Runs were few and far between Saturday during the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Blue and Gold game at Finley Stadium. That won't be the case in the fall.
Saturday's split-squad spring finale was dominated by the defenses, which had the advantage of knowing that they weren't going to get beat on the ground - not with only one running back and two fullbacks, none of them full-scholarship players, available.
"We're down (in numbers) on our backs right now, so the best players on our team right now, as far as offensively, are the wideouts," offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said. "So for us to sit back and not put the ball in their hands would be a waste of time."
The first-team offense (in blue) and the second-team offense (in white) combined for 59 passes and 26 runs. The Blue team, with running back Bo Dyer and quarterback Jare Gault, had 20 carries for 69 yards, to just six for minus-22 for the White. Gault had eight carries for a game-high 51 yards, highlighted by a 43-yard scramble.
"I feel for (Satterfield) because he was so limited in the things he could do," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.
It was a tough spring all around for the backs. Bryan Fitzgerald and Erroll Wynn sat out the entire spring, leaving fullback Shaun Kermah as the only back with any game experience. Kermah, however, missed the last week with a minor knee injury. J.J. Jackson, a redshirt freshman, missed the spring game with a staph infection in his right arm that put him in the hospital last week and required surgery over the weekend.
The Blue team won the scrimmage 14-0 and outgained the White 204 yards to 162 yards in total offense. Gault captured the offensive MVP award - an honor that could have gone to as many a four players in white.
Quarterback Tony Pastore struggled for much of the spring, but he was mostly sharp Saturday, going 18-for-25 for 134 yards. His two interceptions came on long plays at the end of each half. Of Pastore's 18 completions, 17 were split among three players: fullback Ryan Geist had eight catches for 30 yards, wideout Brian Sutherland had seven for 73 and quarterback-turned-wideout Sloan Allison had seven catches for 66 yards.
Allison's numbers would have been even better had he not dropped a couple of passes and had a pair of receptions for big yardage called back due to offensive penalties.
"It's a blast," Allison said of playing wide receiver and being a popular target.
Doling out the defense
Blue team linebacker Ryan Consiglio finished with a game-high seven tackles, all solos. Cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris and linebacker Shane Heatherly led the White defense with six tackles each, including a sack by Heatherly, a redshirt freshman. Defensive tackle Omre Harris, who redshirted in the fall after transferring from Murray State, had a game-high two sacks for the White team.
After his interception in the end zone late in the first half, Blue team safety Joel Bradford debated on whether or not to try for a return. He eventually took a knee for the touchback and when he got to the sideline he asked Huesman what he should have done. Huesman's response: If Bradford can guarantee him at least 20 yards on the return, bring it out. Otherwise, don't.
Local players who changed positions this spring grabbed all three interceptions Saturday: Bradford and Lee Hilt, of McCallie, moved from receiver to defensive back, while linebacker Tony Swafford, a former Hixson standout, played safety in 2008.
Gault was named the offensive MVP and linebacker Arsenio Clemmons earned the defensive MVP award for forcing a fumble by Geist and returning it 29 yards for the Blue team's second touchdown. The team also debuted the Bob Davis Winter Warrior award, which was given to offensive lineman Chris Harr, a former Notre Dame standout. Davis is a longtime Mocs supporter and the award is given to the player that works the hardest on their offseason conditioning.
In the play-calling battle between UTC vice chancellor Richard Brown and provost Phil Oldham, Oldham's defensive call of a blitz on the opening play thwarted Brown's pass attempt as Gault was hit as he threw for an incompletion. However, the offense ran the same play three plays later and Gault connected with Clint Woods for a 39-yard completion down to the 3-yard line.
The Blue side was then stuffed on three consecutive runs and Craig Camay's 22-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by cornerback Buster Skrine, who came flying around the right side of the offensive line.