CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The Chattanooga Mocs football squad opened the Rusty Wright Era with a 24-10 triumph over Eastern Illinois at Finley Stadium on Thursday. Wright, a 1996 graduate, took the helm at his alma mater in December 2018.
The Mocs used scoring runs of 1 yard from Nick Tiano and Ailym Ford sandwiching a 59-yard strike from Tiano to Bryce Nunnelly and Victor Ulmo's 37-yard field goal. EIU got a 37-yarder from Josh Delgado and a 7-yard John Brantley pass to Nick Stricker.
Tiano's plunge came with 5:14 to go in the first quarter. Colin Brewer's rugby line drive caromed off the shoulder of returner Chris Walker. Adrian King pounced on the fumble at the Panthers’ 13. Four plays later came the early score.
Delgado capped an 11-play effort on the ensuing drive extended by Mocs penalties. That sent the game into a series of defensive stops.
The Mocs started off on their own 11 midway through the second quarter. Tiano hit Reginald Henderson for 18 yards and then completed another pass for 12 to Lameric Tucker. Tiano, taking advantage of excellent protection by his offensive front, looked deep for preseason All-American Bryce Nunnelly to give the Mocs some breathing room.
EIU answered again following a score. The march down the field included two fourth-down conversions. The latter came on fourth-and-three at the UTC 7 with a nice misdirection effort leading to the score from Brantley to Stricker.
But there was 2:33 left on the clock. The Mocs methodically moved down the field before settling for Ulmo's field goal as the halftime horn blared. Ford got his score on the opening drive of the third quarter, where he tallied 37 of his game-high 50 yards rushing. A 14-10 game became 24-10 before the Panthers saw the offensive side of the ball after their touchdown.
That ended the scoring for the night. The Panthers threatened repeatedly but could not break through the Mocs defense. UTC stopped the visitors on downs once and Kameron Brown's pick with 2:04 to play ended another drive. The final horn stopped EIU's final foray in Mocs territory.
Chattanooga is at No. 6 Jacksonville State on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m. (ET).