FCS football: Chattanooga takes down eighth-ranked rival Samford with late field goal
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Victor Ulmo just wanted one more chance.
Having missed a key extra point earlier in the game, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga kicker hoped his teammates would give him one final opportunity to score some points.
They did, and he made the most of his last chance.
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Ulmo nailed a 39-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining, and the Mocs pulled out a crazy 23-21 Southern Conference win over eighth-ranked Samford at Seibert Stadium, snapping a nine-game home win streak for the Bulldogs. It was UTC's first win over a top-10 opponent on the road since a defeat of Appalachian State on Oct. 8, 1983.
The Mocs (2-7, 2-4) travel to another consensus top-10 team next weekend when they face Wofford.
Ulmo's kick capped a nine-play, 56-yard drive that began after UTC linebacker Tae Davis forced a Roland Adams fumble that was recovered by Kareem Orr with 2:27 to play.
"After I missed the extra point, I was thinking, 'What if they come back and we lose by a point after the offense and defense made plays all game?'" Ulmo said. "But I knew we were going to make another play and it was going to come down to me. I'm thankful the offense did a great job; the defense had the big turnover with two minutes left and the offense put me right down the middle. I know the kick was mine, but those guys had a huge impact in it."
The Bulldogs (5-3, 3-2) entered the game with only seven turnovers this season, but the Mocs had seven takeaways Saturday -- three interceptions and four fumble recoveries, including forced fumbles on Samford's final three possessions. The hosts finished with 367 yards of total offense, only the third time they'd failed to eclipse 400 -- the second time against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges had 333 yards passing, but it took him 55 attempts to get there. The Bulldogs finished with 34 yards on the ground, the second-fewest the Mocs have allowed in a game all season.
"We just had to keep pressure (on Hodges)," said defensive end Taylor Reynolds, who had a fumble recovery and an interception. "We wanted to make him uncomfortable -- that was our goal. I felt like we didn't get as many sacks as we'd like, but we kept him off what he wanted to do and he made some bad throws."
The Mocs won almost despite themselves. They turned the ball over four times and were penalized 12 times for 107 yards, including in some crucial spots. They averaged only 3 yards on 45 carries and freshman quarterback Cole Copeland passed for just 144 yards.
Darrell Bridges fumbled the ball while going in for a touchdown and lost a second fumble that led to the Bulldogs' late go-ahead score. He also had a 44-yard run that was negated by penalty.
"It was a crazy game," UTC coach Tom Arth said. "A lot of really bad mistakes on our part and it's hard to overcome that stuff, but give credit to our team, especially our defense. They were put in some tough spots late in the game and they kept responding, making plays, making it right."
Samford went right down the field to open the game, with a 75-yard, eight-play drive that ended in a 21-yard pass from Hodges to Kelvin McKnight. The Mocs responded on their third possesion with a 14-yard scoring pass from Copeland to Joseph Parker -- a drive set up by Reynolds' fumble recovery.
The Mocs took the lead in the second quarter on a 20-yard interception return by Lucas Webb. It was the 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior's fourth career pick-six, which set a SoCon standard in that category.
UTC stretched its lead to 20-7 on the first possession of the third quarter, with Copeland rolling out to his right and finding a wide-open Alphonso Stewart in the end zone.
The Mocs' offense struggled in the fourth quarter prior to the final drive, with five possessions culminating in three three-and-outs, a fumble and a turnover on downs. The Bulldogs took advantage, taking a 21-20 lead with 7:40 to play after a 1-yard run by Hodges and a 30-yard completion from Hodges to Chris Shelling.
After the Orr fumble recovery, Alex Trotter had 35 yards on four carries on the Mocs' winning drive, including a 17-yard run up the middle on fourth down to the Samford 38. Copeland was 3-for-3 for 24 yards, including a 16-yard completion to Stewart, which helped set up Ulmo's try.
Bridges finished with 89 yards rushing to lead the Mocs, while Trotter added 58 on 14 carries. Parker and Bingo Morton each had four catches.
Defensively, Davis had 14 tackles -- a career high -- including 1.5 for loss and the final forced fumble. Orr had a pair of fumble recoveries, and Reynolds and Dale Warren had the others. Trevor Wright joined Reynolds and Webb with an interception.
This article is written by Gene Henley from Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.