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Samford starting QB unclear heading into playoff showdown with Bison

Bulldogs coach says 'no idea' whether star QB Hiers will play after suffering injury

In the final week of the regular season, the Samford Bulldogs host the Mercer Bears on November 19, 2022.
Samford quarterback Michael Hiers was the Southern Conference offensive player of the year.
Chase Cochran / Samford Athletics
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FARGO — Samford head coach Chris Hatcher said Tuesday the status of his starting quarterback is undecided heading into his team's Football Championship Subdivision game Friday at North Dakota State.

Junior Michael Hiers — the unanimous Southern Conference offensive player of the year and the fourth place finisher in the Walter Payton Award that goes to the top offensive player in FCS — was injured late in the Bulldogs' double-overtime victory over Mercer on Nov. 19. He was hurt on a touchdown pass in the first overtime and didn't return for the second overtime.

A Mercer defender hit Hiers as he threw and the quarterback appeared to hit his right (throwing) hand on the opponent's helmet.

Hiers started Samford's playoff opener against Southeastern Louisiana, but left the game after five snaps.

Quincy Crittendon, a walk-on redshirt freshman who started the season as Samford's fourth-string quarterback, replaced Hiers in both games and scored the winning touchdown each time.

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Asked about Hiers' status against the Bison, Hatcher said the quarterback will be "a game-time decision."

"Got no idea," Hatcher said. "He's a tough guy, man. He's one of the toughest players I've coached. If he can go, we'll roll him out there."

The third-seeded Bison host the sixth-seeded Bulldogs on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Fargodome.

Hatcher said Samford is "managing" Hiers' injury and hoping he can play against NDSU.

Hiers started all 12 games for Samford, completing 331 of 431 passes for 3,317 yards and 35 touchdowns. He ranks sixth in FCS in passing yards and fourth in TD passes and leads all Division I passers with a 78.6 completion percentage.

"Mike was the unanimous offensive player of the year for our conference. He was the conference player of the month all three months of the season. I don't know that I've ever had anybody do that," Hatcher said. "So, you know, he's the guy that got us here and there's a reason he's the player of the year. So not having him definitely hurts us."

Crittendon replaced Hiers against Mercer to start the second overtime and ran in the winning touchdown from 25 yards.

Hiers started in Samford's first playoff game last week against Southeastern Louisiana, but was replaced by Crittendon on the Bulldogs' first drive and appeared to be flexing and holding his hand or wrist after walking to the sidelines.

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Crittendon completed 26 of 40 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 94 yards and a score on 20 carries.

Crittendon's 10-yard TD run in overtime gave Samford a 48-42 win, the first home playoff victory in program history.

Hiers warmed up before the SELA game and told coaches he could play, Hatcher said.

"We sat out there like an old baseball bullpen coach watching him warm up before anybody was out there to see if could go. He said he felt good. We'd already made the decision that he felt good he'd earned the right to start," Hatcher said. "I told Quincy 'it could be three or four plays before he's going to have to come out of the game.' Sure enough it was about that many and Quincy went out there and did his thing."

Bison head coach Matt Entz said Crittendon was successful running against SELA using quarterback counter plays running back to the open side.

"He's got a burst. He's got some juice to him and we have to do a really good job," Entz said.

Hatcher said Crittendon's been showing talent in practice but has played in only four games because of Hier's success.

"Quincy started this year as the fourth-string walk-on quarterback and with injuries and different type of things at practice, he worked himself up to the backup," Hatcher said. "He's been ready two weeks in a row when his number's been called. We have tremendous confidence in him but more importantly our players have confidence and that's what it's all about."

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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