UTC Mocs working to turn field goals into TDs

UTC's Richardre Bagley runs for the Mocs in Saturday's 33-27 win at VMI.

It hasn't been that long since the red zone had been very kind to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team. Two Saturdays ago, Derrick Craine scored three touchdowns and the Mocs won 31-3 over Southern Conference opponent Furman.

So the hope for the Mocs is that what happened last Saturday at Virginia Military Institute is more the exception and not a new norm.

Seven trips to the red zone - the area from the opponents' 20-yard line to the end zone - resulted in four field goals and two touchdowns against the Keydets, with the seventh appearance being at the end of the game. UTC kicker Henrique Ribeiro was named SoCon special teams player of the week, but his 3-pointers came as a result of drives stalling inside the 20.

Head coach Russ Huesman wasn't pleased with the number of field goals kicked against the Keydets.

photo UTC head football coach Russ Huesman shouts to players after a Mars Hill touchdown during the Mocs' football game against the Lions at Finley Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in Chattanooga. UTC won 44-34.

"We chunk yards out there and make plays. We can't settle for four field goals - we just can't do that," Huesman said. "We're going to look at it and see what the problem is."

The Mocs are getting points; they're just not always getting touchdowns. That's something the staff has vowed to fix this week.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Durden said Monday that UTC made "eight mistakes" in the red zone on 14 attempted plays at VMI.

"When you get back and look at the stats, the first thing I look at is the turnovers," he said. "We had one turnover that changed the game, and we pride ourselves on not turning the ball over. We were 6-for-6 in the red zone, so we got points. We have to make better decisions and put ourselves in better situations, but we're working hard to fix it.

"We have to cut down on what we do and get better at it, but I'm a positive guy. We're getting down there: We just have to ring the bell, and we have the guys to be able to do it."

The Mocs had 490 yards of total offense, their second-highest total of the season and best against a Division I opponent. They've done a good job of moving the ball, but haven't always had success resulting in touchdowns when they penetrated deep into enemy territory. They were perfect against Furman, with three touchdowns and a field goal, but against Presbyterian, three trips to the red zone produced one touchdown. Three trips there against Samford resulted in 14 points, while seven trips against Mars Hill ended in 42 points, with six touchdowns.

In fairness, the third red-zone trip against Samford resulted in a turnover on downs late in the game with the Mocs trying to maintain possession, the same result of their seventh trip to the red zone against VMI.

"We just have to get back to the drawing board," running back Derrick Craine said. "When we get down there, we might have to change it up a little and keep the foot on the gas. We kind of let up when we got inside the 10.

"We have to keep the foot on the gas and really finish off our opponents' defense."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.