UTC Mocs' passing game far from potent

UTC Mocs' passing game far from potent

October 15th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

UTC wide receiver Terrell Robinson (6) catches a pass during practice Tuesday at Scrappy Moore Field.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

While the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's rushing attack has produced more than 200 yards in each of the past five games, the passing game has been far from prolific.

Some of that is situational, such as when the Mocs (4-2, 2-1 SoCon) have had comfortable second-half leads or whenever their ground game is thriving and there's little point in putting the ball in the air.

But in two of the Mocs' past three games, quarterback Jacob Huesman has thrown for fewer than 100 yards. Last Saturday in the 31-9 win against Furman, he was 13-for-17 but for just 84 yards.

"We're going to have to throw the ball," UTC coach Russ Huesman said, "but I think our formula coming into this thing, and it's going to be a formula that I'm always going to take, is: play great defense, which we played really, really well this past week, and then be able to run the football."

Last week the Mocs held Furman to 189 yards of offense and rushed for 218 themselves, getting a fourth 100-yard game from Keon Williams while Jacob Huesman ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

In the age of high-speed, high-octane offenses like Oregon and Baylor run -- and many Championship Subdivision teams run similar systems -- Coach Huesman's formula may seem a bit old-fashioned.

"Yeah, well, Nick Saban's got it andhe's been pretty successful,"Russ Huesman said of the Alabama coach, who has won three of the past four BCS national titles.

The Mocs lead the SoCon in total defense and scoring defense and are fourth in rushing offense with 246.5 yards per game. That's the formula working, but that doesn't mean the coaches aren't looking for more of apassing game, with more completions in the 15-yard range.

Mocs wideout Terrell Robinson, who has 16 catches for 122 yards this season, said the wideouts need to play better and do more after the catch.

"We haven't connected on any deep ball;, we haven't gone and gotten the ball and probably haven't showed [offensive coordinator Jeff Durden] that we can catch the ball right now," Robinson said before Tuesday's practice at Scrappy Moore Field.

In the Mocs' past three games -- a 23-21 loss at Georgia Southern, a 42-21 win against Western Carolina and the Furman win -- the longest reception by a UTC receiver or tight end was a 21-yard grab last week by wideout Tommy Hudson.

UTC has had great success with screen passes to running backs. Williams scored a 57-yard touchdown on a screen against Georgia Southern, and Marquis Green took one 67 yards for a score against Western Carolina. Green leads the Mocs with 17 catches for 195 yards and three touchdowns.

Two other Mocs have double-digit receptions: tight end Faysal Shafaat (14 for 156 yards and four touchdowns) and Hudson (13 for 160 and one touchdown).

If the mid-level and deep routes aren't working, UTC can continue to use the screen as its prime passing-game weapon.

"I think when you get into the heat of the game, a defensive lineman's not really thinking, 'I've got to watch the screen right here,'" Jacob Huesman said. "And when they do start thinking that, that's when you're going to have more time back in the pocket and you can take those shots down the field.

"When they just pin their ears back [and rush the passer], that's the best time to hit one of those."

The Mocs play this week at Elon (2-5, 1-2), which is last in the SoCon in total defense, allowing 487.1 yards per game -- including 255.4 passing yards a game.

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