ELON, N.C. — Taharin Tyson had six carries for 20 yards coming into Saturday's game at Rhodes Stadium. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior fullback surpassed that with his only carry in the Mocs' 20-9 win over Elon.
Tyson is one of the up men in UTC's punt protection, and a Joe McMahon snap came his way in the second quarter. The fake punt was a gamble by Mocs coach Russ Huesman, but it worked.
UTC's offense had done next to nothing to that point and Elon led 3-0 as the Mocs faced a fourth-and-1 at their 34-yard line.
"It's been something we've been working on, and it's been in our playbook," Tyson said. "We've just been waiting for the right time to do it."
The right time was when the offense was struggling and about to punt for the third time in as many possessions. UTC had also seen what Elon was doing on Nick Pollard's previous punts and believed the trick play would work.
"We knew we had it," Huesman said.
So McMahon snapped it to Tyson, and the fullback saw big patches of green grass in front of him. The play went for a 24-yard gain, and UTC soon took a lead it would not relinquish.
"It's one of those things where you take a gamble and you feel like it's on you to make a play," Tyson said. "I felt like the blocking was perfect ... and I just ran the ball."
UTC was mostly conservative with its play-calling but was 3-for-3 on converting fourth downs into firsts.
Pollard had attempted a total of two field goals entering the game Saturday. He connected on a 32-yarder in the third quarter that gave UTC a 17-6 lead and added a 19-yarder in the fourth for the game's final points.
The redshirt junior also had a strong day punting with four for a 40.2 average. Unlike most games, in which Pollard has done the rugby punt exclusively, he mixed in a couple of traditional boots that proved effective. His last punt was a lofted kick that went for 48 yards.
More and more teams are putting two men deep against UTC, which can negate the effectiveness of the rolling rugby boots, so the Mocs have had to adjust.
"That last one reminded me of the Samford game last year, when we were up by one or two scores and needed a big punt," said Pollard, who had a 49-yarder late in that 20-13 win against the Bulldogs.
The Mocs were first in the Southern Conference and sixth in the Championship Subdivision in third-down conversions -- executing 51.3 percent of the time -- before Saturday. That number will take a hit.
UTC, which found itself in more third-and-long situations than usual, went 4-for-12 on third down. The Mocs were able to make up for that with their fourth-down success.
Despite converting on just one-third of its third downs, UTC did put together some long drives. Three went for 11 or more plays, led by the 16-play, 74-yard monster in the third quarter that lasted 8:10 and ended with a field goal.
Elon was much better on third down, going 8-for-17.
UTC defensive end Toyvian Brand left the game late in the third quarter with a shoulder stinger, Huesman said, and did not return. ... Huesman said the Mocs traveled to Elon with just 53 healthy players. ... After dropping five straight in the series, the Mocs have won three in a row against the Phoenix.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat
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 ...