MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. --- To say it was a defensive battle is putting it mildly as Central Michigan (1-0) held off the 14th-ranked Chattanooga Mocs (0-1) 20-16 in Kelly/Shorts Stadium in the 2014 season opener. The two squads combined for a mere 579 yards on the night.
“We made some mistakes in this game,” coach Russ Huesman commented after the game. “We had some stops on third downs and had some penalties, but I will give our defense credit. They played hard. Central Michigan is big and physical.
“I think they had every defensive starter returning from last year’s team,” he continued. “Our guys played hard, and they are hurting because we felt like we could win that game. You have to give Central Michigan a lot of credit. They did a great job in defending us.”
It was a great start from the FCS visitors. The Mocs jumped out to a 16-0 lead on a combined effort by Jacob Huesman and Tommy Hudson. Huesman rolled right and appeared to be running on the play when he swung a pass out to Hudson on the sideline. The senior captain wideout eluded initial tacklers and sped down the markers out-distancing the secondary for the 70-yard score.
“I thought we played well offensively in the first half,” coach Huesman added. “Tommy Hudson had a couple of big plays, but we got into some third-and-long situations and got into some trouble in the second half.”
The game turned after intermission. The Chippewas had a physical offensive coming out of the locker room. They methodically drove the ball 74 yards in 12 plays with Thomas Rawls powering in from six to cut the lead to 16-13 after the missed PAT. Rawls carried six times for 47 yards before getting the score to key the drive.
CMU defensive end Blake Serpa made a heady play on the Mocs ensuing possession. He was able to snag a Huesman offering while rushing from the right end to give the Chippewas the ball on the Chattanooga 20. Derrick Lott stuffed Saylor Lavallii for a one-yard loss and then a false start by CMU made it second-and-16 at the 26.
Quarterback Cooper Rush matched Serpa’s effort for the play of the night. He found Courtney Williams in the front right quarter of the end zone for the 20-16 lead. From there, neither defense gave an inch.
CMU mounted the lone drive of the fourth quarter that approached the goal line. After taking over on the Mocs’ 32, Rawls led the Chippewas to the two-yard line. A penalty followed by a Zach Rayl five-yard tackle for loss on Rush dropped the home squad back. Ron Coluzzi’s 23-yard chip shot field goal attempt was blocked by Davis Tull to squash the threat and keep the Mocs within four.
The Chipps defense would not give an inch. Even after a bad snap on a punt put Chattanooga in great shape on its hosts 46, CMU stiffened yet again. After a Huesman three-yard run, Kevin King picked off a pass at the 43 ending that drive. The Mocs were not across midfield again in the game.
Keon Williams led the Mocs with 64 yards on 11 carries. Hudson had two catches, both touchdowns, for 78 yards. Muhasabi Wakeel led a fantastic defensive effort with 17 tackles and a forced fumble. Lott had just four tackles, but three were for loss including a sack, and he recovered the fumble caused by Wakeel.
Rawls ran 25 times for 125 yards with his score. The rest of the CMU ground game accounted for just 27 yards on 21 runs. Rush threw for 173 yards completing 15 of 26 attempts with two scores. He was six-for-seven in the second half for 67 yards, while Rawls got 91 of his 125 ground gains after the break.
Henrique Ribeiro opened the scoring with a 47-yard field goal with 1:29 to go in the first quarter. Huesman found Hudson in the back of the end zone on the Mocs next possession from eight yards out for a 10-0 lead. That was the 13th play of the drive that spanned 94 yards eating up nearly six minutes of clock time.
CMU found the end zone before the half ended to build some momentum. Rush engineered a quick five-play, 75-yard scoring march ending with an 18-yard pass to Jesse Kroll to cut the Mocs’ halftime lead to 16-7.
The Mocs return home next weekend for the home opener against sixth-ranked Jacksonville State. Game time is 6 p.m., at Finley Stadium Davenport Field with video available on SoCon Digital Network which can be accessed via GoMocs.com. Tickets are available at the McKenzie Arena Gate One Ticket Office, by phone at (423) 266- MOCS (6627) or online at GoMocs.com.
Play – Quarter/Time/Score
UTC - Henrique Ribeiro 47 yard Field Goal - 1/10:21/3-0
Drive: 4 plays, 3 yards, 1:29
Key Play(s): Muhasibi Wakeel forces fumble, recovered by Derrick Lott at CMU 33
UTC – Hudson 70 yard pass from Huesman (Kick Blocked) - 2/3:34/16-0
Drive: 2 plays, 74 yards, 0:51
Key Play(s): Mocs take over on own 26 after 43-yard field goal miss by Ron Coluzzi
CMU – Jesse Kroll 18 yard pass from Cooper Rush (Ron Coluzzi Kick) - 2/1:43/16-7
Drive: 5 plays, 75 yards, 1:57
Key Play(s): 3/6/H29 – Drive extended on roughing the passer call
CMU – Thomas Rawls 6 yard run (Kick Failed) - 3/8:56/16-13
Drive: 12 plays, 74 yards, 6:06
Key Play(s): 3/7/V11 – Drive extended by dead-ball personal foul after Mocs sack
CMU – Courtney Williams 26 yard pass from Rush (Coluzzi Kick) - 3/7:30/16-20
Drive: 2 plays, 20 yards, 0:52
Key Play(s): Blake Serpa intercepts screen pass at UTC 20