The Chattanooga Mocs have been playing football at Finley Stadium since Oct. 18, 1997, but they did something on Saturday night they've never done before.
They beat the always-tough Furman Paladins for the first time at Finley, snapping an eight-game losing streak with what head coach Russ Huesman called their most complete game of the season.
With the exception of three turnovers in the first half, the Mocs played really well on both sides of the ball as they kept Furman out of the end zone en route to a 31-9 victory.
UTC improves to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Southern Conference while Furman falls to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
D.J. Key, Davis Tull and Wes Dothard were the defensive leaders while Jacob Huesman and Keon Williams were the sparkplugs on offense as the Mocs prevailed before a homecoming crowd of 12,197, the eighth-largest crowd ever at Finley Stadium.
"It was just a great effort from everyone as it was one of our most complete games of the year," Huesman said in his post-game comments.
"This is a fantastic win for us as Furman has a fine football team. I wasn't really excited about the three turnovers in the first half, but we played error-free in the second as we didn't take many chances once we got the lead.
"We're really thin on defense, but what a great effort by those guys. Davis Tull had a great game and he got held the entire time. And we rushed the football for more than 200 yards again. I've known since the beginning that Keon Williams was capable of being a great back, but he keeps doing what he needs to do to help us and he's a load out there," the head coach added.
The Mocs took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 11 plays to score the first touchdown on a 12-yard run by Huesman on a keeper with 9:49 remaining in the first quarter.
Kenny Huitt added a three-yard TD run with 13:29 remaining before the half and Nick Pollard's second PAT extended the lead to 14-0.
Furman then took advantage of an interception by Austin Williams and a fumble recovery by former Ooltewah star T.J. Williams to score its first points as kicker Ray Early booted field goals of 50 and 31 yards to cut UTC's lead to 14-6 at intermission.
Huesman had completed his first eight passes before Williams made a nice play with 11:11 left in the second quarter. Then on the kickoff following Early's first field goal, Warren recovered a bobble at the 41.
The Paladins drove down to the 9 where they had first and goal, but tackles for losses by Wes Dothard and Daniel Ring forced another Early field goal with 2:01 left before the half.
Furman picked up one first down on its first possession of the second half before Early got off a 43-yard punt to put Chattanooga in business at its own 18.
And just like they did in the first half, they marched right down the field for a touchdown, taking 3:37 and nine plays to cover that 82 yards with Huesman getting the TD on a 37-yard keeper to the left on an option.
Furman was forced to punt once again on its next possession, but Nashville sophomore A.J. Hampton broke through the line, blocked the punt, caught the ball in mid-air and was credited with an 11-yard return.
The Mocs didn't score a touchdown on that particular drive, but Pollard connected on his first field goal of the season from 35 yards out as the difference was 24-6 with 5:09 showing in the third quarter.
Early then kicked his third field goal of the game from 43 yards with 2:05 left in the third to conclude Furman's scoring.
Kadeem Wise had an interception for the Mocs to give the home team first down at the Furman 14 after a 31-yard return. It took five plays to cover the distance, but Williams plowed into the end zone from the 1 with 2:48 to play, giving the hard-running tailback 101 yards for the game, his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
The Mocs finished the evening with 302 total yards, including 218 on the ground and 84 through the air. Those 218 yards marked the fifth straight game where they've gained more than 200.
Williams was the leader with 101 yards on 22 carries while Huesman added a net 73 on 19 trips. Huitt finished with 35 yards on five attempts.
Huesman completed 13 of 17 passes for 84 yards with the long of 21 going to Tommy Hudson, who finished with three catches for 43 yards.
Marquis Green had four catches for 13 yards while Faysal Shafaat also had three catches for 14 yards.
Tull had one of his best games ever as the 6-3, 240-pound junior from Knoxville had three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and six tackles, including five solo. He also was credited with 3.5 sacks, moving him within a half sack of career leader Josh Williams, who graduated last year.
"Really? That's pretty cool," the big guy said when told of his stats for the game.
"We did a good job of stopping the run, which forces them to pass, but we got after them tonight. We've been disrupting people all year, although our numbers haven't been that impressive. But there's nothing better than making a big defensive play.
"The offense takes the pressure off of us with scoring drives while we try to take the pressure off of them with big plays and turnovers," Tull added.
Jacob Huesman was quick to give credit to Tull and his defensive mates for an outstanding job.
"Those three turnovers in the first half could have killed us, but we calmed down and overcame that in the second half. Those turnovers are always a point of concern for my father, especially when they come from me, but we played well on both sides of the ball tonight.
"I'm really proud of our guys up front on the offensive line as they did a great job, but our defense also stood their ground tonight. And our offense didn't shut down in the second half like we did last week," the quarterback added.
While Saturday's win was the first for the Mocs over Furman at Finley Stadium, it was the first time in nearly 20 years since UTC had beaten the Paladins in Chattanooga, the last being a 45-42 victory on Nov. 20, 1993 at Chamberlain Field.
While Chattanooga finished with 302 total yards, Furman was limited to just 189, including 127 on the ground and just 62 through the air.
Marcus Anderson gained 72 yards on 11 attempts while Hank McCloud needed 15 carries to gain 62 yards.
Duncan Fletcher completed just eight of 17 passes for 62 yards, the long being 19 yards to Ryan Culbreath.
Key led the Moc defenders with nine total tackles whiole Tull, Dothard, Ring and Josh Freeman all had six.
Carl Rider was the defensive leader for Furman with 16 tackles, including eight solos, while Warren was next with 11. Former Baylor star John Mackey finished with five tackles, including three solos.
The Mocs had a 19-10 advantage in first downs and they converted on five of 12 third-down tries for 41.6 percent. The Mocs came into the game leading the conference in third down conversions with 53 percent and are fourth nationally. Furman was good on just two of 14 third-down conversions.
The Mocs will be on the road next Saturday at Elon while Furman will be at home to host Appalachian State. UTC's next home game will be in two weeks when the Citadel Bulldogs come to town for a 2 p.m. kickoff.
FURMAN 0 6 3 0 -- 9
CHATTANOOGA 7 7 10 7 -- 31
UTC -- Jacob Huesman 12 run (Nick Pollard kick), 9:49 left in first;
UTC -- Kenny Huitt 3 run (Pollard kick), 13:29 left in second;
FUR -- Ray Early 50 field goal, 7:04 left in second;
FUR -- Early 31 field goal, 2:01 left in second;
UTC -- Huesman 37 run (Pollard kick), 7:59 left in third;
UTC -- Pollard 35 field goal, 5:09 left in third;
FUR -- Early 43 field goal, 2:05 left in third;
UTC -- Keon Williams 1 run (Pollard kick), 2:24 left in fourth.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)