A.J. Harris could have walked on and played for Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno at Penn State just like his father, but he chose to accept a scholarship at Elon.
He earned that scholarship Saturday.
The junior from New Jersey had a career day in the first half of Elon's 49-35 win over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Harris scored three touchdowns and had 111 yards on 14 carries in the first half at Finley Stadium. He finished with four touchdowns and 163 yards.
"We knew coming into the game that we had to run the ball, and in the first 10 scripted plays we had only four passes so we knew it right away," Harris said. "I think we caught them off guard on a lot of stuff."
He had been averaging 36 yards per game as the third-string running back in Elon's pass-happy offense, which played Saturday without its top two backs at full strength.
Harris' first touchdown Saturday was Elon's first rushing touchdown in six games.
"A lot of teams try to stop Scott [Riddle] and our pass game," Harris said. "Nobody has seen us run the ball a whole lot."
Harris scored from 14 yards out on a bruising run up the middle to tie the game at 7. He put the Phoenix up 14-7 with a 3-yard plunge. He pushed the lead to 21-7 with a 25-yard scamper that started up the middle and then went out to the right. In the fourth quarter, he scored the game's final touchdown from a yard out.
New attendance record
The announced crowd of 11,095 helped push UTC to a single-season school record with one home game left - on Nov. 13 against Samford. The total attendance for the season so far is 54,287, which beats last year's record of 52,515.
"It's a sign of progress," athletic director Rick Hart said. "It speaks to the support we've received even though we haven't won anything in relation to championships. You'd like to think we can take it to another level."
The Mocs faced fourth-and-9 from the Elon 13 late in the third quarter when they were down by 14 points.
Coach Russ Huesman sent the offense out instead of the kicking team. B.J. Coleman threw to Marlon Anthony, who was double-covered and couldn't come up with the pass.
But the UTC defense forced a three-and-out to get the ball back to Coleman. The Mocs went for it again on fourth-and-inches down 14 points in the fourth, and Coleman sneaked for success.
UTC had been 6-for-11 on fourth-down conversions entering Saturday.
Former East Ridge linebacker Gunner Miller did not play for UTC after suffering a shoulder stinger in the first half. ... Mocs freshman Keon Williams made his first career reception in the third quarter, a 6-yarder. ... Elon's Riddle finished the game with his pads off and his right arm in a sling because of a shoulder injury.