CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The 23rd-ranked Chattanooga Mocs (8-2/6-1) kept their perch atop the Southern Conference standings with a 20-10 win over No. 15 Wofford (5-4/4-2) at Finley Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Mocs win and Samford’s loss at Furman guarantee at least a share of the SoCon title for the boys from the Scenic City.
Head Coach Russ Huesman, a former Mocs safety (1978-81), was a part of two Southern Conference Championship teams. He engineered the fifth.
“It’s huge,” Huesman said. “We knew coming in that if we won and Samford lost, we would guarantee ourselves a share. We still have to play a game next week because the playoffs aren’t guaranteed, and I don’t believe Samford is going to give it to us.
“But I’m proud of our guys,” he continued. “It’s unbelievable how many different guys stepped up and made plays for us today.”
It’s the first SoCon title for Chattanooga since 1984. The Mocs scored all the points they’d need in the first eight minutes of the game.
“It seems like it’s taken forever,” Huesman added. “It feels like I’ve been here for about 20 years now. The first thing that went through my mind after the game was remembering Wofford celebrating on their field after they got us last year.
“Seeing us have the opportunity to celebrate something like this is pretty cool.”
After a touchback on the opening kickoff, Jacob Huesman (Chattanooga, Tenn.) finished a 75-yard opening drive with a seven-yard dash to take the 7-0 lead. Kendrix Huitt (Atlanta, Ga.) scored nearly five minutes later from three yards out to stake the squad to a 14-0 advantage.
“That was big time,” senior offensive lineman Keven Revis noted. “I thought Coach (Jeff) Durden called a really good game, and Coach (Alex) Atkins had us prepared on (Wofford’s) front. We just came out and performed well on senior day because we had something to play for. We didn’t have any other choice than to win this game. We wanted to get it from the first snap instead of waiting until the second half.”
The story was an outstanding defensive effort. UTC held Wofford’s triple option attack to more than 100 yards under its season average of 273.4 yards with 172 yards on the day. The Terriers managed just 3.7 yards per rush, earning every inch throughout the game.
They kept it interesting as well with a stout defense after the Mocs initial scoring shots. Trailing 17-3 coming out of halftime, the Terriers went into their bag of tricks with running back Will Gay hitting Will Irwin for 60 yards. It looked like an easy score but Kadeem Wise (Lawrenceville, Ga.) ran down Irwin at the two. Donovan Johnson made it 17-10 on the next play.
Nick Pollard (Nashville, Tenn.) ended the scoring with a 42 yard field goal with 11:51 left in the fourth quarter. That capped a 65-yard drive after safety Zack McCarter (Chattanooga, Tenn.) recovered a fumbled pitch at his own 10 to snuff out a Terrier drive.
The Mocs forced four turnovers with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The Terriers final two drives were stopped by a Daniel Ring (Lighthouse Point, Fla.) fumble recovery and Wes Dothard (Carollton, Ga.) interception. Ring’s fumble recovery came on sack and forced fumble by the duo of Davis Tull (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Josh Freeman (Atlanta, Ga.).
While the offense did not get in the end zone in the final three quarters, it did produce. Chattanooga topped Wofford, a prodigious ball control attack, in time of possession, 31:43 to 28:17.
It was another big day for Huesman. He totaled 267 yards of total offense with 116 yards rushing (18 carries) and a touchdown along with 151 yards in the air (15-23-0).
Johnson led the Terriers with 80 yards on 20 rushes and a TD. Gay ran for 34 yards (6 carries) and threw for 60. Quarterback Evan Jacks ran it 13 times for 29 yards and completed seven of 15 passes for another 39 with two interceptions.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Nakevion Leslie (Powder Springs, Ga.) was big again this week. He had 14 tackles, including a sack, while contributing on another stop behind the line of scrimmage. Dothard added nine stops with two-and-a-half tackles for loss and the interception that ended Wofford’s hopes.
“Holding the Wofford rushing game was very impressive,” Dothard said. “Our defense stepped up and played an awesome game, and players like Nakevion Leslie made that happen. He played an awesome game, and that was his first playing inside linebacker. That was one of our keys to winning the game.”
It’s off to Birmingham, Ala., for another key SoCon matchup as the Mocs tackle Samford at 3 p.m. the Bulldogs are tied for second in the league at 4-2 with Wofford and Furman, one-and-a-half games behind Chattanooga. The game will be aired on the Mocs Sports Network and ESPN 105.1 The Zone, as well as ESPN3.com.
Play - Quarter/Time/Score
UTC – Jacob Huesman 7 yard Rush (Nick Pollard Kick) - 1/12:17/7-0
Drive: 6 plays, 75 yards, 2:43
Key Play(s): 1/10/H25 – Huesman hits Terrell Robinson for 28 yards to open the game
Wofford – Kasey Redfern 25 yard Field Goal - 2/14:17/14-3
Drive: 17 plays, 64 yards, 7:56
Key Play(s): 4/1/V37 – Will Gay takes pitch 2 yards for first down
UTC – Pollard 29 yard Field Goal - 2/2:20/17-3
Drive: 7 plays, 48 yards, 3:43
Key Play(s): Dee Virgin intercepts pass at UTC 40
Wofford – Donovan Johnson 2 yard Rush (Redfern Kick) - 3/13:54/17-10
Drive: 3 plays, 79 yards, 1:06
Key Play(s): 1/10/V38Will Gay halfback option pass to Will Irvin nets 60 yards
UTC – Pollard 42 yard Field Goal - 4/11:51/20-10
Drive: 11 plays, 65 yards, 5:36
Key Play(s): 3/1/H39 – Derrick Craine with punishing 4-yard run