The Chattanooga Mocs (2-2/0-1) dropped Saturday’s Southern Conference opener in heart-breaking fashion, 23-21 at No. 15 Georgia Southern. Younghoe Koo’s 26-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining proved to be the game-winner.
It came after a golden opportunity for the Mocs to salt the game away. On third-and-nine at the 10, defensive back Chaz Moore (Memphis, Tenn.) forced a hurried pitch by Jerick McKinnon. The ball bounded on the ground a bit before Tray Butler narrowly beat a couple of UTC defenders to cover it up.
The Mocs tried to mount a final drive, but the Eagles intercepted a deflected ball to end the hopes inside 10 seconds to play.
“I’ll give our guys credit holding them to 23 points,” Head Coach Russ Huesman said. “Great defenses stop them…bottom line.
“I told our football team this…they fought. Our team fought…we’ve got a lot of fighters in there. But we shot ourselves in the foot too many times with penalties.”
Keon Williams (Chattanooga) staked the Mocs to a 21-17 lead in the third quarter after the defense stopped GSU three-and-out to start the period. After a first down and false start penalty, Huesman hit Williams in the left flat. He burst through the defense, flying down the right sideline and out-running the defense to the end zone with 12:13 left in the third.
It was the last touchdown of the game for either side. There were 31 first half points, but just 13 in the second. Koo hit two fourth quarter field goals for the winning margin.
Koo’s 40-yarder with 13:35 to go in the fourth quarter cut the Mocs lead to 21-20. UTC took over on its own 22 and started to drive. On third-and-seven from its own 40, Huesman gashed the middle of the Georgia Southern defense for 20 yards to the Eagles 40.
On the ensuing play, Huesman faked a handoff to Marquis Green (Seminole, Fla.) and looked deep on the post route. Tommy Hudson (Moultrie, Ga.) had his man beat by five yards hauling it in at the goal line for the apparent score. However, it was called back for an ineligible receiver downfield. The drive later stalled at the 37 leading to a 27-yard Nick Pollard punt to the 10.
“We shot ourselves in the foot getting that called back,” Huesman added. “That’s 28-17, we had momentum…but it got called back.”
Taking over at 8:52, the Eagles mounted a 14-play, 71-yard drive ending on Koo’s foot. GSU ate up 7:04 of clock time with the drive and finished with a 33:35 to 26:25 advantage in time of possession.
The two quarterbacks combined for 412 yards of total offense and three scores. Huesman ran for 148 (14 carries) and threw for 92 with a TD each way. McKinnon ran 25 times for 172 yards and a score.
Williams scored twice for the Mocs. He carried the ball 10 times for 48 yards and caught two passes for another 59. He added a four-yard TD scamper to go with the 54-yard catch-and-run.
GSU amassed 376 yards of total offense, all on the ground. That’s actually 31 yards fewer than its season average of 407.7 entering the contest. The Mocs had 321 yards with 239 rushing.
D.J. Key (Centerville, Tenn.) and Davis Tull (Knoxville, Tenn.) led the defensive effort. Key had a career-best 13 tackles, one for loss, while Tull made 10 stops, two behind the line of scrimmage for nine yards lost. Edwin Jackson paced the Eagles with eight tackles.
Chattanooga spends the next two weekends in the friendly confines of Finley Stadium. Western Carolina comes to town followed by Furman on the 12th for Homecoming. Tickets are available on GoMocs.com or by calling (423) 266-MOCS (6627).
Play - Quarter/Time/Score
GSU – Jerick McKinnon 1 yard rush (Younghoe Koo Kick) - 1/10:48/0-7
Drive: 6 plays, 40 yards, 1:58
Key Play(s): PUNT RETURN
UTC – Jacob Huesman 51 yard rush (Nick Pollard Kick) - 1/8:46/7-7
Drive: 4 plays, 75 yards, 1:54
Key Play(s): GSU penalty for late hit assessed on drive’s 1st play
GSU – Montay Crockett 10 yard rush (Koo Kick) - 1/4:25/7-14
Drive: 9 plays, 77 yards, 4:21
Key Play(s): 3/1/H32 – Jerick McKinnon runs for 31 yds
GSU – Koo 32 yard Field Goal - 2/10:29/7-17
Drive: 11 plays, 47 yards, 5:50
Key Play(s): 4/3/V33 – Crockett gets 10 yards on reverse
UTC – Keon Williams 4 yard Rush (Pollard Kick) - 2/3:38/14-17
Drive: 15 plays, 80 yards, 6:45
Key Play(s): 4/2/H29 – Kendrix Huitt runs four yards
UTC – Keon Williams 57 pass from Jacob Huesman (Pollard Kick) - 3/12:13/21-17
Drive: 3 plays, 63 yards, 1:07
Key Play(s): Defense forced 3 & out to start 2nd half
GSU – Koo 26 yard Field Goal - 4/1:56/21-23
Drive: 14 plays, 71 yards, 6:56
Key Play(s): 2/7/V47 – McKinnon runs 22 yards