‘7 Turnovers can’t win you games’: Bulldogs lose nail biter at home to UTC 23-21

COURTESY OF MARVIN GENTRY

 

COURTESY OF MARVIN GENTRY

 

On a chilly, 48-degree October Saturday, Samford was set to take on the Chattanooga Mocs in another pivotal SoCon matchup. A week after coming off of a huge upset victory against the Wofford Terriers in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Samford seemed to be cruising into their game this past Saturday against the Mocs. Samford came in ranked no. 8 in the FCS polls (5-2, 3-2 SoCon), while Chattanooga came in with a lowly record of 1-7, 1-4 SoCon.

Samford opened up the scoring in the first quarter, as junior quarterback Devlin Hodges found junior receiver Kelvin McKnight for a 21 yard score in the back of the endzone. McKnight caught five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown for the day before having to exit the game early in the second quarter after dislocating his shoulder. Hodges had an active day through the air, completing 33 of 54 passes for 333 yards, including two touchdowns and three interceptions. Hodges’ three interceptions contributed to the Bulldogs’ seven turnovers on the day, an area that usually does not plague head coach Chris Hatcher’s team. Samford had four fumbles to go along with the three interceptions.

“We didn’t play our best and we didn’t coach our best,” Hatcher said. “We played very undisciplined football and that’s on me. We turned (the ball) over seven times and it’s hard to beat a team-I don’t care what their record is-when you play like we played and coached like we (coached).”

After the Bulldogs’ score in the first quarter, the Bulldogs’ offense went quiet, allowing the Chattanooga offense to score 20 unanswered points leading into the fourth quarter. The Mocs offense was led by true freshman quarterback Cole Copeland, who completed 14 of 27 passes on the day for 144 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Mocs running game was led by senior running back Darrell Bridges who carried the ball 22 times for 89 yards on the day.

With 15 minutes left to go in regulation, the score stood at 20-7 in favor of the Mocs. With 11:50 left to go in the game, Samford’s Hodges scampered into the endzone on a one- yard quarterback keeper, putting the score at 20-14 in favor of Chattanooga. The Bulldogs then scored two possessions later, as Hodges found sophomore receiver Chris Shelling through the air for a 30 yard touchdown. Shelling had a productive day for the Bulldogs’ offense, leading the team in catches and receiving yards with seven receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. Shelling’s touchdown put the score at 21-20 in favor of the Samford with 7:40 left to go in the game.

Samford had possession of the ball late in the game trying to run out the clock and on third-and-one Hodges was sacked and fumbled the ball. Chattanooga recovered the ball on Samford’s 39-yard line with 2:15 left in regulation. The Mocs drove the ball down the field for 15 yards, which gave Chattanooga’s freshman kicker Victor Ulmo the opportunity to kick a 39-yard field goal through the uprights to give the Mocs a 23-21 lead.

On Samford’s last drive of the game, Hodges fumbled the ball and Chattanooga recovered the turnover with four seconds left to play. Samford would go on to lose the game by a final score of 23-21. The loss was the first home loss for the Bulldogs since Oct. 31, 2015 in a game against Furman, ending a nine-game home winning streaking for Samford.

Samford will be in action this upcoming Saturday as the Bulldogs take on the Mercer Bears at Five Star Stadium in Macon, Georgia.

Collin Reese, Staff Writer

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