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.”