The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offense piled up the yards Saturday, and the defense gave almost no ground in the second half.
In their home opener at Finley Stadium against No. 10 Jacksonville State, in front of an announced crowd of 12,185, the No. 25 Mocs routed the Gamecocks 38-17 for their first win over a top-10 team in more than a decade.
UTC finished with 508 yards of offense, including 212 on the ground, while the defense held JSU to 224 for the game — including just 17 in the second half.
“Those [numbers] look great,” UTC quarterback B.J. Coleman said as he looked up at the scoreboard that showed the stats from as satisfying a win as these Mocs have had.
“I’m so happy for these guys. They’ve busted their rear ends this week, we had a great week of practice and ... our guys came out and absolutely lit it on fire.”
Coleman finished 23-of-33 for 296 yards and two touchdowns, and his old McCallie School buddy Joel Bradford had his fifth career 100-yard game with 15 catches for 162 yards and one absurd touchdown catch.
“We knew it was going to come,” Mocs coach Russ Huesman said of the passing game’s productively. Huesman did say “Wow!” when he saw the Mocs also rushed for 212 yards.
The Mocs (1-1) trailed 14-7 after the opening quarter as the defense struggled to corral the Gamecocks (1-1). Of JSU’s 224 yards of offense, 131 came in the first 15 minutes.
Running back Chris Awuah showed the patience of a veteran on UTC’s first touchdown, a 15-yard run that tied the game at 7. The junior worked his way behind the right side of the offensive line and then cut upward along the sideline, tiptoeing in for a touchdown.
“I just set it up and waited for my blocks,” said Awuah, who finished with 77 yards on 17 carries and had three catches for 57 yards.
Bradford’s touchdown catch came late in the second quarter and gave UTC a lead it didn’t relinquish.
On second down at the JSU 47-yard line, Coleman fired a deep pass down the left side. It was in cornerback A.J. Davis’ hands, but he couldn’t secure it for the interception and it popped into Bradford’s as Davis fell inside the 10.
It was very similar to Bradford’s 80-yard touchdown catch against Eastern Kentucky last season, when the ball went from Jeremy Caldwell’s hands into Bradford’s.
“It was just kind of right there,” Bradford said as he laughed. “I believe if you do the right thing, the ball bounces your way. Tonight, the ball bounced my way.”
A blocked extra point held the lead at 23-17 at the half.
The Mocs added to their lead early in the third quarter when Awuah scored on a 1-yard run — a drive that was sparked by a 44-yard completion from Coleman to Awuah.
That drive, capped by a Coleman run on the 2-point conversion, gave UTC a 31-17 lead with 10:46 left in the quarter. It also put UTC over 400 yards of offense.
UTC’s final points came on Wes Dothard’s first career interception. The middle linebacker returned the pickoff 30 yards for a win-sealing score in the fourth quarter. Dothard also had five tackles and a forced fumble.
Safety D.J. Key led UTC with 9 tackles, linebacker Ryan Consiglio added 7 and defensive end Josh Williams had 6, including a sack and a half.
The Mocs next Saturday visit Eastern Kentucky (1-1), which beat Missouri State on Saturday.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...