FCS football: No. 5 Wofford undefeated no more after late
loss to Samford
This time, a heart-stopper was a heartbreaker for Wofford.
The fifth-ranked Terriers played their usual close game Saturday afternoon, but came up just short, 24-21, against No. 16 Samford at Gibbs Stadium.
Samford (5-2, 3-1 Southern Conference) had the winning score on a 27-yard field goal by Jordan Weaver with 1:28 remaining. Wofford (6-1, 4-1) got in field goal range as well at the end, down to the Bulldogs' 19-yard line, but Omari Williams made an interception in the end zone with six seconds remaining.
"What we wanted to do was either have a completion or throw it out of bounds," Wofford head coach Mike Ayers said. "We were confident that we could make a field goal."
Place-kicker Luke Carter, 6-for-7 on the season with his only miss coming just barely wide from 47 yards away, was warming up his leg when the Terriers took their final possession with 1:27 remaining. Joe Newman, who came in to play quarterback in relief during the second half, threw a 21-yard pass and a 16-yard pass, had a 10-yard run and an 8-yard run, and then tossed a 12-yarder into the red zone.
On third-and-1, Newman heaved a pass for the back-right corner of the end zone but Williams came down with it and the Bulldogs began to celebrate.
What a win! VIDEO: Samford's Locker Room after Wofford game pic.twitter.com/NPU8puSm0V— Samford Football (@SamfordFootball) October 21, 2017
"This one is hard," Newman said. "I looked the safety off and just didn't get my eyes back on the corner. I wish I could have that one back."
His mistake seemed biggest just because it was the last one. But the Terriers made plenty. They fumbled a whopping seven times, fortunate to only lose a couple, and there was a dropped interception by Samford as well. Their defense, while completely shutting down the Bulldogs' running game (10 yards on 15 carries), allowed quarterback Devlin Hodges to throw for 427 yards and three touchdowns. At the end, upon receiving the final kickoff that was headed out of bounds for a penalty, time and distance both crucial, the ball was instead fielded while stepping on the sideline at the 10.
"The bottom line is that we helped them win the game," Ayers said. "You can't put it on the ground the way we did. There were a lot of mistakes. To pick out one play, I don't think that's the way to do it."
With six minutes left and the game still tied, Hodges fumbled after a sack by Tyler Vaughn, who fell on the ball deep in the Bulldogs' territory. Vaughn, however, no longer was wearing his helmet. He was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and Samford kept possession for the game-winning drive.
"I'm not really sure if I agree with that rule," Vaughn said. "I felt like the offensive lineman put his hand in my face and took my helmet off. I saw the ball on the ground. I wasn't just going to sit there and let it roll around right in front of me."
Wofford's defense had another near-miss at the end of that drive. On third-and-2 from the Terriers' 10, linebacker Terrance Morris batted a pass into the air and nearly came down with it, nothing but green grass between him and the end zone. Instead, Weaver trotted out there and made up for missing a field goal from the same distance in the first half. It was Samford's first victory against a top-five team since 1992.
— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) October 22, 2017
No. 4 South Dakota
No. 5 Wofford
No. 8 Eastern Washington
No. 9 Youngstown State
No. 10 Richmond
All these top-10 teams lost today
"I feel like this is an eye-opener. It's a humbling thing," Morris said. "We were riding high, 6-0. But maybe, just like last year (when the Terriers lost to The Citadel and then ripped off six straight victories to make the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs), it will take one hit in the stomach. Now I feel like the guys know we can't lose anymore. It's like the playoffs."
Wofford drops into a first-place tie with Western Carolina (which beat VMI) and Furman (which beat Mercer). Samford is only a half-game behind as all four of those teams head down the stretch with just one conference loss each. The Terriers play next week at East Tennessee, then finish league at home against Chattanooga and on the road at VMI before ending the regular season at South Carolina.
"We've got three teams left in the conference," Ayers said. "If we do what we're capable of doing, play our kind of ball, then we have a shot."
This article is written by Todd Shanesy from Spartanburg Herald-Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.