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No. 24 Samford escapes battle with Golden Eagles

No. 24 Samford escapes battle with Golden Eagles

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It was a fight to the finish Saturday night as the Tennessee Tech football team traded leads all night with No. 24 Samford, but the Bulldogs scored with 25 seconds remaining to top the Golden Eagles 33-28.

Tech (1-2) enters its open date and will return to action on Oct. 1, opening Ohio Valley Conference play at UT Martin.

On Saturday, the Golden Eagles showed improvement from their victory over Texas A&M-Commerce last week as the Tech offense rolled up 458 yards of offense and was able avoid pesky turnovers, losing just one interception.

Tech was able to get on the board early. While its initial drive was stalled at the Golden Eagle 42, Nicholas Bigelow's punt sailed to the Samford 15 for a waiting Chandler Smith. The ball glanced off his hands bouncing into Tech's possession at the Bulldog 10.

Following a Quavel Thornton rush and a Jeremiah Oatsvall incompletion, the Tech QB put the Golden Eagles on the board with a 10-yard pass to David Gist.

It wasn't his only score of the night either as Gist had a productive game, rushing for 93 yards on 19 carries, catching three passes for 29 yards and returning a kickoff 13 yards for 125 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.

Hayden Olsen kicked the PAT – and was perfect on the night with four PATs, extending his career perfection streak to 48-of-48.

Samford responded quickly as Michael Hiers marched the Bulldogs down the field, collecting 65 yards on six plays, ending as Smith caught a nine-yard touchdown strike. Zach Williams knotted the score on the PAT.

The Bulldogs moved down the field, collecting 64 yards on five plays, but once Samford got to the Tech 10, the visitors were held to a field goal try from 28 yards out, but the kick sailed wide left. An Oatsvall interception gave the Bulldogs short field at the Tech 17 and Samford was able to reach the Golden Eagle 2, but the defense continued to hold strong, holding the Bulldogs to a 20-yard field goal.

Tech put together its own quick, long-yardage drive as the Golden Eagles chewed up 75 yards on four plays, ending the series with a 53-yard pass from Oatsvall to Willie Miller to retake the lead at 14-10 before the close of the first quarter.

The Golden Eagles took a lot of time off in the second quarter as they started at their own seven and collected 93 yards on 14 plays and 7:31. Gist picked up his second score on a three-yard rush with Olsen's PAT giving Tech a 21-10 lead with 7:23 remaining in the first half.

Samford pulled a quick long-distance drive together to get one more score in before halftime as they went 72 yards in six plays and 1:18, ending as Peyton Ringer caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Hiers to climb back within four, then retook the lead midway in the third as Smith caught an 11-yard pass from Hiers to close out a nine-play, 91-yard drive over 2:58 to take a 24-21 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, Samford maintained another long-distance drive but the Golden Eagles held the Bulldogs to a field goal once again, Williams connecting from 23 yards out.

Hunter Barnhart came up with a couple of big catches to keep the Golden Eagles and the chains moving, including a 42-yard hookup from Willie Miller, then another one on 4th-and-4 for six yards. Tech got to the Bulldog 18, then Oatsvall broke loose for an 18-yard touchdown run to retake 28-27 lead after Olsen's PAT with 2:43 remaining.

Following a touchback, the Bulldogs had to go 75 yards to retake the lead. It took them 11 plays and 2:23 to do it as Hiers threw his third touchdown pass to Smith, who ended the game with 56 yards on five catches.

Getting the ball back with just 20 seconds remaining, Tech saw its first pass to Brad Clark called back on a holding call, then a second try resulted in a 24-yard pickup for Clark. Three seconds remained, leaving it down to one last play. Oatsvall passed to Gist, who then lateralled to Willie Miller and then to Metrius Fleming before the Bulldogs snuffed out the attempt to end the game.

Oatsvall ended the game with 255 passing yards and 47 rushing yards for 302 yards of total offense with two touchdowns. Clark was his favorite target on the night with five catches for 53 yards, but Barnhart had four big catches for 111 total yards. Miller also had 74 yards on three catches.

Tech also had three double-digit tacklers in the contest as Seth Carlisle and Josh Reliford each had 11, while Aidan Raines collected 10. Daniel Rickert had a big game from the defensive end position, collecting six tackles, two quarterback hurries and 1.5 sacks for 15 yards.

Hiers threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns for Samford (2-1), while Jay Stanton ran for 98 yards on 20 carries and Jaylan Thomas with 96 on 13 totes. Ty King caught five passes for 97 yards, while Judd Crockett caught five passes for 70 yards and Smith five catches for 56 yards with three touchdowns.

Nathan East led the Bulldogs with seven tackles, two quarterback hurries and an interception with a 13-yard return.

Photo | Jim Dillon

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