SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defensive players fell to the Gibbs Stadium field Saturday as the Wofford Terriers celebrated in the end zone. Despite a stellar performance against one of the most productive offenses in the FCS, the Mocs had suffered another gut-punch loss.
All-America fullback Eric Breitenstein's 2-yard plunge in overtime delivered No. 14 Wofford a 16-13 win and earned the Terriers a share of the Southern Conference championship.
"[Wofford] got nothing in the second half, up until that last 25 yards there [in overtime]," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "Our defense played unbelievable."
UTC (5-5, 4-3) needed to beat Wofford (8-2, 6-2) and then close the season this Saturday with a win against Elon to clinch a share of the program's first SoCon title since 1984. Now the Mocs are out of the SoCon and playoff races and will need to beat the Phoenix to finish 6-5 for the third time in four years.
"It's hard, man," said a red-eyed senior linebacker Shane Heatherly, who had nine tackles. "Just having the opportunity to win a championship ... and we were close."
The three likely playoff teams from the SoCon are Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Wofford. UTC lost to GSU and Wofford in overtime and was tied with ASU entering the fourth quarter before losing 34-17.
UTC lost five games by a total of 12 points in 2011 and has lost the close ones again this season.
"I don't know," said a stunned-looking defensive end Davis Tull, who had eight tackles, including three for lost yardage. "We've just got to figure out a way to put it all together and start winning these."
Wofford led 10-3 at halftime but didn't come close to scoring in the final two quarters. In the second half of its last three games, Wofford's only points came on a touchdown against Samford last week. The Terriers finished with 249 yards, well below their average of 425.
The Mocs' first drive of the third quarter covered 74 yards and lasted 6 minutes, 50 seconds, but it ended with a missed 29-yard field-goal try by Henrique Ribeiro. UTC had the ball for more than 10 minutes in the quarter and gained 110 yards but did not score.
"No points; missed another field goal, chip-shot field goal -- ridiculous!" said a very agitated Huesman. "I'm so sick of it. Chip shot! You can't do that and win championships."
That failure to finish drives was critical, said UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman, who finished 22-of-31 passing for 229 yards and rushed for a team-high 68 yards.
"We didn't finish and didn't put the points on the board when we needed to and when we should have," the younger Huesman said.
While UTC was holding the Terriers to four second-half first downs and 68 yards, the Mocs offense finally put a drive together, a monster drive, to tie the game. It started at the UTC 28 with 10:46 on the clock and ended 18 plays later with a 1-yard Kenny Huitt run with 2:18 remaining.
Nick Pollard put UTC up 13-10 with a 27-yard field goal to start overtime, but Breitenstein was able to cross the goal line and crush the Mocs' championship hopes.
Breitenstein finished with 132 yards rushing, 22 below his average, and became Wofford's all-time leading rusher with a long first-quarter run.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...