UTC at The Citadel: Three things to watch for in Saturday's football game

Staff photo by Robin Rudd / UTC's Devonnsha Maxwell, left, and Jay Person combine to stop The Citadel quarterback Brandon Rainey on Nov. 16, 2019, at Finley Stadium.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team is in Charleston, South Carolina, this weekend, looking to improve to 2-0 in Southern Conference play with a matchup against The Citadel (0-5, 0-1).

Saturday's 1 p.m. game is available to stream on ESPN Plus.

The Mocs, who are 1-1 overall and ranked 18th nationally among Football Championship Subdivision teams, got their spring semester schedule off to a solid start last Saturday at Finley Stadium with a 24-13 with over Wofford, which was ranked No. 11 at the time and dropped to 20th this week.

Here are three things to watch for that will be keys for UTC to get the road win against the Bulldogs.

1. Stopping the run: The Mocs are going to have to do a better job than they did in the spring opener. UTC allowed the Terriers to break off a number of good runs as they finished with 178 rushing yards on 39 carries - and that factors in three UTC sacks that totaled 11 yards in losses, which go against the rushing total. It's no secret the Bulldogs run the triple option and lean heavily on their rushing attack. The Citadel finished with 338 yards on the ground last week against Mercer in a 42-28 loss and has averaged 223.8 yards per game against the Bears and a four-game fall schedule that included Football Bowl Subdivision opponents South Florida, Clemson and Army plus Football Championship Subdivision foe Eastern Kentucky.

2. Be aggressive early: It's always nice to jump out to an early lead on an opponent, but against the Bulldogs that becomes even more important. In 2018, the Mocs needed overtime to win 29-28 in Charleston, and that was after they built a two-touchdown lead early. Last season, it was a 10-point advantage. In both cases, The Citadel rallied to take leads, but the Mocs found ways to win. Due to the Bulldogs' style of play, falling behind is dangerous because it allows them to control the clock and lean on that option attack. Trying to score quickly with a big play is an approach the Mocs will likely take: For six consecutive seasons, UTC's first touchdown against The Citadel has covered at least 60 yards.

3. Build on initial offensive success: It wasn't the expected way for UTC to move the ball against the Terriers, but nobody on the Mocs' side is upset about Drayton Arnold throwing for 223 yards and a score without turning the ball over. He and receiver Reginald Henderson (102 yards on seven catches against Wofford) both struggled in the lone fall game at Western Kentucky, but each looked far better in his second outing. That has to continue, especially as the offense is trying to activate a ground game that averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on 37 actual attempts last weekend (Arnold was sacked once for a 12-yard loss, and a bad snap on a Gabe Boring punt resulted in a 23-yard loss.) The good news for UTC is that offenses have had success against The Citadel this season, and not just those from the FBS - Eastern Kentucky and Mercer each topped 145 yards rushing and 200 passing against the Bulldogs.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.