The defense picked off four passes, the offense hit on some big plays and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga picked up its first Southern Conference win of the season.
UTC dominated Western Carolina in nearly every phase of the game Saturday at Finley Stadium, cruising to a 42-21 win in front of a small announced crowd of 6,789.
Jacob Huesman threw a career-high four touchdown passes and Keon Williams rushed for 127 yards to pace the Mocs (3-2, 1-1), who outgained Western Carolina 432-289 and had 26 first downs to the Catamounts' 13.
"The defense played a great game today and forced a bunch of turnovers," said Huesman, who finished 18-for-25 passing for 223 yards and rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown. "They gave us the ball in great field position multiple times."
Mocs coach Russ Huesman was thrilled with the defense's performance in the first half -- the three pickoffs and holding WCU to two first downs -- but the Catamounts gained 11 in the second half and scored on passes of 46 and 25 yards.
"The second half was very disappointing, defensively," said Coach Huesman, who improved to 5-0 against the Catamounts. "That's not how we're going to play."
This is just the fourth time a UTC team has had a winning record after five games since 1997. Huesman's Mocs also did it in 2009, his debut season, starting out 4-1.
For the Catamounts (1-5, 0-3), Saturday was a continuation of three years of very difficult times. The loss extended their SoCon losing streak to 25 games and the losing streak against Division I opponents to 31.
The Mocs didn't get much going on their first couple of possessions. The second got down to the WCU 15 before ending in a missed 40-yard field-goal attempt by Nick Pollard -- the Mocs' first 3-point attempt of the season.
UTC's defense forced another WCU punt, this one going just 24 yards, and the offense took over at the Mocs' 48. A 12-yard completion to Terrell Robinson (eight catches for 56 yards) on third-and-2 got the drive going, and two plays later Williams ran for a 23-yard gain, running over WCU safety Sertonuse Harris in the process.
"The line's just doing a good job getting out there and blocking," said Williams, who has rushed for more than 100 yards three times this season. "They know we've got good runners and they want to block for us."
Two plays after that, Jacob Huesman hit tight end Troy Dye for a 10-yard touchdown, the first of Dye's career, and a 7-0 lead with 0:30 second left in the quarter.
UTC's offense got the ball back a few plays later after cornerback Chaz Moore picked off a deep Troy Mitchell pass. Facing a third-and-10 at the UTC 33, quarterback Huesman, under heavy pressure, threw a short screen pass to running back Marquis Green, and Green scooted untouched up the left sideline for a 67-yard score -- the longest play of the season for the Mocs.
Green said it was the same play UTC ran last week, when Williams took a screen 57 yards for a score.
Mocs linebacker Gunner Miller picked off a Mitchell pass on the Catamounts' next possession, but Jacob later fumbled going into the end zone and WCU recovered.
No worries for the Mocs, though, because UTC's third interception of the second quarter, this time on an Eddie Sullivan pass, was caught by safety D.J. Key and returned to the WCU 39.
The Mocs' third touchdown of the half came on a 7-yard screen from Jacob to wideout Tommy Hudson, who fought off a defender at the 5 before crossing the goal line. An key part of the offense the past two seasons, it was the junior Hudson's first career touchdown.
"I had touchdowns called back against Georgia Southern last year and this year, so it felt good to finally get one," said Hudson, who finished with three catches for 33 yards and an 8-yard run on a reverse.
UTC led 21-0 at halftime, having outgained WCU 262-63. The Mocs got the ball to start the third quarter and went on a 15-play, 73-yard drive lasting 7:18. Eleven of the plays were runs, ending with a 6-yard Jacob run for a touchdown to make it 28-0.
Green scored on a 13-yard pass from Jacob early in the fourth quarter, and Williams' 15-yard run put the game away with 11:58 remaining. Key led the defensive with 11 tackles and defensive tackle Daniel Ring had two of the Mocs' five tackles for loss.
The Mocs are back at Finley Stadium next week against Furman (2-3, 1-1), which lost to Elon 28-25 on Saturday.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh 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 ...