CULLOWHEE, N.C. (GoMocs.com)--- The battle for first-place in the Southern Conference had a clear winner Saturday afternoon at Whitmire Stadium in Cullowhee, N.C. No. 12 Chattanooga dominated from the start in a 51-0 win at Western Carolina. The Mocs stand alone atop the SoCon standings at 5-0 (6-3 overall) with the Catamounts in second at 4-1.
It was a complete performance from the visitors, piling up 512 yards of total offense while the defense throttled its host, allowing just 102. The rushing attack was potent with a season-high 386 yards on 60 carries. The 60 rushes were 18 more plays than the Catamounts had total (42).
“In six years here, this was our most complete game (offensively and defensively),” coach Russ Huesman said. “That's a good Western Carolina team, and to play that well against a quality team with some really good players is huge. I don't remember a game that even came close to this one in quality.
Williams scored twice in the first quarter building a 14-0 advantage. While the defense limited the Cats to three straight three-and-outs to open the game, the Mocs ran off eight consecutive scoring drives after punting on the opening possession.
Williams' two scores came from one and 39 yards out. Jacob Huesman followed with touchdown passes to Taharin Tyson and Tommy Hudson of 51 and 21 yards, respectively. The latter came on a perfect toss on a corner route in the end zone. Huesman tacked on a one-yard run before Henrique Ribeiro added a 33-yard field goal to end the first half onslaught for a 38-0 advantage at the break.
Ribeiro added two more field goals to push the lead to 44-0. Marquis Green had the exclamation point with a 36-yard run with 3:55 to go in the game for the 51-0 final. The defense held Western to seven three-and-outs and nine drives of three plays or less, forcing two turnovers. The Catamounts also turned the ball over on downs with a four-play drive.
Williams was outstanding. He had a career-high 194 yards on 19 carries (10.2 yards per rush) with the two scores. Derrick Craine added 74 on the ground, while Huesman netted 52. Huesman completed nine of 13 passes for 126 yards and the two touchdowns.
Senior right guard Chris Mayes concurred, “I think our growth has been huge. We have gelled together as a unit, and we've played well. We take a lot of pride in our work. When the other guys are successful around us and have a great day, we know we've had a great day. That's all we care about.”
The 386 yards rushing is the most since tallying 404 in a 49-14 win over VMI on October 15, 1994. It's the fourth time in five SoCon contests the Mocs have accumulated 250 or more this season. That led to a 16-plus minute (38:01-21:59) advantage in time of possession. Another telling stat? Chattanooga converted nine of 16 third downs, while the Catamounts managed only one in 11 tries.
While the offense was stunning, the defense was spectacular. The Catamounts managed just 14 yards rushing and 88 yards passing. That's 183 yards below average running, while the passing yards were 117 yards off their usual mark.
Led by a stout effort by the defensive line, the Mocs had nine tackles for loss including three sacks. Nakevion Leslie had a team-high seven tackles while forcing a fumble. Davis Tull recovered that fumble and added a sack. Josh Freeman and Muhasibi Wakeel had sacks as well.
“This week's practice was intense,” Wakeel shared. “We came out focused and had to improve off of last week. The stakes were high coming into this game. We were both undefeated, and playoff and championship implications were big. We knew their quarterback was very mobile, so we had to stick to what we do and keep at it.”
Christon Gill had a game-high 14 tackles for the Catamounts with Sertonuse Harris adding 10. Offensively, Shaun Warren's seven yards rushing (three rushes) led the way, while Troy Mitchell threw for 72 yards on eight of 17 with an interception.
Chattanooga has another pivotal league matchup in the home finale next week with Wofford. A win clinches the first FCS playoff appearance since 1984. Kickoff is at 1 p.m., on ESPN3.com. Access links to video, audio, stats and more on GoMocs.com. Get your tickets on GoMocs.com or by calling the ticket office at 266-MOCS (6627). Fans can follow live updates on Twitter @GoMocsFB.