2013 Opponent Sketch: Chattanooga
GREENVILLE, S.C.–Furman’s most crucial contest early in the 2013 Southern Conference slate might be the one against Chattanooga, who will likely enter the season as the preseason favorite for the Southern Conference title.
The rivalry between the Mocs and Paladins is starting to once again resemble what it was in the late 1970’s and early ’80’s, which was an era in which the Mocs and Paladins routinely found themselves competing for a Southern Conference title.
The Mocs came to Greenville last season and handed Furman a thorough beating, as the Mocs were 31-10 winners over the Paladins last season.
The Mocs and Paladins will be meeting for the 43rd time in series history this fall, with the Paladins holding a commanding 27-15 all-time series edge.
Interestingly enough, the Mocs have beaten the Paladins in two of the past three meetings between the two under Russ Huesman, claiming wins in 2010 (36-28) and last season. Furman has taken 16 of the past 18 meetings in the series, including having won nine-straight against the Mocs in the Scenic City, including a 14-7 win in their last trip to Finley Stadium.
The last time the Paladins dropped a game to the Mocs in the city famous for its chocolate and marshmallow pies was the 1993 campaign, when the Paladins dropped a wild, 45-42, decision against the Mocs at historic Chamberlain Field.
The Paladins have never lost to Chattanooga at Finley Stadium, which opened in 1997, holding an 8-0 mark in the facility against the Mocs, with Furman’s only loss in Finley Stadium coming in the 2001 national championship game against Montana, 13-6. Five of the eight Furman wins over Chattanooga in Finley Stadium have come by double digits.
During that era, the Mocs had several players that most Paladin fans will be familiar with, including a receiver named Terrell Owens and a talented strong-armed quarterback named Brian Hampton. Despite last year’s score disparity, the Furman-Chattanooga rivalry is no stranger to good football games.
Two of the past three meetings between the Mocs and Paladins have been thrillers, with the 2010 meeting becoming an offensive showcase by the Mocs, who fell behind in the game by a 28-10 against the Paladins, would eventually get back in the football game on the strength of a prolific passing performance by B.J. Coleman, who helped Joel Bradford put forth one of the greatest performances by a wide receiver in Paladin Stadium history.
The Mocs rolled up 432 yards through the air, as Coleman connected on 33-of-59 throws, with a couple of TD passes. Bradford had 274 receiving yards, which was a school record, as well as a Paladin Stadium mark and a record allowed by a Paladin defense, surpassing the previous mark of 247 yards receiving set by Nevada’s Ross Ortega in the quarterfinals of the 1990 playoffs.
The 26-point fourth quarter by Chattanooga was the most by a Furman opponent since 1997, when East Tennessee State posted 34 fourth-quarter points to erase a 28-24 deficit and come away with a 58-28 homecoming win over the Paladins. In total, the Mocs would out-gain the Paladins 568-227 in total yards.
In 2011, the Paladins used an epic defensive performance to take a 14-7 win over the Mocs in Chattanooga.
It would take one of the more remarkable performances by a Paladin defensive player in program history to allow the Paladins to come away with the seven point win, as Furman outside linebacker Mitch McGrath posted nine tackles, four sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery, and forced fumble to key the a stout Paladin defensive effort.
Furman, which in 2011 didn’t have to face the senior Coleman, who was nursing an injury, confused the young signal-caller Terrell Robinson all afternoon, as Furman swarmed Robinson and the Mocs, limiting them to a meager 169 yards of total offense. It was the lowest yardage total a Paladin defense had held an opponent to in a game since 2001.
In stark contrast to the 2011 meeting, Chattanooga used a veteran defensive unit to do the same thing to a young Furman offense, headlined by true freshman quarterback Reese Hannon en route to a 31-10 win. Chattanooga got a big day from its true freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman, who dazzled on the day, completing 18-of-23 passes for 171 yards and a pair of scores, while rushing for 59 yards on 22 attempts to account for 230 yards of total offense.
The Mocs held a 369-223 advantage in total yards, as well as posting a substantial lead in time of possession, holding nearly an 18-minute edge (38:54-21:09) in time of possession.
Huesman wasn’t the only offensive weapon that would prove pivotal on the afternoon for the Mocs, as wide receiver/quarterback Terrell Robinson gave one of the better all-around performances by an opponent visiting Paladin Stadium in recent memory. Robinson completed 7-of-10 passes for 86 yards, caught eight passes for 81 yards and two scores, and rushed four times for 29 yards and a TD.
