CHARLESTON, S.C. — A whole lot of Dominique Allen. An opportunistic defense. Execution at key moments.
All the right buttons for The Citadel proved to be too much for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Saturday.
Allen rushed for 135 yards and two first-half touchdowns, and the eighth-ranked Bulldogs defeated the third-ranked Mocs 22-14 in front of 14,590 at Johnson Hagood Stadium in a battle of 2015 Southern Conference co-champions.
The Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0) remain the only undefeated team in the league, while the Mocs (6-1, 4-1) lost for only the second time in their past 19 conference games.
The Mocs host Virginia Military Institute this week.
"We played hard. The guys got after it," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "Sometimes playing hard doesn't compute to W's. It sometimes doesn't happen that way. The guys fought; they're hurt. We'll come back and play better next week. I don't know if we as coaches put the guys in the best situation, but they had a great game plan.
"Give The Citadel credit; they played well today."
UTC quarterback Alejandro Bennifield threw for 240 yards and completed a 75-yard pass to C.J. Board on the team's second possession, but the Mocs mustered only 55 yards rushing — 35 from Derrick Craine before an ankle injury early in the third quarter sidelined the all-conference back.
The Mocs had only 86 yards of total offense in the second half after 209 on 20 plays in a back-and-forth first half in which neither team punted. The Bulldogs — the top-ranked rushing attack in the NCAA, regardless of division — had 342 yards rushing on 77 attempts. Cam Jackson had 69 yards and Tyler Renew added 65.
UTC drove 58 yards on eight plays on the opening possession, only to see Henrique Ribeiro miss a 34-yard field-goal try. The Citadel then drove 80 yards on 14 plays, chewing up 6:36 of game time before Allen plunged the ball in from the 1. Bennifield and Board hooked up on the first play from scrimmage on the next drive to tie the score, but the Bulldogs then kept the ball for 9:27 on an 18-play, 88-yard drive that ended in Allen's second score.
Craine capped a 12-play, 76-yard drive for the Mocs with a 1-yard plunge for a tying score, but Clark nailed a 37-yarder on the final play of the first half to give the Bulldogs a 17-14 edge.
With offensive stats nearly even, Saturday's game became about the little things, and the eight biggest points in the game came on Clark's two field goals and a safety when Bennifield was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the final play of the third quarter.
On the play, UTC receiver James Stovall was in the vicinity of the pass.
"They told me I didn't throw towards a receiver, and I was in the end zone," Bennifield said. "I didn't agree with it, but you've got to go with what the ref calls."
In addition, the Bulldogs were 13-for-20 on third-down conversions, with seemingly every conversion coming at the perfect time. They were 1-for-5 in the third quarter when each team's defenses had taken over but made a pair of crucial conversions on the final drive, which started with 5:18 to play and didn't end until Clark's 32-yard field goal split the uprights with 24 seconds remaining.
Bennifield did drive the Mocs to the Bulldogs' 49, but his last-second heave fell incomplete.
Nakevion Leslie had 19 tackles for the Mocs, with fellow linebacker Dale Warren adding 15. Cedric Nettles (13), Vantrel McMillan 12 and Keionta Davis (10) also finished with double-digit tackles, but the Mocs had only two tackles for loss as a team.
"We just have to put this in the past," Nettles said. "We have to move forward. Just continue to play our game, play our style of football and can't worry about the rest."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.