published Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs need another fast start

UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman (14) breaks through a tackle attempt by UT Martin's Devontay Barnett (36).
UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman (14) breaks through a tackle attempt by UT Martin's Devontay Barnett (36).
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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    UTC running back Keon Williams (22) reacts against Austin Peay.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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It took the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga nine possessions to score its first points of this football season. Points have come a lot easier since.

The Mocs were shut out in the first half of their season-opening 31-21 loss to UT-Martin, finally scoring on their sixth possession of the second half. UTC then scored on three of its next five, a trend that continued the next two weeks.

At Georgia State, UTC scored on six of its first seven full drives -- not counting a kneel at the end of the first half -- and led the Panthers 42-0 early in the fourth quarter of their 42-14 win.

A week later, against Austin Peay, the Mocs scored on their first three possessions and six of their first eight in a 42-10 rout.

"We want to score every time we have the ball, and the last two games we scored first possession, which really set the tone," UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman said. "If you look at the Martin game, it took us a bunch of possessions to get points on the board. ... If we can score early, I think that we can really get some momentum going."

Scoring early is critical against a triple-option team, which is what the Mocs (2-1) will face in their SoCon opener Saturday at Georgia Southern (2-1, 0-1). The Eagles are tremendous front-runners and clock eaters, so getting behind is a recipe for trouble.

"The bottom line is, when you're playing triple-option teams, you are limited in possessions," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "I don't think there's any question about that. You have to take advantage of every possession somehow."

The play of running back Keon Williams has been a difference-maker early in the past two wins. On UTC's opening drive against Georgia State, Williams had five carries for 45 yards and a 2-yard touchdown. He had 119 yards at halftime.

Against Austin Peay, Williams had 68 yards and two touchdowns by halftime.

"We came out, we fired at them and set the tone," said Williams, who has 293 yards and four scores on 39 carries this season. "We got the ball first and went down and scored."

UTC has had the ball first in all three games this season. UT-Martin and Austin Peay won the tosses and deferred, so the Mocs automatically took the ball in those games.

In the Georgia Dome against Georgia State, the Mocs won the toss and Coach Huesman decided not to defer to the second half. Was it a bold statement of confidence in the fifth-year coach's offense? No.

"The last four years I've just kind of been deferring and I just said, this year I'm not deferring anymore," he said. "Probably a little superstition in there. There was no statement trying to be made there."

Statement or not, the offense responded. Of course that was against Georgia State and Austin Peay, two teams that have yet to win a game this season. Georgia Southern has made the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs the past three seasons.

"We do need to jump down on them fast," Williams said, "because that triple-option, there's so much going on with it and our defense has to defend so much. If our offense can put up points, it will help our defense out a lot."

Like UTC, the Eagles were off last Saturday. They are coming off a 30-20 road loss at Wofford on Sept. 14.

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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