CHARLESTON, S.C. — Three road games. Three less-than-stellar offensive performances by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team.
This time, the third was anything but a charm.
The third-ranked Mocs had only 295 yards of total offense in a 22-14 loss Saturday at eighth-ranked The Citadel. The Mocs were held to 13 first downs and 55 yards on the ground, the fewest for a UTC team since another 55-yard total (on 28 carries) against Jacksonville State in 2011.
Saturday was the Mocs' first below-100 rushing game since a 73-yard performance in a 26-23 loss to JSU in 2014.
Part of the reason this time was the Mocs couldn't get the ball. They had it for only 20 minutes, 29 seconds, running 47 offensive plays to the Bulldogs' 81. The home team had the ball for 39:26 of game time, rushed for 342 yards and converted 13 of 20 third downs into firsts to keep the ball, which kept UTC from getting into an offensive rhythm.
Alejandro Bennifield threw for 240 yards and a 75-yard touchdown to C.J. Board, who finished with 120 yards on six receptions. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior is now one catch behind Faysal Shafaat for 10th in UTC career catches (124) and 66 yards from moving into 10th all-time in receiving yards (1,633).
Xavier Borishade had 29 yards on three catches, while Derrick Craine — who was injured on the third possession of the third quarter and did not return — had 55 yards on a pair of receptions to go along with 35 yards on only eight carries. Twenty-four of those came on one carry.
"We tried to do everything because obviously our offense couldn't move the ball a lick in the second half," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "We made a whole lot of mistakes; offensively I don't think we played well. We had one long pass and one long drive (in the game), and the rest of the time we got it handed to us pretty good."
The Mocs ran seven more plays in the second half than they did in the first, but after gaining 209 yards on 20 offensive plays in the first 30 minutes, they were limited to 86 yards on 27 plays in the second. Craine's absence made the Mocs mostly one-dimensional.
"They changed up their defense a little bit, and it gave us a little trouble up front," Bennifield said. "The passing game was off, and they run the ball, so you don't get many opportunities, and that cost us in the end."
After allowing 196 rushing yards in the first half, the UTC defense stiffened in the third quarter, forcing two punts and a turnover on downs. The offense couldn't capitalize, punting the ball twice and giving up a safety when Bennifield was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
"In the second half, we couldn't get back in that groove," Board said. "The defense was out there playing their hearts out, and we wanted to go out and produce. Everyone executed fine, played hard; The Citadel just went out there and made plays. That's what it amounts to."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.