UT-Martin runs over Chattanooga in season-opener - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UT-Martin runs over Chattanooga in season-opener

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - The build-up turned into a bust Thursday night for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team.

A season that was hyped as a potential breakthrough year for the Mocs started with a lopsided letdown loss to UT-Martin, 31-21, in front of 11,163 fans at Finley Stadium.

"It was just an ugly day," said head coach Russ Huesman, who is beginning his fifth year at UTC. "It was probably the worst days that I've been involved with since I've been here. We were physically manhandled by those guys and outcoached."

The Skyhawks racked up 307 yards on the ground behind career-high 100-yard outings from DJ McNeil and Trent Garland. McNeil was the workhorse with 134 yards on 26 carries, while Garland pushed the pile and bounced off tacklers for an impressive 116 yards on just eight rushes.

Both backs scored a touchdown.

"That (Garland), we made him look like Walter Payton," Huesman said. "It was ridiculous. The missed tackles and the missed assignments hurt us."

The Chattanooga defense played without injured starting safeties D.J. Key and Zach McCarter and lost backup C.J. Morrell early in the second quarter to an ankle injury. 

They also played without wide receiver Terrell Robinson, who dressed but sat out with a hamstring injury.

"We were told we could only play him in an emergency," Huesman said of the South Pittsburg product.

Without Robinson, the UTC offense sputtered for most of the first half. An interception on a tipped ball by J'Von Blackmon late in the second quarter set up a two-yard touchdown run by McNeil for the game's first score.

Dylan Favre scrambled for a touchdown in the third quarter to give the Skyhawks a 14-0 lead before the Mocs found their groove. Jacob Huesman hooked up with Tommy Hudson on a beautiful deep ball before finding tight end Faysal Shafaat for an 18-yard score to get on the board.

Shafaat finished with four catches for 45 yards and two scores as a lone bright spot for UTC.

The Mocs would trim the deficit down to seven again in the fourth quarter when Marquis Green scored on a 29-yard screen pass shortly after Chris Thompson's touchdown catch from Favre put UT-Martin up 21-7.

The Skyhawks sealed the win with a field goal and a 33-yard run by Garland late in the fourth to go up 31-14. Huesman's late pass to Shafaat made the score respectable with 1:32 to play.

"For whatever reason we just couldn't get everyone playing well at the same time tonight," said senior offensive lineman Kevin Revis. "We have to come out more prepared to play. There's no one to blame but us.

"The coaches tell us all the time we have to come out here swinging and throwing the first punch. Tonight, we came out here and took one in the mouth before we ever responded."

Huesman threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns for Chattanooga, but his lone interception proved costly. Freshman defensive back Dee Virgin recovered a fumble in the first half and added an interception in the second in his college debut, but the Mocs' defense surrendered 451 yards of total offense on the night. 

"We just didn't do a great job of making adjustments," Huesman said. "I think offensively we did make some adjustments at half time, and played better and made some plays. We can't wait till the second half and decide we're going to figure out what we're going to do.

"Give Martin credit. They played hard and they played physical. I think they played harder than us. We were definitely out coached on both sides of the ball. There's no question about that. We did terrible all the way across the board."

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