Mocs sit starters, freshmen fall short vs. Mercer

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC Athletics) — The 9th-ranked Chattanooga Mocs battled but dropped a 35-28 decision to visiting Mercer. It was a young group of Mocs with the highlight coming from the backfield.

Running back Lance Jackson had the highest rushing total in a freshman debut with 135 yards on 19 carries and two scores. It was a season high for rushing yards and back-to-back 100-yard carriers for the offensive line room, which led Tyrell Price to 111 in the win at Furman last week.

Turnovers bit the Mocs in the first half. Two fumbled punts set up nine and 16-yard scoring drives for an early 14-7 advantage. That rose to 28-7 on runs by Julian Beris (2 yards) and Brandon Marshall (11) late in the third.

Chattanooga made it interesting scoring on back-to-back drives. Tyler Smith collected a 9-yard strike from Drayton Arnold before Lance Jackson capped off a 65-yard drive from one yard out to slice it to 28-21 with 10:00 to play. Jelen Lee had another first as the freshman had a pick setting up the second touchdown.
Two lightning delays took the air out of the sails. Marshall made it into the end zone on a 2-yard rush with the extra point flying through before the second delay started. The final 1:34 included started with fireworks.

Jamoi Mayes broke through with a 43-yard return to the Mercer 27. Cole Copeland connected with him for six yards then 21 into the end zone closing it to 35-28. The ensuing onside kick popped high into the air but was recovered by Mercer with two timeouts in the Mocs hands.

Run-run-run left just eight seconds on the clock. An all-out effort to block the punt missed with the clock running out before the Bears had to down the ball.
“We made too many mistakes,” Coach Rusty Wright said. “We had a chance to win. We don’t drop two punts, and we got a good chance to win. We got a really good chance to win. That’s something you can’t simulate in practice. You can’t.

“We had an opportunity to win the football game and didn’t get it done. That’s the thing we have to grow from. We got some guys that can play … we just have to play. We have to keep playing guys.”

RECORDS – No. 9 Chattanooga (3-2/3-1) | Mercer (3-5/3-2)

SERIES – Chattanooga leads 20-10-1

“Our coaching staff keeps telling us you’re one snap away from getting in and playing like we just did. We just need to continue to work, grow and continue to get better at every facet – school, workouts, football field, personal life. We can grow a lot from this.” – Snyder on the depth of the team being just a play or two away from a win

“I just came in and felt like I was going to have a good. My line told me they were going to block hard all day. It was a team effort. This record is with the o-line too opening those holes.” – Jackson on his record-setting debut

“Really just both. Coach Wright always says celebrate with your teammates…when you make a big play, find your teammates. So we did just that getting to the sidelines especially Jordan (Jones). I look up to him and he helps me all week and then the play we had just talked about on the sidelines came and we made the play so I was definitely looking for him.” – Lee on whether making it or the team celebrating his 1st career interception was bigger

Check out all we heard at the quotes link at the top of the story.

• The Mocs are 16-4-1 all-time at home against the Bears. The series began with a 10-2 loss in Macon on Nov. 9, 1909. There is a 73-year gap between games during Mercer’s hiatus from football. It resumed in 2014 with the Bears entry into the Southern Conference.
• Coach Rusty Wright’s mantra has been player development during spring football. He proved to be a man of his word with 19 student-athletes making their first Chattanooga starts today, nine on offense and 10 on defense. Fourteen of those were freshmen including the entire offensive line. The three “returning” starters: QB Drayton Arnold (5th start), WR Tyrin Summers (3rd) and CB Kameron Brown (3rd).
• Lance Jackson’s 66-yard run in the third quarter was the longest by a Moc since Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks had a 73-yard TD run against Western Carolina on Sept. 28, 2019.
Check out all the extra info at the notes link at the top of the story.

• Christian Snyder made a strong impression in his first start. The junior linebacker totaled a game-high 20 tackles on the day. Justin Sanders added 11 with 10 for Zay Brown.
• The quarterbacks combined for 226 yards completing 17 of 27 on the day. Arnold was 9-16 for 123 and a score while Copeland ended 8-11 for 103 and a TD strike of his own.
• The Bears accumulated 373 yards of total offense which is the first time this season the Mocs allowed more than 254 with previous high coming from an FBS Bowl team Western Kentucky.

Check out all the numbers at the stats link at the top of the story.

NEXT GAME – Chattanooga at Western Carolina, 1 p.m. | Apr. 3 | Fans are back at Finley | 2020-21 Schedule

Categories: College, Sports, Sports – Local Sports News, Sports – UTC Mocs

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