The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team took the field at Finley Stadium for its season opener Thursday night without several starters in the lineup, including offensive triple threat Terrell Robinson.
The wide receiver/backup quarterback from South Pittsburg warmed up and dressed out but didn't play against UT-Martin. Neither did defensive end Toyvian Brand, who also dressed out. Meanwhile, safeties D.J. Key and Zach McCarter were not in uniform for the No. 25 Mocs.
Robinson participated lightly in pregame warmups, causally threw some 25-yard passes and appeared to be preparing as if he was going to play. Mocs coach Russ Huesman said after UTC's 31-21 loss that Robinson had a pulled hamstring and would have been available to play had it been an emergency.
Brand, who replaced Zach Rayl as the first-team right end after Rayl's knee injury, walked with a limp during the Moc Walk due to an apparent right foot/ankle injury.
Key missed all but one practice during the preseason due to a bone bruise on his left foot, and McCarter was in and out of practice with a right knee injury. In the game notes for the opener, Key was listed as the starter at strong safety and Sema'je Kendall was the starter at free safety in place of McCarter.
Former walk-on C.J. Murrell made his first career start, in place of Key at strong safety. Murrell, a senior, played with the first team throughout the preseason.
Other first starts
Until Thursday, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Keointa Davis hadn't played in a game since the final game of his junior season at Red Bank. A knee injury wrecked his senior season just up U.S. Highway 27 from Finley Stadium. He redshirted last season.
Davis started against the Skyhawks.
Besides him and Murrell, three other Mocs started Thursday for the first time in their careers and had an impact on the game. Freshman safety Dee Virgin had an interception and recovered a fumble. Murrell, the strong safety, made eight tackles but left Finley Stadium with a boot on his right foot. Junior linebacker Muhasibi Wakeel made two tackles, and redshirt freshman C.J. Board made three catches for 38 yards.
A Favre in Finley
Brett Favre has been to Finley Stadium before -- once, as a fundraiser for former Mocs coach Rodney Allison.
His nephew, Dylan Favre, entered Thursday's game in the second quarter to play quarterback. He transferred to UT-Martin after two seasons at Pearl River Community College in Kiln, Miss.
UTM coach Jason Simpson hadn't named a starter until Jarod Neal took the Skyhawks' first snap. They shared snaps throughout the second half, even after Favre built the team's lead. He finished 9-of-12 for 83 yards and a touchdown.
"When you lose your quarterback, you don't get a lot of respect in the preseason polls," Simpson said. "Favre may score, but I wanted to make sure we handed the ball off."
Butler did it early
Wideout Jeremy Butler caught screen passes on the Skyhawks' first three plays of the game.
Neal targeted him a few more times in the first quarter until UTC adjusted its coverage in his direction. He finished the quarter with six catches for 51 yards. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Butler caught one more pass before halftime for 7 yards. He finished with 10 grabs for 91 yards.