JOHNSON CITY ( 20th-ranked Chattanooga Mocs rallied late but fell 17-14 at ETSU Saturday night at Greene Stadium. The Mocs trailed 17-0 entering the fourth quarter yet ended the contest driving in quest of the winning or tying tally.
The first drive of the fourth quarter was the offensive turning point. Nick Tiano converted a 3rd-and-18 pass to Joseph Parker for 31 yards to get the Mocs to the three. Tiano later found Bryce Nunnelly wide open in the middle of the end zone to get the visitors from the Scenic City on the scoreboard.
The defense held the Bucs with a three-and-out, putting the offense back to work. A couple of strong runs by Tiano and Tyrell Price followed by a Tiano-Nunnelly connection got the Mocs into the Bucs end of the field.
Two incompletions and a false start penalty made it a little dicey with a 3rd-and-15 situation. Wil Young's 14-yard catch in traffic made it fourth and a yard. Price used second effort to get the first down and keep hope alive. The methodical march of 14 plays culminated in Price's three-yard plunge to cut it 17-14 with 4:27 on the clock.
ETSU tried to run out the clock. Two Jacob Saylors runs were followed by Austin Herink escaping pressure in the backfield to get the first down on an 18-yard scamper. The defense stopped progress from there, but the Bucs worked three precious minutes off the clock, pinning UTC on its own five.
Tiano and Young got together for 25 yards on first down. They got the ball to their own 43 when incompletions and a dwindling clock were catching up. Six seconds remained when Tiano hit Parker across the 50. He pitched it to Nunnelly who, as he was being stopped, attempted to shovel it to a teammate. The ball was loose but recovered by Chris Barnes after time expired.
The offense entered the fourth quarter with 148 total yards, but torched the home defense for 173 in the fourth quarter comeback effort. The defense was stout as well allowing just 37, half coming on the Henrink scramble that proved key to the victorious side.
It was all Bucs early. They scored on a 54-yard run-and-catch by Quay Holmes from Henrink. That was quickly followed by Holmes four-yard run after a turnover gave the Bucs a miniscule field at the Mocs 10 yard line. A late second quarter field goal of 33 yards by J.J. Jerman built the advantage to 17-0.
The turnover at the 10 was one of three fumbles for UTC in the first half. Twice the squad had drives stymied in the Bucs territory in the second quarter on fumbles.
With the win, ETSU sits alone atop the Southern Conference standings at 3-0. Wofford is a half-game back in second, while the Mocs and Mercer are third at 2-1.