The Chattanooga Mocs have never played a football game in February and chances are good they won’t ever do it again, but the local guys have a perfect record in the month more focused on Ground Hog Day and Valentine’s than college football.
It was certainly different being at Finley Stadium on a Saturday afternoon in a month more designed for basketball than football, but what a memorable experience it was for the Mocs as they defeated the 11th-ranked Wofford Terriors by a 24-13 final in the first Southern Conference game for Chattanooga in 462 days.
The Terriors are the defending conference champions after going 8-4 overall and 7-1 in the league in 2019. They had opened their spring season last week with a 31-14 win over Mercer.
Wofford still leads the series 15-12, but Saturday's win snapped a four-game winning streak for the Terriors.
The Terriors took the opening kickoff and marched 71 yards in a dozen plays, using more than four minutes to take a 7-0 lead when quarterback Jimmy Weirick scored on a keeper from the 2. Walker Gliarmis booted the extra point to give the visitors from Spartanburg, S.C. a 7-0 lead with 10:29 left in the first quarter.
Turns out that was the last time Wofford would score a touchdown as the Chattanooga defense settled down and only allowed a pair of field goals the rest of the way.
Chattanooga coach Rusty Wright isn’t quite sure what to make of football in the winter when other more important things would be happening, but he was just happy to get a win in his team’s first game in a long, long time.
“It was different, there’s no doubt, as it felt like a spring practice. There wasn’t much crisp out there, but we settled down after that first drive and played pretty good football,” he said in his post-game remarks.
“Wofford is a tough, physical football team, but we were in the right spots most of the time. I really liked our drive to start the second half. We had the ball more than eight minutes and we didn’t score, but I liked how we executed. We have to finish drives like that.
“We knew from the start that turnovers would be the key. We made them last time and lost. Today they had them and got beat, but if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we have a chance to have a pretty good football team.
“It really didn’t look like a Southern Conference football game to me, but I’m happy to get a win. We needed it and it’s a big one as we haven’t beaten them in a long time, but better days are ahead for us. I really didn’t know what to expect, but our defense played hard all day and they put us in the position to win this game,” Wright added.
While Wofford used a long drive to take the first lead, Chattanooga responded with a long drive as well, moving 75 yards in 14 plays to score when quarterback Drayton Arnold connected with Jay Gibson across the middle for a TD from the 2. Skyler Wilson’s extra point kick knotted the score with 3:04 to play in the opening quarter.
Wofford took a 10-7 lead when Gliarmis booted a 37-yard field with 5:23 left in the second period, but the Mocs came right back and took the lead when Tyrell Price rammed into the end zone from the 1 with 55 seconds left before intermission.
Wofford’s first miscue set up that score as D’mauriae Van Cleave fumbled a punt inside the 5 that UTC’s Kohl Henke recovered at the 3. Price picked up two yards on the first play before scoring to give his team a 14-10 lead at intermission.
Wofford cut the difference to a point on its first drive of the second half as Gliarmis booted a 24-yard field goal with 2:15 left in the third.
While the Terriors didn’t score again, the Mocs added another touchdown and a field goal for the final 11-point margin.
Arnold, who finished the game with 223 yards passing on 15 completions, had throws of 23 yards to Kanore McKinnon and another of 39 yards to Andrew Manning on the very next play before Gino Appleberry concluded the five-play, 75 yard drive with a TD run from the 5.
And then after a Wofford punt, Arnold had back-to-back completions of 21 and 16 yards to Reginald Henderson to spark a six-play, 40-yard drive that concluded with Wilson’s 26-yard field goal with 11:18 to play.
Things got a bit interesting with less than five minutes to play as a bad snap on a punt situation lost 23 yards, giving the Terriors first down at the UTC 26.
A pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 11, but the Terriors couldn’t take advantage as Weirick through an incomplete pass on fourth-and-seven from the 8 with 3:04 to play.
The Mocs weren’t able to get a first down, but punter Gabe Boring got a 72-yarder with a great roll as Wofford had possession for the last time at their own 12 with 30 seconds to play.
Weirick was sacked for a two-yard loss as the final horn sounded.
Chattanooga finished the game with 301 total yards, including 223 through the air and 78 on the ground.
Wofford countered with 199 total yards, including 148 on the ground and another 51 through the air.
Henderson was Arnold’s favorite target as the lanky wide receiver had seven catches for 102 yards. Manning had three grabs for another 77 yards. Price had 47 yards on 18 carries while Appleberry had 46 on 14 attempts.
Defensively, Kam Jones led the way with 10 tackles while Brandon McDowell had seven stops and a late interception. Devonnsha Maxwell finished with two sacks and three tackles for losses.
Ryan Lovelace was Wofford’s leading rusher with 82 yards on a dozen trips while Irvin Mulligan had 40 yards on 10 carries. Van Cleave was the leading receiver with 29 yards on two catches.
Chattanooga also won the first-down battle by an 18-14 margin.
Chattanooga’s next game is Saturday at The Citadel while Wofford will host ETSU next weekend. Chattanooga’s next home game will be on Saturday, March 27 when Mercer comes to town.
WOFFORD 7 3 3 0 -- 13
CHATTANOOGA 7 7 0 10 -- 24
WOF – Jimmy Weirick 2 run (Walker Gliarmis kick), 10:29 left in first;
UTC – Jay Gibson 2 pass from Drayton Arnold (Skyler Wilson kick), 3:04 left in first;
WOF – Gliarmis 37 field goal; 5:23 left in second;
UTC – Tyrell Price 1 run (Wilson kick), 0:55 left in second;
WOF – Gliarmis 24 field goal, 2:15 left in third;
UTC – Gino Appleberry 5 run (Wilson kick), 14:55 left in fourth;
UTC – Wilson 26 field goal, 11:18 left in fourth.
TEAM STATS WOFFORD CHATTANOOGA
First downs 14 18
Rushes-Yards 39-148 39-78
Passing Yards 51 223
Total Yards 199 301
Passes (Comp-Att-Int) 8-15-1 15-25-0
Punts-Average 2-46.5 3-52.3
Penalties-Yards 4-37 6-63
Time Of Possession 26:16 33:44
WOFFORD RUSHING: Ryan Lovelace 12 for 82 yards; Irvin Mulligan 10 for 40; Nathan Walker 7 for 11; Jimmy Weirick 7 for 8.
WOFFORD RECEIVING: D’mauriae Van Cleave 2 for 29 yards; Garrison Moore 2 for 15; KeiAndre Sanders 1 for 8; T.J. Luther 1 for 3.
WOFFORD PASSING: Jimmy Weirick 8 of 15 for 51 yards with one interception.
CHATTANOOGA RUSHING: Tyrell Price 18 for 47 yards; Gino Appleberry 14 for 46; Drayton Arnold 5 for 6.
CHATTANOOGA RECEIVING: Reginald Henderson 7 for 102 yards; Andrew Manning 3 for 77; Jay Gibson 2 for 8; Kanore McKinnon 1 for 23.
CHATTANOOGA PASSING: Drayton Arnold 15 of 25 for 223 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)