By the time Appalachian State linebacker Brandon Grier returned a Jacob Huesman interception 70 yards for a touchdown Saturday night, the No. 18 Mountaineers were already on their way to their eighth win in a row against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
What had been a 10-10 game heading into the fourth quarter turned into a lopsided 34-17 Mountaineers win.
"They just whupped us in the fourth quarter," said Russ Huesman, who has lost his Southern Conference opener in each of his four seasons as UTC's coach.
The Mocs (1-3, 0-1) had their troubles in all phases of the game. The offense gained just 270 yards, with most of that coming in the fourth quarter when ASU (2-2, 1-1) already had taken command of the game.
The defense got a couple of turnovers early and kept UTC in the game until the fourth quarter, but the Mocs gave up 401 yards and numerous big pass plays. In a game in which field position was critical, ASU was much more effective in the punt game.
"We had a couple of missed opportunities, and we've just got to make plays," said Mocs safety D.J. Key, who had eight tackles.
Huesman talked about the missed throws by Jacob Huesman, his son, who finished 16-of-28 passing for 140 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. The coach also talked about his defense's many missed tackles.
Facing an ASU squad that was drilled 52-28 at home a week earlier by The Citadel -- the No. 14 Bulldogs host UTC this Saturday - and playing in front of a spirited crowd 13,726 on homecoming, the Mocs walked off the field knowing the game was a missed opportunity.
"It comes down to execution," Jacob Huesman said. "You can X and O football all you want, but when it comes down to it, it's you versus them in the trenches. If we don't execute, we're not going to win."
Terrell Robinson wasn't as involved with the offense as he was against Glenville State. In fact, he and Jacob combined for just 14 rushing attempts. Against ASU, Robinson was 4-for-7 passing for 43 yards and a touchdown and ran five times for 25 yards. He was thrown to once Saturday but did not have a reception.
Asked if the Mocs were headed back to square one on offense, Coach Huesman said UTC would "look and see where we are with it and kind of make decisions on where we go from here."
On ASU's first drive, defensive end Davis Tull sacked and stripped quarterback Jamal Jackson. Cornerback Kadeem Wise recovered at the ASU 8-yard line, and two plays later Jacob Huesman hit Marlon Anthony for a 7-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
UTC's next possession came about after another turnover. This time cornerback Chaz Moore picked off a Jackson pass and returned it 42 yards to the ASU 33. The Mocs settled for a 32-yard Nick Pollard field goal and a 10-0 lead with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
The Mocs ended the quarter up 10-0, making it five straight quarters that their defense had held ASU's offense scoreless. That streak ended in the second quarter when Drew Stewart kicked a 24-yard field goal.
Late in the first half, after a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty gave ASU a first down at the UTC 35, Jackson avoided the pass rush long enough to hit running back Steven Miller down the middle for a 35-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10.
The Mountaineers had 208 yards of offense at halftime, to just 71 for the Mocs. UTC didn't pass the 100-yard mark until midway through the third quarter.
Appalachian State took a 13-10 lead with a 38-yard field goal with 14:01 remaining, and the Mocs, trailing for the first time, took the field at the 35. A slow, plodding drive had moved into ASU territory when Jacob Huesman's second-and-15 pass was intercepted.
The Mountaineers needed four plays to go up 20-10 with 7:34 remaining. On the scoring play, Jackson hung the ball up in the air and two UTC defensive backs appeared to be in position for an interception, but it was ASU's Sean Price who came down with the floater and jogged into the end zone.
"I really don't know what happened," Tull said of ASU's dominance in the fourth quarter.
A Ron Moore fumble after a reception on UTC's next drive set ASU up for another touchdown, a 14-yard strike from Jackson to Price that made it 27-10. The crowd was heading for the exits at that point, and the Mocs were headed for another disappointing SoCon loss.