No. 3 Chattanooga Rolls to 41-21 Win over Samford in SoCon Showdown

CHATTANOOGA—The 3rd-ranked Chattanooga Mocs utilized a balanced attack in a 41-21 win over Southern Conference rival Samford Saturday afternoon. Balanced is the operative term as both sides of the ball contributed to the victory.

“Great win,” coach Russ Huesman said. “We beat a good football team that has great skill kids that are hard to tackle. It was great to run the ball like we did and had some stops.

“Both teams made mistakes, the penalties and the turnovers that will come back to bite you. I’m a little disappointed in that, but I’m very proud of our football team…fantastic football win.”

The offense recorded 521 yards, with 285 on the ground and 236 in the air. Derrick Craine was the big story, rushing for a career-high 222 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns. It’s the third-highest total in school history, with 194 coming in the second half.

“That’s why they call him the ‘Craine Traine’,” junior quarterback Alejandro Bennifield shared. “The offensive line created some holes, and he punched it through and finished the runs strong. (You) have to give credit to both Craine and the offensive line.”

Moments later talking with the assembled media, Craine echoed that final thought.

“I have to give credit to the offensive line. All five of them were out there hustling for me today, working hard. Even the wide receivers were in front of me blocking linebackers and safeties. They were all outstanding today.”

The defense allowed 389 yards, 343 in the air, but they limited the FCS’ top offense to 21 points.  Samford entered today scoring at a 56.0 points-per-game clip. Keionta Davis and Dale Warren were the leaders. Davis tied a career best with three sacks and is now second all-time at UTC with 25.5 in his career. Warren had a career-high 10 stops, with three for loss including two sacks.

It was a quick start for the Mocs. Alejandro Bennifield hit Richardre Bagley near mid-field. Bagley was stripped of the ball at the Bulldogs five but recovered in the end zone for the first tally. Bennifield ran for one (16 yards) and found Xavier Borishade (31 yards) for another as the lead swelled to 21-0 with 3:33 to go in the second quarter.

Stuck at their own 15 after a short kick return, Devlin Hodges got the Bulldogs offense in gear on the ensuing possession. After a short run, Hodges escaped intense pressure to find Kevin Marion on a 20 yard catch-and-run. A 15-yard penalty for a push after he exited the field gave Samford excellent field position. Seven plays later, Hodges found Kelvin McKnight in the back corner of the end zone to make it 21-7 at the break.

It was the Craine show from there. He scored both of his touchdowns – 35 and 1-yard runs – along with the 194 yards. In fact, 220 of the offense’s 250 second-frame output came on the ground behind excellent offensive line play.

The defense was not to be outdone. Its three takeaways, five sacks and stifling third-down work (2/14 3rd down conversions) led to a dramatic 39:18-20:42 difference in time of possession. The Mocs scored 17 points off the three Bulldog turnovers.

Bennifield had 281 yards total offense with 236 passing and 45 rushing. He accounted for three scores with two passing, completing 19 of 34 on the day, and one on the ground. Borishade led the receiving corps with five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown, while Bagley (79 yards) and Alphonso Stewart (30) added four receptions.

Hodges threw for 314 yards on 28 of 45 with two touchdowns and an interception. McKnight was his favorite target with nine catches for 143 yards and both scores. Karel Hamilton caught eight balls for 74 yards.

The secondary matched the hype surrounding the highly-touted Samford passing attack. Trevor Wright had three tackles with an interception, recovered fumble and two pass breakups. Fellow corner C.J. Fritz and safety Cedric Nettles each forced a fumble, while safety Lucas Webb forced and recovered fumbles as well.

Nettles’ play was pretty special. He caught McKnight heading in for a score, stripped the ball into the end zone where Webb pounced hustling in pursuit. That turned into a 46-yard Henrique Ribeiro field goal early in the third quarter.

The interception by Wright proved timely as well. In a 13-point game, 34-21, the Bulldogs defense held after a Hodges-McKnight connection. Taking over on their own 22, Hodges second pass was tipped and corralled by Wright at the 34 with 4:30 remaining. Six plays later Craine plunged in from a yard out to put the game out of reach.

The Mocs improve to 4-0 overall, 2-0 in the SoCon tied for first with 10th-ranked The Citadel. Samford drops to 2-1, 1-1 in league play.

It’s back on the road next weekend renewing the gridiron rivalry at ETSU. Game time in Johnson City is Noon. Access links to the video stream (SoCon Digital Network), audio (Mocs Sports Network on 96.1 the Legend) and live stats on GoMocs.com’s football schedule page.

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Categories: Chattanooga, College, Local News, Sports, Sports – Local Sports News, Sports – UTC Mocs

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