ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / UTC kicker Victor Ulmo (60) celebrates with his teammates after making the winning field goal in a 16-13 victory over ETSU on Thursday night at Finley Stadium.

Every other kick off Victor Ulmo's right foot, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Rusty Wright had watched intently on Thursday night.

But not the last one. Not with the Mocs and East Tennessee State University tied at 13 with less than 20 seconds on the Finley Stadium clock and Ulmo having already missed three field-goal tries and an extra-point attempt this slightly chilly evening.

"Nope," Wright said when asked if he'd seen where Ulmo's 30-yard attempt had traveled. "And I might not watch another one all year."

Might be a good idea. Just for luck. Good luck, that is. Because Ulmo's kick sailed between the uprights, which meant UTC landed on the right side of the score for the third time in three Southern Conference games, winning 16-13 in a contest the Mocs pretty much dominated everywhere but the scoreboard.

Check the final stats, and UTC outrushed the Buccaneers, 244 yards to 124. Passing yards? Mocs prevailed 184-148. Time of possession? UTC on top, 32:37 to 27:23.

But then there was that muffed punt return early in the second quarter that gave ETSU the ball on the UTC 41 on its way to the visitors' only touchdown of the night.

And there were all those missed kicks by Ulmo, which led one member of the media to ask Wright in his postgame news conference if the coach considered sending anyone else out to try the final attempt.

"Who else is going to kick it?" replied Wright. "Are you going to kick it? (Ulmo's) our guy. We're going to ride with him."

Said Ulmo of such confidence: "It means a lot. (Wright) told me he trusts me. He just told me to be calm. Thank God it was good."

UTC freshman running back Ailym Ford once again was more than good. As Tony the Tiger would say, he was G-g-g-r-e-a-t! He not only carried 31 times for 200 net yards, but with the game on the line inside the final two minutes, the ball on the UTC 39, Ford broke off runs of 23 and 11 yards to put Ulmo in position for one final kick at redemption.

(Read more: Victor Ulmo redeeming kick lifts Mocs to 16-13 win over ETSU [photos])

"He's so good," left tackle Malcom White said of Ford's efforts. "He just gets better every game."

The Mocs have gotten better all season, despite numerous injuries to key personnel and a brutal schedule out of the gate. Now 4-3 and 3-0 in the SoCon, UTC is about to have its life once more get tougher on Saturdays.

A trip to Wofford is on tap for Oct. 26. Then comes nationally ranked Furman, a trip to Samford and a visit from nationally ranked The Citadel, which won at Georgia Tech earlier in the season. The regular-season finale is at dangerous Virginia Military Institute.

But that doesn't mean the Mocs can't or won't win them. They've got Ford. Other than the fumbled punt, they put an offense on the field against ETSU that didn't cough up a turnover. The defense is solid. The offense proved its toughness when needed. There's no reason this bunch can't finish with a winning record, and maybe a bit more than that.

"We're one play (the fumble) from controlling the game," Wright said. "That was a hard football game tonight. There will be some sore bodies tomorrow."

But they won't be nearly as sore as if they'd lost. Undefeated in the SoCon is undefeated, no matter the schedule or what lies ahead. The Wright Way — fundamentally sound football on both offense and defense — is proving the right way for this program to compete within in its league and elsewhere in the future.

That doesn't mean it's easy or that big-time success in the form of a playoff berth will come this season. It does mean — as the Mocs proved by coming from a 13-7 halftime hole to mount a second-half comeback win for the first time in two years — that, in Wright's words, "I've got a tough team."

As for how tough a night this is for both the fans and the UTC coaches, we'll leave the last word from Thursday to Mocs tight ends coach Jacob Huesman, who said as he was entering the elevator to head from the coaches box to the locker room, "I can feel my hairline receding as we speak."

some text Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT