Mocs prove clutch in another one-point OT win at The Citadel

Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / UTC running back Tyrell Price scored two touchdowns, including one in overtime, to help the Mocs defeat The Citadel 29-28 on Saturday in Charleston, S.C.

Two different coaching staffs. Two nearly identical results in Charleston, South Carolina, for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program against The Citadel.

In September 2018, the Mocs jumped out to a two-touchdown lead before their hosts rallied to force overtime. The Bulldogs got the ball first in the extra period, scored a touchdown and kicked the extra point to go ahead by seven. UTC answered with a 4-yard touchdown run by Tyrell Price, but instead of lining up to attempt a tying kick, coach Tom Arth elected to go for a 2-point conversion, receiver Bryce Nunnelly got the ball on an end-around run and tight end Jordan Giberti caught Nunnelly's ensuing pass for the 29-28 win.

Saturday's game was eerily similar. The Mocs held a 10-point lead at halftime, but the Bulldogs came back to force OT. The Citadel scored first in the extra period and kicked the extra point, but Price responded with a 4-yard touchdown run and coach Rusty Wright's Mocs secured a 25-24 win when Drayton Arnold tossed a shovel pass to tight end Jay Gibson for two points.

The victory was encouraging for UTC (2-1, 2-0 Southern Conference) because it showed some fight.

Price's touchdown run in OT provided the Mocs their first points since Skyler Wilson's 33-yard field goal just before halftime made it 17-7. The Mocs had five possessions in the second half. Two ended on fourth down on The Citadel's half of the field. Two ended on Arnold turnovers - first a fumble, then an interception - with the two takeaways by the Bulldogs leading to their 10-point comeback.

UTC's defense limited the Bulldogs' triple-option attack to 203 rushing yards and just 3.2 per carry. The Citadel, which dropped to 0-2 in league play, remains winless through six total games in a 2020-21 schedule that included three games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents during fall semester.

The Mocs have a week off before heading back to South Carolina, this time to face Furman (2-1, 2-1), which rallied Saturday to defeat Samford 44-37 in OT in Greenville.

photo Staff file photo by Troy Stolt / UTC tight end Juwan Tyus (88) scored a 75-yard touchdown on a pass from Drayton Arnold for the first points of Saturday's 29-28 overtime victory at The Citadel. Arnold's pass came on UTC's first play from scrimmage.

Mocs star

UTC's offense kind of sputtered after the first half, but the defense was solid throughout. Linebacker Ty Boeck had 11 tackles, and defensive end Devonnsha Maxwell had 10 and two more sacks, equaling his total against Wofford a week earlier. Allowing 203 rushing yards is usually a bad thing, but when you're up facing an option-based offense with a quarterback who is largely ineffective throwing the ball, it's solid. The Citadel finished with 230 yards of total offense, its lowest against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent and third-fewest this season (162 against Clemson, 218 against Army).

Key stat

The Mocs were called for just three penalties to the Bulldogs' nine. The Citadel's final flag was the most damaging: Defensive back Destin Mack was called for pass interference while trying to prevent UTC receiver Reginald Henderson from getting inside for a touchdown. That led to a first down and the Mocs' final touchdown, which led to the winning conversion.

Turning point

That would be the pass-interference call against Mack, because it gave new life to a UTC offense that had slowed down in the second half.

Quotable

"(The Bulldogs) lined up how I thought they would, and Dray made a good read. We practiced it that way, and Juwan was open the whole time." - Wright on the game's first play, a 75-yard touchdown pass from Arnold to tight end Juwan Tyus

"We had a lot of guys doing what they are supposed to do. Great eyes, reading what they're supposed to read, squeeze when they're supposed to squeeze, coming off the ball and taking on double teams, taking on a cut block and not getting cut. Everything goes just down the line, and we knew once we got them to stop running the ball, they'd have to pass. We've got this call 'green,' and when when it's 'green,' it's time to go." - Maxwell on the defense's performance

Final thought

The game didn't need to be this close. Wright is big on ending every possession with a kick, but the Mocs gave the ball away twice, and that led to the 10 points that led to overtime. Still, it's a win in a game the Mocs basically dominated, minus the mistakes. Those mistakes did happen, though, so they have to be cleaned up before the Furman trip - but walking away from a tough road game with a win makes that part a lot easier.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.