If second-hand knowledge is acceptable, then Chris Hatcher knows about the buzz that his Samford football team created around campus this week.
Hatcher gets to work at the Sullivan-Cooney Family Field House early in the morning and heads home late at night. Lunch and dinner are brought in. Perhaps the only time he leaves the building during the day is for practice.
Preparing for Saturday's NCAA FCS football playoff game against visiting Southeastern Louisiana has a tight hold on his attention this week.
Back to that buzz. Hatcher has his sources that keep him informed.
"I never leave my office at this point in the season, but everybody is telling me there's a little buzz around campus," Hatcher said.
He might not see it with his own eyes, but Hatcher is very aware of the excitement that his team has created this season. The Bulldogs are 10-1, with the lone loss coming at Georgia. Samford won 10 games against FCS opponents, with eight of those coming against Southern Conference foes. The Bulldogs earned the national No. 6 seed in the playoffs and got the week off last week.
The bye week came at a good time.
"We played five straight weeks, two back-to-back opponents ranked in the top 10," said Hatcher, whose team won at Chattanooga and at home over Mercer in double overtime. "Two physical games, both came down to the end. [The bye week] really came at the right time for us."
Quarterback Michael Hiers, the Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year, hurt his throwing hand at the end of the first overtime in the regular season finale. He was unable to play in the second overtime, opening the door for Quincy Crittenden to rush for the winning touchdown. The bye week gave Hiers some extra time to heal.
Samford faces a Southeastern Louisiana team that finished the regular season with an 8-3 record and won the Southland Conference for the first time since 2014 and only the third time overall. The Lions began the playoffs with a 45-42 win over visiting Idaho.
Southeastern Louisiana used two quarterbacks for most of the season, with both having ties to Alabama. Senior Cephus Johnson III graduated from Davidson High in Mobile and began his college career at South Alabama. Former Vestavia Hills quarterback Eli Sawyer, a redshirt freshman, became the starter during the season but missed last week's game against Idaho.
Sawyer has thrown for 1,605 yards with 11 touchdowns and an interception. Johnson threw for 1,354 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions and has also rushed for five scores. Running back Carlos Washington, a physical 5-foot-10, 220-pound senior, keeps defenses honest with 627 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns.
"They are very multiple at what they do," Hatcher said. "They're big and physical, so we've got to be really good in the trenches. Defensively, I think this will be one of the better secondaries we faced all season long."
Southeastern Louisiana has 16 interceptions as a team, with defensive backs Donniel Word-Magee and Zy Alexander leading the way with three picks each. The team total is tied for third-best in the country. Hiers has just three interceptions in his 428 passing attempts. As a team, Samford had just the three interceptions, which is tied for first in the country with North Dakota State and Youngstown State. Samford has thrown 434 passes as a team, which is considerably more than Youngstown State (285) and North Dakota State (187).
"We're excited about being able to play the first home [FCS] playoff game in the history of Samford University," Hatcher said. "We need a lot of people (in the stands]. It's a historic event. Only 16 teams left, all of them are really good. We're fortunate to be one of them."
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