published Friday, September 13th, 2013

Secondary getting well for Chattanooga Mocs

  • photo
    University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs safety D.J. Key (20) jumps up for a ball during practice at Scrappy Moore Field.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Figuring out what exactly Austin Peay is going to want to do offensively, and is able to do effectively, against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Saturday is a challenge.

The Governors have thrown themselves on the sword of athletics revenue generation in the first two weeks of the season, losing 45-0 at Tennessee and 38-3 at Vanderbilt -- two blowout losses and two important paychecks.

Because Austin Peay (0-2) has opened with games against two Southeastern Conference teams, the Govs head into Saturday's 6 p.m. game against the Mocs (1-1) at Finley Stadium with a total of 3 points, 17 first downs and 350 yards of offense.

"Well, we're glad to be out of the SEC," first-year Governors coach Kirby Cannon said Tuesday. "It was a situation where those first two ballgames were mismatches at almost every position. I thought our kids played very hard to maintain a level of respect."

Mocs coach Russ Huesman said Austin Peay wasn't "manhandled" up front in either game. The Govs allowed just 10 sacks in 2012, despite a balanced offensive attack that included 378 passes for the season.

"We went to last year's film and saw them and how they played," Huesman said. "We saw how they competed. ... To gauge their offensive line this year is pretty hard. I know they competed, and they probably looked maybe like we would have looked."

Huesman said it's important that UTC front line be disruptive. It's also important that the Mocs' secondary plays well, and the chances of that seem better this week than the two previous. The secondary is healthier and closer to full strength than it was against UT-Martin or Georgia State.

Senior All-Southern Conference safety D.J. Key missed the opener and started against the Panthers. Key was credited with only one tackle, but his leadership and support stabilized a secondary that sometimes struggled in the opener.

UTC also got back in week two cornerback Will Johnson, a promising redshirt freshman who suffered a shoulder injury in preseason camp. In his first career game, Johnson had five tackles.

"It was one of the most fun things I could ever imagine," said Johnson, who was held out of contact situations during practice this week. "At first I probably was a little bit nervous because of the shoulder injury, but once things got going I didn't even think about it."

The lone members of the Mocs' secondary who haven't suited up for a game this season are safeties Zach McCarter and Dean Haynes. McCarter (knee) likely will make his first appearance Saturday, Huesman said, while Haynes (foot) probably will be ready for the Georgia Southern game on Sept. 28.

McCarter started the final six games in 2012, and Haynes started two late in the season in UTC's nickel package.

Getting experienced players back will help in games and also in practice, giving the Mocs a true second unit so they don't have to use starters or players they plan to redshirt when the No. 2s are on the field.

"I think now we're getting to a point where we're feeling better about our numbers," Huesman said.

Austin Peay, which went 2-9 last season, has run 103 plays this season: 61 runs and 42 passes. Along with gaining 17 first downs, the Govs have committed 17 penalties, for 136 yards.

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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