a lot of wars. It’s just like teammates, when you go through wars together there’s a bond that’s hard to be broken. When you go through wars as coaches, there’s a bond there. You depend on each other. Everything hasn’t always been roses here at UAB. We’ve had some tough losses, we’ve had some tough times that we had to get through.”
*UNA true freshman quarterback Noah Walters came off the bench and played with veteran poise late in Thursday’s trip to the Indiana State Sycamores. Walters directed a game-tying drive to send the game into overtime but the host team escaped with a 17-14 victory.
Walters hit Corson Swan with a 10-yard touchdown pass with 48 seconds left as the Lions forced overtime. In the extra period, the Lions moved to the Indiana State 7-yard line before a bad snap resulted in a 33-yard loss. UNA was unable to overcome the big loss of yardage.
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