Misssed Opportunities as Mocs Fall To Furman

Chattanooga had plenty of chances Saturday against Furman but were unable to convert in a 35-20 loss. The score was A LOT closer than it looks and a junk touchdown scored by Furman with six seconds to go just makes it look worse than it really was. Having to settle for field goals inside the red zone and an unfortunate fumble deep inside Paladin territory as well spelled doom for Chattanooga.

Missed opportunities and a questionable call near the end zone in the third quarter caused Chattanooga to lose their second SoCon game in a row. The Mocs defense was firing on all cylinders early causing two turnovers in Furman’s first three possessions that led to a 9-0 lead. The offense’s inability to fully capitalize on opportunities afforded them. After taking the opening kickoff the Chattanooga defense knocked the ball loose from Furman starting QB Darren Grainger recovering on the Paladin 44.

The Mocs with a first and ten at Furman’s 13 called on Aliym Ford on three consecutive plays and stalled the drive at the 5. Lack of creative play calling of taking advantage of QB Nick Tiano’s mobility to run or pass for the first down made it very predictable for the Furman defense. Chattanooga settled for the field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Not putting Ford down, as he gained 179 yards in the game, but it’s almost as if at times they have become too dependent on the freshman runner who has been collecting awards for his play literally on a weekly basis.

Furman’s second possession faired no better for them as Grainger was intercepted giving the Mocs the ball at Furman’s 36.

After a mix of Ford runs and Tiano passes the Mocs drove to the Furman 11. Tiano went back to pass on the next play and was being sacked when the ball popped out of his hands. Like something out of a movie the ball seemed suspended in air forever as hand reached for the ball before it hit the turf. After a mad scramble Furman recovered the ball ending the scoring drive and for what I call with the first two possessions, playing with house money. By that I mean the Mocs first two possession came directly off turnovers in Furman territory.

Furman’s next drive stall before reaching midfield and the Mocs got the ball back on what would be their best offensive drive of the game. Taking over of their 21 Tiano hit Kanore McKinnon across the middle for a 40-yard gain. Two nice runs by Ford and another completion to Bryce Nunnelly gave Chattanooga the ball on the Furman 3. Tiano then finished out the drive going over left guard for the score. Victor Ulmo then missed the extra point – something that has been too common this year for Chattanooga as the Mocs increased their lead to 9-0 less than three minutes into the second quarter.

After that score Furman took over the game. After the two teams exchanged punts the Paladins took advantage of a short punt by Chattanooga’s Colin Brewer and drove 58 yards in ten plays keeping the ball on the ground for nine of them capping it with a one yard plunge by Devin Abrams to make the score 9-7.

With only 1:26 to go until half the Paladins got the ball back on their 20. They managed to drive the length of the field in one minute exactly to take the lead, something they would never relinquish. Hamp Sisson took over at QB for Furman in the second quarter and it made a difference as he completed passes to Ryan Miller and Thomas Gordon. Sisson finished the drive going over right tackle after not finding an open receiver and running in for the score.

The Mocs still had some fire in them, however with 26 seconds to go until the half. Ford broke a few tackles and ran 57 yards to give Chattanooga a first down on Furman’s 18. With that particular carry the freshman running back surpassed 1,000 yards rushing on the season, making him only the 13th player in school history to do so. On the last play of the half Ulmo connected from 32 yards out to make the score 14-12 at intermission.

Chattanooga, who usually comes out of the gates in the second half fast and furious looked to continue the trend as they took the kickoff and drive deep into Furman territory. Facing a fourth and six from Furman’s 24, instead of kicking a field goal to take the lead, coach Rusty Wright opted to go for it but Tiano’s pass to Ford fell incomplete.

From that point on Furman kept punching the Mocs defense in the mouth as they score another 14 points to make the score 28-12. Sisson mixed plays well throwing for one score and setting up another along with a few well-timed scrambles for yardage. Devin Wynn scored from a yard out to make the score 28-12 with 12:48 to go in the game.

Chattanooga’s offense was unable to keep many drives alive in the second half and in turn the defense started to look tired trying to keep up with Furman’s offense. After the Paladins’ last score the Chattanooga offense got off the deck and mounted a time consuming drive featuring a lot of short passes from Tiano peppering any open receiver he could find. The Chattanooga signal caller hit pay dirt connecting with Chris James from four yards out. The Mocs opted for two and were successful making it a one possession at 28-20. That was their last true possession for the game.

Furman took the ensuing kick off and kept the ball the rest of the game minus six seconds. Chattanooga’s defense were unable to stop the Furman running game with Abrams running the bal on almost every play. Chattanooga used all their time outs trying to save the clock and hoping to force a punt but it never came to fruition.

Facing a fourth and two on the Chattanooga 32, instead of punting or kicking a field goal Furman decided to go for it. You guessed it, Abrams went over right guard and not only got the first down but broke free to score with six seconds to play, making the score 35-20, which is how it ended.

With the loss the Mocs fall to 4-5 and 3-2 in the conference trailing both Furman and Wofford by a game. Saturday the Mocs travel to Birmingham face SoCon foe Samford. Both teams are 4-5 with Chattanooga holding a half game lead in the conference. Kickoff is scheduled for 3pm and will be aired on WFLI AM 1070 and 97.7 FM.

– Dave Weinthal