Jacob Huesman rose to the occasion. So did Muhasibi Wakeel, Nick Pollard, Marquis Green, Keionta Davis and more.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga rallied to beat The Citadel 28-24 in Southern Conference football Saturday at Finley Stadium, winning with grit under very adverse circumstances.
The Mocs, who already had been hit hard by injuries, lost leading rusher Keon Williams on a special-teams play early in the game. Cornerback Chaz Moore and wideout Tommy Hudson also went out, while linebacker Gunner Miller played much of the game with an injured left arm.
Despite all that, Huesman scored the winning touchdown on a 13-yard run with 2:02 remaining to give UTC (6-2, 4-1) its only lead of the game. Then the defense, which held The Citadel (2-6, 2-4) scoreless in the fourth quarter, got one last stop.
This was the 500th win in UTC history, and it was a special one for those who were involved.
"I don't even know if I can express how big a win that was for this program," coach Russ Huesman said, later adding, "This could be the best [win] that I've been around. To come back when it's on the line and get it done -- what a great team win."
The Citadel took the opening kickoff and quickly drove 90 yards for a touchdown. Williams, who came in second in the SoCon with 98 rushing yards a game, went out with an ankle injury on the ensuing kickoff.
Soon after, the Mocs were trailing 10-0. At one point in the first quarter, The Citadel had 134 yards of offense and UTC had a single yard.
By halftime the score was 17-7, but it felt much worse than that.
"It did, especially considering the limited possessions," Jacob Huesman said.
The Citadel ran 42 plays in the first half and UTC ran 23.
UTC's first drive of the third quarter ended in a Pollard punt, which was downed at the Bulldogs' 1-yard line. Pollard had a tremendous day punting, with four downed inside the 5.
"Man, he's been so good," Coach Huesman said.
The Mocs forced a three-and-out and the offense used a mix of runs and throws to drive 48 yards for a touchdown, with Jacob hitting tight end Faysal Shafaat for a 4-yard score.
Any momentum gained from cutting the lead to 17-14 was extinguished quickly. The Citadel moved back in front by 10 with a 61-yard touchdown run on third-and-3. The Bulldogs finished with 395 yards of offense, including 334 on the ground.
UTC, which hadn't had much luck with deep passes in recent weeks, got a big one on its next drive. On first down at the Bulldogs' 33, Jacob hit wideout Xavier Borishade in the back of the end zone to make it 24-21 with 2;47 left in the third quarter.
Jacob was off the mark with a lot of his throws in the first half and received an animated chewing-out from his father, but he was 9-for-12 in the second half.
Both defenses held until late in the fourth quarter. The Mocs got the ball back at their 21 with two timeouts and 3:42 remaining.
"We're such a perimeter running team, we knew we could get it out of bounds running the football," Coach Huesman said. "We knew we didn't have to just drop back and throw it."
Green, who finished with 85 yards rushing, gained 8 on first down.
"Time is crucial: It's the fourth quarter and we had to get something going," Green said.
Jacob hit wideout C.J. Board for a 28-yard gain on the next play, and quickly the Mocs were on the Bulldogs' 43. Green then ran for 7 yards, followed by runs of 12 and 11 yards by the quarterback.
On first down at the 13, Jacob ran the ball in for a 28-24 lead with 2:02 to play. The younger Huesman finished with 95 yards rushing and 144 passing. He also had an 8-yard reception.
The Mocs have seen a lot of late leads disappear in the closing minutes in the past few years, but not Saturday.
On the kickoff, Dee Virgin made a tackle at the 16 to pin The Citadel back. Davis and Wes Dothard combined for a sack on first down, D.J. Key (13 tackles) made a stop after 5 yards on second down and Davis got another sack on third down.
A fourth-down heave by Aaron Miller wasn't without drama. The ball was tipped near midfield and wide receiver Matt Thompson nearly caught caught it.
"I saw it and I thought they were going to call pass interference on Kadeem [Wise], and I was like, 'Please don't call pass interference,'" said UTC linebacker Wakeel, who had a career-high 17 tackles. "When I saw the ball hit the ground, I knew the game was over."
The Mocs still had to kneel the ball a few times on offense, but soon they were able to celebrate.
"I'm putting that at the top of my signature wins list," Jacob Huesman said. "And it was the 500th win, too. We made it an exciting one."
UTC, 6-2 for the first time since 1997, plays at Appalachian State next week.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.