Chattanooga improved to 6-2 on the season for the first time since 1997 on Saturday, notching a 28-24, come-from-behind victory over The Citadel to mark win No. 500 in the program’s 106-year history.
Here are some position-by-position grades:
Saturday truly was a tale of two halves for quarterback Jacob Huesman. He finished the first half just 4-for-11 through the air for 28 yards. He was sacked twice and missed his mark on several first-half throws. He looked like a completely different player in the final two quarters, hitting his mark on 9-of-12 throws for 116 yards and two third-quarter touchdown passes. He rose to the occasion in the game’s defining moment, too, orchestrating a 6-play, 79-yard drive in the final minutes and scored the go-ahead touchdown on the ground with 2:02 to play. Huesman finished with 239 yards of total offense and accounted for three of the team’s four touchdowns. Teammate Terrell Robinson took one snap at quarterback, completing an 8-yard screen pass to Huesman in the first quarter.
Running backs: B
Marquis Green might not have scored the game-winning touchdown, but the Mocs couldn’t have completed the comeback without his 85-yard rushing performance in place of Keon Williams, who was injured on the game’s opening kickoff and did not return. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound junior was extremely resourceful on Saturday, squeezing every possible yard out of his season-high 16 carries. He appeared to be bottled up on several occasions before squeaking his way past defenders for decent yardage. He also jump-started the team’s game-winning drive, sneaking his way around right end for 8 yards. Sophomore Kendrix Huitt was responsible for Chattanooga’s first touchdown, scoring from 7 yards out on the opening play of the second quarter, and true freshman Derrick Craine also made a brief appearance, hauling in a 16-yard swing pass just before half.
Wide receivers: B+
Redshirt freshman C.J. Board had the best game of the season, finishing with a career-high five catches for 59 yards, and nearly scored on a 20-yard reception in the third quarter. He also snagged a leaping 28-yard reception on UTC’s game-winning drive. True freshman Xavier Borishade made just his fourth catch of the season and first since Sept. 7 — a 33-yard, third-quarter touchdown reception — while junior tight end Faysal Shafaat came away with his fifth touchdown of the season. He, along with teammate Terrell Robinson (2 catches for 14 yards), still seem to be a tad underutilized, though.
Offensive line: B
The Mocs finished with 189 yards on the ground, failing to reach the 200-yard mark for the first time since the team’s season-opening loss to UT Martin. Considering they were without workhorse running back Keon Williams and only had 47 yards at the break, though, it wasn’t a bad day for Chattanooga’s offensive front. The unit did give up two sacks, but both were coverage sacks and would have been avoided if Huesman had gotten it out quicker.
Defensive line: B+
Chattanooga’s defensive front was pushed around early as The Citadel piled up 215 yards on 36 first-half carries. It didn’t have an answer for the Bulldogs’ misdirection, but even when they handed to fullback Darien Robinson, he routinely churned out sizable chunks of yardage. The Mocs’ D-line buckled down in the second half, though, taking away the dive play and forcing the Bulldogs to beat them on the perimeter. When The Citadel was forced to go to the air in the closing minutes, quarterback Aaron Miller didn’t have a chance. He was sacked twice and was hurried by junior defensive end Davis Tull on the game-sealing incompletion on fourth down.
Muhasibi Wakeel notched a career-high 17 tackles — the most by a Moc since Ryan Consiglio recorded 19 against Wofford in 2011 — and the 5-foot-11, 220 pound redshirt junior also recovered a second-quarter fumble. Senior Wes Dothard played well in the second half, recording seven tackles in the final two quarters, and made a couple of crucial stops in the backfield. Senior Gunner Miller, who finished with six tackles, was basically playing with one arm for much of the second half after suffering a hand injury.
The Citadel’s not exactly known as a dangerous threat through the air, but it did complete a long scoring strike Saturday — a 41-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Miller to Jake — spotting the Bulldogs a 17-7 lead with 9:56 left in the second quarter. That was the only substantial passing gain of the afternoon, though. Senior safety D.J. Key tied his career high with 13 tackles — 10 in the first half — while junior Zach McCarter recorded a huge pass breakup in the fourth quarter.
Special Teams: A+
Nick Pollard was outstanding Saturday. Just about the only thing working for UTC in the first half was the junior's punting. He landed four inside the 10-yard line (6, 4, 3, 1) and tied his career-high with five inside the 20. Pollard averaged 39.2 yards on six punts and finished 4-for-4 on extra points to remain perfect on the season (34-for-34). Chaz Moore, who ranks 10th in the nation in kick return average (29.5), racked up 77 yards on three attempts.
Head coach Russ Huesman hasn’t enjoyed the feeling of a come-from-behind win like Saturday’s in his time at Chattanooga. All too often, he’s on the other side. It was just one regular-season game, but it felt like the Mocs might have turned over a new leaf. You could argue that the coaches didn’t have the team ready to play early, but give credit to the staff for making the correct halftime adjustments. That undoubtedly made the difference in the game.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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