Mocs Remain Perfect in SoCon Play with 38-31 Victory Over Mercer
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (GoMocs.com)--- The Chattanooga Mocs offense led the way in a 38-31 Southern Conference win over Mercer in Finley Stadium Saturday afternoon. That gives UTC its first 4-0 start (5-3 overall) in league play in school history.
“It's a huge positive,” coach Russ Huesman shared. “That's what I told our kids in (the locker room). I told them to enjoy (4-0) because wins are hard. I don't care who you're playing, when you're playing or where you're playing. To get a win in college football…or high school football…or the NFL is hard.”
It was an offensive day with several career highs. The Mocs rolled up 542 yards, 458 coming from junior quarterback Jacob Huesman, including a career-high 359 in air. His 61-yard third quarter strike to Xavier Borishade gave his squad a 35-14 advantage with six minutes left in the period.
Mercer was unfazed. It took the ensuing possession straight down the field. Quarterback John Russ kept left at the 15 for nine yards to the Mocs six. Derrick Lott and Josh Freeman combined for a sack of Russ to make it third-and-three at the Chattanooga eight.
JeTarii Donald took the pitch right and then pulled up and floated a pass just out of reach of the Mocs defenders for an eight-yard touchdown to J.T. Palmer. The Bears defense then made a play down 14, 35-21, two snaps later.
Huesman's throw down the left sideline was picked off by Alex Avant at the Mocs 41. The next snap, Russ hit Chandler Curtis on a crossing pattern. Two Mocs defenders collided and Curtis sprinted into the end zone to cut the margin to 35-28.
The two teams traded field goals with Henrique Ribeiro keeping his perfect season in tact with a 45-yarder with 10:26 to play. Jagger Lieb connected from 42 yards out with 6:32 left to make it a seven-point game again, 38-31.
After a three-and-out, the Mocs defense stiffened, but not without a little drama. Alex Lakes rumbled 39 yards up the middle to get into the UTC red zone at the 17. He got one yard on first down, followed by Russ overthrowing his receiver in the right corner of the end zone.
Russ tried a quarterback draw on third down. Nakevion Leslie shot the gap and dropped him for a four-yard loss to the 20. The Bears went for it on fourth down with the clock under three minutes. Just like on second down, Dee Virgin gave Russ little room to the thread the needle as his pass sailed out of the end zone.
Derrick Craine picked up 29 yards with two first downs on the next possession which ran the clock down to 12 seconds when the drive stalled at the Mocs 48. Nick Pollard's punt went 52 yards into the end zone, giving the Bears the ball with 80 yards to go and four seconds to play. Russ' deep ball was broken up by true freshman Tavon Lawson to cement the win.
“I was proud of our offense,” coach Huesman added. “Our offense made plays. Jacob (Huesman), obviously other than the interception, played really well. Derrick Craine continues to run hard. Our offensive line is getting better, so offensively I'm proud of them.”
Huesman completed 24 of 36 passes for 359 yards with two scores and an interception. He gained another 99 on the ground on eight rushes, accounting for another touchdown. Craine (53 yards) and Keon Williams (31) also found the end zone as the Scenic City ground game netted 183 yards.
Three receivers caught five passes from Huesman including Craine (55 yards), Borishade (94) and C.J. Board (82). Those were career highs across the board. Tommy Hudson had 90 yards on two catches as Huesman connected with eight different teammates.
Mercer's 440 yards of total offense are the most against the Mocs since this season. The last time an opponent managed as many was UT Martin in last season's opener with 451.
Russ had 293 yards in the air on 14 of 25 attempts with two touchdowns and an interception. Lakes had 100 yards rushing on 20 carries, while Curtis posted 89 yards receiving on five catches. He, Palmer and Tee Mitchell all had touchdowns for the Bears.
Davis Tull continued his march up the record books. He recorded 1.5 sacks today to get to 35 for his career, 1.5 from the SoCon record of 36.5 by Josh Jeffries (App State). The Mocs tallied three sacks and six TFLs, with Leslie getting a team-high two. Muhasibi Wakeel led the team with nine tackles.
Tyler Ward led Mercer with seven stops. The Bears are now 5-4, 1-4 in SoCon action.
The Mocs return to the road for a key SoCon matchup at Western Carolina. It is a battle for first place with both squads sporting 4-0 league marks. The 2:00 p.m. kick is available on the SoCon Digital Network. Access links to video, audio, stats and more on the football schedule page on GoMocs.com. Fans can follow live updates on Twitter @GoMocsFB.
SCORING SUMMARY Play – Quarter/Time/Score Mercer – John Russ 8 yard Run (Jagger Lieb Kick) - 1/10:23/0-7 Drive: 3 plays, 61 yards, 0:59 Key Play(s): 1/10/V39 – Russ hits Robert Brown for 49 yards on 1st play of the drive