The 19th-ranked Chattanooga Mocs football team saw late game heroics fall short in a 37-34 heartbreaking overtime loss on the road to the reigning Southern Conference champion VMI Keydets Saturday afternoon inside Foster Stadium in Lexington, Va.
Chattanooga (2-3, 1-1 SoCon), tied the game with 0:01 left in regulation on an Aaron Sears 39-yard field goal to force overtime, but left empty handed on offense in the extra frame. VMI (4-2, 2-1 SoCon) ended the contest on a walk-off 37-yard field goal.
“You have to give VMI credit. They went and figured out a way to win it,” said head coach Rusty Wright. “They made the plays they needed to win a conference football game.”
VMI took the opening kickoff and put together a 13-play, 58-yard drive that resulted in a 32-yard field goal to grab an early 3-0 lead. The Chattanooga offense failed to score on each of its three drives in the first, which included a missed 37-yard field goal.
The Keydets reached the redzone on the initial drive of the second quarter before the defensive core stood tall and limited the drive to just a field goal. The UTC defensive front repeated those efforts later in the quarter with three-straight stops inside the two-yard line, holding VMI to another chip shot.
Trailing 9-0, Chattanooga tied together an 8-play, 51-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a two-yard plunge from Tyrell Price. Price’s touchdown tote came with just 15 seconds left in the half to cut the Mocs deficit to 9-7 at the break.
Chattanooga struck first in the second half after the defense forced the game’s first turnover. Ben Brewton ripped it away from the VMI quarterback to set the offense up at the VMI 29. UTC took advantage of the turnover and used an Ailym Ford six-yard touchdown run to take its first lead of the game 14-9.
The Mocs added to their lead on a 40-yard field goal from Aaron Sears to go up 17-9. VMI responded with an 8-play, 79-yard touchdown drive in just 3:14 to cut their deficit to one, 17-16, with 1:14 left in the third.
After being backed up at its own three to start the drive, Chattanooga needed just six plays to go all 97 yards. Ford broke off a 65-yard touchdown sprint, the longest rush of his career, to build on the lead 24-16. VMI answered with a touchdown drive of 91 yards in 13 plays while successfully converting the two-point try to tie things up 24-24.
A shootout would ensue following the exchange of scores. Price ripped off a 33-yard touchdown run with 6:58 left in the fourth before the Keydets connected on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 4:07 to lock the game at 31-31.
With 49 seconds left, VMI’s Jerry Rice nailed a career-long 49-yard field goal to put the hosts up 34-31. The game wasn’t over as UTC went 39 yards in six plays to set up a game-tying, 39-yard field goal attempt from Sears. He belted it right down the middle and the game went to overtime, 34-34.
Chattanooga had the first offensive possession in extra time and came out empty handed after a missed 37-yard field goal. The Keydets were held without a first down on three plays, but eventually walked the game off on a Rice 37-yarder, 37-34.