In a football season as odd and unpredictable as this one has been for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, perhaps it’s fitting that punter Jeff Lloyd, who lost his starting job for three games, may be the Mocs’ most productive player.
In Southern Conference play, the junior from Murfreesboro is averaging a league-best 43.6 yards per punt. Of the 23 individual statistical categories kept by the SoCon, it’s the only one in which a UTC player is on top.
“It feels good to be productive and to have at least one thing go right for us,” Lloyd said after Saturday’s 49-7 loss to No. 2 Appalachian State.
Lloyd was named the starter in the preseason but struggled at times in the first three games, prompting Mocs coach Rodney Allison to give freshman Mike Hammons a shot. Hammons started the next three games and had his own ups and downs, which resulted in Lloyd taking over again during the Oct. 11 Wofford game.
The Mocs (1-9, 0-6) have had as many breakdowns in the punting game as any other area — blocks, bad snaps, fumbled snaps — yet since Lloyd’s return, when he has been able to get a punt off, he’s been effective.
He had perhaps the best game of his career last Saturday, punting nine times for an average of 43.2 yards, with six downed inside the 20-yard line.
“Jeff continues to do well, and I’m impressed with that and what he’s done,” Allison said. “He’s a lot more confident now, and that’s good. I’m proud of that.”
Lloyd also showed some speed against the Mountaineers, calling his own fake punt on fourth-and-11 from the UTC 37 and running for 17 yards.
The Mocs have punted 72 times this season, trailing only North Carolina A&T (78) and Indiana State (73) among FCS teams nationally. Thanks in large part to Lloyd’s work, UTC is 16th in net punting with an average of 34.96.
Amazingly, opponents have totaled just 98 return yards on those six-dozen punts.
Saturday’s game at The Citadel (3-8, 1-6) will match two teams that have lost a combined 14 consecutive games, eight by UTC and six by the Bulldogs. But despite their common struggles, their respective seasons have been very different.
Three of the Bulldogs’ six SoCon losses have been by a combined 12 points — 27-23 against Elon, 44-41 in triple overtime against Georgia Southern and last Saturday’s 33-28 loss at Wofford.
“They’ve been close in a lot of their games, so it’s not like they haven’t been competitive,” Allison said.
The Mocs, meanwhile, have been getting hammered. In just their six SoCon games, they’ve been outscored by a combined 195 points, or 32.5 per game.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...