One true freshman scored the go-ahead touchdown and another sealed the win with a couple of hard runs in the final minutes. All over the field Saturday, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga freshmen were making a difference in the No. 17 Mocs' 23-14 win at Eastern Kentucky.
The Mocs (2-1), who visit No. 3 Appalachian State (2-1) this week, started four freshmen on offense and three on defense. Of the 48 UTC players that saw action in the game, 18 were freshmen - including six true freshmen.
"We're playing with who we've got and most of them are playing pretty good," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.
True freshman running back Marquis Green carried the load for the ground game after Chris Awuah left the game with an ankle injury. Green finished with 21 carries for just 68 yards, but his positive runs were mostly very positive.
With the Mocs down 14-10 in the third quarter, Green carried the ball five times on a six-play scoring drive. He had runs of 18 and 11 yards before scoring his first career touchdown on a 17-yard run around the right side to give UTC the lead for good.
Ever since his debut against Nebraska, the speedy 5-foot-7 Green had come close to turning the corner for a big touchdown run and it finally happened, thanks in part to a sealing block by fullback Taharin Tyson, another true freshman.
"That's what we work on in practice, and we just keep working and one day I knew it was going to happen," Green said.
Trailing 17-14 with 5:35 left in the game, EKU started a drive with a run by Jeremiah Williams, but linebacker Gunner Miller forced a fumble after an 8-yard gain. The ball eventually wound up in the hands of redshirt freshman defensive tackle Keyon Reed.
Reed was one of the three freshmen to start on the defensive line, along with redshirt freshman end Davis Tull and true freshman tackle Josh Freeman, who replaced the injured Nick Davison.
The Mocs took over at the EKU 48 and eventually faced a fourth-and-1 at the 9-yard line. UTC went for it and had Tyson lined up at tailback, where he powered for the needed yard and a first down. The Colonels were also hit with a personal foul penalty on the play.
On third-and-goal at the 3, after two Green runs were stuffed, Tyson pushed the pile to the 1. There, like the previous fourth down, Huesman elected to go for it.
"We just didn't think they could go 99 yards on us," Huesman said of the decision. "We didn't think they could do it, and there is no way we were going to take a chance of getting [a field goal] blocked."
With 57 seconds left, Tyson again lined up at tailback and followed his replacement at fullback, Thomas Green, into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
"We get in and we do what we can do," Marquis Green said of the freshmen. "That's a tough team,W and we just had to keep fighting."
Awuah's status for the Appalachian State game is unknown, but UTC could get running back J.J. Jackson (knee) back this week. Jackson has missed the past two games. ... The Mocs didn't give up a second-half point to either Jacksonville State or Eastern Kentucky.