Nov. 3, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Chattanooga's offense rushed for 29-unanswered points in the second half while its defense held the Catamounts in check as Western Carolina dropped its Hall of Fame and Senior Day game to the Mocs, 45-24, Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference action at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
UTC outgained the Catamounts in total offense, 474-288 yards, including a 367-to-112 advantage in rushing yards, in erasing an eight-point halftime deficit en route to the win. WCU had 255 yards of offense in the opening half and was held to just 33 combined yards in the second.
"It was a very disappointing loss today," said WCU first-year head coach Mark Speir during the post-game press conference. "I hate it for our seniors to go out like this on their last opportunity at E. J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. These guys have done a lot to try and change a culture here at Western Carolina. Sometimes that foundation you build a house on is underground and not seen. I hope that five years, 10 years from now, they can come back and see the legacy they started."
He added, "I thought we played hard, played well for the first three quarters of that football game against a very good Chattanooga team. But we didn't finish. Not to take anything away from the UTC football team - Coach (Russ) Huesman and his staff do a great job - but I don't think the Mocs beat us today as much as we beat ourselves."
Western Carolina (1-9, 0-8 SoCon) used back-to-back scores within a 10-second window to pull ahead, 14-7, in the opening quarter. Freshman tailback Darius Ramsey capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run to knot the game at seven apiece. On the first play of the ensuing possession, senior Elijer Martinez intercepted a ricochet off a Mocs receiver and raced 14 yards up the near sideline for his first career score, handing the Catamounts a 14-7 lead.
Ramsey finished with a team-high 72 yards rushing while Martinez was credited with four stops on defense and two kickoff returns for 42 yards.
The Mocs responded with six points early in the second quarter as freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman found tight end Faysal Shafaat for a two-yard score as a part of an 11-play march that moved 77 yards in just under five minutes. The extra point was missed, leaving the Catamounts in front, 14-13.
The two squads then traded field goals from place kickers listed as back-ups on the two-deep. WCU's Clark Sechrest punched through a 36 yarder for his first points of 2012 to give WCU a 17-13 lead before back-up Henrique Ribeiro connected from 32 yards out to again pull the game back to within one point, 17-16.
Sophomore Shaun Warren set the Catamounts up with excellent starting field position after a season-long 43 yard kickoff return, handing the ball to Troy Mitchell and the offense just shy of midfield. Mitchell marched the Catamounts 54 yards in 10 plays for a go-ahead touchdown before intermission. Facing third down and 20 yards shy of a first, Mitchell found Karnorris Benson on a 42-yard pitch-and-catch to give the Catamounts a 24-16 edge at halftime. The TD reception for Benson was the first of his Catamount career.
Mitchell finished the game 18-of-30 passing for 176 yards and a touchdown, opening by connecting on nine of his first 10 passes. Senior wide receiver Jacoby Mitchell was his favorite target, collecting seven receptions for 81 yards - and would have had a TD reception if not for an illegal block call at the seven yard line that called the play back
Chattanooga (5-4, 4-2 SoCon) went to the ground in the second half, chewing up yardage, game clock and finishing drives with points. The Mocs got two rushing scores from Jacob Huesman of 51 and five yards, while Kendrix Huitt had a one-play scoring drive with a 74-yard rush. Back-up quarterback and starting wide receiver Terrell Robinson capped the scoring with a three-yard scoring plunge that put the exclamation point on a 13-play, 98-yard drive that consumed seven minutes of the fourth quarter clock.
All told, the Mocs piled up 281 rushing yards in the second half with all 182 offensive yards in the fourth quarter coming on the ground. UTC only passed for 20 yards after intermission.
Conversely, the Catamount offense sputtered in the second half. After securing 13 first downs in the opening two quarters, they were stymied in the second half, held to just one first down over the final 30 minutes. WCU did not pick up a first down in the third quarter with its lone opportunity to move the chains coming at the 11:40 mark of the fourth quarter when Mitchell found Ramsey in the right flat where the freshman tailback surged through two would-be tacklers for the fresh set of downs.
Redshirt sophomore defensive back Ace Clark led the Catamounts with a career-high 20 tackles, the second WCU defender to record 20-or-more tackles in a single game. Freshman Sertonuse Harris added 12 stops while classmate Jaleel Lorquet made his second career interception.
Western Carolina has its bye week next weekend before closing the 2012 season against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 17. Kickoff time has yet to be announced by Alabama Athletics Department, but will be posted as soon as it is released.