BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Michael Hiers threw for four touchdowns in his Samford debut and the Bulldogs upset FCS power Kennesaw State 27-17 in a season opener for both teams Thursday night.

Hiers, a junior college transfer, was 18-of-24 passing for 289 yards, completing two touchdown passes each to Kendall Watson and Chandler Smith. Watson had nine catches for a career-high 187 yards.

Hiers' two scores to Smith came in the fourth quarter, the final one a toss into the flat that the receiver turned into a 31-yard score with five minutes remaining and a 27-17 lead.

Xavier Shepherd connected with Nykeem Farrow on a 72-yard pass play to the 7-yard line but was intercepted in the end zone by Kourtland Marsh with 3:41 left.

Shepherd went over 1,000 rushing yards for his career but had just 64 yards on 35 carries with a score against the Bulldogs.

The Owls fell in their first game since leaving the Big South, where they won three conference titles in seven years, including last season. They joined the Atlantic Sun this season.

Both teams are headed for road games at ranked FBS teams on Sept. 10, Kennesaw State at No. 23-ranked Cincinnati and Samford at No. 3 Georgia.


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