Unlike last week’s dismal looking report card, the Mocs made the dean’s list with Saturday’s 42-14 road win over Georgia State.
Here are some position-by-position grades:
Jacob Huesman didn’t put up quite the same kind of numbers he did a week ago, but the junior signal caller was extremely efficient. Huesman completed 9-of-13 pass attempts for just 84 yards, but accounted for four touchdowns in the lopsided win. Maybe the most positive aspect of Saturday’s victory, though, was that the 6-foot-1, 215-pound signal caller didn’t have to do it all. Sure, he ran the ball 14 times for 84 yards — including scores from nine and 26 yards out — but other players helped carry the load, allowing Huesman to more or less manage the game, rather than try to do everything on his own.
Running backs: A+
The Mocs produced an eye-popping 401 yards rushing in Saturday’s victory — the most since UTC’s 1994 win over VMI (404) — and perhaps even more surprising, 269 of those yards came from the running back position. Junior Keon Williams set career highs for yards (147) and carries (20), scoring the game’s opening points with his first-quarter touchdown run, while backs Marquis Green, Derrick Craine, Taharin Tyson and Tolerance Shepherd combined for 121 yards on 21 attempts. Craine, who finished with 53 yards on six carries, scored his first career touchdown in the 28-point rout.
Wide receivers/tight ends: B+
The receivers didn’t get a ton of work Saturday, but they looked good when called upon. Junior tight end Faysal Shafaat snagged his third and fourth touchdown receptions on the year — he had five all of last season — while redshirt freshman C.J. Board and true freshman Xavier Borishade both made some solid plays in the passing game. Board hauled in a team-high four receptions for 34 yards, while Borishade made two catches for 25 yards.
Offensive line: A
The offensive front was much improved from a week ago, paving lanes for the Mocs’ ground game while providing solid pass protection. Head coach Russ Huesman described Chattanooga’s offense as “methodical,” and the O-line had a lot to do with that. The unit didn’t hurt itself with penalties, and it kept the offense in third-and-shorts throughout.
Defensive line: A
UTC’s front four also stepped up in a big way after being manhandled in last week’s 31-21 loss to UT Martin. Junior Davis Tull and sophomore Josh Freeman each recorded sacks, and the unit made it almost impossible for Georgia State to move the football on the ground. Senior defensive tackle Derrick Lott finished with just three tackles, but the 6-foot-4, 303-pounder was in the back field all afternoon. Navy transfer Danny Ring earned his first start for the Mocs, recording two tackles, while junior Toyvian Brand made his season debut.
Linebackers Wes Dothard and Gunner Miller were active throughout the first three quarters, although it didn’t show up in the box score. The fifth-year seniors combined for just three stops on the afternoon, but both played a big role in suffocating the Panthers’ ground game. The tackling was better, too, and, as promised, the coaches got more players involved, like junior Muhasibi Wakeel, sophomore A.J. Hampton and redshirt freshman Nakevion Leslie.
Aside from the final quarter, the secondary was just as impressive as the rest of the defense, as senior safety D.J. Key and redshirt freshman cornerback Will Johnson both returned to an injury-riddled defensive backfield. GSU’s starting quarterback Ronnie Bell completed just 9-of-22 pass attempts for 70 yards in three quarters. That's when UTC's starters headed for the bench and in came Ben McLane, the Panthers’ backup quarterback. The sophomore torched UTC’s reserves for 164 yards and a pair of touchdown passes in the final quarter. It was a bit of a letdown from the stellar first three quarters of play, but, in the end, the late-game stat-stuffing didn't put a damper on the Mocs’ day.
Special teams: A-
Aside from a muffed punt, which the Mocs ultimately recovered, the special teams were superb on Saturday. Hudson set a new career high with his second-quarter punt return for 27 yards, while Nick Pollard averaged 36 yards on his three punts, landing two inside the 20-yard line. The kick returners didn’t get a ton of work — three returns for 46 yards — but the kickoff coverage team was solid. Chattanooga’s first-quarter fake field goal attempt, which resulted in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Huesman to Shafaat, was probably the play of the day.
UTC was focused, mentally prepared and ready to go to work Saturday in the Georgia Dome. They took care of business in what felt like a must-win game for the Mocs, and much of the credit should go to the coaching staff. They had a plan, executed it and left Atlanta with a win — one big enough to overshadow the team’s forgettable season-opening loss to the Skyhawks.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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