Story and photo courtesy of Samford Athletics
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Samford senior place-kicker Cameron Yaw kicked a 27-yard field goal with 37 seconds left to give the Samford football team a 24-21 Southern Conference win over Furman in the season-opener for both teams Saturday afternoon at Seibert Stadium.
“We knew this was going to be a four-quarter game, it always is when we play these guys,” Samford assistant head coach Bill D'Ottavio said. “It was a good win for us, there's no question. You have to win games like that in the Southern Conference.”
Samford head coach Pat Sullivan, who has been away from the team for the past week while dealing with a bout with pneumonia, was back with the team on Saturday. He was not on the sidelines, but he was in the stadium and was involved in the coaching of the game.
Yaw's kick capped a 13-play, 50-yard drive that took 4:54 off the clock. The victory gives Samford its first win in a SoCon opener since joining the league in 2008.
“This was probably one of the biggest ones I've kicked in college,” Yaw said when asked about the play. “This was a huge win for us. It puts us, not only at 1-0, but it boosts our confidence heading into our next game.”
Samford senior quarterback Andy Summerlin made his first start for the Bulldogs. He completed 23-of-37 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns in his debut as a Bulldog. Summerlin also rushed three times for 28 yards and a touchdown.
Junior running back Fabian Truss rushed 19 times for 102 yards in the win. Senior wide receiver Riley Hawkins led the Bulldogs' receivers with five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Junior Kelsey Pope caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, while Chris Cephus had three catches for 59 yards.
Yaw's game-winning kick was his lone field-goal attempt of the day. He was also good on all three of his extra-point attempts in the contest.
Defensively, Alvin Hines II had nine tackles and one interception. Jaquiski Tartt also had nine tackles for the Bulldogs. Brandon Nettles tallied eight tackles and an interception. Michael Prendergast also had an interception for the Bulldogs.
Furman was led offensively by Jerodis Williams, who rushed 20 times for 98 yards and a touchdown. Dakota Derrick, getting his first start under center, completed 11-of-25 passes for 201 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Will King led the Paladin receivers with four catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.
The Furman defense was led by Mitch McGrath with 10 tackles, including one tackle for a loss. Gary Wilkins also had 10 tackles, while Matt Solomon and Nathan Wade added eight tackles apiece for the Paladins.
As a team, Samford rolled up 366 yards of total offense, while Furman finished with 359 total yards. The Bulldogs did not commit a turnover in the game, while forcing the Paladins into three miscues.
After fighting through most of the first quarter in a scoreless tie, Samford put the first points on the scoreboard on its final drive of the quarter. Summerlin hit Pope on a five-yard touchdown pass with 33 seconds to go in the quarter, and Yaw added the extra point for a 7-0 Samford lead. The drive was set up when Nettles picked off a Derrick pass, giving Samford the ball at its own 39-yard line.
Furman answered with a touchdown of its own when Derrick hit King for a 36-yard touchdown with 7:28 to go in the second quarter. Ray Early kicked the extra point for the Paladins to tie the score at 7-7.
Samford answered on its next drive to take the lead again at 14-7. Summerlin hit Hawkins for a 38-yard score, and Yaw kicked the PAT at the 6:39 mark in the second quarter. Furman added another touchdown when Ernie Cain scored on a one-yard run, and Early added the PAT to tie the score at 14-14 with 4:12 to go before halftime.
The Bulldogs jumped back on top when Summerlin scored on a one-yard run with 11:43 to go in the third quarter. Yaw added the extra point to give Samford a 21-14 lead. The drive was set up when Trey Wesley recovered a fumbled punt by King, giving Samford the ball at the Furman 17-yard line.
Furman answered yet again when Williams scored on a 17-yard run with 44 seconds left in the third quarter. Early's extra point sent the teams to the final quarter tied at 21-21.
On Furman's first drive of the fourth quarter, the Paladins drove to midfield before Prendergast intercepted a Derrick pass, ending the scoring threat. Samford then drove to the Furman 42-yard line, but the drive stalled and the Bulldogs were forced to punt.
Samford then forced a three-and-out from the Paladins. The Bulldogs then took over with the ball at the Samford 40-yard line. Samford drove to the Furman 10-yard line, setting up Yaw's game-winning field goal.
For his career, Yaw has now scored 236 points. The total ranks second in school history, just 20 points behind the 256 points scored by Michael O'Neal from 1989-92.
Samford will return to action on Saturday, Sept. 8, when the Bulldogs play host to West Alabama. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start from Seibert Stadium.