The Chattanooga Mocs football team bounced back with a 20-0 shutout win over Big South Conference member North Alabama on Saturday night inside Braly Stadium in Florence, Ala.
Following the victory, Chattanooga improves to 1-1 overall on the young season. UNA drops to 0-2 after suffering an opening-week loss to SE Louisiana last week. It was the first time in 113 games dating back to the 2010 season that the Lions were blanked.
"I was really happy with how we just kept playing tonight," said head coach Rusty Wright.
"We played one snap at a time and gave ourselves an opportunity to go win a football game. It's hard to shut people out in college football. That's a big deal."
Chattanooga put together a lengthy 10-play, 63-yard drive that was kick started by a 25-yard rush from Ailym Ford on the game's third play. The 5:41 long drive was capped off by a 26-yard field goal from Aaron Sears, the first of his career, to put the Mocs ahead 3-0 early.
With 2:05 left in the opening quarter, UNA picked off a Cole Copeland pass at the UTC 32 to set up a scoring opportunity. Brandon Dowdell thwarted the Lions chance on the first play of the second quarter, picking up his third interception of the season on a 3rd-and-goal situation in the endzone before returning it to the UTC 22.
The Mocs took advantage of the turnover and turned it into a 9-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was finished off on a Ford one-yard plunge, allowing the lead to grow to 10-0 with 10:44 left in the second following Sears' successful PAT. The trio of Ford, Tyrell Price and Gino Appleberry combined to rush for 49 yards on the drive.
The UTC defense added to the scoring when Jerrell Lawson picked off a pass at the UNA 38 and returned it the distance with 0:42 seconds left to give UTC a 17-0 lead heading into the locker room. It was Lawson's third interception of his career and his second pick-six.
Both teams went scoreless in the third quarter after combining for just 75 yards of total offense. The UTC defense held UNA to three-straight, three-and-outs which totaled nine plays for just 15 yards. Sears belted a 38-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter, extending the lead to 20-0 with 13:37 on the clock. That would be the final tally on the board.
Chattanooga out-gained North Alabama 292-90 in total offense including out-rushing the Lions by a wide 194-38 margin. The 90 total yards allowed is the fewest against a DI opponent since allowing 68 yards to VMI back on November 21, 1987. It's the fourth time in the Rusty Wright era holding an opponent to 50 yards or less on the ground.
Ford led the UTC ground attack with 111 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown while Price added 68 yards on 14 carries. Ford surpassed 1,300 career rushing yards while Price eclipsed the 1,000 mark in the first half of action.
Copeland, in his first start, finished the game 10-of-21 through the air with 98 yards and a pair of interceptions. He connected on 15 and 16-yard completions to Chris James and Reginald Henderson, respectively. Seven different Mocs hauled in at least a catch with Henderson leading the efforts with three receptions for 33 yards.
Defensively, Devonnsha Maxwell set a career-high and tied a school record with 3.5 sacks, which included 3.0 sacks all occurring within four plays of each other during a fourth quarter UNA drive. Ty Boeck led all UTC tacklers with 8.0 total tackles including four solo while Kam Jones followed with 5.0 total.
Chattanooga will travel to Kentucky this Saturday for a 12 p.m. kickoff.