Mocs Open FCS Playoffs with a 45-14 Win Over No. 23 Weber State - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Mocs Open FCS Playoffs with a 45-14 Win Over No. 23 Weber State

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(GoMocs.com)- The ninth-ranked University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team scored a 45-14 opening round win in the NCAA FCS Championships over No. 23 Weber State at Finley Stadium today. The Mocs forced five turnovers that led to a pair of defensive scores in the victory.
 
"It's a really good win for us and our program here," said head coach Russ Huesman. "There's so many unknowns when you're playing teams you're not familiar with … I'm really proud of our guys and our football team."
 
UTC opened with its second longest scoring drive of the season on its first possession, going 71 yards in 12 plays for the early lead.  The Mocs went up 7-0 when junior quarterback Alejandro Bennifield scrambled for 16 yards and the score with 5:24 left in the first period. 
 
After holding Weber State on its first possession, UTC orchestrated another long drive on its second possession.  This one took nine plays and 85 yards, capped by a 20-yard pass from Bennifield to junior Alphonso Stewart
 
"I thought Alejandro played really well and allowed us to establish a run game with him throwing the ball exceptionally," added Huesman.
 
UTC's first forced turnover came on a punt, when freshman Colin Brewer's rugby kick hit Weber State's Trey Hoskins in the back.  Junior snapper Emory Norred recovered on the WSU 41.
 
Four plays later, senior Henrique Ribeiro connected on a 41-yard FG for a 17-0 lead with 13:51 left in the half.  It was Ribeiro's 45th career field goal, breaking Matt Vick's (1997-00) school record. 
 
Weber State looked to get on the board later in the second quarter when tight end Andrew Vollert caught a pass from Jadrian Clark at the five.  Trevor Wrightstood him up at the one, and Lucas Webb knocked the ball loose.  Montrell Pardue picked it up at the one and went the distance for the longest fumble return for touchdown in school history and a 24-0 lead.
 
"The 99-yard fumble return was huge for us, which at that point, turned the game a completely different way," said Huesman.
 
UTC took that advantage into the locker room.  It was the sixth time this season the Mocs shut out an opponent in the first half.  
 
The Mocs made it 31-0 on its first possession of the second half, converting a fourth-and-four from the Weber State 30.  Stewart caught his second touchdown strike of the year from Bennifield for the first multi-TD of his career.
 
The Wildcats answered on its next drive, marching 75 yards in 12 plays.  The scoring play was actually a fake field goal that saw holder Stefan Cantwell complete a 21-yard pass to Tui Satuala.  That drew the score to 31-7 with 3:34 left in the third.
 
UTC tacked on two more scores, including a 39-yard run by senior Derrick Craine and a 41-yard pick-six by junior Trevor Wright.  Weber State ended the total when Jadrian Clark connected with Vollert for 31 yards with 3:32 left to play.
 
The five turnovers forced by UTC are the most in a game since the same in a 51-7 win over Western Carolina on Oct. 15, 2011.  The Mocs came into the game even in the turnover margin for the season.
 
Bennifield finished with 126 yards on 15-26 passing and two scores.  Craine led all runners with 160 yards and the one TD on 20 carries.  Stewart led the receivers with 54 yards and two TDs on three catches. 
 
Defensively, the Mocs had a pair of interceptions, including the one by Wright and another by junior Lucas Webb.  It was Webb's 10th career pick, moving him past head coach Russ Huesman (1978-81) into ninth all-time at UTC.  Wright also had one the Mocs' three fumble recoveries.
 
UTC had a season-high nine pass breakups, four of which were by defensive linemen.  That's the most by UTC since breaking up 11 against The Citadel in a 31-28 win on Nov. 14, 2011.    
 
Senior Nakevion Leslie led the team with seven tackles.  Sophomore Isaiah Mack set a new career-high with 3.5 tackles-for-loss, including 2.0 sacks.  
 
"We wanted to come out aggressive and build off what we did against Alabama last week," said Nakevion Leslie. "We wanted to play physical and start the playoffs right."
 
Weber State's Clark finished 20-38 for 210 yards, one touchdown and two picks.  He was also their leading rusher with 28 yards on seven carries.  WSU was held to just 69 rushing yards for the game.  Drew Batchelor had eight catches for 79 yards, while LeGrand Toia had a game-high nine tackles.  
 
With the win, the Mocs advance to the second round when they travel to fifth-seeded Sam Houston State.  Game time is set for 3:00 p.m. (E.S.T.) on Saturday, Dec. 3, in Huntsville, Texas. 

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