CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team opened its season with a 30-13 victory Thursday over Glenville State (1-1) in front of 14,002 fans, the third-largest crowd at Finley Stadium. Head coach Russ Huesman, a former player for the Mocs from 1978-81, recorded a win in his head coaching debut.
Sophomore quarterback B.J. Coleman completed 18 of his 34 passes for a game-high 258 yards, while senior wide receiver Blue Cooper paced the Mocs' receiving corps catching eight balls for 127 yards. The Chattanooga ground attack was led by freshman tailback Chris Awuah who picked up 63 yards on 13 carries.
On the Pioneers' opening drive, junior cornerback Buster Skrine intercepted a James McCants pass returning it 18 yards to the Glenville State 24. The Mocs needed just two plays to find the endzone.
Coleman, a Chattanooga, Tenn. native, found Cooper on the first play from scrimmage for 22 yards to the Pioneers' two-yard line. Redshirt freshman tailback Bo Dyer cashed in from two yards out for a score on his first career carry to give the Mocs a 7-0 lead sending the crowd into a frenzy. The 14,002 is the largest crowd to witness a Mocs game in Finley since Sept. 23, 2000 against Georgia Southern.
Coleman, who transferred from Tennessee during the summer, completed his first four passes for 71 yards and finished the first half with 205 yards going 13-21 with one touchdown and zero interceptions.
Early in the second quarter, freshman tailback Chris Awuah ran left on a broken play for three yards scoring the second touchdown of the game and the first of his career, also on his first collegiate carry. On the drive, senior quarterback Jare Gault entered the backfield with Coleman split wide and ran 15 yards converting a key third-and-two carrying the ball inside the five.
After a nine-play drive stalled on its next possession, Glenville State pinned the Mocs deep at their own 13 on a 26-yard punt by Tanner Collins, but Coleman and his Mocs responded quickly. He found tight end Garrett Hughes down the right sideline a 73-yard touchdown and a 21-0 halftime cushion. The pass was the longest touchdown connection since Gault hit Jordan Hazard with a 76-yard pass against Georgia Southern in 2008.
Coleman completed 13 of his 21 first-half passes for 205 yards including six to his favorite target on the evening, Cooper, for 100 yards.
The Mocs continued to impress on offense in the second half with Coleman completing a 19-yard pass to Cooper. Awuah broke free for a 22-yard rush before finishing off the 10-play, 80-yard drive with a two-yard carry up the middle giving Chattanooga a 28-0 lead.
Just before the end of the third quarter, Glenville State got on the scoreboard with a 28-yard scamper by DeAndre Brown. On the point after, sophomore Nick Craig caught the failed extra point returning the ball to the 35 before pitching to Skrine who weaved his way running down the right sideline, cutting back to the left, catching a fumbled ball off a single bounce and scrambling even further through the Pioneers before diving into the end zone for the two-point conversion extending the Mocs' advantage to 30-6.
The Pioneers scored their second touchdown of the game with 1:37 left in the game when Joe Mesidue broke through the Chattanooga defense from 26 yards out.
The defense was led by senior linebacker Joe Thornton's career-high 17 tackles, eight of which were solos, one-and-a-half for loss (seven yards) and two pass breakups. A trio of defenders - Doug Faatiglia, Steven Smigelsky and Jaron Norfleet - each posted nine tackles with all three registering career highs with the effort with Smigelsky's total coming in the first collegiate start for the senior.
McCants led Glenville State completing 14 of 28 passes for 138 yards. The Pioneer's leading receiver was James McDonald totaling 74 yards on seven receptions, while Brian Harden rushed for 50 yards on 15 carries. The Pioneers totaled 379 yards in a balanced offensive effort with 208 in the air and 171 on the ground.
Chattanooga's defense recorded three sacks (Josh Beard, Jordan Tippit and Joshua Williams) along with nine tackles for loss by eight different players. The Mocs forced two turnovers, Skrine's interception and a Beard fumble recovery, while turning it over just once.UTC returns to Finley Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 12, facing opening Southern Conference play with Furman at 6 p.m.