CHATTANOOGA, TN - Junior Aron Spann III's interception in the end zone with 1:10 remaining sealed a 20-14 win for The Citadel over on Saturday afternoon at Finley Stadium.
Spann's second interception of the afternoon ended Chattanooga's final threat, the Mocs' longest drive of the game. UTC moved from its own 20 to first-and-10 at the Bulldogs' 11, but quarterback pressure and Spann stepping in front of a Cole Copeland pass for a second time secured the win.
The Bulldogs shutout the Mocs in the second half and scored the game's final 13 points to win their second SoCon game of the season.
"It's tough to win SoCon games and I'm proud of our players for being able to make a play at the end of the game to seal a victory for us," Citadel head coach Brent Thompson told said following the win. "Aron did a good job of judging where he was and make sure that he still had a defender behind him. It was a great play."
The Citadel (4-3, 2-3) rushed for 405 yards and held the ball for over 37 minutes in the win. Chattanooga (1-7, 1-3) had a handful of long returns to set up short touchdown drives in the game. The difference was the second half, when the Bulldogs scored all 13 points, held UTC to three punts and Spann's interception on the final drive.
"We got after them at halftime because I don't think we played our best half of football in the first half," Thompson added. "We responded well (in the second half), and I think our defense and offense played exceptional today. On special teams, we have to clean up a few things here and there. If we make a few more field goals and then it is a different ball game."
Running back Grant Drakeford led the Bulldogs with 97 yards on eight carries. He was at 100 yards for the game before losing three yards on his final carry. His 45-yard run in the third quarter jolted the Bulldogs offense and set up a Rod Johnson 2-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs season-high three interceptions made things tough on the Chattanooga offense and freshman quarterback Cole Copeland, but UTC hung around on the strength of a long touchdown run and a big plays on special teams.
A Noah Dawkins sack and forced fumble turned back a promising start to Chattanooga's opening drive. The Bulldogs capitalized on the third-and-long opportunity, as senior Ben Roberts picked off the Copeland in Citadel territory to end the threat.
The Bulldogs moved into Chattanooga territory, but the drive stalled and placekicker Jacob Godek pushed a 51-yard attempt wide right. UTC would score two plays later as Darrell Bridges raced in from 61 yards out to give the Mocs a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs answered following their second interception of the day. Spann circled under a deep ball from Copeland to end the Mocs' threat to go up two scored. The offense would answer with a 6-play, 72-yard drive capped by a 25-yard pass from Dom Allen to Josh LeBlanc to tie the game at 7-7. Rod Johnson had a 32-yard run on the drive, his longest of the season.
Chattanooga special teams set up the Mocs' next score as UTC took a 14-7 lead. A 37-yard punt return by Brandon Dowdell set up a 1-yard leap from Darrell Bridges as UTC moved ahead with 4:09 left in the half.
The Citadel marched 46 yards in 10 plays to open the second half, scoring on a 45-yard field goal from Godek to cut the lead to 14-10 at the time.
After the Bulldog defense held, the Citadel moved out from the shadow of its own goal line to put together the decisive drive. Drakeford's 45-yard run on third down and long from the Bulldogs' 25 – with a personal foul penalty added – set up Johnson's run as The Citadel took its first lead.
The Bulldogs added a 34-yard field goal from Godek in the fourth, but couldn't distance themselves. The Bulldogs punted to UTC, which started its final drive at its own 20. Chattanooga picked up a first down at the Bulldog 11 on a 17-yard completion, but the Bulldogs held.
Quarterback Dom Allen finished with 88 yards rushing and a career long 54-yard run on the field goal drive in the fourth. Cam Jackson added 74 yards on 15 carries.
The Bulldogs held UTC to 298 total yards, the fifth time this season the Bulldogs have held an opponent under 300 yards of offense. Senior linebacker Myles Pierce led the Citadel with eight tackles, one for a loss. Dawkins added three QB hurries.