By Chris King — Assistant Sports Editor
The Chattanooga Mocs defense came ready to play in the first round of the FCS Playoffs as they forced five turnovers in route to a 45-14 win over Weber State at Finley Stadium on Saturday.
The Mocs defense forced three fumbles and two interceptions which were the most turnovers forced in a game since Oct. 15, 2011. Sophomore Montrell Pardue, Clarksville, Tenn., returned a very crucial fumble 99 yards to give the Mocs a 24-0 lead heading into halftime. Pardue’s fumble was the longest fumble return in school history.
“There are always so many unknowns when you’re playing teams that you’re not very familiar with,” said head coach Russ Huesman. “We weren’t familiar with them and they weren’t familiar with us. The 99-yard fumble return in the second quarter was huge for us. They’re going to punch it in and it’s a ball game at half with things that are going to be different.”
Junior Trevor Wright, Greeneville, Tenn., joined the defensive touchdown club as he picked off Weber State in the fourth quarter and returned it 41 yards for a pick-six to put the Mocs up 45-7. Junior Lucas Webb, Northport, Ala., also got a late interception which was his 10th career pick, moving him past coach Huesman into ninth all-time at Chattanooga.
Chattanooga won the turnover margin 5-0 over Weber State on Saturday afternoon. The Mocs came into the match up even in the turnover margin so far on the season.
“When you come in and play a team like Chattanooga, you know that you can’t turn the ball over five times without getting one or two back,” said Weber State head coach Jay Hill. “If you lose the turnover margin like that then you’ll be in for a long day. I was really impressed with their defensive players flying around and they were everything that we thought they were.”
Senior Nakevion Leslie, Powder Springs, Ga., led the Mocs with seven tackles, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and two pass break ups. Sophomore Isaiah Mack, Tunnel Hill, Ga., anchored the defensive line with a career-high three and a half tackles for loss and two sacks.
“Statistically, I don’t think we dominated this game, but obviously two defensive touchdowns make a big difference in the playoffs,” said coach Huesman. “We’re really pleased that we beat a good team. I’m proud of our guys and proud of our football team.”
With the dominating a win over Weber State, the UTC defense will look to continue their success in the second round of the FCS Playoffs. The Mocs will now travel to Huntsville, Texas to take on fifth-seeded Sam Houston State on Saturday. Game time is set for 3 p.m.