The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Zack Rayl grabbed the jersey of Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin and held on tightly enough to tackle him for a 15-yard sack in the first quarter.
The Mocs defense was dominant for 52 minutes of the 60-minute game and held on long enough for a 20-13 win Saturday in Finley Stadium.
"I just felt great and I had fun doing it, and we had a great game plan and it worked out for us," said Rayl, a former McMinn Central quarterback star who made five tackles Saturday, including 2.5 for loss. "We played hard from sideline to sideline and ran to the ball. We pulled through and that's a big testament to us."
UTC limited the Bulldogs to 134 yards through more than three quarters. The Bulldogs were averaging 401 yards per game coming into the contest. UTC had been allowing an average of 299 per game.
But Samford had an 83-yard drive to get within 20-13 with 4:49 to go and gained another 34 yards before Sema'je Kendall knocked down a last-second Hail Mary pass.
"That was an unbelievable job by our defense," UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman said. "It's nice to say we can score 20 and get the win with the way they're playing."
Wins put together
The Mocs' three-game win streak is their third since Russ Huesman's first season as head coach in 2009. UTC had one three-game streak (2005) in the previous 11 seasons and two in the previous 17.
UTC won five straight games during the 2010 season, its longest win streak since 1980. The Mocs will try for a fourth successive win this coming Saturday against nationally third-ranked Georgia Southern.
"We're taking strides in the right direction. Especially the past three weeks, we've been able to come together," junior linebacker Gunner Miller said. "Our team's starting to click with the chemistry, and you can tell that in the locker room and you can tell that in our meetings and in practice."
Samford coach Pat Sullivan was not on the sideline for the Bulldogs. The 1971 Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn suffered a pneumonia relapse a couple of days before the game and was advised not to make the trip. Defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Bill D'Ottavio served as the interim coach.
The pneumonia initially forced Sullivan to miss some time with his team during the preseason, but he was in the coaches' box for the Bulldogs' first five games. Sullivan was on the sideline for the two games prior to Saturday.
Mocs left tackle Brandon Morgan had surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He said Thursday that he hoped to be back working out with the team by January. ... Samford receiver Kelvin Clay, a former Red Bank High School standout, had two catches for 25 yards Saturday.