published Sunday, November 17th, 2013

UTC defense makes crucial stops

UTC wide receiver Terrell Robinson (6) pulls in a 42-yard pass near Samford defensive back James Bradberry (21).
UTC wide receiver Terrell Robinson (6) pulls in a 42-yard pass near Samford defensive back James Bradberry (21).
Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A pair of long completions, one for 36 yards and a 92-yard touchdown, accounted for 128 of Samford's 311 yards of offense Saturday in the Bulldogs' 17-14 overtime win against the 18th-ranked University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

On a day when the Mocs' offense sputtered at times, and the ground attack yielded very little, it was UTC's Southern Conference-leading defense that kept hopes alive going into the fourth quarter. And it was the defense, specifically linebacker Wes Dothard and his 70-yard interception return for a score, that led the Mocs' rally from 14-0 down to force overtime.

"Our guys, they don't quit," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "Our sideline wasn't dead. [Dothard] got the pick-six and I thought we played, other than probably two big pass plays, I thought we played really good on defense."

Samford came into the game averaging 32.7 points and 444.9 yards per game. The Mocs held the Bulldogs to 17 points and 311 yards.

"It shows we've got a lot of heart," Dothard said. "These guys, they don't give up at all. We will not give up. We really wanted this win bad, but we fell short. I'm really proud of these guys and the way they fought."

Linebacker Muhasibi Wakeel, back from an ankle injury, led UTC with nine tackles. Defensive end Davis Tull and defensive back Chaz Moore had eight tackles and two tackles for loss each. Defensive tackle Josh Freeman had 2.5 tackles for loss.

Samford's 92-yard score in the second quarter, from quarterback Andy Summerlin to Chris Cephus, was the longest pass play allowed on record in UTC history.

Run trouble

UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman had a strong day throwing the ball, completing all but six of his 34 throws, for 265 yards and a touchdown. He came in as the SoCon's fourth-leading rusher with 89.6 yards per game but seldom looked like a rushing threat Saturday.

He was sacked five times and finished with minus-2 yards rushing on 15 attempts.

"It was pretty tough," he said of playing with the bad knee, "but I'm not going to make any excuses about it. I obviously was a little bit hobbled, but still I've got to be a competitor and go out there and find a way to make plays."

UTC rushed for only 104 yards on 44 carries, a paltry 2.4 yards per rush. Samford's defensive line more than held its own against the Mocs' blockers.

"We didn't do our job inside," UTC right guard Kevin Revis said. "You can't put blame for a loss on any single person or position group, but we didn't do our job today."

UTC had wideout Terrell Robinson play some quarterback in the first half -- he finished with three runs for 23 yards and completed his only pass, for 7 yards -- but in the second half he mostly lined up at receiver, ending up with two catches for 53 yards.

Top running back Keon Williams missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. Williams, who has 687 yards on 116 carries this season, dressed out but did not play.

Extra points

Mocs field-goal snapper Will Sharpton was back with the team Saturday. The redshirt freshman's mother, Kelly, died last Friday. ... Running back Marquis Green was busy on offense, rushing nine times for 25 yards and catching six passes for 60. ... Former Mocs defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris was waived by the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.

about John Frierson...

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 ...

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