Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

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Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

The Mocs Express makes an appearance at a tailgate near Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. The Express has been a long cherished UTC tradition. (Photo by Courtney Sherlin)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Chord Overstreet performs at a free concert for UTC students before the game against Western Carolina on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Brandon Robinson)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Members of the color guard at Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Courtney Sherlin)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC players led by wideout Joseph Parker run onto the field prior to kickoff against Western Carolina at Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Courtney Sherlin)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Freshman defensive back Jabril Malone runs out of the tunnel at Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC Cheerleaders before the Mocs football game on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC defensive back Lucas Webb hits Western Carolina wideout Jordan Mathis during the first quarter of UTC's home loss at Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC starting quarterback Alejandro Bennifield gets the ball off just in time to avoid pressure from Western Carolina outside linebacker Tahjai Watt in the first quarter of the game on September 30, 2017. Watt would later knock Bennifield out of the game, and the Catamounts would go on to win 45-7 (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC wideout Joseph Parker catches Alejandro Bennifield's pass at Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Western Carolina wideout Jordan Mathis is tackled at the one yard line by UTC defensive back Kareem Orr on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams celebrates after a Catamounts touchdown in the first quarter of their successful trip to Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC wideout Alphonso Stewart breaks free of an attempted tackle by Western Carolina defensive back Marvin Tillman on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Western Carolina defensive end Nate Link sacks UTC quarterback Alejandro Bennifield in the first quarter of UTC's 45-7 home loss. Bennifield's helmet came off again just plays later when he suffered a vicious hit that sent him to the hospital. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC safety Kareem Orr chases Western Carolina running back Corey Holloway after he breaks free for a 58-yard run during the first quarter of the UTC-Western Carolina game on September 30, 2017. Holloway would end up with 105 rushing yards total as the Catamounts beat the Mocs at home 45-7. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

A UTC cheerleader smiles during the UTC home game vs Western Carolina on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Starting quarterback Alejandro Bennefield tries to stand up after his helmet was knocked off on a hit by Western Carolina outside linebacker Tahjai Watt in the first quarter of the game at Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. Bennifield was unable to stand, and left the game with a head injury. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC coach Tom Arth challenges the Mocs' starting right guard Brian Marshall after a failed drive during UTC's 45-7 home loss to Western Carolina on September 30, 2017. The Mocs offensive line failed to protect the Mocs quarterbacks all night, and it cost them starting quarterback Alejandro Bennifield as well as back up quarter Nick Tiano. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

A young Mocs fan holds a football during the UTC-Western Carolina game at Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Courtney Sherlin)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC wideout Wil Young makes a reception during the Mocs' home loss to Western Carolina at Finley Stadium on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Senior running back Richardre Bagley is tackled during the Mocs' home loss to Western Carolina on September 30, 2017. The Mocs would lose the game 45-7. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC punter Colin Brewer goes down after being hit on a blocked punt that would result in a Western Carolina touchdown on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Courtney Sherlin)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC coach Tom Arth and medical trainers kneel over quarterback Nick Tiano after taking a hit to his shoulder in the fourth quarter of the Mocs' home loss on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

Western Carolina freshman linebacker Bruce Squires celebrates after scooping up a fumble by UTC punter Collin Brewer on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Courtney Sherlin)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC running back Darrell Bridges stretches across the goal line to score the Mocs' lone touchdown of the night on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC freshman quarterback Dominic Caldwell prepares to take a snap after starting quarterback Alejandro Bennifield and backup Nick Tiano were knocked out of the game on September 30, 2017. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Takeaways from the Mocs’ first loss to Western Carolina since 2008

UTC players hold their helmets in the air after the 45-7 home loss to Western Carolina. (Photo by Courtney Sherlin)

By Kyle Yager, Assistant Sports Editor —

The Mocs couldn’t get anything going in a 45-7 loss to Western Carolina on Saturday night in front of 10,101 fans at Finley Stadium. Injuries and turnovers were key factors that contributed to a forgettable night for UTC in their first home Southern Conference loss of the season. The following are five key takeaways from the contest.

Injuries

Alejandro Bennifield, Lovejoy, Georgia, returned to start at quarterback for the Mocs after serving his four game suspension for academic violations. After two punts on his first two possessions, Bennifield was crushed by Western Carolina linebacker Tahjai Watt. He was transported to the hospital with a head injury.

“Our entire team felt for him in that moment,” said UTC coach Tom Arth. “To be back and take a hit like that, that knocks him out of the game, it’s a tough situation. He’s put so much into it and to come back and to get knocked out in the first quarter, I just feel really bad for him.”

Sophomore quarterback Nick Tiano, Chattanooga, replaced Bennifield under center and ran the offense most of the night for the Mocs. After no touchdowns and two detrimental turnovers, Tiano was injured early in the fourth quarter. He walked off under his own power and was taken to the locker room with a shoulder injury. He would also not return.

Other noteworthy injuries include: defensive back Markell Boston, Newnan, Georgia (shoulder injury) and long snapper Jared Nash, Fort Myers, Florida (knee injury).

Turnovers hurt UTC

UTC lost the turnover battle with three turnovers to Western Carolina’s zero. These turnovers were especially detrimental as they directly led to 21 points for the Catamounts. Two were fumbles recovered by the Catamounts in the end zone, and one was a fumble recovered at UTC’s one yard line that resulted in a touchdown on the next play.

“That hurt us bad, obviously,” said Arth about the turnovers. “We were in good position. We were down 10 and the defense was playing well, and then to give up two sack fumbles really changed the game. It put it out of reach in some aspects.”

Western Carolina dominates

UTC had no answers for Western, and they were able to get penetration all night long. The Catamounts held UTC to 49 rushing yards and 172 total yards. Western also recorded seven sacks along with their three forced turnovers.

The Catamounts’ up-tempo offense also gave the Mocs problems, as they gouged UTC for 392 yards of total offense, including 222 yards rushing. Running back Corey Holloway logged 105 yards on the ground with 2 touchdowns, and dual threat quarterback Tyrie Adams recorded 125 yards passing and 44 yards rushing with one score.

“We just have to execute,” said senior linebacker Tae Davis, Oxford, Alabama. “We missed a couple of tackles and gave up a big play. We had a couple of misfortunate events, but that’s just part of the game. We have to keep working to get better and execute.”

Special teams solid for Mocs

On special teams, Mocs punter Colin Brewer, Chattanooga, had himself a decent outing with an average 38.1 yards, including placing one inside the WCU 20. He also launched two punts over 50 yards.

The Mocs also averaged 14.5 yards per return on kickoffs and 5.7 on punt returns.

Victor Ulmo, Chattanooga, made his lone PAT and didn’t have any field goal opportunities.

Introducing Dominic Caldwell

After Tiano was injured early in the fourth quarter, UTC had to move another rung down the depth chart to freshman Dominic Caldwell, Sarasota, Florida. This was Caldwell’s first collegiate football action.

Caldwell looked poised in his limited time controlling the offense. His first career completion was a six-yard touchdown pass to running back Darrell Bridges, Chattanooga.

“I’m very pleased with the way he came into the game,” said Arth. “That’s a tough situation to be in. I didn’t want to put Cole [Copeland] in at that point not knowing what the situation was. Dominic came in and threw a touchdown, got the ball snapped, got the IDs set, the run game and the pass protection did a good job. I’m happy for him. I know he was excited and I know our team was excited for him that he got the opportunity to throw a touchdown.”

Troy Stolt

Troy Stolt

Photo Editor

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