BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Each week during the 2021 season, we will release The Chris Hatcher Show. The show, hosted by Kevin Blackwell and featuring head football coach Chris Hatcher, will look back at the previous week’s football game and look forward to the upcoming contest.
The Bulldogs come into this week with a record of 4-5 overall and 3-4 in Southern Conference play following an impressive 35-14 homecoming win over The Citadel last Saturday. Hatcher said he appreciated the support of a great crowd at Saturday’s game.
“It was a beautiful day, weather-wise,” Hatcher said. “I appreciate our fans coming out, the alumni coming out and our students. They (the students) have been outstanding this year and it’s become an event for really the first time since I’ve been the coach here, it’s become an event for the students and that’s great to see that spirit come out. I’m excited that we played well for all involved.”
The Samford defense had one of its strongest games of the season. Nathan East led the unit with 15 tackles, while Josiah Cotton had 11 stops and Seth Simmer had 10 tackles. Freshman Midnight Steward recovered a fumble and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown at a key point in the game.
“We played great team defense,” Hatcher said. “East kind of led the way. One of our strengths is our linebacking corps. Trimarcus Cheeks does a great job. Jo Jo (Josiah Cotton), he had a tremendous day as well, he just seems to be getting better and better as we go. The turnovers were big, especially the one Midnight had. We’re up 28-7 at that particular time. The Citadel had a long drive, we forced a fumble and then Midnight picked it up and I got on him, he looked like he was tired about 10 yards into the run. He picked up a few key blocks, they missed a couple of tackles and he lumbered into the end zone.”
Offensively, the running game led the way. The Bulldogs rushed for a team total of 252 yards. Jay Stanton led the way with 134 yards and a touchdown. DeMarcus Ware also rushed for two touchdowns in the win.
“They played really well,” Hatcher said of Stanton and Ware. “You’ve got to give credit to our offensive line. We were running the inside zone against some pretty nasty looks that you would normally not run it against, but we were just mashing them back. The backs had really good vision, made good cuts. For the first time all year we consistently made the unblocked player miss, which allowed us to have some longer runs. If you can run it like that, there’s no reason to call any other plays. I was really proud that those guys had the spotlight on them and played well, especially in key moments throughout the course of the game.”
Hatcher talked a little about the improvements he’s seen from the offensive line this season.
“After the UT Martin game, since that point, we’ve been very efficient in our run game,” Hatcher said. “We’ve been very efficient in protecting the passer. I think after the UT Martin game, we as coaches put our guys in a poor situation in the game, and we made a few tweaks and fixed a few things to play more to the strengths of our o-line and they’ve been playing really well here of late.”
One of the big plays in Saturday’s win was a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown by Montrell Washington. Hatcher talked about the play and about Washington as a player in general.
“He’s a guy who you’ve got to find a way to get the ball in his hands,” Hatcher said of Washington. “You get him in open space, he is very elusive, he’s a tough runner. It was a thing of beauty, we had everybody blocked except for the punter and the deep snapper on that particular one, those were the two unblocked guys, and he knows he’s got to beat them. He made those guys look silly. He’s a character, but he sure is a good player. We’re excited of where he started and where he is now. He’s got a great opportunity probably to play ball after Samford, but more importantly he’s right there to get his Samford degree at the end of this semester.”
This week, Samford will travel to Gainesville, Fla., to take on the SEC’s Florida Gators. Hatcher talked a little about playing on a bigger stage and in a more exciting atmosphere.
“It comes down to preparation and being the best that you can be each and every week,” Hatcher said. “We’re going to do a great job of preparing this week. I think the big thing is you’ve got to keep it simple. You’ve got to take the fight to the opponent early in the game. You’ve got to be efficient offensively, you can’t give up any negative plays and then defensively, you can’t give up any big plays. It’s a game where, at the end of the day, they’re very difficult games to play in. But we’re going to go down there, we’re going to enjoy the atmosphere, we’re going to enjoy all the things that go with it and we’re going to play to the very best of our abilities and hopefully we’ve got a shot there at the end of the game to make some magic happen.”
Saturday’s game is set for an 11 a.m. (CT) start from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game can be seen live on ESPN+ or SECN+ at the following links: ESPN+ SECN+. Live stats are also available at the following link: LIVE STATS.
FOLLOW THE BULLDOGS:
For the latest news and information on Samford football, visit the official website for Samford Athletics at SamfordSports.com. Fans can also follow the Bulldogs on social media at /SamfordFootball (Facebook), @SamfordFootball (Instagram) and @SamfordFootball (Twitter).