The Chattanooga Mocs and Western Carolina Catamounts eased into their Southern Conference shootout Saturday afternoon. After all, it was just a 7-6 lead after the first quarter for the home team. That changed in a hurry.
The Mocs scored a little more than half their total with a 31-point explosion in the second quarter.
It started with Jeffrey Wood II scoring his first career touchdown and with flair befitting the sophomore speedster.
Final score was Chattanooga 60, Caramounts 36.
Nick Tiano threw left to senior tight end Chris James. It was a backwards pass to the recently converted former quarterback. James threw back across the field to a wide-open Wood for the score. That loosened everything up. And we mean everything.
Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks scored on 24 and 73-yard runs. Bryce Nunnelly caught a 36-yard bomb from Tiano and Victor Ulmo ended the flurry with a 34-yard field goal. In the meantime, the Catamounts scored on a fake punt that saw Caleb Ferguson scorch the turf for 69 yards along with a 2-yard plunge from Tyrie Adams.
Wood also got his first career rushing TD from 13 yards out in the third. That was sandwiched by Donnovan Spencer’s 6-yard dash and Adams’s 17-yard strike to Owen Cosenke for the Cats. The two-point conversion came off another fake and got the Catamounts within one score 44-36.
The Mocs closed hard. Ulmo hit a 38 yarder to open the period. Ailym Ford and Wood each scored on two-yard runs for the 60-36 triumph. The only thing missing was a defensive score which just eluded Mocs defensive back Aaron Floyd as he was stopped at the two off an interception inside six minutes to go, one play ahead of Wood’s third touchdown.
That was the sixth rushing TD of the day for the Mocs. If that sounds like a lot, or maybe even rare, it is in program history. It's the most in a game since scoring a school-record seven against Appalachian State on Nov. 6, 1982.
There was 1,086 yards of total offense in the game with 589 for the good guys and a shade less than 500 (497) for the Catamounts. A big key for the home team was 400 net yards rushing. There were just two negative yards on the day which was a huge for an offensive line missing senior tackle Harrison Moon as redshirt freshman Colin Truett.
"Those guys, they come to work every day," Coach Rusty Wright said about his front five. "They don't gripe and complain. They don't care that you make them go to study hall and do extra stuff. They're just great guys to be around, and they're playing really well together. It's hard. We didn't have anyone to sub for them at the end of the game.
"We have to get a couple more into it, get some freshmen some reps, and do some things to build a little more depth. I was really proud of how those guys played."
RECORDS – Chattanooga (2-3/1-0) | Western Carolina (1-3/0-2)
SERIES – Chattanooga leads 29-17.
"I don't know if we'll score 60 points every time, but we can run the football. We took shots when we were able to take shots and threw it when we were able to throw it. We had a plan to run the football and those two guys [Ailym Ford and Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks] ran hard. I was pleased with those guys. Anytime you score 60 points, I don't care how you get it, it's awesome. I told our guys Monday, and before we played today, that this was going to be one of the hardest games we'll play all year to win. I knew it was going to be like this. Thankfully, we gave ourselves an opportunity to score a bunch of points. We made stops when we needed to make stops defensively, and that's all that matters." – Rusty Wright on the offensive explosion.
"I thought he did a great job. Harrison [Moon] is a great player. Me personally, it hurt all of us, but it broke my heart more than anything. Colin [Truett] was able to step into a tough spot with little notice and play great for us today. 400 yards of rushing, those guys all had to play pretty good." – Nick Tiano on Colin Truett stepping up at RT in first career start.
"Honestly, those aren't my yards, those are the offensive line’s yards. We work together, and we're a team. We just keep pushing and work hard." – Ailym Ford on how he ended up with 195 yards.
Check out all we heard at the quotes link at the top of the story.
3 NOTES TO KNOW
- Explosive second quarter with 31 points (45 total including two WCU scores). Mocs points in a quarter since amassing 33 in the third period of a 73-0 win over Kentucky State on Nov. 24, 2001.
- Chattanooga had two 100-yard rushers – Ailym Ford (195) and Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks (125) – and a 100-yard receiver in Bryce Nunnelly (100). That’s a first since at Western Carolina on Oct. 29, 2016 with Richardre Bagley (126) and Tyler Roberson (121) on the ground, and current Jacksonville Jaguars wideout C.J. Board (107) by air. It’s the sixth time overall and just second since Mississippi Valley State in 2000 (Charles McNeill-125, Jason Ball-114, Cos DeMatteo-203 receiving).
- Ford's 195 rushing yards on 30 carries was just seven yards shy of the school freshman record set by James Roberts (202) against ETSU on Oct. 14, 1989.
Check out all the extra info at the notes link at the top of the story.
3 STATS TO KNOW
- Jeffrey Wood II scored his first career touchdown on the 26-yard reception to open the second quarter barrage. He added third and fourth quarter runs of 13 and two yards.
- The two teams combined for 823 yards rushing. 109 of the 150 offensive snaps resulted in a run. Three student-athletes topped 100 yards – Western’s Connell Young (217) joined Ford and Ibitokun-Hanks.
- 589 yards of total offense (400 rush and 189 pass) are the most since 695 against Appalachian State on Oct. 30, 2004. Ninth most in a game all-time at UTC.