The Mocs captured their third win of the season on Saturday night, cruising to a 42-21 victory over visiting Western Carolina, and they displayed quite a bit of offensive firepower in the process.
Keon Williams eclipsed the century mark for the third time this season, racking up 127 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Jacob Huesman threw for 223 yards and four touchdown passes while running for another. Marquis Green scored on a pair of long receptions, and sophomore tight end Troy Dye found the end zone for the first time in his career, hauling in an 18-yard, first-quarter touchdown reception.
Chattanooga (3-2, 1-1), which finished with 432 yards of total offense, averaged nearly six yards per play in the contest, and won the time of possession battle by nearly 12 minutes.
“I thought offensively, for four quarters, we really played well,” head coach Russ Huesman said. “We converted some big third downs during the course of the game, broke tackles, made some plays on the perimeter and I think our receivers did a really nice job as well”
Oh, and by the way, UTC’s defense recorded a season-high four interceptions in the lopsided win. The tackling was much crisper than in last week’s losing effort against Georgia Southern, too.
“We just had to make sure we made plays,” said senior cornerback Chaz Moore, who hauled in the first of his team’s three second-quarter picks. “Tonight we made plays. Every week we run to the ball, but this week the first person that got to the ball made the tackle.”
Pretty much a perfect game, right?
Wrong. The Mocs may have played two impeccable quarters of football against the outmanned and inexperienced Catamounts (1-5, 0-3), but Huesman, being the defensive-minded coach that he is, would probably like to forget most second half.
“Defensively, great first half,” Huesman said. “We got three picks and set our offense up a couple times, but the second half was very disappointing. That’s not how we’re going to play. At the end of the day you’re going to look back at the stats and say ‘coach they only had 289 yards’, but that’s not how to to play defense in the second half.”
The late-game letdown started immediately after the team’s most impressive offensive series of the night, and maybe of the season. Chattanooga marched 73 yards on 15 plays, milking 7:12 off the third-quarter clock in the process, before capping the scoring drive with Jacob Huesman’s 6-yard touchdown run which spotted UTC 28-0 advantage.
And while the Mocs’ offense continued to produce, they were outscored 21-14 in the final quarter-and-a-half, surrendering a pair of long touchdown passes to WCU quarterback Troy Mitchell.
“We gave up some big plays that we shouldn’t have,” Moore said. “We just have to finish. We didn’t finish like we should have.”
“That’s not Chattanooga defense; that’s not my defense,” added senior safety D.J. Key, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles and an interception. “We’ve got to pick that up.”
But even with Western’s aerial supremacy in the second half — 172 of WCU’s 191 yards through the air came in the final two quarters — the game was never really in doubt.
Mitchell, who, entering the game, led the SoCon in total offense (283.5 ypg), was limited to 16-of-22 passing for 181 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, while churning out 66 yards rushing on 13 carries.
“He’s a really shifty quarterback,” said sophomore defensive tackle Danny Ring, who recorded two tackles for loss. “That was the main thing this week, try to keep him in the pocket and gang tackle him.”
• The Mocs eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the fourth straight game Saturday. It’s the first time they’ve accomplished that since 2005. Williams led the way with 129 yards and Huesman added 68.
• The Catamounts, who scored all 21 of their points in the second half, have now scored 84 of their 122 points on the season in the second half.
• UTC converted on 9-of-15 third-down opportunities. Chattanooga, which has been solid in that department throughout the season, currently leads the SoCon in third-down conversion rating (52.9 percent).
• Huesman’s second-quarter pass to Green, which went for 67 yards, was the longest play from scrimmage for the Mocs this season. The screen pass — the same play Williams scored on last week at Georgia Southern — was a career-long reception for Green, and a career-long-tying touchdown pass for Huesman. Williams hauled in three receptions for a career-high 87 yards and two touchdowns, also scoring on a 13-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
• Junior wide receiver Tommy Hudson, who had a potential 41-yard touchdown reception waved off last week because of a penalty, was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass for the first time in his career Saturday, hauling in a 7-yardsecond-quarter touchdown reception from Huesman.
• Moore, Key, junior linebacker Gunner Miller and junior safety Zach McCarter were responsible for Chattanooga’s season-high four interceptions — the most by the Mocs since picking off five in their 2004 victory over the Catamounts.
• All three of Nick Pollard’s punts were downed inside the Western Carolina 15-yard line, including a 55-yard, first-quarter boot. He did, however, come up empty his first and only field goal attempt of the season, missing a 40-yard attempt in the first quarter.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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