CULLOWHEE, N.C. - A first half to forget for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team was followed by a second half to remember Saturday at Whitmire Stadium.
The UTC defense did very little well in the first half against Western Carolina, and the offense had two tipped passes intercepted. The Mocs' mistakes and some quality play by the home team left them in an eight-point halftime hole, but UTC won 45-24.
While the Mocs' offense was generating 311 yards in the final two quarters, including 291 on the ground, the defense shut out the Catamounts. Western Carolina had one first down in the final two periods.
Mocs coach Russ Huesman said he talked to the defense "in a pretty stern" fashion at halftime. The exact words might not be family friendly.
"Anybody that's passionate for the game is going to come out there and have words to say," said defensive tackle Derrick Lott, who had six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. "He came in there and yelled at us, we yelled at each other and we all knew what we had to do."
And the defense did it, holding the Catamounts with a first down until the 11:40 mark in the fourth quarter, after the Mocs had taken a 30-24 lead.
"I don't think that made a difference, to be honest with you," Huesman said of his rant. "I really don't. They just had to decide that they were going to play."
After the game, UTC learned it was in a tie for first place in the Southern Conference -- at least in the loss column -- after No. 14 Appalachian State beat top-ranked Georgia Southern and Samford upset No. 7 Wofford. The Mocs (5-4, 4-2) are one of four teams with two conference losses.
It was SoCon loss No. 22 in a row for Western Carolina (1-9, 0-8), which is off next week and closes the season at defending national champion Alabama. The Mocs, meanwhile, get to travel to Wofford with a lot on the line.
"I think this game will spring us up a little bit for next week," said running back J.J. Jackson, who had 63 yards rushing and three catches for 24 yards.
With the offensive line dominating in the second half, UTC finished with 367 yards rushing and 474 yards of offense. That's the most rushing yards in a game for the Mocs since 1994.
Kenny Huitt led the way with 137 yards on 15 carries, highlighted by a 74-yard run that put UTC in front 38-24. Jacob Huesman had 130 yards on the ground, including a 51-yard score to start the second half, and also threw for 107 yards. Huitt and Huesman were UTC's first 100-yard duo since 2007.
"That's what we would like to be," Jacob said.
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said UTC could have been as dominating in the first half if two of Huesman's passes weren't tipped and intercepted, one for a touchdown that gave WCU a 14-7 lead. And UTC had two other drives killed by penalties.
"I came out and said, if y'all are going to do this, I'm not throwing the ball," Satterfield said.
UTC had 16 throws and 10 runs in the first half. In the second, UTC ran the ball 33 times and threw it five. The Mocs finished 8-for-12 on third-down conversions.