CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The Chattanooga Mocs (4-4/3-2) pushed No. 2 Georgia Southern (7-1/6-1) to the limit before losing 39-31 in triple overtime at Finley Stadium. The loss spoiled a strong comeback for Chattanooga after a fast start by the Eagles.
GSU took a 21-7 lead, scoring touchdowns on three of its first four possessions. Jacob Huesman's (Chattanooga, Tenn.) two-yard first quarter score was sandwiched by three rushing touchdowns for the Eagles. Darreion Robinson (29 yards) and Jerick McKinnon (10 and 18 yards) looked like a juggernaut early.
But the Mocs defense stiffened and the offense took flight on Huesman's legs. The redshirt freshman quarterback ran for a career-high 170 yards on 26 carries, scoring twice in the game. Down 21-7, he engineered a drive that resulted in Nick Pollard (Nashville, Tenn.) nailing a career-best-tying 39-yard field goal which led to a 21-10 deficit at intermission.
That trio of points started a great run for the Mocs. It was the beginning of 17 unanswered as Chattanooga dominated play in the third quarter. Marquis Green (Palmetto, Fla.) and Huesman scored on six and 10-yard runs, respectively, to give UTC a 24-21 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
After holding GSU to a three-and-out on the first possession of the fourth quarter, a turnover sent the Mocs defense back on the field. Tommy Hudson (Moultrie, Ga.) fumbled the GSU punt which the Eagles recovered on the UTC 36. McKinnon converted a key third-down in the drive to get the ball inside the UTC 10 at the nine.
The Mocs defense was up to the task. It allowed just two more yards in three plays and Alex Hanks tied the game at 24-all with a 24-yard FG. Neither offense mounted a dangerous threat although the Eagles did manage to give Hanks a chance from 49 yards out to win the game. His kick was not close and free football for all commenced in the Scenic City.
Georgia Southern wasted no time. Two plays and a score as Robinson ran 20 yards down the right sideline for the 31-24 lead.
The Mocs opened with a Huesman to Terrell Robinson (South Pittsburg, Tenn.) connection for nine yards and a Huesman three-yard run. But three plays later they faced elimination on fourth-and-five from the eight. Huesman scrambled, bought time and found Faysal Shafaat (Orlando, Fla.) in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 31.
In the second extra period, UTC started with the ball. Three plays netted one yard. Pollard's 41-yard field goal effort sailed wide right opening the door for the Eagles. It was slammed shut on the first play as Zack Rayl (Englewood, Tenn.) pounced on McKinnon's fumble sending the game to a third overtime period.
GSU started with the ball and could not have been more methodical. It took 10 plays to move 25 yards converting on short-yardage three times, including fourth-and-one before McKinnon edged in from a yard out. He rushed in for the two-point conversion for a 39-31 advantage.
That score would hold up. The Mocs got inside the Eagles' 10 but could not convert on fourth-and-two from the five. The loss overshadowed some amazing efforts.
Huesman's 170 yards rushing is the second-most by a freshman in school history. He had a game-high 282 yards of total offense throwing for 102 on 11 of 20 passing and a touchdown. He also caught a Robinson offering for 16 yards.
Defensively, Derrick Lott (Kennesaw, Ga.) had 15 tackles at defensive tackle. That's a number not often reached by the interior of a defensive line as a unit much less by an individual. He was joined in game-high honors by Wes Dothard (Carrollton, Ga.) with 15 stops of his own.
Defensive end Davis Tull (Knoxville, Tenn.) added 12 tackles including three for loss. Safety D.J. Key (Centerville, Tenn.) chipped in 11 tackles of his own.
McKinnon and Robinson paced a stout rushing effort for GSU. McKinnon had 141 yards on 28 carries with three touchdowns while passing for 55 completing three of five attempts. Robinson had two scores of his own running for 74 yards on 11 totes.
All-in-all, the Eagles amassed 372 yards on the ground to 198 for the Mocs. GSU had 217 yards at the half and 109 in the final two quarters of regulation. It added 46 in the extra periods.
Both teams had two turnovers. GSU converted the Mocs' miscues into 10 points, while UTC had seven off the Eagles' lone regulation fumble.
The Mocs travel to Western Carolina next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Audio broadcast and live stat links can be accessed via the football schedule page on GoMocs.com.
Play - Quarter/Time/Score
GSU - Darreion Robinson 29 yd Run (Alex Hanks Kick) - 1/9:52/0-7
Drive: 7 plays, 64 yards, 3:33
Key Play(s): 3/5/H49 - Jerick McKinnon runs 17 yards
GSU - Jerick McKinnon 10 yd Run (Hanks Kick) - 1/7:32/0-14
Drive: 4 plays, 29 yards, 2:13
Key Play(s): Zach York recovers fumbled kickoff return by Marquis Green
UTC - Jacob Huesman 2 yd Run (Nick Pollard Kick) - 1/5:38/7-14
Drive: 4 plays, 75 yards, 1:54
Key Play(s): 2/1/H34 - Huesman runs 44 yds around left end
GSU - McKinnon 18 yd Run (Nick Pollard Kick) - 2/11:12/7-21
Drive: 6 plays, 74 yards, 3:37
Key Play(s): 3/6/V45 - McKinnon 40 yard pass to Zach Walker
UTC - Pollard 39 yd Field Goal - 2/4:54/10-21
Drive: 8 plays, 32 yards, 2:43
Key Play(s): 3/1/V44 - Keon Williams 1 yard run up the middle
UTC - Marquis Green 6 yd Run (Pollard Kick) - 3/11:03/17-21
Drive: 5 plays, 60 yards, 2:04
Key Play(s): 1/10/V47 - Huesman to Terrell Robinson for 43 yards
UTC - Huesman 10 yd Run (Pollard Kick) - 3/0:07/24-2
Drive: 6 plays, 39 yards, 2:58
Key Play(s): 3/1/V30 - Huesman 14 yard run
GSU - Hanks 24 yd Field Goal - 4/8:06/24-24
Drive: 9 plays, 29 yards, 4:39
Key Play(s): Tommy Hudson fumble on punt return recovered by Eagles
GSU - Robinson 20 yd Run (Hanks Kick) - 1OT/24-31
Drive: 2 plays, 25 yards
Key Play(s): N/A
UTC - Huesman 8 yd Pass to Faysal Shafaat (Pollard Kick) - 1OT/31-31
Drive: 6 plays, 25 yards
Key Play(s): N/A
GSU - McKinnon 1 yd Run (McKinnon Rush) - 3OT/31-39
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Drive: 10 plays, 25 yards
Key Play(s): 4/1/H5 - McKinnon 1 yard run