By Carey Phillips
UT-Chattanooga jumped to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter Saturday and rolled to a 45-17 Southern Conference football victory over Western Carolina before 8,520 fans at UT-C’s Finley Stadium.
Cole Copeland completed 17 of 29 passes for 239 yards for the Mocs.
Tyrell Price and Gino Appleberry both carried seven times for 82 and 79 yards, respectively. Ailyn Ford added 74 yards in 16 attempts.
Carlos Davis replaced Rogan Wells at quarterback for the Catamounts (0-5, 0-2) and completed 15 of 26 passes for 220 yards.
Western’s Calvin Jones returned the opening kickoff 87 yards to the 7, but the Cats managed just 2 yards and settled for Richard McCollum’s 22-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead 56 seconds into the game.
UT-C drove 75 yards in 10 plays to take the lead for good on Copeland’s 10-yard pass to KeShawn Toney. Aaron Sears kicked the first of his six extra points making it 7-3 with 9:04 on the clock.
Brandon Dowdle intercepted Wells’ pass moments later at the 31. Appleberry’s 24 yard run set up Copeland’s 1-yard TD run upping the margin to 14-3 at the 6:42 mark.
After an exchange of punts, Wells was picked off again, this time by Jerrell Lawson at the Moc 43. Two plays later, Price swept around the left side 57 yards to the end zone for a 21-3 advantage with 3:32 remaining in the opening period.
WCU went 80 yards in five plays immediately after Davis took over at quarterback. He completed a 42-yard scoring pass to Terrence Horne with 9:17 left in the half. McCollum’s PAT cut the gap to 21-10.
UT-C led 24-10 at intermission after a 24-yard field goal by Sears with 18 seconds to go. It was set up by Copeland passes of 24 and 34 yards to Jamoi Mayes.
The Mocs increased the lead to 31-10 on a 39-yard pass from Coleman to Toney with 4:40 to play in the third period.
Western’s next possession ended when Davis fumbled with Christian Snyder recovering at the UT-C 48.
The Cats got the ball right back when Rod Gattison picked off Copeland’s pass at their 41. A 10-play drive, capped by Davis’ 7-yard pass to Raphael Williams, narrowed the deficit to 31-17 with 13:31 left in the game.
The Mocs recovered an onside kick at midfield and scored three plays later. Appleberry’s 35-yard run built the lead to 38-17 with 12:09 on the clock.
UT-C put the game away with a 54-yard run by Ford at the 9:06 mark for a 45-17 margin.
Jones returned the kickoff 46 yards, but Terry Plummer intercepted Davis’ pass at the goal line and had a 24-yard return.
Jarrell led the Mocs with seven tackles, and Jacob Haris matched that total for Western.
24-47 Rushes-Yds. 41-271
17-37-3 Passing 18-32-1
226 Passing Yds. 247
7-37 Punts-Avg. 6-35
3-1 Fumbles-Lost 0-0
9-66 Penalties-Yds. 4-43
WCU 3 7 0 7 17
UT-C 21 3 7 14 45