Jacob Huesman led the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with 904 rushing yards in 2012. He ran the ball 195 times, for a 4.6 yards-per-carry average, and by the end of the season the quarterback had the bumps and bruises to show for it.
Six times last season, Jacob had 21 or more rushing attempts. The goal entering this season was to limit how often UTC's quarterbacks ran the ball, thus limiting their hits.
In UTC's 31-21 opening loss to UT-Martin, Jacob ran 22 times for 90 yards. It looked like more of the same from last season as the Mocs never got their running backs heavily involved. And Jacob walked (hobbled might be a better word) off the field feeling like a tenderized piece of sirloin.
Since the opener, however, Jacob has carried the ball just 12 times against both Georgia State and Austin Peay. Through three games, he's averaging 71.3 yards a game, seventh-best in the Southern Conference.
"I can definitely feel it on Sunday," Jacob said after Wednesday's practice at Scrappy Moore Field. "Twelve carries versus 22, that's the difference of needing to get in the ice tub and maybe just rolling out of bed on Sunday."
It has been running back Keon Williams that has carried the rushing load the past two weeks. Williams ran for 147 yards against Georgia State and 106, on just 11 carries, versus Austin Peay, earned SoCon offensive player of the week honors two weeks in a row.
"I haven't needed to run the ball because Keon's been playing great," Jacob said. "Keon's been impressive; he's been running possessed."
Williams' production, he's averaging 7.5 yards per rush, will also draw some defensive attention away from Jacob at quarterback and Terrell Robinson at wideout.
"You're going to have to say, we need a couple of people there [to defend Williams] -- he's running that hard and not letting just one person bring him down," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.
The Mocs are second in the SoCon with 271.0 rushing yards a game and second in total offense with 429.7. A big reason for that production -- granted it was against two teams that won a total of three games last season and are winless in 2013 -- is the play of the offensive line, which struggled at times against UT-Martin and dominated the past two weeks.
"Shoot, it's fun blocking for these guys," senior Kevin Revis said. "Keon, all the running backs, Jacob, Terrell, whoever has the ball, they're running hard and it's fun blocking for them. We're finishing our blocks and looking up field and they're working, too."
Nick Pollard is patiently waiting. Sooner or later, UTC's kicker knows he will get to attempt a field goal. But it hasn't happened yet, three games into the 12-game schedule. Every other SoCon team has attempted at least two.
Until he's sent out and is allowed to kick a field goal -- the redshirt junior ran out on the fake field goal against Georgia State -- Pollard is content to kick extra points (he's 15-for-15) and handle UTC's punting duties.
"It is a little weird, not kicking any field goals, but I'm perfectly fine kicking extra points," said Pollard, who is 19-for-29 on field goals in his career, including 19-for-22 from inside 40 yards. "That means we're putting up points."
Pollard ranks seventh among SoCon punters with a 40.0-yard average, in part because there have been a lot of pooch punts, and the Mocs are fourth in net punting at 37.0. Five of his 13 punts have been downed inside the 20.
Defensive tackle Derrick Lott, a preseason first-team All-SoCon pick, practiced with the second-team defense Wednesday, behind first-team tackles Josh Freeman and Daniel Ring. "There's competition at every position," Huesman said. "Everybody's competing, and we'll see how practice goes. Obviously a bunch of people play [on the defensive line]." ... Redshirt junior defensive end Zach Rayl, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, said Wednesday that he will have surgery this morning.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.