The Chattanooga Mocs really didn't want their 2013 football season to start this way.
Playing the UT-Martin Skyhawks basically even in the first half Thursday night, the Mocs trailed 7-0 at the break, but the Chattanooga defense had a long second half as UT-Martin piled up 451 total yards en route to a 31-21 victory at Finley Stadium before an announced crowd of 11,169.
Taking advantage of an interception thrown by Chattanooga's Jacob Huesman, the UT-Martin Skyhawks went five yards in two plays for the only touchdown in the first half as the visitors from West Tennessee had a 7-0 lead at intermission.
Huesman, who led all Chattanooga rushers in the first half with 43 yards on 13 carries, completed eight of 14 passes for 57 yards, but he had a throw intercepted by J'vontez Blackmon and it was returned from the 38 to the 11 with just over four minutes remaining in the second quarter.
A facemask penalty against the Mocs gave UT-Martin a first and goal at the 5.
D.J. McNeil, who gained 43 yards on eight attempts for the Skyhawks, carried it twice on that scoring drive, plunging into the end zone from the 2 with 3:56 to play. Jackson Redditt's extra point boot made it 7-0.
It was basically an even first half with Martin getting six first downs on 71 yards rushing and 66 yards passing.
Chattanooga also had a half-dozen first downs with 134 total yards, including 77 on the ground and 57 through the air.
It was a different story in the second half as the Skyhawks basically moved the ball at will as they averaged almost six yards per carry.
Backup quarterback Dylan Favre, the nephew of former NFL great Brett Favre, scored on a 13-yard run with 2:21 to play in the third quarter to give UT-Martin a 14-0 lead.
The Mocs were able to score three touchdowns later, but the Chattanooga defense never made a key stop when it counted the most.
"This won't make or break our season, but we have to get better on both sides of the ball," said Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman during his post-game radio show.
"UT-Martin was physical and they played harder than us, but we were light on bodies. We need to get some people healthy. I don't think we played well as they outplayed us and also out-coached us. Tonight we're the loser," he continued.
"We got better offensively in the second half as I challenged our wideouts, but we can't afford to wait until the second half to turn it on. We were slow on our adjustments on defense and I'll take the blame for that, but we were way slow in the secondary reacting to the run.
"They pretty much kept us off-balance the whole night, but that last touchdown was embarrassing," Huesman said.
After the Skyhawks built the lead to 14-0, Chattanooga got three TD passes from Huesman, but could never tie the score.
Redditt booted a 29-yard field goal with 4:35 to play that basically put the icing on the cake for the Skyhawks.
McNeil had 134 yards on 26 carries to lead the UT-Martin ground attack while Trent Garland added 116 on just eight trips.
Jeremy Butler was the leading receiver for the Skyhawks with 10 grabs for 91 yards. Chris Thompson had four for 40, including a 13-yard TD catch.
Jacob Huesman finished with 90 yards on 22 carries as Chattanooga finished with 142 yards rushing. Former Red Bank star Keon Williams finished with 40 yards on eight attempts.
Huesman completed 17 of 30 pass attempts for 226 yards, including five to Marquis Green for 73 yards and a 29-yard TD. Hudson had four catches for 68 yards, including a long of 41 whihle Faysal Shafaat also had four catches for 45 yards and TDs of 18 and 13 yards.
Wes Dothard, Gunner Miller and Kadeem Wise were the leading tacklers for the Mocs with nine stops apiece. Derrick Lott and C.J. Murrell had eight while Chaz Moore finished with seven.
The Skyhawks finished with 23 first downs while Chattanooga countered with 18.
UT-Martin will be on the road again next Saturday for a big game at Boise State while the Mocs will also be on the road next week for a game at Georgia State.
UT-Martin 0 7 7 17 -- 31
Chattanooga 0 0 7 14 -- 21
UTM -- D.J. McNeil 2 run (Jackson Redditt kick), 3:56 left in second;
UTM -- Dylan Favre 13 run (Redditt kick), 2:21 left in third;
UTC -- Faysal Shafaat 18 pass from Jacob Huesman (Nick Pollard kick), 1:00 left in third;
UTM -- Chris Thompson 13 pass from Favre (Redditt kick), 12:56 left in fourth;
UTC -- Marquis Green 29 pass from Huesman (Pollard kick), 7:16 left in fourth;
UTM -- Redditt 29 field goal, 4:35 left in fourth;
UTM -- Trent Garland 33 run (Redditt kick), 2:35 left in fourth;
UTC -- Shafaat 13 pass from Huesman (Pollard kick), 1:32 left in fourth.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)