published Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs focusing on ball security

  • photo
    UTC running back Marquis Green and his offensive teammates are putting even more emphasis on ball security as they prepare for the rest of the season.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

It's a safe bet that ball security will be a hot topic in the state of Tennessee this week.

In the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 42-21 win over Western Carolina last Saturday, the Mocs lost a touchdown with a fumble at the goal line and were credited with a score because the officials missed a fumble and there is no instant replay in most Football Championship Subdivision games.

Meanwhile, up in Knoxville, Pig Howard's fumble on an overtime dive toward the end zone cost Tennessee a shot at upsetting No. 6 Georgia.

"I told our team in the meeting Sunday, I asked, 'Who watched the Tennessee game or who saw the highlights of the Tennessee game?'" Mocs coach Russ Huesman said Monday.

Huesman was adamant Saturday -- even before he was aware of what happened in Knoxville -- after UTC (3-2, 1-1) won rather comfortably, that the Mocs no longer would reach out for the goal line with the ball, or be sloppy with the ball in any way near the goal line or elsewhere.

He was just as determined Monday morning.

"We're not doing that anymore," he said. "I don't know where that came from. We don't coach that, and as a matter of fact, we coach against it.

"Now if it's fourth-and-goal and it's a last-ditch effort to get in, fine. But other than that, we're not doing it."

Quarterback Jacob Huesman's fumble at the goal line didn't happen because he reached out to score. The ball was mostly tucked away, but that didn't stop a nearby teammate's leg from swinging up and knocking the ball loose.

Later in the game, on running back Marquis Green's 13-yard touchdown catch, the replay clearly showed Green losing the ball before he got to the 1-yard line.

"I thought I scored," Green said after the game. "Hey, I'm not the referee. I don't make the calls; I just play."

It was perhaps a karmic makeup call for the previous game, at Georgia Southern, when the Mocs had a touchdown taken away in a 23-21 loss because the officials -- incorrectly, the replay indicated -- flagged the Mocs for an ineligible receiver downfield.

Coach Huesman said UTC won't spend a lot more time on the practice field working on ball security, but the point will be stressed again and again that the ball must be protected at all times, including at the goal line.

Lott may be done

Mocs defensive tackle Derrick Lott didn't practice last week and sat out the Western Carolina game with an elbow injury sustained in the loss to Georgia Southern. While X-rays last week were negative for bone damage, there remains the possibility that Lott could be done for the season because of other damage, to muscles or ligaments, Huesman said.

"We'll know something [soon], whether he's out for the year or can come back," he said. "I doesn't look great right now. It just hasn't responded probably like it should."

Huesman said he expected left guard Synjen Herren (shoulder) and cornerback Will Johnson (shoulder) back on the field this week after sitting out all of last week. Right tackle Hunter Dockery hurt a knee during the first half against Western Carolina and likely will be out a couple of weeks, Huesman said.

Extra points

The Mocs host Furman (2-3, 1-1) on Saturday, which is homecoming at UTC. The Mocs routed the Paladins 31-10 last season. ... Furman has battled injuries at quarterback, and true freshman Duncan Fletcher made his first start in last week's 28-25 loss to Elon. Fletcher was 25-for-38 for 255 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, and was honored as SoCon freshman of the week.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him 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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