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Gene Henley | Chattanooga Times Free Press | November 28, 2016

Chattanooga receiver Alphonso Stewart heats up in playoffs

  Junior Alphonso Stewart had two touchdown catches in UTC's opening round win vs. Weber State.

Alphonso Stewart stayed the course, which seems to be ratcheted up in the postseason.

He was rewarded Saturday afternoon.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga receiver finished with three catches for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Mocs' 45-14 win over Weber State at Finley Stadium in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

The scores were the first for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior since his touchdown catch against Jacksonville State during a second-round playoff loss last year. Of his five touchdown catches in college, three have come in the playoffs.

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"It's definitely a blessing," Stewart said. "I just keep my head down and do what I've got to do to help the team, which is not a problem. But it feels good to get some stats that everybody can see."

UTC coach Russ Huesman raved about Stewart's unselfishness.

Stewart ranks fifth on the team in catches and fourth in receiving yards, but UTC emphasizes spreading the ball around in the passing game and Stewart is one of five Mocs with at least 20 catches.

He was the focal point of quarterback Alejandro Bennifield on Saturday, though, catching scoring tosses of 20 yards in the first quarter and 30 in the third, the latter giving the Mocs a 31-0 lead. On that play, the Mocs initially lined up to punt before calling a timeout.

After some discussion, they chose to go for it and Bennifield found Stewart on a slant pattern for the score.

"I'm proud of 'Zo," Huesman said. "He doesn't get the ball as much as a lot of people do, but he's never once complained. He's committed to the program, and the players really respect him and what he does. I use him as an example a lot because he's a unselfish player, so when all of a sudden he hits a couple of big plays, that makes you feel good."

The Mocs totaled 241 yards in the first half Saturday, though Stewart believes the offense's emergence began a week prior in a 31-3 loss at Football Bowl Subdivision No. 1 Alabama. The four games prior to that, the entire team had been in a funk, but at Alabama the offense executed according to plan, and that created confidence the Mocs took with them as they stepped on the field against Weber State.

"The only thing going through my head is that we're back. We've got our fire back, we're ready, we're going to start the playoffs right and we're going to end right," Stewart said. "We needed a pick-me-up, and it felt good to be able to move the ball, execute and make things happen at every position.

"That game (against Alabama), we was focusing on execution. We won what we said we was going to win and did what we said we was going to do, so that's a win to me."

This article was written by Gene Henley from Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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