For college football coaches, a bye week is always welcomed with open arms, and that's certainly the case for a couple of Southern Conference coaches this week.
“There’s no way we could play Saturday — we wouldn’t stand a chance,” head coach Russ Huesman said. “Thank goodness we’ve got the open date.”
Head coach Jeff Monken and Georgia Southern — Chattanooga’s next opponent — are probably thinking the same thing. The 14th-ranked Eagles (2-1) are coming off their first loss of the season — a 30-20 loss at No. 10 Wofford in which GSU fumbled six times and committed three turnovers.
“We better work on Georgia Southern,” Monken said of the off week during Tuesday’s SoCon teleconference.
“It was just sloppy, poorly-coached, bad football,” he added. “It’s my fault and we’ve got to get it fixed. Maybe [the loss] will get their attention, but I can assure you I’m going to get their attention.”
The Mocs (2-1), on the other hand, are coming off their second straight victory. Running back Keon Williams has shined in both, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in lopsided wins over Georgia State and Austin Peay, while UTC’s defense is living up to the preseason hype, having allowed just 26 total points in its last two outings.
That allows Chattanooga the opportunity to focus more on the Eagles, who just might be the most talented team UTC faces until its trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., in late November.
The Mocs spent Tuesday teaching the scout team how to emulate its upcoming opponent, and on Wednesday they put it to the test. It’s a lot to absorb, especially for the offense, which is attempting to mirror Georgia Southern’s lethal triple-option attack. The Eagles lead the SoCon in total offense (542.7 ypg), rushing (408.0) and scoring (52.0 ppg).
“Between getting the scout team doing the right thing and us doing the right thing [defensively], it takes some time,” Huesman said. “Now if we didn’t have the open date we would have practiced this at some point in camp or in the spring. Knowing we had the open date to kind of get it going, that’s the reason we’re doing it now. It looks pretty sloppy.”
“Not close,” Huesman said of the scout team offense. “They’re doing a good job, though. They’re trying — cutting and getting guys on the ground. I’ve got to give them credit. I think in a couple days, by the time Sunday rolls around, it’ll be a lot crisper.”
True freshman defensive back Jerkerious Scott has been quarterbacking UTC's scout team, simulating Eagles senior Jerick McKinnon, who torched the Mocs for 151 yards and three scores in last season’s 39-31 triple-overtime win.
“We need somebody who can run, obviously, and he was a quarterback in high school,” Huesman said of Scott, who ran for over 1,100 yards as a senior at Terrell County High School in Dawson, Ga. “He’ll do a good job with it.”
McKinnon, ranked fifth in the SoCon in rushing (81.0 ypg), is obviously the man in Statesboro, but Georgia Southern also utilized freshman Kevin Ellison in last week’s loss to the Terriers. The 6-foot, 181-pounder completed 6-of-14 pass attempts for 68 yards with an interception, while also running 14 times for 97 yards.
“We had prepared to have Kevin play quarterback some and Jerick play running back,” Monken said. “He did a good job. He had some mistakes, too ... He’s got a long way to go to get him where he needs to be, but he was out there trying.”
• Out: S C.J. Murrell (foot), S Dean Haynes (ankle), OL Robert Hill (ankle), DE Vantrell McMillan (knee), DE Zack Rayl (knee), OL Hunter Townson (shoulder)
Starting left guard Synjen Herren and reserve offensive lineman Shaun Hill were both in walking boots Wednesday, but Huesman said neither injury is serious. They should return to practice in the coming days.
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