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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / UTC quarterback Nick Tiano (7) comes up just short of the end zone during the first half of the Mocs' loss to Mercer in November 2018 at Finley Stadium.

There is no truth to the rumor that the video of last year's football game between Mercer and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga carries a warning that viewers should proceed at their own risk.

It probably should, though.

As UTC (2-3, 1-0 Southern Conference) prepares to face the Bears (2-3, 1-1) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Macon, Georgia, for a game that has all the makings of an offensive shootout, here's a quick look at last season's "Little Game of Horrors" as a guide in how not to win. Consider:

* UTC's defense allowed only 149 total yards and seven first downs. The Bears rushed for 71 yards on 32 carries and were just 7-of-22 passing with an interception. They converted just two of 14 third downs into first downs.

* The Mocs had 309 total yards and 15 first downs and reached the red zone five times. On those trips inside the Bears' 20-yard line, UTC came away with three field goals and had two series reach the 1 with no points produced.

* UTC's Derek Mahaffey intercepted a pass and appeared to have returned it for a touchdown until he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The UTC bench was called for a personal foul, and the possession ended with a missed field goal.

* Mercer's Stephen Houzah returned two second-half kickoffs 73 and 91 yards to set up both touchdowns in the 13-9 win, the second one in the final three minutes just after the Mocs had taken a 9-7 lead.

Eleven months later and with a new coaching staff at UTC, the game is a distant memory, but its lessons haven't been lost on a team trying to break the strange hex Mercer seems to have over the Mocs. The Bears, since reviving their program in 2013, have won three of the five meetings, including both at their Five Star Stadium.

"It's a tough place to play," UTC coach Rusty Wright said. "There are a few teams that have trouble winning there, and it's because they are always well coached."

A look at this year's statistics after five games points to a decidedly different matchup between the Mocs and the Bears. Each team has allowed an average of more than 30 points per game and ranks in the bottom third of the Football Championship Subdivision in several defensive categories.

The Mocs are 98th of 124 FCS teams in total defense, having allowed an average of 453 yards per game. The Bears are one spot behind at 456 yards per game. While Mercer has the better offensive stats (405 yards per game to UTC's 342), the Mocs are coming off a 60-point, 400-yard rushing game against Western Carolina that Wright hopes will ignite a slow-starting offense.

"I hope it gives us a lot of confidence," he said. "I thought we were close to doing some big things offensively the last three weeks, and that includes not scoring any against Tennessee. We were closer, and it's hard for our players to see at times because all they see is the end result.

"But we had guys doing good things, and sometimes when you are playing good people they are the result of you not doing more. We did a lot of good things offensively last week."

The offense, though, will be without three starters at Mercer. Right tackle Harrison Moon and receiver Lameric Tucker are out for the season with injuries, and running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks will miss at least this game with a hamstring strain.

UTC's Ailym Ford is coming off a 195-yard performance and leads the nation's FCS freshmen with a rushing average of 88.2 yards per game. Tyrell Price, who started the opener, is out for the season as well, so Ford and Jeffrey Wood II will carry the load in the running game.

"We feel confident with all our backs," senior left tackle Malcolm White said. "Last week was a lot of fun. The line had a great day and so did our backs. When you win a game like that it kind of fixes everything."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.

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