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UTC running back Derrick Craine hurdles Weber State cornerback Dre Snowden (27) ahead of linebacker LeGrand Toia (58) during the Mocs' first-round FCS football playoff game against Weber State at Finely Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. UTC won 45-14.

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Mocs steamroll error-prone Weber State, 45-14, in FCS playoff game

As the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football players ran off Davenport Field on Saturday, the word "Houston" came up more than once.

The focus could finally move forward.

Led by a defense that forced five Weber State turnovers, the Mocs advanced to the final 16 of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the third consecutive season with a 45-14 win in front of 5,238 at Finley Stadium.

The Mocs (9-3) will travel to Huntsville, Texas, to face top-ranked and fifth-seeded Sam Houston State (11-0) in the second round next Saturday at 3 p.m. EST.

Against the Wildcats, UTC had a 99-yard fumble recovery by Montrell Pardue for a touchdown and a 41-yard interception return for a score by Trevor Wright. It was the first time the Mocs defense had scored multiple touchdowns in a game since they had two against Jacksonville State on Sept. 6, 2014.

UTC also recovered two other fumbles and picked off another pass, limiting Weber State to 69 yards rushing and 306 yards of total offense.

Offensively the Mocs were led by running back Derrick Craine's 160 yards and a score. Quarterback Alejandro Bennifield had 154 yards passing and two touchdown throws to Alphonso Stewart, while also running for a touchdown.

The Mocs rushed for 229 yards, 28 more than their season average.

"That's all the offensive line," Craine said. "Those guys go unnoticed a bit, but the other 10 guys on the field create opportunities for me to have successful run lanes. When I'm able to break through and get to the second level, the receivers are running right beside me making blocks.

"Everyone is out there working hard as they could."

The Mocs took control from the start and built a 24-0 halftime lead, with two touchdowns and a field goal on their first four possessions. When it was still 17-0, Weber State (7-5) marched downfield, and on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line quarterback Jadrian Clark threw a short pass to tight end Andrew Vollert, who was hit by safety Lucas Webb while fighting for the end zone and fumbled.

The ball was scooped up by Pardue and returned 99 yards for a touchdown — the third of the sophomore's college career.

"I think it was a huge swing," Weber State coach Jay Hill said, noting the Wildcats were getting the ball to open the second half. "We were moving the ball OK. The difference was we did not play well the first two drives on defense and we turned it over five times. It should have been 17-7 at the half."

The Mocs forced a three-and-out to start the third quarter and took over on their own 35, promptly marching downfield. A third-down pass from Bennifield to Bingo Morton gained only a yard and left UTC facing a fourth-and-4 from the WSU 30. After initially lining up to punt, the Mocs chose to go for it and wound up with a slant pass from Bennifield to Stewart for a 31-0 lead.

Weber State got on the board on the next drive, executing a fake field goal to score on a pass from backup quarterback Stefan Caldwell to Tui Satuala late in the third quarter.

Trevor Wright got his first career score late in the final period, and Clark linked up with Vollert for a 31-yard score to finish the scoring.

"It was a really good win for us," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "There's always unknowns when you're facing teams you're not familiar with and you never can gauge. Some guys played exceptional, and defensively we played really, really well and didn't let them establish a running game.

"I don't think we could have played much better."

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

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