CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (gomocs.com) ---It's three-peat in the Scenic City as the eighth-ranked Chattanooga Mocs beat No. 20 The Citadel 31-23 at Finley Stadium. That ties the Mocs and Bulldogs at 6-1 in the Southern Conference, the third league title in a row for the home team. It also nets UTC the SoCon's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs.
"Big win," coach Russ Huesman said. "Our guys played well. I'm proud of them. We fought, we scraped and we hung in there. I'm proud of our guys. Give credit to Citadel – they're co-champs (of the SoCon), and they deserve to be. I don't think there's a question about that."
The Mocs scored early and often in building a 21-0 lead. On the game's first play, Jacob Huesman threw a backwards pass in the flat to backup quarterback Alejandro Bennifield. The southpaw looked deep and found Xavier Borishade open in the secondary. He led him nicely for a 75-yard touchdown strike and the fastest score in school history.
"My first thought was don't drop it," Borishade shared. "It was a great throw from (Alejandro). I almost stumbled because I followed the ball in the air and thought I might need to jump for it. But he hit me in stride and we got the touchdown."
Huesman added one and nine-yard runs for the three-score lead at the half. The second of those made him just the fourth quarterback in the FCS to record 40 touchdowns both running and passing in a career.
The Citadel did not fade away. Tyler Renew's 52-yard run up the middle with 2:02 left in the third quarter cut the lead to 24-14.
After trading punts, Derrick Craine rumbled down the right sideline for a 46-yard score midway through the fourth quarter. His career-long scoring dash capped a 92-yard drive. The Bulldogs added a field goal and a touchdown at the last horn for the final margin.
Huesman and his receivers had quite a day. The senior QB ran for 100 yards (118) for a school-record 14th time. He added 192 yards in the air on 13-of-17 passing. C.J. Board (5-116) and Xavier Borishade (5-107) became the first receiving duo to record dual 100-yard games at UTC since 2008.
Renew led the Bulldogs with 115 on 18 carries. Dominique Allen added another 99 on the ground to go with 98 in the air on eight-of-16 passing with two touchdowns.
The Citadel ran for 291 yards, but that's 58 yards below its 349.6 average. The Mocs used a balanced attack with 222 rushing and 267 passing.
Nakevion Leslie had a career-high 15 tackles, including a tackle for loss. Vantrel McMillian also tallied a career high with 10 stops, while Keionta Davis had eight with two sacks.
Malik Diggs had 11 tackles and a forced fumble to lead the visitors. Tevin Floyd and James Riley added seven apiece with a tackle for loss each with Riley recovering a fumble.
"Fortunately for us, you know, they go by head-to-head, so we're going to get the automatic bid," Huesman added. "They deserve to be a playoff team. I thought Citadel was an excellent football team and they deserve to be in there, and I hope they are. They should be congratulated for a SoCon championship (especially) when you're picked seventh in the conference. I think Mike Houston should be Coach of the Year in the league, no question about that."