Mocs rolls past Western Carolina in SoCon opener, 45-17

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC Athletics) — The Chattanooga Mocs football team posted season-high offensive numbers across the board and created four turnovers on defense to roll past Western Carolina, 45-17, in its Southern Conference opener during ‘White Out’ conditions on Saturday afternoon inside Finley Stadium.

Chattanooga moves to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the league while Western Carolina falls to 0-5 and 0-2, respectively. The Mocs have won each of its last 10 SoCon openers dating back to 2012.

“It’s never pretty, but you have to find ways to win this time of the year and we’re 1-0 in the Southern Conference,” said head coach Rusty Wright following the game.

“Our guys played well and I’m proud of them. I’m so happy for those kids and those coaches. We had a good week of practice and a good week of preparation. I tell them all the time, it’s different every Saturday.”

Western Carolina received the opening kickoff and returned it all the way to the Chattanooga 7, but the UTC defense stood tall on three plays and limited WCU to a 22-yard field goal, 3-0. Starting quarterback Cole Copeland answered with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a 10-yard touchdown catch from Keyshawn Toney, to put the Mocs ahead 7-3.

Brandon Dowdell secured his 10th career interception on the ensuing WCU offensive drive which set Chattanooga up in enemy territory at the 31. After an opening 24-yard rush from Gino Appleberry, Copeland finished the drive two plays later with a one-yard sneak to extend the lead 14-3.

The UTC defense continued its early theme of stealing from the Catamounts after Jarrell Lawson nabbed the second interception of the day, setting the offense up at their own 43. Tyrell Price broke off a 57-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career, on the second play of the drive to extend the home team’s lead to 21-3 ahead of the first quarter whistle.

Opposite of the opening frame, the teams combined to put up just 10 points on the board. Western Carolina’s Carlos Davis struck on a 42-yard touchdown pass with 9:17 left in the half to cut the deficit to 21-10. UTC closed the half on a 9-play, 70-yard drive that ended in a 24-yard Aaron Sears field goal, extending the lead 24-10 at the break.

Both teams sputtered offensively to begin the second half and exchanged punts on each of their first two drives. Chattanooga broke through with a 39-yard touchdown catch and run from Copeland to Toney, their second TD connection of the game, to put UTC ahead 31-10 with 4:40 left in the third.

Jay Person created the Mocs’ third turnover of the day after knocking the ball loose from the WCU ball carrier, allowing Christian Snyder to fall on it at the UTC 48. The Mocs would give it right back three plays later after Copeland was picked off at the WCU 41 with 1:25 in the third.

WCU capitalized off the turnover and put together a 10-play, 59-yard touchdown drive in 2:54 to pull within 31-17 with 13:31 in the contest. It was a quick answer for the Chattanooga offense, going 50 yards in three plays in 1:17, as Appleberry scampered for a 35-yard touchdown run to extend the lead, 38-17.

Ailym Ford became the fastest high school signee to reach 1,500 career rushing yards after breaking off a 54-yard touchdown run with 9:06 left in the fourth to put UTC up 45-17, the eventual final.

The Chattanooga offense rolled through the Catamounts defense for season-high numbers across the board, racking up 518 yards of total offense. On the other side of the ball, the Mocs defense forced a season-high four turnovers (three INTs, one fumble) and limited the fast-paced WCU offense to just 277 yards at a 4.4 yards per play clip.

The running back trio of Price (82), Appleberry (79) and Ford (72) each eclipsed the 70-yard mark to help amass the 271 rush yards. In his third start of the season, Copeland finished 17-of-29 through the air with 239 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while adding a rushing score on a one-yard sneak.

Toney hauled in a pair of passes, both touchdowns, to end the day with 49 yards. Jamoi Mayes led the receiving group with 58 yards on three catches while the veteran tight end Chris James caught a team-high four passes for 39 yards.

Defensively, Lawson led the team with six tackles including three solo while also adding an interception. Person and Ty Boeck each finished with five tackles while Snyder added three tackles including a sack, the first of his career, and a fumble recovery. Telly Plummer picked up his first interception as a Moc in the fourth quarter.


SERIES – Chattanooga leads the all-time series 30-17.

– Chattanooga is 53-37-1 coming off bye week… 18-15 as a DI program… won five in a row and seven of last eight… 2-2 all-time against WCU after an off week (2-0 Chattanooga)… 3-0 under Rusty Wright.


– Season low offensive numbers for the Catamounts: rushing (46 yards vs. all opponents), passing (231 vs. FCS opponents) and total (277 vs. FCS opponent)… only 123 yards passing and 178 total yards at Oklahoma were fewer… Catamounts came into the game averaging 33.0 points and 553.7 yards (212.7 rush/341.0 pass) against FCS competition.


– 74 yards today for Ailym Ford… fastest high school signee to 1,500 rushing yards in school history… breaks Gwain Durden’s (1977-80) 43-year record of 16 set in 1978… currently has 1,549, 103.3 per game.

Check out all the extra info at the notes link at the top of the story.

“I feel like I’m sitting there with endless time. The line did an excellent job. Our receivers did their job when they needed to, and it felt great to put up points today.” – QB Cole Copeland on the offense’s work.

“We’ve got guys who can play on defense, it doesn’t matter where they are on the field. When they’re locked in, they’re good. The first drive of the game was huge. They were on the seven-yard line and we got out there and held them to three … that was probably the biggest part of the game.” – Rusty Wright, Head Coach

Check out all we heard at the quotes link at the top of the story.

NEXT GAME – Chattanooga at VMI, 1:30 p.m. ET | Oct. 9 | 2021 Schedule

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