UTC takes SoCon lead in scor­ing de­fense

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - BY GENE HEN­LEY STAFF WRITER

CULLOWHEE, N.C. — Early in Satur­day’s game, blitz­ing Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee at Chat­tanooga linebacker Jer­rell Law­son ex­pected Western Carolina quar­ter­back Tyrie Adams to see him.

“He’s a very elu­sive quar­ter­back, so I fig­ured he saw me and was go­ing to set me up and spin out­side,” Law­son said. Adams didn’t. Law­son sacked Adams in the end zone for a safety, giv­ing the Mocs their first points of an even­tual 26-6 win over the Cata­mounts. The sack was part of a dom­i­nat­ing de­fen­sive per­for­mance against the South­ern Con­fer­ence’s top scor­ing at­tack, as the Cata­mounts were held to 238 yards of to­tal of­fense and two Will Hor­ton field goals — less than half of the team’s av­er­ages of 489.8 yards and 35.8 points.

The Mocs sacked Adams and backup quar­ter­back Will Jones four times, in­clud­ing 2.5 by Isa­iah Mack, a ca­reer high. Mack also had a fum­ble re­cov­ery in the first quar­ter and looked as though he might score, but the ball was stripped from him and re­cov­ered by Western Carolina at its own 4-yard line.

“The only thing go­ing through my mind was to make sure I got the ball,” Mack said. “It was prob­a­bly the only time that was go­ing to hap­pen in my life, and I think that’s what messed me up — I didn’t think about the af­ter.”

The safety hap­pened three plays later.

It was the first time the Cata­mounts had been held out of the end zone since the Mocs beat them 51-0 on Nov. 1, 2014, but it was the UTC de­fense’s sec­ond time keep­ing a team out of the end zone this sea­son. Ten­nessee Tech’s only touch­down in UTC’s 34-10 sea­son-open­ing win was a de­fen­sive score.

“It was a great ef­fort across the board,” UTC coach Tom Arth said. “We gave up some plays, some bad plays that al­lowed them to get down there, and when they did, our guys had a great at­ti­tude. Every time we had a chance to get on the side­line in those sit­u­a­tions, ‘Pops’ (Derek Ma­haf­fey) was lead­ing the way, say­ing they weren’t go­ing to get any­thing, they weren’t go­ing to get in and how we had to slam the door on them, then they went out there and did it.

“You have to give them a lot of credit. It’s one thing to say it; it’s an­other thing to go out there and do it.”

The Mocs head into their bye week lead­ing the SoCon in points al­lowed per game at 18.0, slightly ahead of Wof­ford’s 18.3 af­ter the Ter­ri­ers al­lowed 34 points in a 20-point loss at Fur­man.

Yet the de­fend­ers say they still are not pleased.

“We’re never sat­is­fied,” Law­son said. “It may look like we’re do­ing good from the out­side look­ing in, but we know how much bet­ter we can be; we know what type of de­fense we can be. We set those high stan­dards and high goals for our­selves, and we’re go­ing to hold our­selves up to it and won’t stop un­til we get there.”

Con­tact Gene Hen­ley at ghen­ley@times­freep­ress.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @gene­hen­ley3.

STAFF PHOTO BY ROBIN RUDD

UTC’s Jer­rell Law­son tack­les Western Carolina’s Tyrie Adams in the end zone for a safety early in Satur­day’s game in Cul­howee, N.C. The Mocs won 26-6.

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