A season of oh-so-close losses for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga ended with one more Saturday at Finley Stadium.
Needing a victory for a third straight winning season, the Mocs outplayed No. 12 Wofford for much of the game. But the Terriers took advantage of some fourth-quarter UTC shortcomings and rallied for a 28-27 Southern Conference win -- the Mocs' third loss this season by that score.
"I truly believe that that 27th point is a curse," said UTC senior wideout Joel Bradford, who had a 13-yard touchdown catch in his final game.
Wofford quarterback Mitch Allen plunged across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown with 37 seconds left to tie the game at 27. Christian Reed then kicked the extra point to earn the Terriers (8-3, 6-2) their seventh Division I win, which almost certainly will earn them a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
The Mocs finished 5-6, 3-5 in SoCon play. Their five SoCon losses were by a combined 12 points.
"That's coaching," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "That's what it is, coaching. We ain't getting it done; we're not coaching them up. It's horrible. That's coaching; that's me, that's everybody.
"When we're this close, we're good enough. We've got good enough players -- it's coaching. ... We let our players down this whole football season."
The problems that cost the Mocs on Saturday, in front of a crowd of 8,165, were the problems that cost them in their other SoCon losses. The offense struggled to get touchdowns in the red zone, committed costly turnovers and couldn't get first downs when they needed them in the second half.
Leading 21-14 late in the third quarter, UTC had a first down at the Wofford 18-yard line and had to settle for a 27-yard Nick Pollard field goal.
The defense stopped Wofford on fourth down on the ensuing drive and the offense eventually had a first down at the 13. But again they had to settle for a field goal, which gave UTC a 27-14 lead with 9:16 left in the game.
"We can't get [the ball in the red zone] and take six points, because that's what happens, 28-27," Huesman said. "As coaches we've got to figure this out."
Those field goals gave the Terriers hope.
"We were talking back and forth on the phone, saying if we hold them to a field goal we still have a shot," Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. "All of a sudden the defense comes up with a play, they kick a field goal and we're still in it."
UTC's league-leading defense had mostly contained Wofford's league-leading offense to that point. However, the Terriers needed only three plays to answer with a touchdown. Donovan Johnson took off through a gaping hole in the middle of the defense and ran 51 yards for a score that made it 27-21.
"We knew the play was coming and I'm sure we just didn't get in a gap, didn't get it done," Huesman said.
The teams then traded three-and-outs, but with less than five minutes remaining Wofford linebacker Alvin Scioneaux made a diving grab to intercept a B.J. Coleman pass at the UTC 48 and give the Terriers a shot at the win.
Wofford drove to the 8, where they faced a fourth-and-4. Following a timeout, wide receiver Brenton Bersin got the ball on a reverse and barely gained the 4 yards for a new set of downs. Two plays later, Allen got into the end zone.
"It's a real tough pill to swallow," Mocs safety Jordan Tippit said.
Coleman, in his final game and first outing after missing four games with a sprained shoulder, completed his first eight passes and helped UTC to a 21-7 halftime lead. He finished 26-of-39 for 232 yards and three touchdowns but also had three interceptions.
The Mocs finished with 350 yards of offense but managed just 121, and five first downs, in the second half.
Johnson and Eric Breitenstein powered Wofford's option attack, which amassed 388 yards -- 358 on the ground. Johnson finished with 141 rushing yards and Breitenstein had 140.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...