LEXINGTON, Va. - The Chattanooga Mocs scored touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions and never looked back, on the way to a 63-7 win over the VMI Keydets in SoCon football action Saturday at Foster Stadium in Lexington, Va. The game was the SoCon opener for both teams and was the first win for Chattanooga (1-3, 1-0 SoCon) under head coach Tom Arth.
UTC raced out to a 42-0 lead before the Keydets (0-4, 0-1) scored with 3:58 left in the first half, doing so on a 73-yard pass by Duncan Hodges to Javeon Lara that was the first touchdown pass of Hodges' career. VMI was unable to rally further, however, as the visiting Mocs held the home team to just one offensive first down in the second half on the way to the big win.
Turnovers were a main story, as Chattanooga generated four - including three interceptions - to go along with a blocked punt. Those five mistakes led to 28 UTC points.
UTC scored first on an unseasonably warm, sunny day in Lexington, and led 7-0 when Bill Hogan came on to punt the ball away on VMI's second offensive possession of the game. Hogan's punt was blocked and the ball was recovered by the Mocs at the 1-yard line. One play later, Darrell Bridges ran it in for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with just over five minutes gone by in the game.
The Mocs added another TD later in the quarter and another Bridges' TD run 2:35 into the second period, making it 28-0 when a fumble by Hodges was recovered by UTC's Lucas Webb and returned for a touchdown, making it a 35-0 game. That margin grew to 42-0 before Lara's long TD catch that accounted for the halftime margin, 42-7.
UTC scored three times in the second half, including on a 17-play, 76-yard drive to start the third quarter that ate up nearly 10 minutes on the clock, and that accounted for the final margin of 63-7.
The game was the most points UTC had scored against a Division I opponent since 2000, and equaled the third-most the Keydets had given up in a conference game.
Offensively, UTC saw quarterback Nick Tiano go 25 for 33 for 249 yards and four touchdowns while completing passes to 10 different receivers. VMI was led by Ryan Francis, who had double-digit tackles with 10 stops, and the defense made five tackles for loss on the day.
VMI football will return to action Sept. 30, when the Keydets take on Mercer in Macon, Ga. Opening kickoff is set for 4 p.m.
QUOTES - VMI Head Coach Scott Wachenheim
"We’re a young team that’s going to continue to improve as the season goes on. I’m very thankful to be the head coach of this team. I love my players. I know we’re going to get better."
On early long passes
"Chattanooga is a very aggressively coached team. We watched film of their game against LSU and how physical their secondary plays. We wanted to loosen them up a little bit and we hit that first pass to Rohan Martin. We got down early, and it’s a tough hill to climb when you get down against good opponents. Chattanooga is the four-time defending SoCon champions and a very worthy opponent. You don’t want to spot them 14 points like we did."
On the early miscues and effect on gameplan
"You have to learn how to handle adversity. You have to do it on the field and you have to do it in life. We planned for that to happen, not as early as it did, but we talk about it as a team. Andre Thornton came and spoke to the team Friday night and spoke about overcoming adversity. It was a very productive meeting. I felt good about that coming in. It’s not so much the turnovers that affect your gameplan. It’s getting down by 2-3 scores and then struggling offensively to find any kind of rhythm and consistency. Today on defense we had trouble stopping them. They were very efficient on third downs going 12-for-15 during the game. We were 1-10 on third downs let alone the turnovers. Chattanooga was able to stay on the field and we couldn’t keep our drives going, which is why they dominated the time of possession."
On giving Chattanooga great field position to start their drives
"Field position is a critical factor in a game. Our kickoff return unit was second in the SoCon last year and very effective and so far this year it has not been effective. We’re coaching it the same way, teaching it the same way and scheming it the same way but for some reason it hasn’t been as effective. Each week it’s been a different one or two guys so we’ve got to look at that again and try to get better. We’re playing solid defense but we’re not getting a lot of takeaways so we need to do a better job of trying to get the ball turned over to us. The lose the turnover battle by three or four makes for a difficult time to compete."