By Peyton Gray, Sports Editor-
The No. 11 Chattanooga Mocs traveled to No. 13 Furman Saturday and came back with a 20-18 win in Southern Conference play.
This game saw a different UTC offense — though it still remained dominant. Due to having no luck in the air, the Mocs utilized the ground game.
Drayton Arnold and Cole Copeland had only 11 completions and three interceptions combined. This is the same Drayton Arnold who passed for 223 yards against Wofford and 222 yards against the Citadel. He was held to just 125 Saturday afternoon.
But football is a team sport. The Mocs demonstrated that.
They allocated a season-high 390 total yards of offense with 172 being on the ground. This rushing performance can only be contributed to a strong offensive line.
“They were great up front,” senior running back Tyrell Price said. “I give them the credit for our production.”
Price himself had an exceptional afternoon. He had 20 carries that resulted in a season-high 111 yards and a touchdown.
UTC owned the first quarter. They manufactured a 13-play opening drive that resulted in 71 yards. Though they didn’t find the endzone, this was completed with a 22-yard field goal from Skyler Wilson.
The defense wasn’t on the field long once Furman got the ball. Sophomore linebacker Jay Person found the Furman quarterback — forcing an inaccurate pass that was intercepted by Ty Boeck.
This fierce play on the defensive side of the ball is the reason the Mocs only allowed 170 yards of Furman offense. Which, not surprisingly, is the fewest ever allowed by UTC in their 50 game history.
“We got some dudes over there on defense,” coach Rusty Wright said. “They have the chance to be really good for a long time.”
Following the interception, the Mocs produced a 40-yard drive that resulted in a Tyrell Price touchdown. This gave UTC a quick 10-0 lead.
Furman kept Chattanooga scoreless in the second quarter. Additionally, the Paladins scored 12 points that went unanswered.
The first six came from two field goals from Paladin kicker, Timmy Bleeckrode. Bleeckrode’s 40 and 37-yard field goals were the only points scored in the second quarter.
Furman found the endzone early in the third, however. Hamp Sisson connected with Jake Walker on a pass from the 3-yard line.
Despite this, the Mocs defense prevailed and blocked the Timmy Bleeckrode point after, giving Furman a 12-10 lead. This would later become a detrimental aspect of the game.
UTC responded well with a touchdown drive of their own.
Arnold connected on a 50-yard pass to Reginald Henderson on third-and-16. This was capped off by a series of rushes from Gino Appleberry, before he ultimately found the endzone, giving the Mocs a 17-12 lead.
Furman regained control early in the fourth quarter.
Gabe Boring, who normally handles the punting duties for the Mocs, found himself sitting this one out due to COVID-related issues. As a result, Skyler Wilson was punting for the first time in his career.
UTC had a low snap that Wilson attempted to pick up. The officials ruled that his knee was down at UTC’s own 11.
The result was a Furman touchdown in one play. Due to having an extra point blocked earlier in the day, the Paladins decided to go for two, which they failed to convert. This gave them a 1-point lead instead of three: 18-17.
Despite being down at his own 11, and fumbling another time at his own 25, Skyler Wilson would ultimately score UTC’s winning points. This came on a 42-yard field goal with 7:36 left to play that gave the Mocs a 20-18 lead.
“It’s a win baby,” Wright said. “I don’t care how you slice it up, a win is a win.”
This win moved the Mocs to 3-1 overall and 3-0 in the SoCon — putting them at the top of the SoCon standings along with VMI.
Chattanooga returns to Finley Stadium to take on Mercer Saturday, March 27. Kickoff is at noon.