By Carey Phillips
Samford held Western Carolina scoreless in the second half Saturday and claimed a 31-13 Southern Conference football victory before 7,336 fans at E.J. Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field.
Liam Welch completed nine of 19 passes for 115 yards and rushed for 195 yards in 20 attempts for the Bulldogs.
Jay Stanton gained 80 yards in 15 carries, and Devan Walker added 65 yards in 13 tries.
Kendall Watson caught three passes for 43 yards.
Tyrie Adams completed 13 of 29 passes for 181 yards for the Catamounts (3-8, 2-6,) who finished eighth among nine league teams. He also was the team’s top rusher although he had just 21 yards in nine carries.
The team was limited to 70 yards rushing.
Clayton Bardell had four receptions for 74 yards.
WCU wasted no time getting on the board after Caleb Ferguson returned the opening kickoff 72 yards to the 25. Adams completed a touchdown pass to Donavan Spencer just 15 seconds into the game, but the Cats would not reach the end zone again. Julian Pletz kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Samford struggled with miscues early, including fumbles on the first two possessions.
Torrion Stevenson recovered a fumble by starting quarterback Chris Oladokun at midfield, but Western had to punt.
Oladokun led a drive to the WCU 20 before he was knocked from the game and didn’t return. He fumbled while being sacked, and K.J. Milner recovered giving the Cats possession at the 37.
Adams completed a 13-yard pass to Nate Mullen, but the drive stalled. Pletz kicked a 44-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with three minutes left in the opening period.
Antwione Sims returned the kickoff 65 yards to the 25, but the Bulldogs came up empty when Mitchell Fineran missed a 34-yard field goal.
Samford cut the gap to 10-7 on a 59-yard punt return and the first of Fineran’s four extra points with 27 seconds on the clock.
Adams had an 11-yard run and completed passes of 26 yards to Jaylin Young and 10 yards to Owen Cosenke following the kickoff. Pletz kicked a 44-yard field goal for a 13-7 lead with 10:08 to play in the half.
The Bulldogs marched 64 yards in 13 plays to take the lead. Highlights included Welch passes of 19 and 17 yards to Watson and 16 yards to Michael Vice. Welch scored from a yard out giving his team a 14-13 edge at the 5:45 mark.
Samford got the ball back when Jaleel Laguins recovered Ferguson’s fumble at the Bulldog 36. Welch gained 6 yards to convert a fourth-and-2 setting up Fineran’s 39-yard field goal for a 17-13 advantage with 21 seconds on the clock.
Samford put together a 75-yard drive in 15 plays to start the second half. Welch kept it going by gaining 3 yards on fourth-and-1 and also had a 20-yard run. His 2-yard TD pass to Vice made it 24-13 with 8:58 to play in the third quarter.
The Cats drove inside the 10 before Adams fumbled while losing yardage. The ball rolled to the 30 before Vice recovered.
After an exchange of punts, the Bulldogs marched 78 yards in eight plays. Welch completed a 39-yard pass to Robert Adams ahead of Stanton’s 12-yard TD run for a 31-13 lead with 12:42 on the clock.
WCU reached the 14 before being stopped on downs.
Samford marched to the Cat 16 late in the game, but Walker fumbled with Ty Harris recovering at the 5.
Nick Barton led the Bulldogs with eight tackles.
Harris and Trevor Childers had big games for the Western defense with 17 tackles apiece.
WCU linebacker Jayden Pauling was named Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Five of his six tackles were solos, including two sacks, and he forced two fumbles.