UTC defense prepares for another tough running back

UTC defense prepares for another tough running back

September 14th, 2017 by Gene Henley in Sports - College

UT-Martin running back Ladarius Galloway finishes a 4-yard touchdown run ahead of Ole Miss defensive end Victor Evans this past Saturday in Oxford, Miss.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

The task at hand isn't getting any easier for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defense.

Already riddled with the fate of facing two five-star running backs — as well as a pair of four-star rushers — in the first two weeks of the season, UTC (0-2) will get a look at another talented runner when UT-Martin's Ladarius Galloway and the rest of the Skyhawks (1-1) come to Finley Stadium for the Mocs' home opener at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior, who didn't even start the season opener, has 345 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games. Included in that was a 59-yard run last week at Ole Miss that set up the score that gave the Skyhawks a 16-7 lead.

"He's a dude," UTC defensive coordinator Tom Kaufman said. "He's very good, very talented. I had no idea (he was that good), so it's going to be another challenge."

Added defensive tackle Taylor Reynolds: "He's a great running back, like (LSU's Derrius) Guice and (Jacksonville State's) Roc Thomas, so we know he'll be good. We'll have to tackle really well and execute our game plan, and we'll be all right."

Tennessee Martin running back Ladarius Galloway (7) scores on a four-yard touchdown run as Mississippi defensive end Victor Evans, background, pursues in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Mississippi won 45-23. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Tennessee Martin running back Ladarius Galloway (7) scores...

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Stopping the run has been a struggle for the Mocs, with Jacksonville State and LSU averaging 203 yards and almost 5 yards per carry in the first two games. UTC's defense has faced a run on 85 of 123 plays, or just less than 70 percent.

The Mocs believe this game could be their gauge for the rest of the schedule, though. First-year UTC coach Tom Arth told his players it was time to hit the reset button and focus from this point forward, and the defense could certainly use that.

Before Tuesday's practice, Kaufman said he believes the defense is "ahead of schedule" in terms of how it has adjusted to the offseason scheme change, especially with so many new players getting on the field for the first time.

"I'm so proud of these guys," he said. "I know it sounds crazy, but so many times we're in great position. Now we have to learn to finish the play, but I'm proud of them.

"In large part I've thought we did a nice job."

The Mocs could see an attack similar to what they've faced in the first two games. The Skyhawks have run on about 67 percent of their plays, though they have a senior quarterback who's more than capable.

Troy Cook was a first-team all-Ohio Valley Conference selection in the preseason. He has struggled this season, completing only 22 of 43 passes (51 percent) for 284 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Still, he adds another element to the Skyhawks' offense if given the opportunity.

"They're very balanced. They can do it all," Kaufman said. "They've been one of the top OVC programs for a while now. They've got big receivers, the tight ends are physical and the offensive line is very well-coached.

"They've got it all — good passing, good running — so we've got to strap it up."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.