published Thursday, October 13th, 2011

UTC discovering new weapons after success with rushing attack

UTC running back J.J. Jackson (26) carries the ball.
UTC running back J.J. Jackson (26) carries the ball.
Photo by Associated Press.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns last week at top-ranked Georgia Southern. The Mocs weren't able to pull out the win, losing 28-27, but they appear to have discovered their ground game.

UTC's rushing total was the program's highest since the 2007 finale at Appalachian State -- and 10 yards more than GSU had allowed all season. The four touchdown runs were the most since a November 2005 game against The Citadel.

The Mocs have been one of the top passing teams in the Southern Conference since 2009, quarterback B.J. Coleman's first season at UTC (2-4, 0-3 SoCon). He shares the Mocs' career touchdown record with 49 and is No. 2 all-time with 6,639 passing yards in 28 games.

Now that Coleman has a sprained shoulder and is questionable for Saturday's game against Western Carolina (1-4, 0-3), do the Mocs continue to focus on the run as they did, successfully, with Terrell Robinson at quarterback last week?

"We're talented enough, I think, on the offensive line," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "Now are we good enough to just get in two [tight ends] in the 'I' and pound people? No.

"We're probably athletic enough that we can pull people and [run] change-of-direction stuff, and really make some things happen in the running game."

Based on statistics, UTC should be able to run the ball against the Catamounts. Western Carolina ranks last in the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing defense (330.4 ypg) -- as well as 119th in total defense (543.8) and scoring defense (46.2 ppg).

Georgia Southern rushed for 634 yards against WCU, which may skew the stats, but even Division II Mars Hill gained 300.

Robinson was the standout rusher for UTC last week, finishing with 114 yards and three touchdowns. But he wasn't the only Moc that ran well after UTC started running the spread offense.

Marquis Green averaged 6.4 yards on his nine carries and J.J. Jackson averaged 5.1 on his 11 rushes, which included a 20-yard touchdown.

"The option, I like running it," Jackson said. "I was loving it during the Georgia Southern game. I think that opened up some holes and kind of put the linebackers in the sand for a little bit."

The Mocs know they caught Georgia Southern off guard by putting Robinson in and switching to the spread from the pro-style scheme they use with Coleman.

While the cat is out of the bag on what Robinson can do, that can work in UTC's favor this week because the Catamounts are having to prepare for two very different quarterbacks and offensive systems.

Western Carolina coach Dennis Wagner said "we're not sure who we want to play" against Saturday.

"I think they both bring a lot of things to the table, and it makes it hard to prepare when you're not sure which guy it's going to be," he said. "We're going to have to do our best to defend both situations."

Coleman did not practice again Wednesday, while Robinson looked comfortable running and throwing. Huesman said Tuesday that if Coleman is only "80 percent, we'd probably hold him" out this week.

"We may not know until Saturday," Huesman said. "He may not take a snap this week and we'll see what happens on Saturday."

Extra points

Former UTC offensive lineman Chris Harr had a tryout with the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday. He said it went well, but the Raiders decided not to sign him. Harr went through training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs. ... Right guard Kevin Revis (ankle) sat out Wednesday's practice, but is expected to play Saturday.

about John Frierson...

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 ...

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