Tennessee trounces Chattanooga 45-10
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Justin Worley continues to show he can effectively lead Tennessee's offense, as long as his young line gives him enough time.
Worley threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores Saturday as Tennessee ended a three-game skid with a 45-10 victory over Football Championship Subdivision program Chattanooga. Worley, who isn't known for his mobility, became the first Tennessee quarterback to rush for two touchdowns in a game since Casey Clausen in a 45-17 Florida Citrus Bowl triumph over Michigan on Jan. 1, 2002.
The senior quarterback went 19 of 24 for 198 yards passing despite getting sacked five times. His touchdown runs included an 8-yarder in the second quarter and a 1-yard burst in the third period.
"I thought Justin was much more aggressive in his mindset, in his thinking and the way he played the game," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "He played confident tonight. That's what we're going to need from him as we continue to move forward."
Johnathon Johnson had the first two touchdown receptions of his career, a 21-yarder in the final minute of the second quarter and a 19-yarder in the opening minute of the third period. Worley also threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Marquez North.
Tennessee (3-3) gained some needed momentum before a demanding midseason stretch. Tennessee visits No. 3 Mississippi, hosts No. 7 Alabama and plays at South Carolina over the next three weeks.
Chattanooga (3-3) had a three-game winning streak snapped.
"I thought we did what we needed to do to win the football game tonight, a very businesslike approach," Jones said.
Worley said that approach was a result of the way Jones responded after the Volunteers blew a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 10-9 loss to Florida last week.
"After the loss last week, he came in and he was visibly upset that we'd lost but it was all, `We're moving on to this week. We can't worry about that. We've got to go out there. It's a new week, a new game, another step in the road to get to a bowl game, which is our goal,' " Worley said. "I credit him for getting us ready for this game."
Tennessee entered this game attempting to boost a rushing attack that ranked last in the Southeastern Conference and seeking more production from an offensive line that had allowed a league-high 18 sacks through its first five games. In that regard, the Vols came up short.
Josh Freeman delivered two of Chattanooga's season-high five sacks and also recovered a fumble that led to the Mocs' first three points of the game. Tennessee needed 42 carries to rush for 123 yards, though Jalen Hurd carried the ball only twice while he recovers from a shoulder injury and Marlin Lane sat out the game with an ankle injury.
"We felt like we could come in here and get after them," Freeman said of the Mocs' pass rush. "And I feel like we did a pretty good job."
Tennessee withstood the offensive line's struggles Saturday because Worley threw the ball well and linebacker A.J. Johnson led a suffocating effort on defense. Chattanooga didn't get a first down until its sixth series of the game, and the Mocs already trailed 17-0 by then.
The first sign that Tennessee would end its skid came when it won the coin toss, ending one of college football's most improbable streaks. Before Saturday, Tennessee had lost its last 11 game-opening coin tosses. The Vols had lost 12-straight coin flips overall, including one that occurred prior to overtime in a loss to Georgia last season.
Tennessee deferred after winning the toss but forced a three-and-out and took an early 7-0 lead when Cam Sutton's 42-yard punt return set up Worley's touchdown pass to North.
The Vols broke the game open early in the second quarter.
After the Vols extended the lead to 10-0 on Aaron Medley's 25-yard field goal with 14:22 left in the half, a botched handoff from Jacob Huesman to Richardre Bagley produced a fumble on Chattanooga's next play from scrimmage and Tennessee's Derek Barnett pounced on the loose ball at the Mocs' 20. The turnover set up an 8-yard touchdown run from Worley, who bounced off Chattanooga safety Cedric Nettles on his way to the end zone.
Tennessee held Chattanooga to 201 total yards, including just 40 in the first half.
"I think Tennessee played very hard," Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman said. "They're a very athletic, physical football team. We knew we were playing a good team. We felt confident coming in, but we made some mistakes."