BIRMINGHAM, AL (GoMocs.com) -- For the third time in the last four games, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team found itself down in the fourth quarter, needing to mount a comeback for the win. The Mocs scored twice in the final frame, but could not pull it out in overtime, losing at Samford 17-14.
UTC falls to 8-3 overall, snapping its school-record six-game SoCon winning streak. The Mocs can still do no worse than share the SoCon title with a 6-2 league record. Samford is 7-4 overall and 5-2 in league play.
Despite nursing a sore knee, sophomore quarterback Jacob Huesman was a career-best 28-34 passing for a career-high 265 yards and a touchdown. Senior linebacker Wes Dothard had a 70-yard pick-6 in the fourth quarter that started UTC's comeback.
The Mocs were down 14-0 after three periods, despite outgaining Samford 278-249. UTC missed a field goal and twice turned the ball over on downs on the Bulldogs' side of the field in the first 45 minutes of play.
Samford hit two big plays to help build their lead. Andy Summerlin found Karel Hamilton for 36 yards on third and eight from his own 49 in the second quarter. The Bulldogs went up 7-0 three plays later. The other was a 92-yard connection from Summerlin to Chris Cephus for the 14-0 lead in the third quarter. It is the longest pass play on record against UTC.
The Mocs had already posted two fourth quarter comebacks in the last three games, including wins at home against The Citadel (28-24) and on the road at Appalachian State (35-28). Dothard picked off Summerlin at the Mocs 30 and returned it for the score to cut the lead to 14-7 with 13:07 left to play. It was Dothard's second INT of the season and the third defensive score of the All-American's career.
"Unbelievable play," stated Head Coach Russ Huesman. "He makes plays all of the time. Our guys, they don't quit. Our sideline was not dead. Other than two big pass plays, I thought we played really good defense."
Chattanooga forced a three-and-out on the next possession, taking over on its own 16 with 11:04 left in the game. Huesman then orchestrated a 12-play, 84-yard drive over the next 6:05, the second longest scoring drive of the season.
One big play in that drive was junior receiver Tommy Hudson's 30-yard pass to freshman C.J. Board down to the Samford 35. Huesman was 7-7 for 55 yards on the game-tying drive, including a three-yard jump pass to junior tight end Faysal Shafaat for a touchdown. It was Shafaat's team-high sixth touchdown of the season.
Samford had a chance to win in regulation but Warren Handrahan's 50-yard field attempt was wide left as time expired. UTC opponents were 13-13 on field goals this season prior to that miss.
Chattanooga held the Bulldogs to a 43-yard FG on the first possession of overtime. The Mocs moved the ball to the Samford eight yard line on its possession. On third and four, Huesman rolled right before looking back to his left. Junior fullback Taharin Tyson was open in the end zone, but Huesman's pass was just long.
The Mocs lined up for a 26 yard field goal, but it was moved back after a delay of game penalty. Junior Nick Pollard's 31-yard attempt hit the left upright, giving Samford the 17-14 victory.
"I told the guys, I know you are disappointed," added Huesman. "We all are, but you are conference champions. You have won a conference championship. You have won one, and we are probably going to the playoffs. Everybody would have signed up for that before the season started, no question."
Junior Marquis Green led UTC in receiving with a career-best six catches for 60 yards. Freshman Derrick Craine led the Mocs in rushing with 35 yards on 10 carries.
Junior linebacker Muhasibi Wakeel guided a strong defensive effort with nine tackles. Junior defensive end Davis Tull added eight stops and two TFLs. Samford came into the game second in the SoCon in total offense (444.9) but were held to just 311 yards today. The Bulldogs were leading the SoCon in passing yards but were held to just 199 today.
The Mocs travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., next week to face off against the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m. (E.S.T.). Catch the game on the Mocs Sports Network and its flagship station, ESPN Radio 105.1 FM The Zone. The television broadcast is pay-per-view, so check your local provider for availability.
There are numerous tiebreak scenarios heading into the last week of SoCon play, with the Mocs (8-3, 6-2), Furman (6-5, 5-2) and Samford (7-4, 5-2) still alive for the automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs. Samford hosts Elon next week while Furman welcomes Wofford. The FCS Playoff selection show is Sunday, Nov. 24, at 11:30 a.m. on ESPNU.