For the second week in a row, Chattanooga has faced a decent-sized deficit at halftime. The Mocs found a way around both, securing back-to-back Southern Conference victories in the process.
Unlike in last week’s 28-24 triumph over The Citadel, though, when UTC seemed to simply flip a switch in the locker room at the break, the Mocs needed a little more than that in their recent trip to Boone, N.C.
It didn’t come until late in the third quarter, either.
Chattanooga had just taken over possession after allowing a long Appalachian State scoring drive, and answering freshman running back Marcus Cox’s second of three touchdown runs, felt like an absolute must.
Jacob Huesman took a shot downfield on the first play of the series, lobbing one up to redshirt freshman C.J. Board along the sideline. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound wide receiver got his hands on it, but, unfortunately for the Mocs, so did App State defensive back Doug Middleton.
They both fell to the ground, wrestling for possession of what would have been a 33-yard gain for Chattanooga. The call went in favor of the Mountaineers, though, and a decent-sized skirmish broke out directly in front of UTC’s bench.
Both teams were tagged with offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but, as it turned out, that brief dust-up had a much larger effect on the game.
On Appalachian State’s ensuing series, the Mocs’ D took the field with an energy that hadn’t been seen all game.
Defensive end Davis Tull sacked quarterback Kameron Bryant on the first play of that drive. Cox, who finished with a career-high 158 yards rushing, was brought down hard by reserve linebacker A.J. Hampton for a short second-down run and Bryant threw an incompletion well short of the sticks on third to bring up a fourth-and-9 situation.
“That was a huge possession right there,” said Tull, who dealt with double and triple teams throughout the game. “We were able to push them backwards, stop them and force a punt, and they had been driving on us you know. We kind of came away from that scrum energized.”
UTC was still trailing 21-14 at that point, but the game — at least from a momentum standpoint — was turning.
“It’s obviously a hostile environment,” Tull added. “Everybody’s hyped up, and so to stop them right there gave us a lot of momentum.”
The Mountaineers racked up plenty of yards in the fourth quarter — 138 to be exact — but the Mocs forced consecutive three-and-outs after that incident, and outscored Appalachian State 21-7 from that point on.
Chattanooga tries all the tricks at App: Chattanooga executed a fake field goal and a fake punt in Saturday’s win, and neither were by accident. In fact, an onside kick was also in the works, but a suitable opportunity never really presented itself.
“Before the game I said listen, we’re going to fake a field goal, we’re going to fake a punt and we’re probably going to try an onside kick before it’s all said and done,” Huesman said. “I said the only reason we can do these things defense is because I believe in you guys, and you’ll get a stop for us if it doesn’t work out.”
Fortunately for the Mocs and their short-handed defense, both of them worked out.
After quickly falling behind 7-0, UTC’s offense put together a 14-play drive, marching all the way down to the App State 7-yard line before being stopped on third-and-goal. Nick Pollard lined up for what would have been a 24-yard field goal try, but the junior sprinted towards the sidelines before the snap and QB Jacob Huesman, the team’s holder, ran up behind center.
It wasn’t quite as flashy as UTC’s fake at Georgia State earlier this season — which resulted in a 27-yard TD pass from Huesman to tight end Faysal Shafaat — but it did the job. This time Huesman took it himself, plowing into the end zone from seven yards out 5:46 left in the first
Pollard, who enjoyed another efficient day punting the ball, got the rare opportunity to show of his legs in the second half Saturday, converting a fourth-and-three situation with a 17-yard sprint down the sidelines.
“Coach said last week if there’s two people back there [returning] we’re going to run the fake — make them make a move and we’ll go from there,” said Pollard, a pretty good athlete and former prep soccer player. “My blocking was great, you can’t say enough about that.”
The high snap, however, led many to believe it was simply a heady decision on Pollard’s part and not a designed play.
“[Cornerbacks coach] B.J. Hogan thought the same thing because later in the game he wanted me to call it again,” Russ Huesman said. “No, we called the fake and Nick made a great play.”
Freshman play large role in win: Obviously redshirt freshman defenders Nakevion Leslie and Keionta Davis had big performances on Saturday, but a couple of true freshmen also got in on the action.
For the second straight week, true freshman WR Xavier Borishade was on the receiving end of a Jacob Huesman TD, hauling in a 33-yard score with 9:04 remaining to spot UTC its first lead of the contest, 28-21.
“We had been watching the corner and he’d been backed off most of the time,” Borishade said of his second career TD reception. “Jacob looked at me and I knew the ball was coming to me. When I caught it I didn’t see the [defender] drop down, but Jacob threw a perfect pass. Not a lot of quarterbacks can make that pass.”
Borishade finished with two catches for 36 yards — not a huge day, but head coach Russ Huesman has to feel better about deciding not to redshirt the talented first-year player.
“Before I came here I knew there was a history between UTC and App,” the North Cobb HS product added. “Coming in and being able to help felt good.”
Classmate Derrick Craine also saw his first extended action since the team’s Sept. 7 win at Georgia State, due in large part to the absence of RB Keon Williams. The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder carried eight times for 29 yards and also added an early third-quarter score from 1 yard out.
“With [Williams] going down all the players said we trust you, we have faith in you, just go out there and play your game,” Craine said. “I got behind the line. Faysal [Shafaat] told me just get behind me, I’m going to be right there with you. I was just playing for them.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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