BIRMINIGHAM, ALA. -- Cameron Yaw kicked a 27-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining in the game to lift Samford to a 24-21 Southern Conference victory over Furman in the 2012 season opener for both teams Saturday afternoon at Seibert Stadium.
Yaw's game winning kick came after the Bulldogs took advantage of pass interference penalty on Furman at the Paladin 27. Using the automatic first down, Samford ran the ball five consecutive times to advance to the 10, where Yaw drilled home the decisive field goal.
Furman failed to threaten in the final seconds, and the game ended with an Alvin Hines interception — the Bulldogs' third of the game — on a long pass at Samford 10.
In an otherwise dead even statistical performance that saw the Bulldogs claim a slim 366-359 advantage in total offense, the difference in the game was turnovers, with Furman committing four miscues while Samford registered turnover-free ball.
"We played hard most of the time and had some opportunities but turned it over four times, and they didn't (turn it over)," said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler. "We had several penalties, including couple of costly ones. We made some mistakes that we actually overcame, but we've got to get more consistent than we were today to win some games."
Furman running back Jerodis Williams led the Paladins offensively, rushing 20 times for 98 yards and a touchdown. The performance helped the senior from Prattville, Ala., become only the 11th player in program history to top the 2,000-yard career rushing plateau, finishing the contest with 2,025 yards.
Williams' 17-yard scoring run with 44 seconds to go in the third quarter tied the contest at 21-21.
On their next possession the Paladins moved from the 16 to the Samford 46, but a holding call on second down and a interception two plays later by Michael Pendergast at the Samford 32 halted the advance.
On fourth and three, punting situation at the Paladins 49, Furman was flagged for offsides, allowing Samford to retain possession before punting the Paladins into a hole at the Furman 12.
The Paladins failed to pick up a first down and were again forced to kick. Ray Early's 43-yard effort gave Samford the ball at their own 41 with 5:27 to go, after which the Bulldogs controlled the ball and took advantage of the interference call to set up Yaw's game winning field goal.
Furman avoided an early deficit with a successful goal line stand on fourth down on the Samford's first possession.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring after Brandon Nettles intercepted a pass by Paladin quarterback Dakota Derrick at the Samford 39. Bulldog signal caller Andy Summerlin connected with Chris Cephus for 51 yards to the Furman 5 and on the next play drilled a 5-yard strike into the hands of Kelsey Pope for a 7-0 lead with less than a minute left in the first period.
Furman tied it midway through the second quarter when Derrick lofted a pass into the hands of Will King, who turned and sprinted down the sideline to complete a 36-yard scoring play.
The Bulldogs answered almost immediately behind Summerlin, who on the ensuing possession connected with Pope for 37 yards to the Furman 38 and on the next play dropped a 38-yard scoring strike into the hands of Riley Hawkins behind Paladin coverage.
Furman promptly tied it at 14-14, using five plays to cover 73 yards. A 41-yard Derrick connection to Paladin All-America tight end Colin Anderson gave the Paladins the ball the Bulldog 31. Williams then rolled around right end for 27 yards to the 4, and two plays later freshman Ernie Cain bullded over from a yard out to knot the game.
A fumbled punt by Furman that was recovered by Samford's Trey Wesley at the Paladin 17 set up the first score of the second half, a 1-yard plunge by Summerlin that gave the Bulldogs a 21-14 advantage.
Summerlin completed 23-of-37 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 28 yards and a score.
Derrick connected on 11-of-25 pass attempts for 201 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times.
The loss was the second straight season opening defeat for Furman, which fell, 30-23, to Coastal Carolina last year in Conway, S.C.
The loss snapped Furman's four-game winning streak at Samford.
Players earning their first collegiate starts on Saturday against Samford included senior Will King (WR), redshirt freshman Tank Phillips (OG), and redshirt freshman Eric Thoni (C).
Seeing his first collegiate action as a punter, senior Ben Granger averaged 45.5 yards on two attempts.
True freshman Jairus Hollman had five kickoff returns for 101 yards, with a long of 28 yards.