Chattanooga had a huge opportunity at No. 14 Wofford, but it couldn’t capitalize on it. Once again UTC showed it’s talented enough to play with the top-tier teams in the Southern Conference, the Mocs just haven’t proven they can beat them.
Here’s a full report card of the Mocs’ performance Saturday:
Jacob Huesman had his best passing performance of the season Saturday, but he couldn’t get much going on the ground. He completed 22-of-31 attempts (70.9 percent) for 229 yards, but his 68 rushing yards were the redshirt freshman’s fewest in three weeks. Huesman was stopped for no gain or lost yards on six of his 22 rushing attempts, he fumbled and was sacked twice. Sophomore Terrell Robinson took just one snap at quarterback, and completed his only pass to Huesman for a 5-yard gain.
Running backs: B-
The backfield didn’t have huge expectations heading into Saturday’s showdown with the SoCon’s top-ranked rushing defense. And while redshirt freshman Kendrix Huitt didn’t rack up a ton of yards (39), he was responsible for Chattanooga’s only touchdown of the afternoon. Huitt, who scored on a 1-yard fourth-quarter run around the right side, also caught two passes for 34 yards. Senior J.J. Jackson pickded up a yard on his only carry, while sophomore Marquis Green caught two passes for 28 yards, including an impressive 15-yard third-quarter grab on third-and-8.
Wide receivers/tight ends: B+
The receiving corps had one of its most productive days on Saturday, hauling in a combined 17 receptions for 157 yards. Sophomore Tommy Hudson came out of his shell offensively for the first time in several weeks, catching six passes for a season-high 73 yards, and sophomore Terrell Robinson brought down a team-high eight balls for 54 yards. Sophomore tight end Faysal Shafaat caught two passes for 18 yards, and junior Marlon Anthony gained 12 yards on his only reception of the game.
Offensive line: C+
The offensive front wasn’t able to create much of a push up front in the running game, and quarterback Jacob Huesman was under pressure for much of the afternoon. The unit has made strides this season, but it has continued to get pushed around by the top teams in the Southern Conference.
Defensive line: A
Wofford piled up 215 yards on the ground Saturday, which doesn’t sound great. Considering the Terriers came up 157 yards shy of their season average, though, the defensive front shouldn’t feel too bad about its performance. Sophomore defensive end Davis Tull continued his monstrous season with eight tackles, and tied his season high with three tackles for loss. Junior defensive tackle Derrick Lott finished with eight stops, and senior defensive end Josh Williams forced a fumble on his second sack of the season.
Senior Shane Heatherly and junior Wes Dothard were UTC’s top two tacklers Saturday. Dothard racked up 10 stops, while Heatherly recorded nine. Both backers were instrumental in containing Wofford’s high-powered option attack, and they did so without the help of junior Gunner Miller, who missed Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury.
The defensive backfield played a little soft in the first half, allowing two conversions through the air in third-and-long situations, but the Terriers completed only one pass for 9 yards in the final two quarters and overtime. Wofford threw just seven passes on the afternoon, so the secondary didn’t get a ton of opportunities in pass defense, but it did a solid job of open-field tackling.
Special Teams: D
Just like two weeks ago against Georgia Southern – another excruciating overtime loss – special teams made the difference in the game. Henrique Ribeiro missed a 26-yard field goal to conclude a 14-play, 74-yard drive in the third quarter. Ribeiro and sophomore Nick Pollard, who was replaced by Riberio last week, have been wildly inconsistent all season long. The two are a combined 11-of-18 on field goal attempts this season. One bright spot on special teams was the play of Tommy Hudson in the return game. Hudson returned two punts for 48 yards, including a season-long 23-yarder.
The Mocs were once again in position to win the game, but like so many times in the past, they just couldn’t break down the door. Close losses have been a reoccurring nightmare for Chattanooga in the Russ Huesman era, but despite what the fourth-year head coach said after the game, the numerous narrow defeats can’t be put entirely on the coaching staff.
Michael Murphy covers Chattanooga athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.