BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team beat Samford 35-27 on Saturday at Seibert Stadium to improve to 5-5 overall and 4-2 in Southern Conference play.
Samford is 4-6, 3-4.
UTC senior quarterback Nick Tiano had his most complete game of the season, leading a prolific attack that amassed 471 offensive yards by completing 17 of 28 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. With freshman star running back Ailym Ford injured early, Tiano also helped pick up the ground game with a career-high 100 rushing yards and a touchdown, and the quarterback played turnover-free football, too.
7. The Mocs harassed Samford quarterbacks Chris Oladukon and Liam Welch with three sacks and four hurries. All three sacks — by Khayyan Edwards, Devonnsha Maxwell and C.J. Winston — ended possessions. Combine that with seven tackles for loss and two interceptions, and the UTC defense more than held its own against an offense that has been prolific this season.
The Mocs appeared to be coasting to their fourth SoCon win with a 28-7 lead at halftime, but the Bulldogs, with the help of a UTC fumble, scored twice in 50 seconds to get within eight points. Moments later, the Mocs faced third-and-8 from their own 27. Tiano lofted a pass to the right side toward favorite target Bryce Nunnelly, but it fell incomplete. However, the drive stayed alive when the Bulldogs were penalized for pass interference, and it ended with a touchdown and a 15-point lead with less than three minutes to play.
The Mocs led 14-7 after Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks scored on a 4-yard run early in the second quarter, but then the Bulldogs appeared to be driving for a potential tying score. They had reached the UTC 33, and quarterback Chris Oladokun went for it all on first down. He and his receiver weren't on the same page, though, and D.J. Jackson tracked the ball to pick off the pass. The Mocs scored moments later to take a 21-7 lead.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Mocs responded to back-to-back tough losses with a solid win that drew them even with last year's four league victories with two SoCon games to play. The loss of Ford to a lower leg injury was offset by the return of graduate transfer Ibitokun-Hanks, who is in line to carry the load if Ford is out for an extended period. With Tiano playing his best ball and the offensive line still dominating, the Mocs will have a good shot at winning six SoCon games.