On a historic evening as Governors Stadium opened to thousands, a motivated Chattanooga came to town in search of its first win.
The Mocs had previously lost two games by seven combined points, and in a must-win situation, defeated the Govs 42-6 on Saturday. An unofficial attendance of 6,883 arrived for a full day of activities, leading up to the first game at the $19 million facility.
The Mocs received the ball to begin the game, and marched down for a quick score as Keon Williams capped off a seven play drive with a three-yard scamper. On the ensuing APSU drive, freshman quarterback Darrien Boone tried to flip the ball to a teammates, but it fell to the ground for a fumble which UTC easily picked up. With the great field position, the visitors didn’t waste any time finding the endzone, with Jacob Huesman hitting a wide-open Tommy Hudson in stride for a 33-yard touchdown.
Immediately, the energy was sucked out out of the home side. However, the Govs forced a fumble as UTC was driving, and took advantage of it for the first points of the season. Boone settled in as the signal caller, and on the first play following the turnover, he found senior Javier Booker streaking down the sideline for a 45-yard score. The extra point by Evan Toby went wide right, making in 14-6.
The capacity crowd at Governors Stadium came to life with a one possession deficit. Booker had 82 receiving yards after one quarter, and the defense played well enough to force some punts. But before teams entered the locker room, Williams plunged in from a yard out with 48 seconds remaining until half, taking the momentum into the second half.
“That’s always tough to go into the locker room on a down note,” Cannon said. “We had some stops and were in a position to make it a ballgame. You’re there within a play or two of making it a contest, but we didn’t is we didn’t put any doubt in their heads. We needed to make them think they’re an 0-3 team, (but) instead we made them feel good about themselves.”
To begin the second half, the Govs went three and out, a key moment in the game with a missed opportunity to keep the UTC offense off the field. This led to three consecutive scores by the Mocs in the third quarter, beginning with Huesman’s second touchdown of the game, this time a 42-yard completion to Xavier Borishade. The final blow was felt when Hudson returned a punt to the house from 58 yards out, causing the west side bleachers to diminish quickly.
“There’s a reasonable story there to get yourself back in it,” Cannon said. “The punt fluttered outside our coverage zone, and they did a nice job of getting a couple good blocks on the edge. Those are always real downers when you’ve given up two punt returns in both weeks.”
Boone finished 15-for-20, 124 yards, and the touchdown, while Javier Booker added a new career-high in receiving yards with 88. The running game could not find holes against a stout UTC defense, with the Govs rushing for just 42 yards.
Defensively, Cannon thought the defense had better pursuit to the ball, having nine tackles behind the line and a forced fumble. Sophomore Antonio Turner led the team in tackles with nine.
“We keyed on the back this time, and it worked better than last week,” Turner said. “The defensive line opened gaps to run right through them to make tackles in the backfield for no gains. I see it improving next against Eastern Illinois.”
The Govs travel to Charleston, Ill., on Saturday, Sept. 20 for the first conference match-up. Kickoff will be at 1:30 p.m.