When A.J. Hampton was just 12 days old, on Nov. 20, 1993, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga beat the Furman Paladins 45-42 at Chamberlain Field.
Then many years passed without another Mocs home win -- and just three wins overall -- against the men in purple. Until Saturday.
It wasn't always easy or pretty -- Hampton, a UTC backup linebacker, helped with a blocked punt and recovery deep in Furman territory -- but the Mocs finally beat the Paladins in the Scenic City. A homecoming crowd of 12,187 at Finley Stadium saw UTC pick up its second Southern Conference win of the season, 31-9.
"It shouldn't have taken that long," Hampton said of the drought in Chattanooga.
Jacob Huesman and Keon Williams led a solid rushing attack that churned out 218 yards, Davis Tull had 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles to pace an often-stifling defense and UTC (4-2, 2-1) did enough for a key conference victory.
Furman (2-4, 1-3) had won all eight previous meetings in Finley Stadium and nine in a row in Chattanooga. Saturday's game was the first time the Paladins went without a touchdown since 2003.
"Other than the three turnovers in the first half, I think we probably played as good a football game as we've played in a long time here, against a good football team," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.
The Mocs were up 14-0 in the second quarter but then turned the ball over on three straight possessions. Jacob Huesman had a pass intercepted and was stripped on a sack with Chaz Moore fumbling a kickoff return in between. All three turnovers gave the Paladins field position near midfield or in UTC territory, yet all they were able to get out of them was a pair of Ray Early field goals.
"They picked us up big-time," Jacob said of the defense. "We put them in some really bad situations, and they stood their ground."
UTC finished with 302 yards of offense, while Furman managed only 189. Williams had his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season with 101 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Jacob had 73 yards rushing (with 42 yards lost on four sacks) and was a modest 13-for-17 passing for 84 yards and an interception.
The Mocs' big numbers came on defense with six sacks, nine tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a late interception by cornerback Kadeem Wise that helped seal the win. Safety D.J. Key led UTC with nine tackles.
"The D-line was playing good all night, the linebackers -- it was just a whole collective team win," Wise said. "I thought we were pretty sound tonight in all phases [of the defense]."
Tull, last season's SoCon defensive player of the year, had two sacks for the season coming into Saturday's game, and 19.5 for his career. He was four behind his buddy Josh Williams' school record of 23.5, but now after a big night he's just one sack from making the record his.
Williams, who graduated after last season, and Tull worked out together this past week and talked about pass rushing. The conversation apparently yielded some positive results.
UTC started aggressively on offense, mixing things up and giving the Paladins a lot to think about on the game's opening drive. Jacob was 4-for-4 passing, all short throws, for 37 yards on the drive, and he ran for a 12-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1.
The second quarter began with a 14-yard Tommy Hudson punt return to the Paladins' 36. Back-to-back 13-yard runs by Jacob and Kenny Huitt put the Mocs inside the 5, and Huitt scored his first touchdown of the season on a 3-yard run to make it 14-0 with 13:29 left in the half.
Nothing went well offensively the rest of the half as the Mocs gained just 33 yards and held the ball for less than three minutes in the quarter. The score at halftime was close, 14-6, but the Mocs had a 163-67 yardage advantage.
Jacob scored on a 38-yard run midway through the third quarter to make it 21-6, Nick Pollard made it 24-6 with a 35-yard field goal and Williams capped the scoring with a 1-yard plunge with 2:24 to play.
The Mocs visit Elon (2-5, 1-2) next weekend.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
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 ...