On its first two drives of Saturday night’s game against LSU, Chattanooga managed to do what BYU couldn’t do in four quarters in the Tigers’ season opener last week.
The Mocs crossed the midfield stripe twice and totaled 79 yards on their first 24 offensive snaps with a field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead against LSU in Tiger Stadium.
But even though UTC managed to put some points on the scoreboard, which was something else BYU failed at, it didn’t last for the visitors.
“I got after their butt,” Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said of his team’s uninspiring start on the defensive side of the ball.
After that decent start for Chattanooga, a Football Championship Subdivision team, the Tigers defense dominated the rest of the first half and kept up that pace in the third quarter of an eventual 45-10 victory.
“When we came to the sideline (after the first two series) and at halftime, coach (Orgeron) said we were too relaxed … we weren’t intense enough,” linebacker Donnie Alexander said. “Basically, we had to pick things up and bring more energy to the table.”
Safety John Battle smiled when he recalled Orgeron being a little more animated in his address to the Tigers’ defense.
“Coach was very encouraging at halftime,” Battle said, “if you know what mean.”
It all started to go wrong for UTC on the 11th play of its second drive.
After reaching the LSU 5 and settling for a 22-yard field goal by Victor Ulmo on its first series, Chattanooga put together another promising drive that had them at the Tigers’ 36.
But Battle and inside linebacker Devin White teamed up for a 6-yard sack of quarterback Nick Tiano on fourth down to end the threat, which seemingly ignited the LSU defense as well as the offense and special teams.
“I felt like it was the first time a lot of people were playing in Tiger Stadium,” White said. “Everybody was anxious, everybody wanted to make a big play. We pride ourselves in playing 60 minutes, so we had to calm down.
“Coach said we were going to fix it,” he added. “He said, ‘Y’all have been doing it all summer,’ so we had to get everybody on their feet. Any big play fuels a lot of emotion, so we had to do some stuff to get the crowd into it.”
After LSU scored a second consecutive touchdown to start the game, the Tigers forced Chattanooga into three three-and-outs and had two interceptions. The Mocs didn’t get another first down until the final minute of the first half.
Darrell Bridges’ 27-yard run to the LSU 35 gave UTC a shot at a field goal, but Ulmo’s 47-yard attempt on the final play of the first half was wide right.
Combined with the stout defense, LSU added two more touchdowns — one on a nifty 65-yard punt return by DJ Chark — giving the Tigers a comfortable 28-3 halftime advantage.
While that was going on, the defense did the job again.
After holding BYU to 97 total yards in a 27-0 blanking of the Cougars a week ago, LSU limited Chattanooga to 119 yards on 41 snaps after the Mocs netted 79 yards on their first 24 plays.
LSU got interceptions from freshman cornerback Greedy Williams that led to a 6-yard scoring run by Derrius Guice and freshman nickel back Kary Vincent. The Tigers also collected two of their five sacks in the first two periods.
In addition to the split sack for Battle and White, linebacker Corey Thompson came up with a sack and also shared one in the second half with nose tackle Greg Gilmore.
Thompson now has 3.5 sacks for the season.
Freshman outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson also recorded the first sack of his career in the fourth quarter.
LSU held Chattanooga to 242 total yards, with 163 of them coming on their final 11 possessions that covered 36 snaps of the ball.
White led LSU with nine tackles, while Alexander had eight.
“Coach wasn’t really mad, he was frustrated,” said Alexander, who made his 2017 debut after being left home for the opener in New Orleans. “He told us that we always have high energy in practice. We played only so-so in those first couple of drives.
“They didn’t do anything special, we just had to be more consistent.”