This story was updated Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, at 11:58 p.m. with more information.
Victor Ulmo rewarded his coach's faith Thursday night just in time for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team to improve to 3-0 in Southern Conference play.
After missing three field-goal attempts and an extra-point try, Ulmo nailed a 30-yarder with 15 seconds to play to lift the Mocs over East Tennessee State University 16-13 at Finley Stadium.
"I just said relax and kick it," UTC coach Rusty Wright said, recalling his final words to Ulmo. "Don't worry about, you're going to make it. We're going to be fine. I didn't yell or scream at him or tell him to kick it through there, Charlie Brown. Just go kick it."
Freshman running back Ailym Ford had another stellar game, finishing with 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, his fourth 100-plus-yard game. His runs of 23 and 11 yards on the final drive moved the ball to the ETSU 20, and three plays later Ulmo finished it.
UTC is 4-3 overall. The Buccaneers fell to 2-5, 0-4.
"That was a hard football game," Wright said. "That was two teams hitting each other right in the mouth. There will be some sore bodies tomorrow.
"It was a fun game to be in. I knew we would have a chance to eventually win it. Credit to those young men. They went and won it. That's what was so awesome about it. There were no magic calls, no gimmick plays. Those kids made the plays and found a way to win a football game. They did that."
The Mocs drove 67 yards in 11 plays to score on their first drive, with Ford doing the honors from 6 yards out. The going got much tougher the rest of the way as UTC had only four first-half possessions and managed just 53 yards in the second quarter.
A fumbled punt on the first play of that quarter set ETSU up at the UTC 41, and moments later Will Huzzie hauled in a one-handed touchdown catch. It was 7-all with 13:08 remaining in the first half.
"Everything they got tonight we gave to them," Wright said. "We played fine defensively with 272 yards and 13 points (allowed). That kid made an unbelievable catch for the touchdown. Nothing much you can do about that."
The Bucs used a long run by Quay Holmes to set up a 29-yard field goal by Tyler Keltner, then added Keltner kick from 43 yards just before halftime to take a 13-7 lead into the locker room.
UTC opened the second half with a 75-yard drive, with Reginald Henderson making a big third-down catch to the ETSU 37. Facing third-and-15 from the 19, the Mocs crossed the Bucs up with a Ford run. The human bowling ball roared off tackle and into the end zone. Ulmo's PAT, however, was missed to keep the score tied at 13.
The Bucs put together a long drive late in the third that reached the UTC 12, but as the final quarter started coach Randy Sanders elected to go for it on fourth-and-2. A jet sweep to former Marion County standout Jacob Saylors was sniffed out by Jerrell Lawson for a 3-yard loss.
Another strong defensive stand set the Mocs up for the game-winning drive. The Bucs started a drive at their 20 with 2:31 to play, but three runs netted only a yard. UTC started at the 39 and, behind the hard running of Ford, moved into field-goal range.
"We knew we had enough time and that all we needed to do was get in field-goal range," Tiano said. "We were able to get some yards early in the drive, and that allowed us open it up a bit. Ailym knows one speed and he gives you 100% every play, just like on that last drive. He and the O-line win games for us every week."
Tiano, like his coach, had some words of encouragement for Ulmo.
"I kept telling him all game that it was going to come down to him and that we believed in him," he said. "We knew he could hit it. He does it all the time, and he hit the big one when we needed it."
UTC 16, ETSU 13
Staff writer Lindsey Young breaks down the game in bits and pieces.
Freshman running back Ailym Ford had another big night, rushing for 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 bruising carries. His final two runs were among the most important, covering 23 and 11 yards to help set up the game-winning field goal.
Four. Before his game-winning 30-yard boot, usually reliable kicker Victor Ulmo missed three field-goal attemps and an extra-point try. Ulmo entered the game fifth all-time in UTC field-goal accuracy (72.5%), but was wide left on his first two field-goal tries and missed to the right on a potential go-ahead 26-yarder with 2:31 remaining. It was another poor night for the Mocs' special teams all around. A first-quarter fumbled punt led to ETSU's first touchdown.
The Buccaneers started a drive at their 20 with 2:31 to play and the score tied at 13. Instead of getting aggressive, though, they ran the ball on three consecutive downs, gaining 1 yard. Ty Boeck stuffed the run for a 1-yard loss on first down, Marshall Cooper had the stop on second down and Boeck and Jordan Jones combined for the third-down stop. The Mocs regained possession at their 39 and drove 47 yards in seven plays for the winning kick.
Ford brought the crowd to its feet with his 23-yard run on the Mocs' final drive. He powered his way between left guard Cole Strange and left tackle Malcolm White, then ran over a linebacker before carrying a pair of tacklers another 5 yards.
WHAT IT MEANS
Warts and all, the win moves the Mocs to 3-0 in the Southern Conferebce and sets up a very meaningful game at Wofford a week from Saturday. The offense seems to have found its identity with Ford and the powerful O-line, while the defense is stopping the run consistently. Special teams? Well, that will be a focal point in practice.