CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (gomocs.com) --- Control what you can control. It is a time-honored mantra. The eighth-seeded Chattanooga Mocs did just that in a 35-14 FCS Playoff win over visiting Indiana State. UTC controlled the clock by holding the ball for nearly 43 minutes, or 71.6 percent of the game.
“Time of possession is a key component of the ball game,” junior quarterback Jacob Huesman stated. “Not only do we wear their defense down, but we allow ours to get a little fresher.”
Huesman was fantastic. He had 394 yards of total offense with 153 on the ground and 241 in the air. He accounted for three of the Mocs' five scores on the day. His offense ran 87 plays to the Sycamores' 45.
“Any win you get now, in the playoffs, is against a really good football team,” coach Russ Huesman said. “Offensively, I thought we were lights-out today. We blocked, ran, threw, caught the ball and held onto it really well. We didn't make any mistakes.
The defense was just as stout. Muhasibi Wakeel's nine tackles led the way as his unit limited ISU to a mere 178 yards of total offense. Two plays accounted for 100 of those yards. The defense had four sacks and forced three turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“Defensively, for us to hold them to 178 yards – a team that throws for almost 300 yards every game – is unbelievable,” the elder Huesman continued. “I think our defense stepped up big time, and the kicking game, other than the field goals, I think did a great job.”
The defense got it started in the opening possession. Sema'je Kendall intercepted a Mike Perish offering returning it 27 yards to the ISU three. Keon Williams plunged into the end zone on the very next play for the early 7-0 lead.
“That was huge,” the younger Huesman interjected. “That just took the air right out of them at the beginning. It really got the crowd energized and the offense too. It's nice when you're able to go three yards for your first points of the game. As usual, the defense came up big for us.”
The next drive set the tone for the day. Starting on their own 10, the Mocs marched 90 yards in 14 plays with all the yards accounted for by the ground game. The 6-minute, 10-second drive was the second longest of the game and proved to be a harbinger for things to come.
Perish kept it interesting. He lofted a perfect pass down the left sideline that A.J. Johnson corralled and carried into the end zone for the 75-yard strike. The Mocs drove inside the Sycamores' 10 on the ensuing possession only to see Henrique Ribeiro's 25-yard field goal attempt blocked.
Huesman closed the first half and started the second half strong. He found Tommy Hudson for a 29-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 at the half. He capped an 11-play, 84-yard, drive to open the second half to increase the lead to 28-7.
One of the strangest plays you'll ever see came on the kickoff. The Mocs kick coverage converged on LeMonte Booker. Booker fumbled from the blows, but the ball kicked forward to Jordan Wallace. Wallace scooped it up at the 36 and took it the remaining 64 yards to cut the lead to 28-14.
Both sides of the ball dominated from there. The Mocs had the ball for 23:06 over the final two quarters as the Sycamores played just 6:54 of offense. ISU gained 48 second half yards on 21 plays, an average of 2.3 yards per snap.
“I thought they played great,” Russ Huesman added. “Holding them to one of 10 on third-down conversions is huge. They probably had 130 yards going into that last drive, and 75 of it was on one play and 25 was on another play. We played some pretty good defense, and I am proud of our guys. We have great defensive players and a great defensive staff. It doesn't surprise me.
“We have good players on defense, and I thought they got after it really well.”
Perish completed 12 of 27 passes for 151 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. His 75-yard strike to Johnson is the longest play against the Mocs in 2014. Booker's 26 yards on three carries led ISU. Mark Sewall had a game-high 15 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss.
The Mocs accumulated 503 yards on its season-high 87 plays. The balance was there as well with 262 yards on the ground and 241 in the air. That's the third straight game topping 200 yards in both areas.
Williams and Derrick Craine each scored on runs of three and one yard, respectively. Williams ran for 70 yards, as Craine ran for 30 and caught a team-high four passes for another 35.
The defense kept the opposing offense with less than 200 yards for the fifth time this season. Derrick Lotthad a busy day with four tackles, two for loss, including a sack and a forced fumble. Danny Ring added 1.5 sacks sharing one with Nakevion Leslie, while Vantrell McMillian had the other. As coach Huesman noted, they allowed the Sycamore just one third-down conversion in 10 tries.
“That is huge,” Wakeel noted. “I didn't know it was one of 10, though. That's huge, especially in a playoff game and in this kind of atmosphere…everything counts.”
The quarterfinals await Chattanooga. It travels to New Hampshire with the game currently scheduled for 1 p.m., next Saturday airing on ESPN3.com. Access links to audio, stats and more on the football schedule page GoMocs.com. Get your tickets on GoMocs.com or by calling the ticket office at 266-MOCS (6627). Fans can follow live updates on Twitter @GoMocsFB.
Play – Quarter/Time/Score
UTC – Keon Williams 3 yard Run (Henrique Ribeiro Kick) - 1/14:00/7-0
Drive: 1 plays, 3 yards, 0:05
Key Play(s): Se'maje Kendall intercepts pass, returns 27 yds to the ISU 3
UTC – Jacob Huesman 1 yard Run (Ribeiro Kick) - 1/5:03/14-0
Drive: 14 plays, 90 yards, 6:10
Key Play(s): 3/2/V47 – Williams rumbles 25 yards to the ISU 22
ISU – A.J. Johnson 75 yard Pass from Mike Perish (Eric Heidorn Kick) - 1/0:51/14-7
Drive: 2 plays, 72 yards, 0:43
Key Play(s): N/A
UTC – Tommy Hudson 29 yard Pass from Huesman (Ribeiro Kick) - 2/2:00/21-7
Drive: 3 plays, 23 yards, 1:27
Key Play(s): N/A
UTC – Huesman 1 yard Run (Ribeiro Kick) - 3/9:29/28-7
Drive: 11 plays, 84 yards, 5:25
Key Play(s): 3/10/V18 – Derrick Craine takes Huesman swing pass 17 yards to the 1
ISU – Jordan Wallace 64 yard Fumble Return (Heidorn Kick) - 3/9:14/28-14
Key Play(s): Fumble forced on kickoff return, recovered by ISU & returned for score
UTC – Derrick Craine 1 yard Run (Ribeiro Kick) - 4/1:53/35-14
Drive: 6 plays, 28 yards, 3:20
Key Play(s): Derrick Lott sacks Perish, forces fumble which was recovered by Keionta Davis