ELON, N.C. - The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga put together another blue-collar football win Saturday. Led by a stout red-zone defense and a strong ground attack, the Mocs beat Elon 20-9 for their third win in a row.
It was the second straight game that the Southern Conference's leading defense held the opponent without a touchdown. It was the sixth straight game that the Mocs (5-2, 3-1) rushed for more than 200 yards.
UTC, which beat Furman 31-9 a week earlier, had not gone two games without allowing a touchdown since 1990.
"To hold them to three field goals today is huge," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "Our defense is playing really, really well; we're not perfect and we've got to continue to get better, but we're doing enough things defensively to win ballgames."
Mocs history was made in the fourth quarter. With UTC leading 20-9 following a 19-yard Nick Pollard field goal, defensive end Davis Tull became the Mocs' sack king. Needing just half a sack to equal former teammate Josh Williams' school record of 23.5, Tull sacked and stripped Elon quarterback Mike Quinn.
When texted the news by the Times Free Press, Williams responded: "Nooo! Lol."
Tull now has 24 sacks in 29 career games. Against Elon (2-6, 1-3) he had four tackles and two quarterback hurries and fought through at least a dozen holds that weren't called.
"When I got it, I didn't know if it was an incomplete pass or not," Tull said. "We kind of all stopped and [defensive tackle Josh Freeman] was all like, 'Did he get it?'"
He got it. The sack was the only one of the day for UTC and just the sixth one allowed all season by Elon, which throws the ball more than anyone in the SoCon but throws a lot of quick screens.
The Mocs outgained Elon 322 yards to 293. Both teams scored every time they got in the red zone, but UTC got two Keon Williams touchdown runs and a pair of Pollard field goals. The Phoenix had to settle for three John Gallagher 3-pointers.
One pivotal point in the game came in the second quarter, with UTC up 7-3. Keon Williams fumbled at the UTC 10-yard line and Elon recovered at the 13. Instead of the Phoenix getting in the end zone and taking the lead, UTC's defense, with the help of a holding penalty, forced a field goal.
"That's a great accomplishment for us," said UTC linebacker Wes Dothard, who had a game-high 13 tackles. "Just holding them to a field goal, that's great defense right there."
Williams led UTC's ground game with 118 yards and two touchdowns -- his fifth 100-yard game of the season -- and quarterback Jacob Huesman added 69 yards. As a team, UTC finished with 223 yards. The passing game was efficient if unspectacular. Huesman finished 14-for-17 for 99 yards, with a long of 13 yards.
On a damp, quiet afternoon at Rhodes Stadium, the Mocs were mostly conservative on offense. They did try a flea-flicker on their first offensive play, but the pass was incomplete. It was on special teams that the Mocs got things going late in the opening quarter.
Facing fourth-and-1 at the UTC 34, fullback Taharin Tyson took a direct snap on the fake punt and ran 24 yards up the middle to the Elon 42.
Coach Huesman acknowledged that a need to get something going offensively was "part of the reason I did it," adding, "And that's why I haven't done anything like that [since the Georgia State game], because I thought our offense was in control and moving the ball. ... We were struggling and I think we needed a spark."
Five plays later, Williams ran the ball in from the 4 for a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. The former Red Bank High School standout scored on a 2-yard run late in the period and UTC led 14-6 at halftime.
Elon, which had been outscored 60-3 in the second half of its previous three games, held the Mocs to a pair of Pollard field goals in the final two quarters but managed only one field goal itself. UTC ended with an advantage of about five minutes in time of possession.
"Chatt did a good job with ball control and eating up the clock," Elon coach Jason Swepson said. "That was really the story of the game."
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.