By Carey Phillips
UT-Chattanooga erupted for 31 points in the third quarter Saturday and crushed Western Carolina 60-36 in Southern Conference football action before 7,636 fans at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium.
The Moccasins compiled 589 yards of total offense, and WCU had 497.
UT-C’s Ailym Ford gained 195 yards in 30 carries, and Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks added 125 yards in just 10 attempts. They both scored two touchdowns.
Nick Tiano completed 11 of 17 passes for 161 yards for the Mocs. Bryce Nunnelly had four catches for 100 yards.
Connell Young had a big day for the Catamounts (1-3, 0-2) as he gained 217 yards in 24 carries.
Will Jones started at quarterback for Western and completed three of eight passes for 54 yards. Tyrie Adams, who was suspended for the past two games, entered midway through the second period. He completed nine of 15 passes for 54 yards and carried 11 times for 64 yards.
WCU’s first possession ended when Rashun Freeman intercepted Jones’ pass at the Cat 42. Ford gained 14 yards, and Ibitokun-Hanks picked up 10. Ford scored on a 9-yard run for a 6-0 lead with 10:48 to go in the first quarter. The extra point was no good.
The defense forced a punt, but Western got the ball back when John Brannon picked off Tiano’s pass at the 47. Young ran for 16 yards, and Curtis Roach gained 11 on a fake field goal in the 11-play march. Richard McCollum kicked the first of his four extra points for a 7-6 edge with 2:22 remaining in the first period.
The Mocs scored on their next nine possessions starting with Jeffrey Wood’s 28-yard run with 13:02 left in the half. The 75-yard drive took 11 plays, including Tiano’s 10-yard pass to Lameric Tucker. Victor Ulmo kicked the first of his six extra points for a 13-7 advantage.
UT-C needed just four plays to go 58 yards after a punt. Ford ran for 10 and Tiano completed a 17-yard pass to Tucker. Ibitokun-Hanks scored on a 24-yard run making it 20-7 at the 10:17 mark.
Caleb Ferguson broke free on a 69-yard run on a fake punt narrowing the deficit to 20-14 with 8:47 on the clock. It was the top play for the week on ESPN’s “College Football Final.”
Two plays after the kickoff, Ibitokun-Hanks ripped off a 73-yard run putting his team up 27-14 at the 8:08 mark.
Adams entered the game and directed a 75-yard drive in eight plays. It was sparked by Young’s runs of 39 and 11 yards. Adams scored form the 2 leaving the Cats down 27-21 with 5:24 on the clock.
Aided by a personal foul penalty, UT-C drove 75 yards in six plays, including Ford’s 10-yard run. Tiano’s 36-yard TD pass to Nunnelly extended the margin to 34-21 at the 3:42 mark.
Western threatened before Brandon Dowdell intercepted Adams’ pass at the goal line and brought it back 9 yards. Ford had a 16-yard run, and Tiano hooked up with Nunnelly for 45 yards. Ulmo’s 34-yard field goal on the final play of the half built the lead to 37-21.
The Cats drove 75 yards in nine plays to start the second half. The highlight was Young’s 48-yard run. Donnavan Spencer had a 10-yard run then scored from the 6 bringing his team within 37-28 with 11:15 to play in the third quarter.
The Mocs answered by going 75 yards in seven plays, thanks in part to back-to-back personal foul penalties. Wood’s 13-yard TD run made it 44-28 with 7:41 remaining in the third period.
Young ran for 26 yards and Adams picked up 22 in the ensuing 79-yard march that took six plays. Adams completed a 17-yard TD pass to Owen Cosenke. Curtis Roach ran for the conversion leaving WCU down 44-36 with 5:46 remaining in the third stanza.
Ford’s 21-yard run helped set up Ulmo’s 38-yard field goal for a 47-36 advantage with 14:51 left in the game.
Adams was stopped a yard short of a first down on fourth-and-4 at the Moc 44.
Ford picked up 10 and 15 yards while Tiano had a 10-yard run and completed an 11-yard pass to Nunnelly. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty set up Ford’s 2-yard run building the lead to 54-36 at the 6:10 mark.
Aaron Floyd intercepted Adams’ pass and had a 36-yard return to the 2. Wood scored form there with 5:12 on the clock. Ulmo missed the PAT leaving the margin 60-36.
Ty Boeck led the UT-C defense with 15 tackles, and Telvin Jones had 10.
Ty Harris topped WCU with nine tackles.