Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chattanooga uses strong second half to pull away from Terriers, clinch SoCon title

There was a chance.

As I, like many other Terrier faithful, sit drowning the sorrow that came from the loss to Chattanooga with even more college football, there's one thing that sticks out in my mind: there was a chance.

Terriers struck first, as Ray Smith was able to not only find the corner, but to take it 72 yards for an exhilarating touchdown on just the third play of the contest. Among all of the celebration, while rightly deserved, David Marvin's point after attempt was blocked -- reminding me of a similar situation in Wofford's season opener at Georgia Tech, where Smith took it 92 yards right up the middle, and the subsequent extra point was blocked -- giving the Terriers a nonuniform, but thankfully received 6-0 advantage.

Of course, the ever-present Mocs drove right down the field in eight plays, scoring on a Keon Williams scamper from seven yards out. Nick Pollard's point after split the uprights, putting Chattanooga ahead, while also granting them momentum and something for the fans at Finley Stadium to cheer about.

However, despite the early promise from the running game, the Terriers just couldn't get anything going against the gritty Chattanooga defense, who forced the visitors from Spartanburg three-and-out on their next two possessions. The Mocs also punted the ball away on their next two, but with a bit more offensive success.

Then it was the Terriers' turn to show some life, making a first down before being stopped up at the line of scrimmage, forcing Brian Sanders to punt on a dismal fourth-and-ten.

As if Wofford's offensive woes weren't enough, the Chattanooga offense, led by quarterback Jacob Huesman and his targets Tommy Hudson and Faysal Shafaat, drove 66 yards in 14 plays. A five-yard touchdown pass from Huesman to Shafaat made it 14-6.

The Terriers, though a bit disheartened by the Mocs' relative success, inched their way into Moc territory before Lorenzo Long broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run.

Chattanooga drove into the Wofford side of the field before the Terrier defense stopped them on fourth-and-two, granting Wofford a golden opportunity to get right back into this ballgame.

The offensive woes continued; however, Michael Weimer was forced to leave for a play after his helmet was ripped off by a defender. His replacement, Brad Butler, launched a solid 7-yard strike to tight end Zach Muller on third-and-ten; despite the promise, it was fourth down, and the Terriers again brought on Sanders to punt.

The Mocs held the ball for most of the remainder of the half; however, after back-to-back sacks on Huesman by Tyler Vaughn and E.J. Speller, the Mocs had to punt it with the clock winding down.

At halftime, only one point separated these foes, who were battling for two different things. Chattanooga, denied a playoff bid last season, was working to clinch their first SoCon championship and playoff bid since 1984. The Terriers, on the other hand, just wanted to stay alive.

The chances for the latter's wish to be fulfilled were frankly torn apart in the second half.

The Mocs scored on both of their possessions, which together averaged a little over four minutes, in the third quarter. Keon Williams rushes that capped off drives of six (66 yards) and eleven plays (76 yards) that gave Chattanooga a 28-13 lead.

Meanwhile, the Terrier offense still struggled to find an identity and a purpose throughout the second half. In short, it began to fall apart there in the second quarter, and only slipped further away as the afternoon wore on.

The Terriers, who were outgained in total yardage 382-311, did put up 231 yards on the ground, led by Ray Smith's 102 yards on six carries, and Lorenzo Long's 81 yards on twelve carries. On their 42 rushing attempts, the squad averaged 5.5 yards per rush, compared to the Mocs' 3.0 per rush.

Michael Weimer was 8-for-14 with 73 yards; however, he also committed the game's only turnover, an interception thrown in the second half.

Wofford made eleven less first downs than Chattanooga, and were a disappointing 3-for-14 on third downs, while placing a 2-for-4 mark on fourth down conversions. On the other hands, the Mocs were just 6-for-14 on third downs and 0-for-1 on fourth down.

The Terriers were flagged for three penalties (15 yards), while the Mocs committed two (10 yards). Chattanooga led the time-of-possession battle, 33:31 to 26:29.

Wofford is looking forward to a matchup with Furman (2-8, 1-4 SoCon), an injury-plagued squad that dropped a close 42-35 decision at The Citadel today.

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