BOONE, N.C. --- Nakevion Leslie’s (Powder Springs, Ga.) 28-yard interception return for touchdown lifted Chattanooga (7-2/5-1) to a 35-28 win at Appalachian State (2-7/2-4). The triumph propels the Mocs into first place in the Southern Conference, a half-game lead over Wofford and Samford at 4-1.
“I followed the quarterback’s eyes as he (Davis) got the pressure, the ball came out a little low,” Leslie stated. “I was able to catch the ball and get into the end zone behind a great block from Wes (Dothard).”
It was a fight to the end for the Mocs defense. Battered and bruised, UTC was up to the task.
App State took over on its own 14 on the ensuing drive and immediately began to move the ball. Quarterback Kameron Bryant found Simms McElfresh for 14 yards on first down. Marcus Cox ran for 20 yards to the App 48.
An incompletion was followed by Bryant connections of eight, 13, 14 and six yards. Cox got the ball to the Chattanooga nine and two yards were needed for a first down with a mere 53 seconds to play.
The Mocs held strong for their second red zone stop of the game as Bryant could not find an open receiver on third or fourth down. Jacob Huesman (Chattanooga, Tenn.) took a knee twice to run out the final 44 ticks for the program’s first win in Boone in 30 years (1983).
“This is the best win I’ve ever been involved with in my life,” Head Coach Russ Huesman said. “Our guys have some guts about them. They’re special. They’re winners. They just know how to win, and I am so proud of them.”
The younger Huesman was fantastic on the day. He ran for 132 yards and a touchdown while throwing for two more on 13 of 19 passing for 127 yards. He linked with seven different receivers as Faysal Shafaat (Orlando, Fla.) and Terrell Robinson (South Pittsburg, Tenn.) led the way with three each.
Cox was the star for the Mountaineers. He ran 29 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns. Bryant threw for 257 yards and a score hitting on 26 of 36 attempts.
Two special teams plays were key to the Mocs win, both fake kicks. The first came early in the second quarter as the elder Huesman gambled. The squad was set for a 24-yard field goal attempt, but kicker Nick Pollard (Nashville, Tenn.) motioned left and holder Jacob Huesman took the snap straight up the middle. He bulled his way in for the seven-yard score.
The latter came early in the fourth quarter. With the fake punt called, Pollard took a high snap around the right end 17 yards on fourth and three to the 50. Two plays later Huesman found Robinson down the right sideline for 31 yards to tie the game at 21-all.
“Before the game, I told the defense that we were going to fake a field goal, fake a punt and probably have an onside kick before it’s all said and done,” Coach Huesman added. “I told them the only reason we could try it is because I believe in our defense.
“Fortunately, they both worked out.”
Huesman’s second scoring strike came on the next Mocs possession. He found Shafaat for a first down at the App 29. On the ensuing play, Huesman hit Xavier Borishade (Kennesaw, Ga.) on the left sideline. His catch-and-run for the 29-yard score gave Chattanooga its first lead 28-21 with 9:04 to play.
App answered on its next drive. Bobo Beathard’s 44-yard kickoff return gave his team prime field position on the Mocs 49. Bryant found Tony Washington in the back end of the end zone from 20 yards out to tie it setting up Leslie’s heroics.
The defensive effort was special. Kadeem Wise (Lawrenceville, Ga.) led the charge with a career-high 14 tackles, while Dothard added another 10. Injuries to linebackers Gunner Miller (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Muhasibi Wakeel (Decatur, Ga.) gave Leslie, a redshirt freshman, his chance to shine in the end.
The Mocs return home next Saturday for the regular season home finale against Wofford. Kickoff is at 2 p.m., and it is the SoCon Saturday ESPN3 contest. Links to live video, audio and stats are available at GoMocs.com and fans can follow on twitter (@GoMocsFB) for news, stats and notes.
It is Military Appreciation Day. All military personnel, veterans and families are admitted free. Chattanooga will also honor its seniors in their final regular season contest at Finley Stadium.
Play - Quarter/Time/Score
APP – Marcus Cox 4 yard Rush (Drew Stewart Kick) - 1/9:43/0-7
Drive: 9 plays, 90 yards, 3:23
Key Play(s): 2/2/V26 – Cox up the middle for 22 yards
APP – Cox 1 yard Rush (Stewart Kick) - 2/1:32/7-14
Drive: 10 plays, 58 yards, 3:56
Key Play(s): 3/7/V42 – Kameron Bryant 13 yards to Malachi Jones
UTC – Derrick Craine 1 yard Rush (Pollard Kick) - 3/8:42/14-14
Drive: 11 plays, 75 yards, 4:01
Key Play(s): 1/10/V25 – Huesman runs right for 43 yards on 1st play of drive
APP – Cox 1 yard Rush (Stewart Kick) - 3/5:16/14-21
Drive: 11 plays, 68 yards, 3:26
Key Play(s): 3/9/H33 – Bryant to Simms McElfresh for 13 yards
UTC – Terrell Robinson 31 yard pass from Huesman (Pollard Kick) - 4/12:49/21-21
Drive: 7 plays, 85 yards, 2:41
Key Play(s): 4/3/V33 – Nick Pollard runs 17 yards after high snap on punt, 15-yard late hit penalty on App
APP – Tony Washington 20 yard pass from Kameron Bryant (Stewart Kick) - 4/7:07/28-28
Drive: 5 plays, 49 yards, 1:48
Key Play(s): 3/4/V43 – Bryant scampers 5 yards