GREENVILLE, S.C. - A 5-minute, 15-second stretch in the fourth quarter at Paladin Stadium on Saturday will live in University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football lore for quite some time.
The No. 24 Mocs scored four touchdowns in that stretch to overcome an 18-point deficit and beat No. 25 Furman 36-28 in front of an announced homecoming crowd of 10,394.
"This team, since I've been here, and since this staff has been here, has not quit," second-year Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "Not one quarter, not one half, not one game.
Not only did the Mocs produce the largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history, but they also won their fifth straight game and snapped the Paladins' 15-game winning streak against UTC.
"They scratched, they clawed, they pulled and tugged for every inch that they possibly could," quarterback B.J. Coleman said of his teammates.
Huesman, who was on the last UTC team (1980) to enjoy a five-game winning streak, was adamant that it was the players who made it happen in the Southern Conference game Saturday. Those included Coleman, who overcame some mistakes to throw for 432 yards and two touchdowns, and wideout Joel Bradford, who broke his own single-game record with 274 receiving yards on a career-best 15 catches.
"It's not me; it's not our coaches. It's our players," Huesman said. "That's why we're winning football games, and I hope you write that because I want them to know that. They're winning games; they're doing it. It's pretty cool."
There wasn't much cool about the first three quarters, except that statistically UTC was the dominant team. The Mocs, who finished with 568 yards of offense, had a big advantage in yardage and time of possession, but mistakes made that irrelevant.
Five turnovers, two blocked kicks, a blown-up punt attempt - all of the Mocs' miscues, including four Coleman interceptions, in the first three quarters helped Furman (4-3, 2-2) take a 28-10 lead into the fourth.
From that point on, UTC (5-2, 4-1) did unto Furman what Appalachian State did to the Mocs in their season opener.
Back on Sept. 4, UTC led the Mountaineers 35-14 early in the fourth before ASU stormed back for a 42-41 win. Saturday, UTC climbed out of an 18-point hole in that magical 5:15.
J.J. Jackson scored on a 5-yard run with 13:53 to play, but kicker Jeff Veres' extra point try was blocked, holding the score to 28-16.
On the ensuing kickoff, Don Cope forced a fumble and recovered the loose ball at the Paladins' 31. Five plays later, Erroll Wynn scored on a 5-yard run and Veres' kick made it 28-23 with 11:48 left.
Furman held on to the kickoff this time, but the Mocs' defense, which limited Furman to 227 yards for the game, forced a three-and-out. Coleman hit Bradford for 29 yards on the first play of next UTC drive, hit him for 24 on the third play and hit tight end Garrett Hughes for 15 on the fourth.
On first-and-goal at the Furman 9, Coleman rolled right, waited and waited for his old McCallie teammate to get open and then fired a pass to Bradford in the back of the end zone to give UTC the lead, 29-28.
The Mocs' two-point attempt failed, but UTC got the ball back soon enough as defensive end Josh Williams recovered a bad pitch by Furman quarterback Cody Worley at the 11. On the next play, Chris Awuah ran right for a touchdown. Veres' kick put UTC in front 36-28 with 8:38 remaining.
Furman's last chance came in the closing minutes when the Paladins drove to the UTC 30. There, on third-and-7, Mocs cornerback Kadeem Wise made his sixth interception of the season.
It looked like the redshirt freshman might have caught the ball after it bounced, but Wise said he "cupped it real good" before it hit the ground. He also said he had a good idea what play was coming.
"I knew it was third down and they always run a curl," he said.
Earlier, Worley, who is from Calhoun (Ga.) High School, ran 5 yards for a touchdown and threw two scoring passes to tight end Colin Anderson.
The game's final dramatic moment came with 1:29 left, when UTC decided to go for a first down instead of punting on fourth-and-1 at its 31. Huesman asked Coleman if he could get the yard needed to seal a landmark win for the program.
"I said, 'If we can't get this, we don't deserve to get this W. Give it right to me and I know those boys will move the pile,'" Coleman said.
Coleman was able to find a little room - a little - to lean the ball over for the first down, and then the celebrations began.