published Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs must play 'smartest game'

  • photo
    UTC head coach Russ Huesman, right, shouts from the sidelines in this file photo.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman is worried about what he can see coming Saturday: one Alabama All-America player after another making plays against the Mocs.

Huesman's also worried about what he can't see coming, and it's the thing that can turn a fairly competitive game into a rout. It's the short burst of activity and points from which there is no recovery: a missed tackle on a screen pass that turns a 6-yard gain into an 80-yard score; a blocked punt that's returned for a touchdown; a pick-6 on a tentatively thrown screen pass.

"That's what can't happen [Saturday] and that's what happens in these games -- it does," said the Mocs' fifth-year coach, who lost to Alabama 45-0 in the finale of his first season, in 2009. "If we can defensively get them on the ground and make them drive the field and have long drives. And offensively put together first downs and if we've got a chance to catch a ball, catch it. But we can't fumble the ball, we can't drop passes, we can't miss a bunch of tackles, we can't let them get behind us in the secondary.

"These games, they get out of hand."

The top-ranked and undefeated Crimson Tide (10-0) have outscored their opponents 388-102 this season, and 42 of those points allowed came against Texas A&M in week 2. Alabama, which hosts UTC (8-3) at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday in the Mocs' regular-season finale, has had a lot of its games get out of hand. The Tide have made mismatches of many of their Southeastern Conference games, such as its 45-10 win against Tennessee or the 52-0 rout of Arkansas.

The biggest on-paper mismatch was the Oct. 5 game against Georgia State, a winless team the Mocs drilled 42-14 in week 2. Alabama won 45-3, using one of those scoring bursts to blow the game open for good.

The Tide scored to go up 14-0 with 3:08 left in the first quarter, forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and scored again on the next play. Alabama's defense got a quick stop and 72 seconds into the second quarter the Tide scored again, pushing the lead in the matter of a few minutes up to 28-0.

In the Mocs' 2011 season-opening game at Nebraska, a game that was more competitive than the 40-7 final score, the Huskers got 17 points in the span of 2 minutes, 22 seconds in the third quarter, after the Mocs cut the margin to 23-7, to slam the door.

"We just want to go out there and compete and give it a shot." Mocs wide receiver Terrell Robinson said. "Then you see where you are at halftime and you hope you have a chance. Those three-minute stretches, we don't want to allow those to happen. ... We've just got to play our smartest game."

Robinson played some quarterback last week against Samford and will likely play quite a bit, if not the whole game, against Alabama. Starter Jacob Huesman (knee) did not practice Wednesday and remains questionable. Linebacker Muhasibi Wakeel (ankle) also is questionable.

Two offensive players that won't play, Russ Huesman said, are wideout Tommy Hudson (ankle) and running back Keon Williams, who will miss his fifth straight game with an ankle injury.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.

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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