Chattanooga captured its first Southern Conference victory of the season Saturday, rolling to a 42-21 win over Western Carolina.
Here are some position-by-position grades:
While his final stat line didn’t show it, sophomore Jacob Huesman struggled a bit Saturday. Coming off a season-high 148-yard rushing performance a week ago at Georgia Southern, Huesman was bottled up by the Catamounts defense. He averaged just 2.9 yards on his 17 carries, and also coughed the ball up near the goal line in the second quarter. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound signal caller had a pretty good day through the air, completing 18-of-25 passes for 223 yards and a season-high four touchdown passes, including the team’s longest play from scrimmage this season — a 67-yard screen pass to junior Marquis Green.
Running backs: A
The Mocs notched their fourth-straight 200-yard rushing performance on Saturday — the first time they’ve accomplished that since 2005 — and junior Keon Williams continued his early-season dominance Saturday. He ran for 126 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, while Green and sophomore Kendrix Huitt also got into the mix. Green, who ran three times for 11 yards, made a huge impact in the passing game, hauling in three catches for a team-high 87 yards and a pair of touchdown receptions. His second score of the evening was awfully close to not counting, though. As he stretched the ball for the goal line after the 13-yard catch and run, a WCU defender knocked it loose. The officials determined that the ball had broken the plane, but the call might have been overturned if the FCS used instant replay.
Wide receivers/tight ends: B+
Junior Terrell Robinson had his most productive day of the season, hauling in a team-high eight receptions for 56 yards, but his longest gain of the night went for just 12 yards. The versatile 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has yet to truly break out this year, though. Tommy Hudson had a solid night, finishing with three catches for 33 yards and a second-quarter score, while Troy Dye recorded his first-career touchdown reception in the first. Dye snagged two balls for 27 yards, while junior tight end Faysal Shafaat had a another quiet day — one catch for six yards.
Offensive line: B
The fact that UTC’s offensive front surrendered four first-half sacks might be a little misleading — Jacob Huesman probably could have avoided all four by simply throwing the ball away. The unit, playing without staring left guard Synjen Herren, was impressive in the run game again, paving the way for 209 yards on the ground, and that total would have been significantly higher if not for all the lost yardage on sacks.
Defensive line: B+
While the unit was without a sack on Saturday, it got plenty of push up front and contained playmaking quarterback Troy Mitchell from escaping the pocket. Western’s running game was also virtually non-existent through three quarters. Navy transfer Danny Ring had probably his best game of the season at defensive tackle, recording two tackles for loss in the contest. Sophomore tackle Josh Freeman and junior end Toyvian Brand also had tackles in the backfield.
Seniors Wes Dothard and Gunner Miller were both active on Saturday, combining for 12 tackles, and Miller also hauled in his second interception of the season, returning it 11 yards and setting up the offense with excellent field position. Junior Muhasibi Wakeel finished with two tackles.
This grade would have been much higher if the teams had only played three quarters of football. For whatever reason, the Mocs’ starting secondary was torched by Troy Mitchell in the fourth, giving up a pair of long touchdown passes. Mitchell, who finished with 181 yards through the air, he managed 122 of those in the final quarter. It was an anticlimactic end to what was probably the unit’s best performance of the season — at least statistically. Seniors D.J. Key and Chaz Moore, along with junior Zach McCarter, each hauled in an interception, while redshirt freshman cornerback Dee Virgin finished with a season-high seven tackles.
Special Teams: B+
The only knock on Chattanooga’s special teams units was that junior Nick Pollard missed the team’s first field goal attempt of the season — a 40-yard attempt in the first quarter. He had an impressive punting performance, though, downing all three of his punts inside the WCU 15-yard line while averaging 47 yards per attempt. The kickoff return game continues to produce, as Chaz Moore averaged 53 yards on his two returns, including an 81-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The play-calling felt a bit predictable on UTC’s first few possessions, but offensive coordinator Jeff Durden did a good job mixing things up after that. Saturday might have been the Mocs’ most balanced offensive performance of the season — 209 yards rushing and 223 yards passing. Unlike in last week’s 23-21 loss at Georgia Southern, penalties weren’t a huge problem either. UTC was flagged four times for 40 yards.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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