Jacksonville State needed overtime to give John Grass his first win as its head coach.
Quarterback Eli Jenkins sprinted 13 yards for a touchdown to lift the ninth-ranked Gamecocks (1-1) to a 26-23 overtime victory over No. 13 Chattanooga before a crowd of 14,285 at Finley Stadium Saturday night. The win was Jacksonville State's sixth over the Moccasins in the last seven meetings.
At halftime, the Moccasins had more touchdowns (2) than first downs (0) after Dee Virgin intercepted Jenkins and returned it 55 yards to the end zone in the first quarter and Lucas Webb picked off a deflected pass by Max Shortell and ran 37 yards for another score in the second. Chattanooga ran only 18 plays in the first half and failed to make a first down. The Gamecocks had 265 total yards at halftime, while UTC's offense netted minus-5.
"I got a little conservative calling plays after those two interceptions in the first half," Grass said. "We kept the ball on the ground the whole second half, didn't want to take any chances, and just let our defense win the football game.
"(The defense) played their butts off and put us in position to win the game."
Grass' first career victory as a college head coach didn't come easy.
The Gamecocks led 17-14 at halftime, then sputtered offensively during the second half. The game was tied 20-20 at the end of regulation, and UTC took its only lead on the first series in overtime as Henrique Ribeiro kicked a 29-yard field goal to put the Mocs ahead 23-20.
But Jacksonville State didn't waste any time scoring on its overtime possession.
Two runs by DeMarcus James moved the Gamecocks to the UTC 13, and Jenkins finished off the winning drive by racing 13 yards up the middle on a called quarterback draw.
Chattanooga (0-2) was limited to 111 total yards, the fewest allowed by a Jacksonville State defense since moving to Division I. The previous low was 114 yards by Eastern Kentucky in 2006.
The Mocs' initial first down came with under 11 minutes left in the third quarter on a 9-yard run by Keon Williams.
Jenkins led JSU on a six-play, 67-yard scoring drive on its first possession. He completed passes of 10 yards to Markis Merrill and 28 yards to Josh Barge and Miles Jones finished things off with a 12-yard run over right tackle for a 7-0 lead.
James ran four yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to cap an 88-yard, 11-play Gamecocks drive. Connor Rouleau's extra point made it 14-7 with 10:06 left in the second.
Rouleau added a 42-yard field goal - his first as a collegian - later in the quarter for a 17-7 JSU lead. He would later add a 21-yard field goal early in the third.
Jacksonville State out-gained the Mocs 409-111 and had 22 first downs to UTC's 9. JSU dominated time of possession, 46:27 to 28:33. Saturday night's crowd at Finley Stadium was the fifth-highest in UTC's history.
Jacksonville State has an open date next Saturday. The Gamecocks' home opener is Sept. 20 against former Gulf South Conference rival West Alabama.