CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The 24th-ranked Chattanooga Mocs (0-1) dropped a 31-21 season-opening loss to visiting UT Martin (1-0) at Finley Stadium Thursday night. The Skyhawks scored 24 points with a strong effort on the ground.
UTM rushed for 289 yards on 50 carries scoring three times while throwing for another. In the second half alone, the Skyhawks pounded out 218 rushing yards to grind their way to a win.
“Give those guys credit,” Head Coach Russ Huesman said. “They played hard, they played physical…they out-physicaled us.”
D.J. McNeil and Trent Garland each topped the 100-yard mark. McNeil led all rushers with 134 yards on 26 carries, while Garland added 116 on eight totes with each finding the end zone. Dylan Favre came off the bench to run and throw for a score completing nine of 12 passes for 83 yards.
Jacob Huesman (Chattanooga, Tenn.) amassed 316 yards of total offense on the night. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 226 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also posted a team-high 90 yards rushing with 22 carries.
The Skyhawks gained 100 yards on their opening drive only to see it stall because of penalties. The rest of the half, the Mocs shut the door allowing a mere 37 yards on 18 plays. UTM took a 7-0 lead into the half on UTC’s lone turnover of the night.
Huesman’s pass late in the second quarter shot through his receiver’s hands and into the waiting arms of J’von Blackmon at the UTC 38. He returned it 27 yards to the 11. A facemask penalty added six yards to the Mocs’ five. McNeil ran twice to get into the end zone and the 7-0 lead.
The Skyhawks took control of the game in the third frame. They made it a 14-0 lead on a 12-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard dash into the end zone by Favre. Chattanooga answered quickly.
Huesman rushed twice for 16 yards before finding a streaking Tommy Hudson (Moultrie, Ga.) for 41 yards down the right sideline. On the very next play, Huesman fired an 18-yard toss to Faysal Shafaat (Orlando, Fla.) to cap a 1:16 scoring drive and cut the margin to 14-7.
UTM did not fret. It followed its 89-yard scoring drive with one from 83 yards. Favre ended it with a 13-yard pass to Chris Thompson who kept his toes in bounds as he slowly fell to the ground on the touch pass for a 21-7 lead.
Chattanooga continued to battle. It cut the lead to 21-14 with 7:16 to go as Marquis Green (Palmetto, Fla.) took a Huesman screen 29 yards into the end zone, but the Skyhawks pulled away.
UTM scored on its next two possessions with a 29-yard Jackson Redditt field goal and 33-yard Garland run. Huesman hit Shafaat for a 13-yard score late to secure the 31-21 final.
“We did not coach well, we did not play well,” Huesman added. “We have to get better on both sides of the ball. We have to get better on defense. It was absolutely ugly.
“Twenty-three (McNeil) looked like Walter Payton out there,” he continued. “It was ridiculous. The missed tackles, the pushing of the piles, the missed assignments…it was just an ugly, ugly day.”
The trio of Wes Dothard (Carrollton, Ga.), Kadeem Wise (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and Gunner Miller (Chattanooga, Tenn.) each tallied a game-high nine tackles. The Mocs’ D forced three turnovers with Sema’je Kendall (Huntsville, Ala.) and Dee Virgin (Donalsonville, Ga.) recovering fumbles and Virgin, a redshirt freshman, grabbing his first interception. Tony Bell and Thad Williams each had eight stops for the Skyhawks.
The Mocs hit the road next Saturday taking on FBS-level Georgia State in the Georgia Dome. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. It is the first meeting between the two schools.
Play - Quarter/Time/Score
UTM – D.J. McNeil 2 yard rush (Jackson Redditt Kick) - 2/3:56/0-7
Drive: 2 plays, 5 yards, 0:17
Key Play(s): J’von Blackmon 24 yard interception return
UTM – Dylan Favre 13 yard rush (Redditt Kick) - 3/2:21/0-14
Drive: 12 plays, 89 yards, 4:38
Key Play(s): 3/9/V42 – Favre completes 14 yard pass to Jeremy Butler
UTM – Chris Thompson 13 yard pass from Dylan Favre (Redditt Kick) - 4/12:56/7-21
Drive: 9 plays, 83 yards, 2:58
Key Play(s): 3/4/V23 – Favre to Thompson for 11 yards
UTM – Redditt 29 yard Field Goal - 4/4:35/14-24
Drive: 7 plays, 19 yards, 2:30
Key Play(s): Corey Jordan 68 yard kickoff return to UTC 31
UTM – Trent Garland 33 yard rush (Redditt Kick) - 4/2:35/14-31
Drive: 3 plays, 35 yards, 1:34
Key Play(s): UTM took over on downs on UTC 35
UTC – Shafaat 13 yard pass from Huesman (Pollard Kick) - 4/1:32/21-31
Drive: 5 plays, 70 yards, 1:03
Key Play(s): 1/10/V42 – Huesman to Green for 29 yards