CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defense was so dominant in the second half Saturday at Whitmire Stadium that it was noteworthy when Western Carolina got a first down in the fourth quarter.
That's because it was the Catamounts' first of the second half.
Western Carolina had moved the ball effectively in the first half, gaining 216 yards and scoring 17 points. The Catamounts took a 24-16 lead into the locker room after quarterback Troy Mitchell, on third-and-20, completed a 42-yard heave into the end zone for a touchdown with seven seconds left in the half.
UTC defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said the plan didn't change much in the second half, but the Mocs' level of play did.
"We changed up a little bit how we were playing certain sets, but that happened at the end of the second quarter," Fuller said. "It was about the kids playing and playing well enough to do what they did in the second half."
Safety D.J. Key had a second-quarter interception, following a tip by linebacker Shane Heatherly, that led to a 32-yard field goal. In the third quarter, defensive tackle Derrick Lott forced a fumble and Heatherly recovered. That led to a field goal and a 30-24 lead.
Cornerback Kadeem Wise, beaten on the deep touchdown earlier in the game, got some revenge with an interception late in the game.
UTC's offense had trouble getting out of its own way in the first half but moved the ball OK when it did. In the second, the offense moved the Catamounts out of the way as it rushed for 291 yards in the final two quarters.
Quarterback Jacob Huesman and running back Kenny Huitt both rushed for more than 100 yards in the second half. Huitt finished with a career-high 137 and Huesman had 130. UTC hadn't had two backs rush for 100 yards in the same game since Bryan Fitzgerald and Erroll Wynn did it at Appalachian State in 2007.
"We found a couple of plays that were working for us and kept going with it," center Patrick Sutton said.
Kendall out, Haynes in
Mocs cornerback Sema'je Kendall did not make the trip to Cullowhee. The redshirt freshman suffered a concussion in practice Tuesday and was not cleared to play. He did attend the UTC volleyball team's 3-2 win over UNC Greensboro on Friday.
Kendall's absence forced UTC to tweak its nickel and dime defenses. UTC started the game with five defensive backs and Dean Haynes made his first career start for the Mocs after transferring from North Carolina State. He missed the first five games with a fractured foot.
Fuller said Haynes played every snap but a couple.
"There were some things that weren't perfect by him," Fuller said, "but he went out there and played in a Southern Conference game and was part of a bad first half and a good second half."
Mocs defensive end Davis Tull added to his SoCon sack lead with his 10th of the season Saturday. He'd been awarded an additional one following last week's Georgia Southern game. ... Heatherly led UTC with 10 tackles and Key added nine. WCU safety Ace Clark was credited with 20.