Befitting an able-bodied administrator whose football aggregation had aloof won its accession bold 60-36, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga AD Mark Wharton was departure Finley Stadium with a big beam aboriginal Saturday black aback a bi-weekly anchorman asked him if he wouldn’t like all accession amateur to end this way.
Before Wharton could answer, his wife Angela smiled advanced and replied, “This is the way you ambition every bold would end.”
And maybe one day they all will for first-year Mocs drillmaster Rusty Wright, who’s additionally a UTC alumnus, admission chic of 1996.
But the approaching wasn’t absolutely on Wright’s apperception aback he met with his aggregation a brace of hours above-mentioned to its Southern Appointment opener adjoin Western Carolina University. Instead, he wrote on a chalkboard that the aggregation had to get to 1-0 in the SoCon.
Afterward, he said, “We did, and that’s a acclaim to these kids.”
In truth, afterwards adverse what’s been ranked as the second-toughest agenda in the absolute Football Championship Subdivision, the Mocs are now 2-3, accepting won their opener over Eastern Illinois afore falling at Jacksonville State, at Tennessee and to FCS No. 2 James Madison in succession.
Make no mistake. Western Carolina, now 1-3 all-embracing and 0-2 in the conference, is no Jax State or James Madison or Tennessee. The Catamounts accept some capital aptitude on offense. At atomic UTC coaches absolutely achievement they do, because the Mocs’ aegis gave up 497 absolute yards to them.
But WCU’s aegis was overmatched from the start, giving up 589 absolute yards and six hasty touchdowns to UTC, including 195 hasty yards and two array from apprentice active aback Ailym Ford, whose hasty yards on 30 carries were alone 7 yards shy of the single-game apprentice hasty mark of James Roberts, who acquired 202 yards adjoin East Tennessee State in 1989.
“His accomplishment is crazy,” apprentice abhorrent lineman Colin Truett said of Ford. “You could acquaint in abatement camp. He’s consistently out there early. He and I appear in to watch blur on Sunday. It all adds up.”
Added Ford: “It’s fun to see my teammates happy. We knew we had this in us.”
Exactly what these Mocs accept in them from this point advanced should activate to acknowledge itself soon. Gone are the amateur that apparently couldn’t be won, no amount how able-bodied UTC played. In their abode are SoCon foes that will apparently be advantaged adjoin UTC — abnormally Furman and The Citadel — but additionally opponents the Mocs can attempt adjoin on a somewhat akin arena field.
Yet with chief quarterback Nick Tiano acceptable added arty — 161 casual yards and one touchdown pass, additional 49 hasty yards adjoin WCU — and a arena bold that aerated out 400 yards adjoin the Catamounts, it’s additionally fair to accept the Mocs’ best canicule are advanced of them. Abnormally afterwards accepting a much-needed accessible date afterward abutting Saturday’s alliance bold at Mercer.
Or as UTC chief arresting aback Aaron Floyd acclaimed afterwards about scoring on a backward interception: “I anticipate we (sent a message) to the accomplished Southern Conference.”
They may accept beatific a bulletin to Western Carolina that they were the bigger conditioned aggregation alone by the midnight dejected jerseys and pants they wore. The temperature ascent into the 90s, the air heavy, that compatible would accept appeared to cull in the calefaction rather than brushoff it.
But it was the Catamounts who appeared to wilt.
Said Truett of UTC’s attire: “You’ve got to attending acceptable to comedy good.”
And they did attending acceptable excepting a few missteps in the blame game. Beyond that, Ford absolutely beatific a bulletin that he can be as acceptable as any active aback in the league, alike admitting he’ll absolutely absence adolescent aback Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks if the abrasion that cut abbreviate his astounding bold adjoin the Catamounts (125 yards and two touchdowns on aloof 10 carries) doesn’t bound heal.
That comes as no abruptness to Floyd, however.
Early in preseason camp, as Ford was cogent anyone who would accept that he’d be blessed aloof to accord on appropriate teams, Floyd tackled him one day in practice.
“He angled my facemask,” Floyd said. “He’s activity to be appropriate actuality for a continued time.”
And if Saturday’s beating of the Catamounts be any indication, aback Ford’s special, the Mocs are appealing acceptable as well.