Ground defense key for Mocs this week vs. The Citadel

UTC defensive back C.J. Fritz tackles Western Carolina running back Corey Holloway during a SoCon game last month at Finley Stadium. The Mocs host The Citadel on Saturday, and stopping the Bulldogs' triple-option offense is a challenge UTC's defense has been busy preparing for.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defensive coordinator Tom Kaufman nearly sprinted to Scrappy Moore Field for practice Tuesday.

"I'm fired up and ready to go," he said.

The goal for the Mocs' defense this week is to stop The Citadel (3-3, 1-3 Southern Conference) and its triple-option attack during Saturday's 2 p.m. game at Finley Stadium.

It will be Military Appreciation Day, with all active duty members and veterans as well as their immediate families admitted free to the game. Drew Baldridge will be the performer at the Mocs Block Tailgate, which starts at 12:30.

The Bulldogs, who fell out of the Football Championship Subdvision Top 25 this week after their third consecutive loss, have averaged 293.5 yards per game this season to rank fifth nationally. But they have struggled in conference play, having averaged 238 yards per game on the ground.

The Mocs (1-6, 0-4) are 74th in the country and fifth in the Southern Conference in rushing defense, having allowed an average of 163.4 yards per game.

Kaufman, a first-year defensive coordinator, has been learning on the fly about the rigors of SoCon offenses. Two weeks ago, Furman - which runs a sort of option offense similar to a wing-T - shredded the UTC defense for 290 yards on the ground, although the longest run was 17 yards.

Kaufman pointed out that after the Mocs made some adjustments at halftime, the Paladins gained only 82 yards on 25 carries in the second half.

"I'm excited to be back out here," Kaufman said Tuesday. "We've had a chance to meet on the plan, and now everybody gets a chance to put their little piece in, a part in. It's a big deal that everybody understands what they're supposed to do and where their eyes are, so today we get to test that for the first time with the scout team.

"I think we have a really good plan in place. I just want to see it."

The Bulldogs are fourth in the country in time of possession, and they pride themselves on moving the chains and eating up more clock to limit an opponents' possessions. That's how they defeated the Mocs last season - when both teams were ranked in the top 10 - rushing for 348 yards on 77 carries in a 22-14 win. The challenge for UTC's defense is putting the Bulldogs in second-and-long as well as third-and-long situations, which would force a team that has completed just 39 percent of its passes against SoCon competition this year to throw the ball to win.

"We want to be able to take advantage of their weaknesses," cornerback C.J. Fritz said, "and convert on third down and get off the field."

Mocs coach Tom Arth highlighted what UTC's defense must focus on this week.

"They're out there with the mindset to be violent, to be physical and to run the football and control the clock," he said of the Bulldogs. "We have to match and exceed their violence and their physicality, so we have to find ways to get negative runs, find ways for no gain. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance to get some three-and-outs and create some opportunities for our offense to have some success.

"That'll be a really big part of the week this week, working on defending their run game, their option offense, being physical and understanding our responsibilities in our defensive scheme."

Help the homeless

The UTC athletic department is having a Supplies and Action Day for homeless veterans from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Finley.

Items needed are towels, curtains, shower curtains, curtain rods, kitchen appliances, toiletries, glassware (no coffee mugs), pots, pans, cleaning supplies, dishes, silverware, rugs, wall artwork and decor.

The athletic department has requested that food and clothing donations not be brought and asks that any furniture donations be given to the Chattanooga Furniture Bank.

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.