By Kyle Yager, Assistant Sports Editor
True freshman quarterback Cole Copeland, Cleveland, Tennessee, saw his first collegiate action Saturday in UTC’s 41-17 loss to Furman at Finley Stadium. Copeland is the first true freshman to start at quarterback for UTC since 1995.
Copeland received the start as senior quarterback Alejandro Bennifield, Lovejoy, Georgia, and sophomore Nick Tiano, Chattanooga, were each sidelined with an injury. Copeland originally was redshirting for the 2017 season, but burned that redshirt following those injuries.
Copeland looked poised from the start as he went 4-for-4 on their opening drive, including a 41-yard strike to senior wide out Alphonso Stewart, Robertsdale, Alabama. The opening drive ended with a 29-yard field from freshman Victor Ulmo, Chattanooga.
“Obviously, after that first snap you get a lot better,” said Copeland. “I was just trying to make it an audience of one thing, I always preach that. I’m not really out here to impress anyone else, just show my god given ability. I’m not really worried about the fans or this being my first college start. Audience of one.”
On UTC’s ensuing drive, Copeland again went 4-for-4, and again tossed a 40-yard bomb to Stewart. Only this time that pass resulted in a touchdown, and gave the Mocs their only lead throughout the contest at 10-7. It was Copeland’s first collegiate touchdown.
“It was nice, it was a good little feeling,” said Copeland, referencing the touchdown. “I look to get that a little more often, I just can’t turn the ball over.”
Copeland set a freshman record for most passing yards in a game with 317, and set a UTC season-high for completions with 30.
“We had a good week of practice,” said Copeland. “We just have to figure some stuff out, and we will. We’ve got a good group. Some people might be doubting us but this locker room, we’re not doubting anybody. We’ve got the people to do it, the coaching staff to do it, and we will do it.”
Copeland’s final stat line was 30-of-42 for 317 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He was also sacked three times.
With the uncertainty of Tiano and Bennifield’s timetables to return, Copeland would look to be the starter moving forward. Regardless of who’s available, after this performance, Copeland has clearly thrown himself into serious consideration for continuing to start for the Mocs.