The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team made enough mistakes Saturday to lose to No. 2 Georgia Southern in regulation. The Mocs also made enough good plays to overcome those mistakes and win in regulation.
Neither of those happened. Instead, the Eagles stopped UTC on fourth down in triple overtime to win 39-31.
“We absolutely shot ourselves in the foot on special teams,” Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. “We absolutely lost the football game on special teams.”
The game was tied at 24 at the end of regulation, and the Southern Conference-leading Eagles (7-1, 6-1) scored 10 of their 24 points off two critical special-teams turnovers. The last came with UTC (4-4, 3-2) up 24-21 with about 13 minutes remaining.
After UTC’s defense forced a three-and-out and a punt, Mocs returner Tommy Hudson muffed the return and GSU recovered at the UTC 36-yard line. That led to a 24-yard Alex Hanks field goal that tied the game.
“After the three-and-out, we felt pretty great coming off that field,” said Mocs linebacker Wes Dothard, who matched UTC defensive tackle Derrick Lott with a game-high 15 tackles.
Hanks missed a 49-yard field-goal attempt as time expired, and the game went to overtime. After both teams scored in the first OT, UTC kicker Nick Pollard missed a 41-yard try, but Mocs defensive end Zack Rayl kept the Mocs alive by recovering a GSU fumble on the Eagles’ first play of the second overtime.
In the third, GSU quarterback Jerick McKinnon powered the Eagles to the lead — including a 1-yard run on fourth-and-1. McKinnon scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run and, because teams have to go for two starting in the third OT period, he ran the ball in on the conversion.
Jacob Huesman’s first-down pass went right through Terrell Robinson’s hands inside the 10. Jacob then rushed for 12 yards and a first down at the 13. Soon after, UTC faced a fourth-and-2 at the GSU 5.
After a timeout, Huesman kept the ball and tried to run for it — but a wall of Eagles tackled him for a loss to end the game.
“We got the look we wanted,” Jacob Huesman said of the play, “... but there was some middle pressure. There were some big dudes in the middle and they got in the backfield.”
A big part of the game — played before a small crowd of 8,908 — was a showdown between the quarterbacks. Jacob carried the UTC offense for a long time and rushed a career-high 170 yards on 26 carries. He also was 11-of-20 passing for 102 and rushed for two scores and threw for one.
GSU’s Jerick McKinnon was nearly as proficient, rushing for 131 yards and three scores and completing 3 of 5 passes for 55 yards.
Jacob Huesman said the offensive game plan may have been more diverse than the one UTC used, “but when it comes down to it you’ve got to find something that’s working for you and you’ve got to stick with it.”
Robinson threw one pass, to Jacob, and caught five balls for 75 yards.
Lott, Dothard, end Davis Tull and safety D.J. Key were all over the place on defense. All four had 11 tackles or more, and they combined for 53 of UTC’s 98 tackles. Tull also had three tackles for loss.
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 ...