RICHMOND, Ky. -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team has proven in back-to-back weeks that it is, or would be, the class of the Ohio Valley Conference this season.
A week after thumping Jacksonville State, the No. 17-ranked Mocs edged Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 10,100 at Roy Kidd Stadium. UTC's defense produced one big third-down stop after another, and two true freshmen scored rushing touchdowns in the second half to lift the Mocs to a 23-14 win.
Marquis Green scored on a 17-yard run in the third quarter to put UTC up 17-14, and Taharin Tyson sealed the win with a 1-yard plunge in the final minute. It was the first career touchdown for each. Meanwhile, the defense forced turnovers on EKU's final two possessions.
"I've said all along, I think we've got a good defense," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "I think we can run."
The Mocs kept running to the ball on third down and the Colonels converted just 2 of 15 third downs into firsts. A week earlier, Jacksonville was 1-for-15.
"Team speed," end Josh Williams said as a means of explaining what UTC is doing on defense. "We're just too fast for most of our opponents and we're showing it right now."
Williams had two sacks and became the program's all-time leader with 15 1/2. Linebacker Wes Dothard led UTC with 10 tackles -- he also had a sack and three tackles for loss -- and Huesman said "he was a monster out there."
UTC (2-1) doesn't play in the OVC, however, so the Gamecocks and Colonels (1-2) will likely have to battle each other for the league crown. The Mocs hope to challenge for a Southern Conference championship this season, and their play the past two weeks have them believing they can.
Up next for UTC is a trip to Boone, N.C., to face third-ranked Appalachian State.
"It feels so good to come out of these last two weeks with two wins," said quarterback B.J. Coleman, who finished 26-for-40 for 277 yards and a touchdown. "Appalachian State's a heck of a football team, we all know that, and we've got our work cut out for us."
The Mocs took a 10-7 lead with 34.6 seconds left in the first half when Coleman hit Joel Bradford for a 13-yard touchdown pass. That play came moments after Sloan Allison caught a 39-yard pass.
EKU answered right back with a 55-yard touchdown pass from T.J. Pryor to tight end Matt Lengel to give the Colonels a 14-10 lead at the break. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound Lengel bounced off UTC's safeties on the play and scored easily.
"We came into the locker room a little upset," Dothard said.
Green's TD run came with 7:36 left in the third quarter. He got a end-sealing block from Tyson.
"[Tyson] threw a great cut-block -- couldn't get any better -- so I just tried to find it and get around the edge," Green said. "I had to dive in, though."
With Chris Awuah slowed by an ankle injury, Green got most of the carries and led UTC with 68 yards on 21 carries.
Tyson moved from his fullback spot to tailback on a couple of short-yardage situations late in the game. He converted a fourth-and-1 at the EKU and then scored on fourth-and-goal at the 1 when he followed a big push from the guys in front of him.
"It was the exact same play, just to the other side," Tyson said of his touchdown. "[Thomas Green] threw a great block, the O-line was great on it. I could have run with my eyes closed, it was so wide open."
The Mocs shut out the Colonels in the second half and held EKU to 233 yards for the game. UTC had 377 yards and an advantage of more than 12 minutes in time of possession.