After getting through the preseason in good shape, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team played four games without suffering a serious injury.
Now, for the second time in as many weeks, the Mocs are facing the prospect of losing a starter for the remainder of the season. On Oct. 10, they lost senior running back Bryan Fitzgerald to a foot injury against Samford and on Saturday sophomore safety J.D. Dothard suffered a serious knee injury.
Dothard, who was fifth on the team with 24 tackles heading into the game and made his 18th consecutive start, will have an MRI today, which is expected to confirm the initial diagnosis of a torn ACL in his left knee.
"It doesn't look good," coach Russ Huesman said Sunday. "I can't imagine (the MRI) is good news."
Sophomore Joel Bradford replaced Dothard in the secondary Saturday and that could be how the Mocs (4-2, 2-2 SoCon) line up this Saturday when they face No. 9 Elon, one of the top passing teams in the country, but nothing had been decided as of Sunday, Huesman said.
The Mocs' defense, which had played so well during UTC's three-game winning streak, struggled before and after Dothard went down on the sixth play of the game. Georgia Southern (4-3, 3-1) marched down the field on its opening drive and took the lead on a 9-yard touchdown run by Adam Urbano.
It was just the beginning of a career day for Urbano, the sophomore from Calhoun, who finished with a career high 153 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. His 2-yard touchdown run with 8:30 to play in the third quarter put the Eagles up 20-13 and UTC could never regain the momentum after that.
The defense put some pressure on quarterback Lee Chapple early -- end Josh Beard got two first-quarter sacks to take over the lead in the Southern Conference with 7 1/2 and end Josh Williams both sacked Chapple and recovered his own forced fumble on the play in the second quarter -- but it didn't last.
Aided by an effective running game, Chapple avoided any pass rush with short passes and finished 16-for-24 for 132 yards.
The Mocs, meanwhile, could never get their running game going. True freshman Chris Awuah, who replaced Fitzgerald in the backfield, was held to 41 yards on 10 carries and redshirt freshman Bo Dyer had 24 yards on six carries.
"We didn't block very good," Huesman said. "You can't have a running game if you don't block -- and that's not all on the offensive line. That's on the wideouts, that's on the running backs, it's on everybody."
Fitzgerald didn't play in the opener against Division II Glenville State, missed all but the first series at Samford and didn't play Saturday, and UTC rushed for a combined 198 yards on 76 carries in those three games.
The Mocs tried to supplement their running game Saturday with a lot of quick screens to the wideouts, but neither ploy was able to help UTC move the ball effectively. Quarterback B.J. Coleman was 23-for-43 for 208 yards and two touchdowns and the Mocs finished with just 241 yards of offense.