STATESBORO, Ga. — Chattanooga defensive end Davis Tull’s postgame posture told the story on Saturday evening, as the visiting Mocs suffered yet another heartbreaking defeat to Georgia Southern.
The Mocs (2-2, 0-1 SoCon), who led for virtually the entire second half, suffered their third straight single-digit loss to GSU, and Saturday’s setback was every bit as brutal as in years past.
“It’s hard to think of things to say when it’s been the same result for three years,” said a somber Tull after the 23-21 loss at Paulson Stadium. “It’s got to change ... This is the worst I’ve ever felt after a football game.”
Between the numerous missed tackles and penalties (11 for 75 yards), Chattanooga didn’t do itself any favors. The referees didn’t cut UTC any slack, either.
The Mocs, clinging to a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter, were penalized on back-to-back ineligible receiver downfield calls. And if those two drive-stalling penalties weren't critical enough, the plays they cancelled out made them even more vital.
Junior quarterback Jacob Huesman, who’d just converted a crucial third-down with his legs, hurled what would have been a 41-yard scoring strike to junior receiver Tommy Hudson — a play that would have spotted UTC a 28-20 advantage if not for the untimely penalty.
On the ensuing snap, Huesman fired a first-down pass to junior tight end Faysal Shafaat, only to have it called back for yet another ineligible receiver call.
Needless to say, head coach Russ Huesman wasn’t very pleased with the pair of what turned out to be game-changing calls.
“Those officials better be right on that touchdown,” Russ Huesman said. “If they’re not right, I’m getting somebody fired ... [The officials] never once said somebody was covered up, they never game me a number. That better be right. If they were right, I’ll apologize.”
“We had some things taken from us and we took some things for ourselves,” added Jacob Huesman, who notched his fifth career 100-yard rushing performance. “The bottom line is we had way too many penalties to win a football game, and that did not put us in a winning situation.”
As devastating as those two calls were, though, the Mocs still had a chance to preserve the win with their defense. And while UTC limited Georgia Southern to a season-low 377 yards of total offense, it couldn’t get off the field when it counted.
On the ensuing possession, Georgia Southern (3-1, 1-1) manufactured a 14-play, 71-yard drive, running nearly all of the fourth-quarter clock in the process. Chattanooga’s poor tackling had a lot to do with it, but Georgia Southern simply seemed destined for victory.
They avoided a potential disaster on the drive, scrambling to recover their own fumble deep inside UTC territory, which set up freshman kicker Younghoe Koo’s eventual game-winning 26-yard field goal.
“We weren’t tackling and we missed some opportunities,” said senior safety D.J. Key, who recorded a career-high 13 tackles. “When it comes down to the goal line, we’ve got to get that fumble ... We have to get the ball on turnovers and we just came up short tonight.”
“I’ll give our guys credit for holding them to 23 points, but great defenses stop them,” Russ Huesman. “They don’t let them drive down for a field goal, they just stop them. Bottom line.”
UTC junior Terrell Robinson returned the ensuing kickoff to the 29-yard line with 1:48 remaining. And while they were aided by a critical GSU pass interference call, the Mocs came up empty on their desperate attempt to reclaim the lead in the final two minutes.
“I told our football team this, they fought,” Russ Huesman said. “Our football team fought. We’ve got a bunch of warriors in there and a bunch of fighters.
“It was the same thing last year.”
• Running back Keon Williams accounted for 107 yards of total offense, including a 51-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass from Jacob Huesman — one of two scoring plays of more than 50 yards for UTC.
• Jacob Huesman completed just 9-of-19 pass attempts for 92 yards, but he did a lot of work with his legs. He carried 14 times for a season-high 148 yards, including a 51-yard first-quarter touchdown run.
• Senior defensive tackle Derrick Lott missed the majority of the second half with an elbow injury. The 6-foot-3, 306-pounder underwent an X-ray, but Huesman didn't know the severity of the injury.
• The Mocs’ all-time record against Georgia Southern slipped to 4-23 with Saturday’s loss, and they’re now just 1-13 in Statesboro. UTC suffered three straight single-digit defeats to the Eagles.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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