Chattanooga captured its fourth straight Southern Conference victory Saturday, grinding out a 20-9 victory over the Elon Phoenix.
Here are some position-by-position grades:
Jacob Huesman isn’t putting up huge numbers, but he’s continued to steer Chattanooga’s offense in the right direction. He took good care of the football Saturday after fumbling in each of the last two games, and finished with 168 yards of total offense — 99 through the air. Huesman was kept out of the end zone for just the third time in his career, though, failing to score a touchdown for the first time since last year’s trip to Wofford.
Running backs: A-
Keon Williams had to work a bit harder for his yards than most would have expected, but the junior running back still piled up 118 yards on a career-high 24 carries. The 6-foot, 225-pounder also accounted for both Chattanooga touchdowns, scoring on runs from 4 and 2 yards out. Fullback Taharin Tyson provided the team’s longest run of the game, converting a fake punt with a 24-yard burst up the middle, but reserve running backs Kendrix Huitt and Marquis Green didn’t do much, combining for just nine yards on five carries.
Wide receivers: B
The Mocs’ passing game was limited Saturday. UTC once again relied on a steady dose of Keon Williams running the football. Fourteen of Jacob Huesman’s 17 passes reached their intended targets, but he averaged just 7.1 yards per attempt. Tommy Hudson led the unit with six catches for 36 yards, but the junior receiver had his second would-be touchdown reception of the season called back by an illegal man downfield infraction. Junior tight end Faysal Shafaat made some noise, too, snagging three balls for 28 yards, and junior Terrell Robinson had two catches for 18 yards.
Offensive line: B+
The statistics show that UTC’s line got enough of a push up front to pave the way for another impressive rushing performance. What those numbers don’t show is just how hard the O-line had to work. Even when it faced a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter, Elon’s front four truly never quit. Just ask quarterback Jacob Huesman, who was turned away at the goal line a couple of times Saturday.
Defensive line: A
There isn’t a more beat up unit on the roster, but there also isn’t a unit that’s performing as well as the D-line. The monster stat lines weren’t there Saturday, but Chattanooga’s defensive front played a big part in the team’s success on that side of the ball. Elon managed just 56 yards rushing on 20 attempts, and quarterback Mike Quinn was under pressure throughout the contest. Junior defensive end Davis Tull recorded his 24th career sack midway through the fourth quarter, establishing a new school record, while sophomore tackle Daniel Ring had another active afternoon, totaling three stops and a pass breakup.
Senior linebacker Wes Dothard probably had his best game of the season Saturday, recording a season-high 13 tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass breakup. Senior Gunner Miller didn’t have a very active afternoon, finishing with just one tackle. Most important, though, is the fact that the senior duo made it through the contest unscathed. Both were sporting non-contact jerseys throughout the week, and with the Mocs so dangerously thin on defense, a serious injury to either backer could sink them.
Quinn got his yards on Saturday, finishing with 237 of them through the air, but UTC’s secondary tightened up around the red zone. Freshman corner Dee Virgin delivered a crucial first-half pass breakup in the end zone, and the unit wasn’t afraid to get physical, either. Safety Zach McCarter and cornerback Kadeem Wise each recorded a career-high nine tackles, cornerback Chaz Moore contributed six and safety D.J. Key finished with four.
Special Teams: A
The importance of that first-quarter fake punt can’t be overstated, but Nick Pollard had himself a pretty good afternoon, too, connecting on a pair of second-half field goals while averaging 40.2 yards on his four punts. The junior spotted the Mocs a 17-6 advantage with his 32-yarder early in the third quarter before adding a 19-yarder later in the fourth.
There was some weird first-quarter play-calling, including an unsuccessful flea-flicker on UTC’s first offensive snap, and the Mocs simply looked a little flat early on. Things turned around on the team’s successful fake punt, though, and Chattanooga did what it had to do to notch the win. It might not be the most exciting style of football to watch, but the coaching staff has embraced the team’s blue collar identity — run the football and play good defense.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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