JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team rallied in the final minute to draw even with No. 24 Jacksonville State on Saturday night. But the 37 seconds left on the clock were just enough for the Gamecocks.
Griffin Thomas kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to lift Jacksonville State to a 27-24 win, thrilling the announced crowd of 18,993 and crushing the Mocs who fought back from a 14-point deficit.
The UTC offense produced 422 yards -- 241 rushing -- but Mocs coach Russ Huesman said the 410 gained by Jacksonville State (1-1), and the many mistakes by the UTC defense, were unacceptable.
"We didn't play real well on defense tonight," he said. "We didn't tackle very well; I don't think we broke on the ball very well -- we've got good enough players that we should stop teams. I'm not happy."
In his first career start, Mocs redshirt freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman led UTC (0-2) on a 10-play, game-tying drive that ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Ron Moore with 37 seconds remaining. That came one play after Huesman and Moore connected for 18 yards on fourth-and-5.
"We knew we had to score and we kept our composure," said Moore, adding that he was supposed to run a corner route on the touchdown play and changed it to a post move.
Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game, UTC called time out and decided on a Keon Williams run -- and Williams was able to fight his way into the end zone.
Jacob Huesman was 5-of-8 passing for 60 yards on the drive.
"The two-minute drill's a fun thing to do," he said after finishing with 166 yards and a touchdown on 21 runs and 18-of-30 passing for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
A 34-yard kickoff return by Gabriel Chambers gave the Gamecocks life -- Coach Huesman said the kick was good, the coverage was not -- and the UTC defense wasn't able to keep Jacksonville State from getting into Thomas' range.
With six seconds left and facing a second-and-10 at the UTC 33, JSU went bold and handed the ball to DaMarcus James. He gained 13 yards and was brought down just as the clock hit one second remaining. JSU coach Jack Crowe was able to get a timeout and sent Thomas on the field for the winner.
"They surprised us with that one," Russ Huesman said of the run.
The Mocs had plenty to contend with all week due to the departure and return of quarterback Terrell Robinson, who was on the sideline Saturday in street clothes.
Jacob Huesman made his first career start and started the game off with a bang. On the first play of his first start, he faked a handoff and ran 62 yards to the JSU 18. The drive derailed after that, though, and Nick Pollard missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt.
The Mocs finished 4-of-5 in the red zone, but that's not good enough, the quarterback said.
"We've got to have points in the red zone," he said. "That's on our goal board: We've got to get points every time we get in the red zone, and we did not do that today."
The Gamecocks were powered by the running of James (16 carries, 120 yards) and Troymaine Pope (12 carries, 100 yards), while getting some efficient passing from Marques Ivory and Coty Blanchard. Ivory was 3-of-4 on the winning drive.
"We tried to keep everything in bounds, and they did a good job of executing," said UTC linebacker Gunner Miller, who had a third-quarter interception that led to a Nick Pollard 30-yard field goal that cut JSU's lead to 17-10.
Jacob Huesman did a lot right in his first start, but his one turnover proved costly. On third-and-1 from the JSU 29 during the Mocs' second drive, he ran left for the first down and got stripped. UTC could only watch as JSU safety Pierre Warren scooped up the ball and returned it 75 yards for a 10-0 lead with 2:21 left in the first quarter.
"I didn't have it high and tight," Jacob Huesman said. "We practice that all the time. ... As soon as it hit the ground I knew it was bad news."
The Mocs were able to overcome the turnover, but they couldn't stop the Gamecocks when it counted.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.