Mocs beat themselves in home finale loss to Mercer
CHATTANOOGA, TN (GoMocs.com) - The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team let two long kickoff returns negate an outstanding effort from the defense in a 13-9 loss on Senior Day to Mercer. UTC falls to 6-4 overall and finishes league play with a 4-4 mark. The Bears improve to 5-5 overall and 4-3 in SoCon action.
Sophomore Victor Ulmo put the Mocs up 9-7 with his third field goal of the second half with 2:13 left to play. UTC kicked off and only a shoe-string tackle by C.J. Fritz kept the Bears’ Stephen Houzah from returning the following kickoff 92 for the score.
UTC made two valiant efforts to keep Mercer out of the endzone, but Tyray Devezin finally broke through on third down from the one. With just 1:50 left on the clock and no timeout, Chattanooga could not respond.
The Mocs held Mercer to just 149 yards of total offense. However, the Bear racked up 180 yards on kickoff returns. Houzah also had a 73-yarder in the fourth quarter that set up Mercer’s first score.
Offensively, UTC got down to the Mercer two-yard-line three times in the first half and did not score. The first was on a 63-yard run by Alex Trotter in the first quarter. He was stripped of the ball on the one-yard line. Mercer then made a goal-line stand in the second quarter, stopping the Mocs on third and fourth down from the one.
The final time came after a Derek Mahaffey interception. It looked like a 61-yard return for a score for the senior defensive lineman, but he was flagged for high-stepping on the two. Add another 15-yard penalty for a sideline infraction on the Mocs and Chattanooga’s 7-0 lead was taken away for first-and-10 at the Mercer 32.
UTC finally got on the board in the third quarter. Senior Cody Swabek blocked a punt that sophomore D.J. Jackson recovered on the Mercer 20. Ulmo’s 38-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright, but fell through for a 3-0 lead with 11:37 left in the third.
Ulmo put the Mocs up 6-0 with a 28-yarder early in the fourth quarter. He improved to 12-16 (75.0%) on the year with a career-high three makes today.
In the end, UTC’s inability to get into the endzone caught up to them. Chattanooga posted 120 rushing yards on 38 attempts, led by Trotter’s career-high 96 yards on 11 carries. Junior QB Nick Tiano was 21-33 for 189 yards passing. Senior Wil Young made seven catches for 72 yards, while sophomore Bryce Nunnelly had six receptions for 91 yards.
Senior Isaiah Mack and junior Marshall Cooper led the defensive unit with eight tackles each. Mack posted a sack for the fourth game in a row, while Mahaffey added six tackles and two breakups to go with his interception.