Three awards in a row for UTC defenders

Three awards in a row for UTC defenders

October 29th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

Muhasibi Wakeel

Photo by Robin Rudd/Times Free Press.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, despite having one of the top defenses in the Football Championship Subdivision, had one player honored as a Southern Conference defensive player of the week last season: cornerback Kadeem Wise, on Sept. 29, 2012.

On Monday, UTC's defense made it three in a row in 2013 when linebacker Muhasibi Wakeel was honored for his 17-tackle performance in the 28-24 win over The Citadel. His previous career high was seven. Saturday was Wakeel's first start.

On Oct. 14, following a 3.5-sack performance in a 31-9 win over Furman, All-America defensive end Davis Tull was the player of the week. Tull was the SoCon defensive player of the year in 2012 but never was the player of the week.

Last week, All-America linebacker Wes Dothard got the award for his 13 tackles in a 21-9 win at Elon.

UTC coach Russ Huesman said Sunday he was really happy to see Wakeel, a redshirt junior who has been a backup and special-teams player throughout his career, play so well in a big win.

The Mocs' defense went two games without allowing a touchdown before The Citadel marched 90 yards for a score on its opening drive. The Bulldogs went on to gain 395 yards and cause the SoCon's top defense quite a few problems, especially in the first half, but Huesman said the unit, hampered by injuries, performed well -- better than it did while holding Elon to three field goals and 293 yards.

"I thought defensively we had a lot of guys play hard and play well," he said. "As surprising as that sounds, we played way better this week than we did against Elon."

Huesman said the coaches and the game plan might have held the defense back against The Citadel and its triple option, particularly in the first half. The Mocs made some changes and held the Bulldogs to 180 second-half yards, including just 27 in the fourth quarter.

"I don't think we gave our players enough bullets to have more success than we had," he said. "We fought, clawed and we probably should have done some more things to help them out instead of just saying line up and play."

More UTC votes

UTC began the season ranked No. 25 in the FCS coaches' poll and No. 24 in the Sports Network pole, before falling out after its opening loss to UT-Martin. With four straight wins and a 6-2 overall record, the Mocs are getting closer to a return.

In this week's coaches' poll, released Monday, UTC received the second-most votes among the unranked teams. Wofford (5-3, 4-1) is the top SoCon team at No. 16. Samford (6-2, 4-0), which beat Wofford 34-27 on Saturday, is No. 19.

In the Sports Network poll the Mocs are further back, receiving the fifth-most votes beyond the Top 25, but their vote total has increased the past few weeks. Samford is No. 15 in that poll, with Wofford two spots back.

Extra points

The Mocs make their final visit to Appalachian State on Saturday. The Mountaineers were a shocking 1-6 before routing Georgia Southern 38-14 last week. ASU quarterback Kameron Bryant (27-of-33 for 381 yards and two touchdowns) was theSoCon offensive player of the week. ... The Mocs are 10-26 all-time against ASU and haven't won in Boone, N.C., since 1983.

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