That season-opening loss to UT Martin feels like ages ago. At least it does to Chattanooga's players and coaches, who captured their second-straight lopsided victory Saturday evening, cruising to a 42-10 win over visiting Austin Peay.
“We answered the call as soon as we stepped on the field,” said linebacker Gunner Miller.
It might not have been as dominating a performance as last week’s victory over Georgia State, but it probably could have been if head coach Russ Huesman had decided not to call off the dogs in the final quarter.
“We kind of pressure ourselves to play better this week than we did last week,” wide receiver Tommy Hudson said. "That’s kind of tough because we played so great last week, but we try to come out each week with a chip on our shoulder.”
In any case, the Mocs (2-1) treated the Finley Stadium crowd to an impressive victory after essentially laying an egg in front of their hometown fans in the squad’s demoralizing home opener against the Skyhawks.
“That was a wakeup call,” said Keon Williams, who notched his second straight 100-yard rushing performance Saturday. “After that we got together as a team — as a unit — and we made the decision that we didn’t want to lose again, and we’re going to give it our all every time we step on the field.”
And while Williams finished with 106 yards and a career-high three touchdowns — just the second multi-touchdown performance in his career — he wasn’t the only one to contribute to Chattanooga’s offensive effort.
Hudson was much more involved this week, especially in the running game. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior hauled in just one reception for eight yards, but racked up 63 yards on three end-around plays. And aside from his first-half interception, sophomore quarterback Jacob Huesman had a pretty productive evening as well, completing 13-of-18 pass attempts for 135 yards, including a second-quarter touchdown pass to junior receiver Terrell Robinson.
Most importantly, though, was the fact that the Mocs got off to a fast start.
“That’s big early in the season,” UTC head coach Russ Huesman said. “We’ve come out the last two weeks in a row and played really well on offense. We had 412 yards of total offense and I think we probably could have had more. We handed it off right up the middle quite a bit in the fourth quarter.
“We were [putting in subs] left and right. [The offensive line] was like a sieve out there, letting people through.”
The defense also did its job, holding the Governors to just 210 yards of total offense in the convincing win.
“Decent,” Russ Huesman said. “I don’t think it was great, but I’ll give it a decent.”
Junior defensive end Toyvian Brand recorded his first career sack. Senior cornerback Chaz Moore and junior linebacker Muhasibi Wakeel each finished with a team-high seven tackles, while seniors D.J. Key and Kadeem Wise were extremely active in the secondary.
Wise broke up a pair of passes in the first half, while Key got his hands on a ball, deflecting it right to the waiting arms of Miller, who returned the interception 20 yards for a touchdown to spot the Mocs a 35-7 lead at the break.
“It came at a great time because the offense had just turned the ball over [on Jacob Huesman’s second-quarter interception],” Miller said. “D.J. made a great play on the ball, separating it from the guy trying to catch it. It went up in the air and it was just the old tip drill. I was fortunate enough to catch it and the defense led me right into the end zone.”
It was Miller’s fourth career interception, but just the second pick-6 for the fifth-year linebacker — the first came against Elon in 2011 — and the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder, who also played fullback during his prep career at East Ridge, relishes those kind of opportunities.
“As a defensive guy, especially coming from high school where you get to run the ball and score some touchdowns,” added Miller. “You never get to run the ball in college, so whenever I get my hands on the ball, or any defensive player gets their hands on it, you always want to get in the end zone. It’s hard to get us down.”
The Mocs will now enjoy an off week before returning to the field the following week in Statesboro, Ga., for the team's Southern Conference opener against No. 10 Georgia Southern.
"We’ll take next week to try to get our bodies back a little bit, but we’re not taking days off," Hudson said. "We might have some light days, but they’ll still be mental days, preparing for that game."
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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