The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team's 14-12 loss at Appalachian State on Saturday followed the same recipe for disappointment as last season's 42-41 defeat.
Even though the games were completely different -- one a defensive struggle, the other a shootout -- the game-changing plays had a lot in common. Both games were ultimately decided by special teams and turnovers.
On Saturday, amid the frenzied atmosphere created by the crowd of 27,304 at Kidd Brewer Stadium, the 14th-ranked Mocs (2-2, 0-1 Southern Conference) didn't give up any points to Appalachian State's offense. Also, UTC had just one penalty.
The third-ranked Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0) won the game with a 73-yard fumble return for a touchdown following a botched snap on a UTC field-goal attempt and a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown.
UTC was solid on special teams for most of the game, but two plays were critical. Kicker Nick Pollard missed a 35-yard attempt in the first quarter and on the final play of the third quarter, with UTC trying to take a 9-0 lead on a 26-yard attempt, long snapper Brock Oliver's snap hit the leg of a UTC lineman.
"As I told our guys today, anytime you have a big special teams play, it's usually 7 points," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said Sunday. "That's what happened. You've got to be perfect, and we weren't and it cost us."
Down 7-6, UTC faced a third-and-5 at its 40-yard line when B.J. Coleman fired a pass to wideout Jeff Veres. The ball bounced off Veres' hand and was caught by linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough, who ran it in for a 14-6 lead.
"It's tough when you don't give up [an offensive] touchdown and you still lose," Mocs linebacker Ryan Consiglio said after the game.
A year ago, UTC also struggled in the kicking game -- there were two missed extra points and a missed field goal -- and ASU's defense forced two fumbled that it's offense turned into touchdowns while coming back from 21 points down to win.
Just like last season's crushing losses to Appalachian State and Jacksonville State, the Mocs have to shove their disappointment aside and get ready for the next game. They host The Citadel (1-2, 0-2) this Saturday.
"I hate to say that we're probably getting good at brushing these devastating losses off, but we're going to get this one out of our minds and come back to work," Consiglio said. "We've got to come out Tuesday just ready to go even harder than we've gone all season."
UTC ranks second in the SoCon in total defense (276.2 yards per game) and fourth in scoring defense (21.2 ppg). The offense is No. 8 in scoring (20.0) and total offense (354.2). ... UTC had just 32 yards on the ground against ASU and is now last in the SoCon in rushing with 101.0 yards per game.