JACKSONVILLE, Ala. - Life can be cruel. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team has seen that first-hand on back to back Saturdays.
Success in life is about making the most of your opportunities. The Mocs have failed to do that on back to back Saturdays.
Sixth-ranked Jacksonville State scored 21 unanswered points in the second half Saturday night to hand UTC its second consecutive heartbreaking loss to start the season. The Gamecocks (2-0) took their first and only lead on a 72-yard touchdown pass with 1:05 to play in the game, giving JSU a 21-17 win.
The Mocs had several missed opportunities on offense and dropped a couple of interceptions in the fourth quarter that likely would have clinched UTC's biggest win in more than 15 years.
"It's ridiculous that we left all that out there," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "We had chances for interceptions, we had chances for first downs, we had chances to make plays - we had unbelievable chances and we [didn't convert them]."
UTC dominated the opening half, but led just 10-0 at the break after failing to capitalize on numerous turnovers and scoring chances. The lead was extended to 17-0 early in the third quarter when quarterback B.J. Coleman hit Joel Bradford for a 14-yard touchdown.
The Mocs led No. 3 Appalachian State 35-14 just seconds into the fourth quarter last Saturday before seeing the Mountaineers rally for a 42-41 win.
The Mocs' 17-7 lead entering the fourth in front of a record crowd of 22,186 at JSU Stadium never seemed secure. The UTC defense appeared to be tiring, while the JSU offense seemed to be finding holes that weren't there earlier in the game.
Jacksonville State cut the lead to 17-14 with 7:50 to play on a 9-yard touchdown pass. On the previous play, fourth-and-8 at the UTC 23-yard line, a late flag for pass interference was thrown after it appeared that JSU quarterback Marques Ivory's pass was incomplete.
The Mocs got the ball back and used a powerful running game to drive down inside the red zone. Two runs by J.J. Jackson made it third-and-2 at the 10, but on the following Coleman and center Justin Galyon had a miscommunication that led to an early snap.
Coleman dove on the fumbled ball, making it fourth down at the 11. Following a timeout, UTC opted to go for the first down since a field goal would have made it a six-point game. Coleman's pass to Bradford in the back of the end zone was a little too deep and Bradford was out of bounds when he caught it.
The Gamecocks took over with 2:20 to play and were facing a third-and-4 at their 28 when Ivory hit James Shaw deep for a 72-yard score to give JSU a 21-17 lead. Moments later, UTC's Louis Gibson fumbled the short kickoff and JSu recovered.
For more on the Mocs, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.
You can follow John Frierson's Mocs coverage at twitter.com/mocsbeat and at facebook.com/mocsbeatTFP.