Mocs hold off No. 18 Eagles

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team had been in this position before, up on a ranked team in the fourth quarter. Only this time, in front of the second largest crowd ever at Finley Stadium, the Mocs finished the job.

In what Mocs coach Russ Huesman was willing to call "the biggest win" since he was hired in December 2008, the Mocs upset No. 18 Georgia Southern 35-27. It was a homecoming win for the announced crowd of 17,414 to celebrate.

"You're starting to knock some of those doors down," Huesman said of UTC (4-2, 3-1 Southern Conference) beating the Eagles to win four straight games, and three straight league games, for the first time since 1997.

Georgia Southern (3-3, 1-2) knocked UTC around a bit in the first half and led 20-14 at the break. Unlike the losses to Appalachian State and Jacksonville State to start the season - those teams are ranked Nos. 1 and 3, respectively - the Mocs played better in the second half against the Eagles.

The Eagles outgained UTC 271 yards to 125 in the first two quarters, but by the end the margin was much closer, 391-354, as the Mocs held Georgia Southern to 120 yards in the second half.

"It was a statement," said UTC quarterback B.J. Coleman, who was 11-of-21 passing for 159 yards and two touchdowns and ran 11 yards for a touchdown. "Our guys came to play."

The Mocs took the lead on the first drive of the third quarter, a 17-play monster that lasted 9 minutes, 2 seconds. The drive appeared to end on a missed 40-yard field-goal try, but GSU was penalized for roughing the holder, Sloan Allison.

That gave UTC a first down at the GSU 11-yard line and Coleman ran the ball in. Veres' extra point put UTC up 21-20.

Moments later, on the ensuing drive, defensive end Chris Donald forced a fumble that safety Chris Lewis-Harris recovered at the Eagles' 25-yard line.

"I was just running and dove and there it was," said Donald, who also had seven tackles and a sack. "That's really all I can remember, but it was good that [Lewis-Harris] was there and we got the ball back."

The Mocs, who travel to Furman this week, needed four plays to go up 28-20. J.J. Jackson scored the first touchdown of his career on a 3-yard run. UTC rushed for 195 yards, led by Keon Williams' 90, a week after gaining 222 at The Citadel.

Donald's sack killed the ensuing Eagles drive and UTC appeared to put the game away soon after when Coleman hit wideout Brian Sutherland for a 43-yard touchdown to make it 35-20 with 10:31 to play in the game.

It was the first touchdown of Sutherland's career as well.

"I'd been trying to do it and I'd been setting up a lot of things this season, but I finally got it," said Sutherland, who led UTC with five catches for 80 yards. "It was an unbelievable feeling."

Led by some good running by Erroll Wynn, and a big fourth-down play, the UTC offense drove for a much-needed score in the second quarter that cut the Eagles' lead to 17-14. Wynn had 33 yards rushing on a 56-yard drive, which was kept alive when Coleman hit wideout Joel Bradford for 11 yards on fourth-and-9.

Georgia Southern was penalized for roughing the passer on the play, which gave UTC the ball at the Eagles' 9. Three plays later Wynn ran the ball in from the 1 to make it 17-14 with 5:38 to play in the half.

The Eagles kept the ball for the rest of the half with a 16-play drive that ended with an Adrian Mora 33-yard field goal as time expired.

The highlight of the opening half for the Mocs was Coleman's play-fake and 46-yard touchdown pass to running back Chris Awuah that put UTC up 7-3 midway through the first quarter.

Even though the final minutes weren't easy, the UTC coaches' and players' smiles when it was over said that it didn't matter, because for just the fourth time ever the Mocs had defeated Georgia Southern.

"We beat a good football team, a really good football team," Huesman said. "I like that team. They're going to win games this year."

So too, apparently, are the Mocs.