The best part about the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's offensive performance last Saturday against Mars Hill?
There's still room for improvement.
After a dismal performance against now top-ranked Jacksonville State in the opener, the 10th-ranked Mocs racked up 44 points on 28 first downs and 518 yards of total offense against the NCAA Division II school. The week prior, they were held to 196 yards of total offense.
UTC needed nearly every point last week, too, as the Lions piled up 428 yards of offense and scored 34 points, which kept the game close.
"It feels good to have a good performance," running back Derrick Craine said. "Every week you score points, you get into a rhythm and it feels really good. Hopefully we can continue that success and continue putting points on the board."
Despite the yardage output, it wasn't the most crisp of performances, as the Mocs had three fumbles on offense — each of which they recovered — so while the yards and the points look good, the coaching staff and players are encouraged by the fact they can be better. The progress will be necessary, as seven of the final nine games are against Southern Conference competition, starting Saturday against Samford.
"We noticed a lot of executional things (on video) that we can get better with," quarterback Jacob Huesman said. "This is where it starts to matter a lot more, in conference play and especially against a team like Samford.
"This week has been about fine-tuning our execution and playing that much more physical."
Statistically, a lot of players had good days for the Mocs against Mars Hill. Huesman had 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while running for 44 yards. Craine was the workhorse, with 28 carries for a career-high 169 yards, and receiver Xavier Borishade set career highs with 10 catches and 116 yards.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Durden said this week that he was happiest about the Mocs' ability to sustain drives. They had five drives of eight plays or more — four of which turned into touchdowns and the other ending in a missed field-goal try that bounced off the upright.
"It's really good to see sustained drives as a coach," Durden said. "It's really hard to drive the ball over 70 yards on anybody, so I'm really proud of the team's effort.
"I'd really like for us to be more explosive, and we're working hard to be able to do that."
UTC faces a Samford team that features defensive lineman Michael Pierce, who was the SoCon's preseason defensive player of the year. The Bulldogs allow 431 yards per game, ranking right behind UTC, so there could be the opportunities for more big plays for the Mocs.
Samford has prided itself on takeaways, as it has forced seven turnovers and leads the SoCon in turnover margin, forcing two more turnovers per game than its opponents.
"Samford plays assignment football," Craine said. "They're going to stay true to their gaps. They're very physical up front, and the linebackers are very good. We're going to have to get the offensive line moving some folks to create run lanes, get the ball on the edge, open up our offense and show some things we haven't.
"If we play assignment football, I don't think we should have any problems."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.