The Chattanooga Mocs dropped a 41-20 decision at No. 17 Jacksonville State Saturday night. The three-score difference didn’t tell the whole story.

It was 27-13 late in the third quarter. CaMIron Smith picked off a pass inside his own five yard line. A penalty during the return put the Mocs backs firmly against the wall.

After an incomplete pass, freshman Ailym Ford burst through the line and down the left sideline for 42 yards. Two Nck Tiano connections of 36 yards to Lameric Tucker and 16 to Bryce Nunnelly gave the good guys a first-and-goal at the 2. It took Ford one play to stroll in behind an excellent effort upfront to cut the lead to a single score, 27-20.

The Gamecocks answered with a signature drive of their own. They marched down the field but looked stalled at the Chattanooga 27. On fourth-and-8, Zerrick Cooper eluded pressure for as long as he could. As Smith hit him for the takedown, Cooper lofted a prayer falling backwards. It was answered by the diving hands of Trae Barry at the 12.

Both ends of the play were by a mere eyelash of getting the pass off and the catch made, but the fourth down was converted. Four plays later the Gamecocks made it 34-20 with the final margin coming on a Cooper 1-yard dive into the end zone, also on fourth down.

“There was a four-minute stretch there in the second quarter where we didn’t handle things very well and that is when the game turned,” Coach Rusty Wright shared. “It is always hard when you get behind. That is a good football team (JSU), and when you get behind them…we didn’t give ourselves an opportunity.”

Ford amassed 127 yards rushing tonight as the team topped 156 on 38 carries. That rushing total for the team is the most since 236 in the narrow loss at Sam Houston State in the 2016 FCS Playoffs. It's the most in a regular season non-conference road contest since 165 yards on Nov. 21, Florida State.

Cooper threw for 344 yards on 20 of 26 passing with one interception and two TDs. The Gamecocks tallied 509 yards total offense behind Cooper’s efforts compared to 303 for the visitors.

Despite the relatively low output of 303 yards, the Mocs had several bright spots. Notably converting 50 percent of their third-down plays (8/16) along with the running game providing the spark.

“They will play hard,” Wright said when asked what he learned about his team tonight. “There is no question. Those cats, we may not play smart all of the time, but they will play hard. They put it out there and gave themselves a chance. 

“We have to make some plays when there is a chance to make some plays and turn momentum our way. They will play hard, I give them credit for that.”