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UTC photo by Dale Rutemeyer / UTC's Ty Boeck (46) and Marshall Cooper (40) tackle Mercer running back Kareem Rogers during Saturday's game in Macon, Ga.

MACON, Ga. — Five games into its 2019 football season, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had shown little on defense that would have predicted Saturday's outcome.

The Mocs entered their Southern Conference matchup at Mercer having allowed per-game averages of 33.8 points and 453 yards. They were gashed for 423 rushing yards just a week before in a home win against Western Carolina.

Saturday, though, they held the Bears — who entered with per-game averages of 33 points and more than 400 total yards — to a mere 257 total yards. Only 29 yards were gained on 25 rushes, which included numerous tackles for loss and two sacks by the Mocs.

"We just executed the game plan," said UTC senior nose tackle Telvin Jones, who had one sack and was in the backfield on several occasions. "Coach (Kenny) Baker prepared us well, and we just executed like we knew we could."

The Mocs held dangerous Mercer quarterback Robert Riddle, a McCallie graduate who came in with 13 touchdown passes this year, to 228 yards on 22-of-41 passing with one touchdown and an interception.

UTC also recovered three Mercer fumbles, two of them caused by sophomore linebacker Ty Boeck, who again led the Mocs in tackles.

"I wouldn't have any tackles if not for big 92 (Jones) and all them up there," said Boeck, who had 12 stops, two of them for losses. "It's huge to go 2-0 in the conference. It will feel really good over that bye week. Telvin had some sacks, Khay (Edwards) had one and some tackles for loss. We had a nice game plan."

 

Receivers step up

One of UTC's worst nightmares was realized late in the first quarter when star receiver Bryce Nunnelly was lost for the game with a shoulder injury. Instead of sulking, though, the Mocs rallied as a number of receivers stepped up to help lead the way to a comeback win.

Nine receivers caught a pass for the Mocs. Tyrin Summers caught four for 22 yards, Chris James three for 48 and a touchdown, Reggie Henderson three for 43 yards and Jeffrey Wood II two for 27.

"The guys all stepped up," senior quarterback Nick Tiano said. "You saw a lot of guys get to play that hadn't been in much, and they all made plays. Unfortunately, with Bryce, that's part of football. But you see it at every level when guys need to step up and they do. They were all ready to go."

 

Ready for rest

UTC's open date is coming at an opportune time for first-year head coach Rusty Wright and his players. In addition to Nunnelly's loss to injury, freshman running back Ailym Ford was hampered for half the game with a tight hamstring.

With senior running back Tyrell Price out for the season due to injury and backup Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks missing the game with his own hamstring problem, the backfield might be down to Jeffrey Wood II and James Stovall if the Mocs had to play next weekend.

As it is, one or both of the injured backs could be back in time for the Mocs' next game, on Oct. 17 against East Tennessee State at Finley Stadium.

"Heck, I have no idea," Wright said after the game regarding the injuries. "We'll regroup and see where those guys are, but the good thing is we're off. We're beat up and banged up. It is what it is. It's game six, and we'll figure out a way to go out there and play a game two Thursdays from now."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.

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