By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Samford had Thursday night's game circled on the calendar and it showed. Liam Welch proved why he's in early contention for the Walter Peyton Award, throwing for 370 yards and four touchdowns as the Golden Eagles fell to the Bulldogs 52-14.
In all, Samford (1-0) collected 475 yards of total offense, putting the 2019 defeat in Cookeville in the rearview mirror.
The Golden Eagles (0-1), however, kept the game within reach through the first half, but it was 35 unanswered points – 21 in the third quarter and 14 more in the fourth – that put the game well out of reach.
"Give them a lot of credit – they played well in the Southern Conference this past spring," said Tech head coach Dewayne Alexander. "They're a very talented offensive team and I've seen (Samford head coach Chris) Hatcher have a lot of them. Liam Welch is an incredible triggerman, averaging nearly 400 yards a game in the spring. Montrell Washington is a difference-maker."
In the meantime, Davis Shanley had a good effort at quarterback, completing 19 of 34 passes for 159 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Shanley's score came at the 2:25 mark in the second quarter on a 10-yard strike to Justin Oden. Hayden Olsen's PAT made it a 17-7 game going into the intermission.
"I was really proud of Davis," Alexander said. "He did some really nice things. Our offensive line showed us some positives. The bottom line – their receivers, we just didn't cover them well enough. They're quick, Welch gets the ball out to them so fast and it's just really hard to replicate the speed of their offense. It's just like a wishbone team and they've got some experienced guys out there running it."
Tech scored once more to open the third quarter, taking the opening kickoff and marching down the field, David Gist – in his first game since getting injured in February at Jacksonville State – scoring on a three-yard carry.
Gist ended the game with a team-high 72 yards on 17 carries.
Quinton Cross proved to be Shanley's top target, completing eight passes for him for 57 yards. Willie Miller, who started at quarterback, was shifted over to receiver and he caught two passes for 24 yards, while also rushing twice for 14 yards.
On the other side, Montrell Washington was a beast for Samford's offense, hauling in eight passes for 170 yards, the longest for 50 yards. Washington might not have caught a touchdown, but he wasn't kept out of the end zone as he returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
"We tried to kick the ball away from him and kick it out of bounds," Alexander said. "He hurt us on a punt return and they got the ball to him in a lot of different ways."
Michael Vice (24 yards), A.J. Toney (eight yards), Ty King (seven yards) and Ja'Rus Creamer (11 yards) also caught touchdown passes from Welch, while DeMarcus Ware and Jay Stanton ran in for scores.
Tech was able to hold Samford to a failed field goal try early on, but the Golden Eagles weren't able to capitalize on the miss as the Bulldogs' defense held.
"We had poor field position early on," Alexander said. "We were starting every drive inside our own 20."
The Golden Eagles return to action on Saturday, Sept. 11, as Tech hosts Furman for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff. Tickets are available by calling (931) 372-3940, visiting the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or by visiting TTUsports.com.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information