Carson Caulfield, Staff Writer
The Samford Bulldogs (0-2) are gearing up to face the Wofford Terriers (0-1) on Saturday following their bye last weekend.
The Bulldogs have lost the first two games of their season, both to non-conference teams. The first loss came from Youngstown State by a score of 45-22 and the second came from Tennessee Tech by a score of 59-58 in 2OT.
These two games have exposed the weaknesses of both the Bulldog defense and offense, which are both struggling to find replacements for impact players lost from the previous season. While both units needed time to recoup, sloppy defense was the main problem in both losses.
The Bulldog defense has allowed 104 points on the season so far. Over two games, they have allowed an average of 554 yards per game, which is ranked 86th among FCS schools. Defense was also an issue for the Bulldogs last season, but this season, former quarterback Devlin Hodges is not playing on offense and forgiving the sins of the defense.
“Our tackling is a little suspect,” Samford head coach Chris Hatcher said on the Chris Hatcher Show. “We’ve got to do a better job at maintaining our gaps on the defensive line and get better fundamentally.”
The biggest question mark entering the season was the quarterback position. For the previous four seasons, all-time FCS passing yards record holder Hodges had played and done remarkably well. While Hodges was battling for a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, a quarterback battle ensued between sophomore Liam Welch and junior Chris Oladokun back in Homewood.
After putting up 428 yards and six touchdown passes against Tennessee Tech, dual-threat QB Chris Oladokun appears to have won the position battle. Oladokun, a transfer from the University of South Florida, tied the Samford record for most touchdowns thrown in a single game, good for a three-way tie with famed former Bulldogs Hodges and Jimbo Fisher.
Even though the offense could not outscore their opponents in the first two weeks, the offense has been productive. They have put up a total of 80 points and 889 total yards in only two games. Outside of the QB position, there are plenty of returning players on the offensive side of the ball.
Receiver Chris Shelling Jr., one of Hodges’ top targets last season, has started off his senior season with four touchdown receptions and 209 receiving yards. The running backs are led by DeMarcus Ware, who had an impressive campaign as a freshman last season. Ware has rushed for 132 yards so far this season.
“I still think we have a good team,” said Hatcher. “Are we a young team, inexperienced in certain spots? Yeah, sure we are. We knew that going into the season. But the positive is that we are 0-0 in Southern Conference play.”
The Bulldogs must improve their defensive and offensive weaknesses against a tough Wofford squad in Spartanburg, South Carolina, this weekend. This will be the team’s first Southern Conference opponent of the season, and a chance for Hatcher and his Bulldogs to take home the first win of the season.