Western Carolina lets another one slip awaySamford erases Catamounts’ 11-point fourth quarter lead
CULLOWHEE — At some point in time in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, the Western Carolina football team is going to snap its Southern Conference losing streak.
It nearly ended Saturday.
The Catamounts took a 21-10 lead into the final quarter, only to watch the visiting Samford Bulldogs erase the 11-point advantage wiith 15 unanswered points to saddle Western Carolina with a gut-wrenching 25-21 loss in front of a enthusiastic crowd of 10,112 at E.J. Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field.
“It was a tough loss. I am proud of the effort our guys put forth, but we didn’t come here to just be competitive. We came to win,” said an emotional Western Carolina Head Coach Mark Speir.“I feel we let one slip away. But give credit to Samford as they made the plays at the end. When you go into the fourth quarter with an 11-point lead, you’ve got to win those.”
The loss also extends Western Carolina’s (1-3, 0-2 SoCon) Southern Conference losing streak to 16 games.
Samford improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the SoCon.
The Catamounts held a 21-10 lead entering the final quarter thanks to third quarter touchdown passes from quarterback Eddie Sullivan to senior tight end Conner Orr (14 yards) and senior wide receiver Jacoby Mitchell of (eight yards).
However, Samford rallied in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard TD pass from Andy Summerlin to Riley Hawkins plus a successful two-point conversion, and then running back Fabian Truss scored on a one-yard run with five minutes left in the game.
Trailing by four, 25-21, Western Carolina failed to threatened the deficit in two possessions in the final five minutes of the game
Sullivan finished 16-of-35 for 136 yards with two touchdown passes, but also tossed a pair of interceptions that led to just two Bulldog field goal attempts, only one of which was successful.
Freshman Spearman Robinson led WCU with three catches for 25 yards while Deja Alexander caught a pair of passes for a team-best 29 yards. Jacoby Mitchell finished with only two catches for 12 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown reception with 22 seconds in the third quarter.
On the game’s first play from the line of scrimmage, the Western Carolina defense set the tone when defensive line Brian Johnson caused a fumble in the Samford end zone when he blind-sided quarterback Andy Summerlin and the freshman Caleb Hawkins, recovered the ball to give the Catamounts a 7-0 lead.
Samford’s Cameron Yaw missed a pair of field goal attempts from 43 and 49 yards, while WCU’s Richard Sigmon missed from 45 yards out to make the WCU 7-0 lead stand by halftime.
In the second half, Samford marched 68 yards in just three plays and the quick-drive was capped by a Truss 25-yard TD run to tie the score at seven with 12:40 left in the third quarter.
Less than two minutes later, Yaw gave the Bulldogs a 10-7 lead when he split the uprights for a 26 yard field goal.
With 6:11 left in the third quarter, Orr caught his first career touchdown, and Mitchell grabbed a TD pass to give western Carolina its 21-10 lead.
Highlighting WCU’s defensive play was senior linebacker Rock Williams, who had a game-high 16 tackles including six solo stops.
Western Carolina travels to Greenville, S.C., this Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. SoCon contest against Furman (1-3, 0-1 SoCon) from Paladin Stadium.