CULLOWHEE, N.C. — Break earned.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team dominated the middle two quarters Saturday, building a 28-point lead on its way to a 38-25 Southern Conference victory in front of 10,760 fans for Western Carolina's homecoming.
The eighth-ranked Mocs (8-1, 6-1) have a bye week before hosting Wofford on Nov. 12. They rushed for 323 yards against the Catamounts; 126 came from Richardre Bagley, who scored three touchdowns, and 121 from backup quarterback Tyler Roberson, who scored from 54 yards out in the second quarter.
UTC finished with 515 yards of total offense, topping 500 for the second straight game and fourth time this season. Starting quarterback Alejandro Bennifield threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
"This was a big win," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "Every conference game we're playing for is a chance for a conference championship. I told our guys beforehand we're playing for a championship today, whether they're playing for one or not — which they're not.
"We're playing for a championship and had to play like a championship team. I thought offensively we played really, really well. Defensively, we were not very good and we have to get better."
The Mocs scored on their first four possessions. Bennifield and C.J. Board hooked up for a 60-yard score. Bagley then had scoring runs of 6 and 1 yards, with Roberson's career-long run sandwiched in between.
"It's always important for the offense to have a strong start just in case the defense is struggling," Bennifield said. "Us scoring quickly often helps them stay in the game and not get down and let them know we've got their back."
The UTC defense gave up 329 yards on the ground and 446 total. SoCon preseason offensive player of the year Detrez Newsome had 277 yards rushing and touchdowns from 75 and 95 yards out, the latter the longest play from scrimmage ever allowed by a UTC team. His first score tied the game in the first quarter, but the Catamounts didn't score another touchdown until his second one with 40 seconds to play in the third quarter. By that time UTC led 38-17.
"One of our goals is to limit the big play," defensive coordinator Adam Braithwaite said. "Part of that goal is not to give up the big-play touchdown, which we gave up two. I think Western did a good job of attacking us. They've got athletes, which we all knew, and they do a good job of spreading the scheme out, putting athletes in space and doing all that.
"The big thing is we're disappointed in the two big runs, but it's a win, we're 8-1 going into a bye and we'll take it. We have a chance to regroup; it's a two-game season left and we'll see what happens."
The Catamounts (1-7, 0-6) scored in the game's final moments on a 10-yard pass from Tyrie Adams to Spearman Robinson.
Dale Warren finished with 13 tackles and a sack for the Mocs. Cedric Nettles had 12 tackles, while Isaiah Mack had a pair of sacks. Vantrel McMillan had a sack, giving him five for the season and tying him with Warren for second on the team. McMillan also had three tackles for loss.
Bennifield's two touchdown passes gave him 19 for the season, which ties him with Mickey Brokas (1971) for the sixth-best single season in UTC history. Saturday was the first time all season that UTC teammates rushed for 100 yards in the same game (Bagley and Roberson). Board had a pair of catches for 107 yards, giving him 1,775 for his career and moving into 10th all-time. He is 16 yards from passing Blue Cooper (2006-09).
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.
Updated Oct. 30 at 12:39 a.m. with photos and full game story.