The Chattanooga Mocs made the short trip up I-75 falling 45-0 at Tennessee. The Vols took advantage of early struggles to put the game away early.
A big return on the opening kickoff set Tennessee up with a short field. It took six plays to go 41 yards with the initial tally coming on a 13-yard Ty Chandler run. The next score came less than two minutes later with Brandon Johnson returning a blocked Gabe Boring punt 24 yards for the 14-0 advantage.
It got to 21-0 on the next possession. Jared Guarantano's 12-yard pass to Jauan Jennings came after Nigel Warrior's interception gave the Vols the ball on the Mocs 16.
The start was part Tennessee, part self-inflicted.
"Got to make the play…it's what we talk about every day," Coach Rusty Wright said when asked about an early interception dropped on the Vols first possession. He expanded on the next few drives.
"You get an opportunity, you get first downs," he continued. "We had first-down throws, you don't catch them. They hit folks right in the hands. We got to make plays. We've got guys on scholarship too, they've got to make plays. That's just part of it.
"That's what happens when you get in games like this. You have those opportunities to make them, you have to make them. If not the first quarter ends up being like it was."
Chattanooga settled in a little afterward. Nick Tiano (13 yards) and Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks (37) put together some big runs to move the chains. Ibitokun-Hanks' had the Mocs in business inside the Vols 10.
Freshman Ailym Ford bulled his way to the 1-yard line on second-and-goal. However, a false start penalty pushed them back five yards before a fumble ended the threat.
Turnovers were a theme. The Mocs had five on the day with four interceptions and the fumble. Tennessee scored two more touchdowns in the second quarter and one in the third to sandwich a late field goal prior to the half.
"Can't do it…it doesn't matter the opponent, we do that," Wright added. "We can't turn the ball over five times against anyone. The bad part about it is, there was one throw in the first half, Nick wasn't expecting the guy there.
"The rest of them, those are our errors. It's not what they did, those are our errors. Bad throws or not in the right spot; you can't turn the ball over five times, get a punt blocked, drop a punt snap. You can't do that. It doesn't matter who we're playing. We're nowhere near good enough to do that."
Chattanooga had potential scoring drives stall on the Vols 11, 13, 30 and 27. Two of those ended in turnovers, but two ended on downs as Coach Wright explained.
"We probably could have kicked the ball a couple of times late in the second half, but I wasn't kicking field goals at that point in time," he shared. "What was the point? We were going to try to score and work on things we had to work on, but I wasn't going to kick any field goals there."