Some of the mistakes the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team made in its season opener against Jacksonville State, the coaches already had seen last week in practice.
Now without a game until Sept. 9 at LSU, the Football Championship Subdivision's 12th-ranked Mocs will have an opportunity to clean up some stuff.
They returned to the practice field Tuesday after Saturday's 27-13 loss to the sixth-ranked Gamecocks. This provides a chance for the coaching staff to get some extra work in with some of the younger players, such as true freshman quarterback Cole Copeland, who went from likely redshirt to No. 2 behind Nick Tiano after the four-game suspension of senior Alejandro Bennifield.
After this week, UTC will play nine consecutive weeks before an off week on Nov. 11.
"We got a chance to see where we are and what do we need to do to improve," head coach Tom Arth said before Tuesday's practice. "We were able to find out what we can do to get better, what we need to work on and what do we need to do to improve. I'm happy we've got the bye week now and we can focus on those things, so we can look to make sure the next time we get a chance to get out there, we can execute at a higher level."
The coaches believe some of the Mocs' problems against the Gamecocks were self-inflicted. After a couple of unsuccessful early drives, the offense seemed to click a little with two consecutive possessions that ended in Victor Ulmo field goals, but on each of those a penalty in the red zone possibly prevented a touchdown. On their ensuing possessions, the Mocs drove the ball close to field-goal range again in the second quarter, but a fumbled snap by Tiano was recovered by JSU at its own 27, thwarting another scoring opportunity.
The Mocs would not have another successful drive until their final possession of the game, going 89 yards on eight plays for a touchdown, but the game was out of reach at that point.
"We have to coach better, play better and prepare better," offensive coordinator Justin Rascati said. "All of that comes from the way we practice; a lot of the things we did were mistakes made in practice. If we clean up and execute at a higher level, we'll be fine. The talent is there, the want-to is there; we just have to take pride in how we prepare and know practice is everything.
"We'll make huge strides this week."
Arth added that it was good the players were able to see their mistakes on video to help hammer home points the staff had been trying to make.
"You can tell them, tell them, tell them, but until they live through an experience like that, you hope that's all they need," Arth said. "It's then that you can make some adjustments and make sure they practice the way they need to all the time."
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