BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Quarterback Graham Nichols made his first career start for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Saturday in the Mocs’ 24-9 win at Samford.
Nichols was in on the first play, wide receiver Sloan Allison lined up at quarterback on the second play and Terrell Robinson, who had started the previous three games, played quite a bit.
“We didn’t know it was going to be a three-headed-monster,” UTC coach Russ Huesman said.
Robinson’s sprained foot and B.J. Coleman’s sprained shoulder forced offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield into scramble mode. Coleman practiced Tuesday but sat out the rest of the week, while Robinson was limited in what he could do all week.
Nichols got most of the snaps during practice, with Allison working in a form of the Wildcat. Nichols finished 11-of-17 passing for 66 yards Saturday, when his most important play was a 22-yard completion to Joel Bradford on third-and-9 from the UTC 2-yard line.
Allison ran the ball nine times for 32 yards, threw short on a Tim Tebow-style jump pass, his only throw, and also had two receptions for 12 yards. Robinson was 3-for-3 for 8 yards passing and ran nine times for 29 yards.
The Mocs netted only 228 yards of offense, but they took care of the ball and didn’t beat themselves with mistakes.
“Honestly, our only goal was ‘Don’t turn the ball over,’” Satterfield said.
Saturday’s 24-9 win was the fifth time this season that UTC has given up 14 points or less. No Mocs team has done that since 1998.
The Mocs didn’t allow a first-quarter point for the seventh straight game and they gave up two first-half field goals, which made it six out of their last seven opening halves in which they haven’t allowed a touchdown.
“It’s awesome playing on this defense,” said end Davis Tull, whose only tackle was a fourth-quarter sack. “I love playing on this defense.”
The defense’s dominance, Satterfield said, allows the Mocs’ offense to get away with struggling a bit and being OK with a lot of punts.
“We’re spoiled because we have the best defense in the country and we can do that,” he said.
UTC has not allowed a point in 19 of its 40 quarters of play this season.
Linebacker Ryan Consiglio had a game-high 14 tackles, including 12 solo stops. Safety Chris Lewis-Harris had a season-high nine stops and cornerback Kadeem Wise had a career-high eight. End Josh Williams had six tackles, including two sacks.
Mocs linebacker Wes Dothard produced one of the biggest plays of the game when he forced a fumble and returned the loose ball 43 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. That gave UTC a 17-6 lead and a bit of breathing room against a Samford offense that came in averaging 33.6 points a game.
It was his second return for a score this season. He took an interception all the way against Jacksonville State.
“I stripped the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and it just came back to me,” said Dothard, who was spotted by the television cameras doing the “Dirty Bird” dance on the sideline afterward.
The Mocs played without safety D.J. Key (ankle) and running back Chris Awuah (knee) in addition to Coleman, and running back J.J. Jackson left the game late with a knee injury. ... Samford freshman wideout Kelvin Clay, a former Red Bank High School standout, had one catch for 17 yards and a 31-yard kickoff return. ... The Mocs’ offside penalty in third quarter was the team’s first since the third quarter at Elon on Oct. 22.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...