The 11th-ranked Chattanooga Mocs football team fell behind early and ultimately fell short in its comeback effort during a 35-24 defeat to ninth-ranked Samford in a crucial Southern Conference matchup on a chilly Saturday afternoon inside Finley Stadium. Following the loss, Chattanooga falls to 7-3 overall this season and 5-2 in league action. Samford improves to 9-1 overall and continues its perfect record in the SoCon at 7-0.
"The first half, we didn't tackle very well, didn't line up very well. That one's on me. I didn't think we played well enough in the first half to have a chance, I thought we played a little better in the second half," said head coach Rusty Wright.
"It just wasn't good enough. They got it done, and we didn't.
Samford struck first after both teams traded the game's first few possessions, connecting on a 22-yard touchdown throw and catch to go ahead 7-0 with 4:43 left in the opening quarter. Chattanooga immediately responded with a four-play, 68-yard touchdown drive in just 1:14 highlighted by a 41-yard Ailym Ford touchdown run to tie things 7-7 at the 3:22 mark.
Samford continued its offensive attack and posted a pair of scoring drives over the first seven-plus minutes of the second quarter to build a 21-7 lead with 7:17 left in the half. The Bulldogs would take a 28-7 lead with 1:42 on the clock before UTC ended the half with a 27-yard field goal to bring the total to 28-10 at the break.
Chattanooga marched 75 yards down the field in 13 plays taking up 4:25 to pull within 28-17 (10:35 3Q) before Samford responded with an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the ensuing drive to jump back ahead 35-17 (10:17 3Q).
Preston Hutchinson capped off a nine-play, 70-yard drive with a two-yard scamper to pull the Mocs back to a 35-24 deficit with 1:16 left in the third quarter. UTC had a chance in the fourth quarter to make the game a one-score difference, however, a Sears 29-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 8:05 remaining in the contest.
Both teams went scoreless in the final quarter as Samford claimed at least a share of the SoCon regular season title with a 35-24 victory. The Bulldogs ran a total of 93 plays and amassed 474 yards of total offense while gashing the Mocs through the air with 353 yards.