There have been record-setting performances seemingly set by both the Mocs and the Paladins in this rivalry over the years. Former Chattanooga quarteback and the school’s all-time leading passer Chris Sanders set a Southern Conference record with 532 yards passing against the Paladins in a 42-41 loss to the Paladins in the regular-season finale in 1999. Sanders’ record set against Furman would be broken by Scott Riddle, also against the Paladins, some eight years later.
Furman’s Bryan Dailer set a Southern Conference single-game record with seven sacks against the Mocs in Furman’s 42-21 win at Finley Stadium in 1997, on a day which saw the Mocs looking to impress the playoff committee for a potential playoff invite, however, Dailer and the Paladins did not comply.
Chattanooga’s Football Tradition
Chattanooga has enjoyed a solid membership as a Southern Conference football-playing member, with four Southern Conference titles and have appeared in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS/formerly Division I-AA) once, which was in 1984. The Mocs have taken tremendous strides under Russ Huesman, who enters his fifth season at the helm with a 23-21 record as the head coach, including leading the Mocs to a pair of seven-win campaigns in his four seasons.
The Mocs, however, have a proud heritage on the gridiron, although it hasn’t always been reflected as such over the past couple of decades. Coaching legends like Joe Morrison and Andy “Scrappy” Moore. The Mocs will be playing their 106th season of college football this fall, with an all-time record as a program of 494-503-35.
The Mocs joined the Southern Conference in 1976 and played their first season in the league as a gridiron participant in ’77, and were dominant in their first decade as a Southern Conference member, winning titles in 1977, ’78, ’79 and ’84. The Mocs shared league titles in both ’78 and ’79, with the ’78 crown shared with Furman.
Chattanooga’s current head coach Russ Huesman was a member of those accomplished teams, earning All-SoCon accolades as a defensive back for the Mocs as a senior in 1982.
The Mocs’ best season in their membership as a Southern Conference member came in their first season as a SoCon member, posting a 9-1-1 record under head coach Joe Morrison.
The Mocs had some great players in the late 1970’s and early ’80’s in the Southern Conference, with the likes of defensive tackle Ronnie Powell and running back Kenny Mitchell, who both garnered All-America honors during that memorable title run in 1977.
Morrison would lead the Mocs to three-straight Southern Conference titles before leaving to become head coach of South Carolina. Morrison was a character on the sidelines, known for smoking cigarettes on the sidelines during games. From 1977-80, the Mocs had a balanced offensive attack, led by running back Gwain Durden and Mike, who rank No. 1 and No.2, respectively, on the school’s all-time leading rushing list, with Durden having gained 3,656 career yards, while Smith added 3,340 career rushing yards.
Prior to moving into its current facility Finley Stadium, which hosted the NCAA Division I FCS National Championship game from 1997-2010, the Mocs played at one of the more historic venues in college football, Chamberlain Field, which hosted Mocs football games for nearly a century, first opening its gates in 1899 and finally closing them after an October 4, 1997 after a 20-17 win over Wofford. At the time, it was the second-oldest home venue for a Division I college football team. The Mocs were 301-133-25 all-time inside the friendly, historic confines.
Of course, the Mocs would make their only FCS playoff appearance as a program in 1984, as the Mocs posted a 6-5 record, including a 5-1 mark in Southern Conference play to qualify for the NCAA FCS Playoffs, losing 37-10 to Arkansas State to bow out in the opening round.
Though the Mocs have had some good teams, they have struggled to find their way in the Southern Conference since that ’84 title team, although they have been extremely competitive and have produced some of the league’s top performers at several positions, most notably, at wide receiver. Players like Terrell Owens (1992-95), Stefpon Hawkins (1996-99) and Cos Dematteo (2000-03), who have set the bar high for all receivers who have followed that trio.
Hawkins is the school’s all-time leading wide receiver in terms of career receiving yards, with 2,375 career receiving yards, which was just a little more than Owens, who had 2,320 career receiving yards. DeMatteo ranks fourth in school history in career receiving yards (2.092) and ranks second in program history in career TD catches (23). DeMatteo’s six TD catches against Mississippi Valley State in 2000 is a Southern Conference single-game record for wide receivers.
Owens, of course, who also played basketball for Mack McCarthy at UTC, went on to a prolific career in the National Football League, as he was originally drafted into the league in the third round of 1996 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Owens would go on to garner six Pro Bowl invites, and spent times in Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati. Owens played in two Super Bowls with the Eagles, and is just the sixth player in NFL history to record 1,000-career receptions, 14,000-career receiving yards and 100-career TD catches.
Plenty of talented players have also made their presence known under center for the Mocs over years, including greats such as Kenyon Earl (1991-94) in the early 1990’s, which is a quarterback with a similar skill-set as current Mocs quarterbacks Jacob Huesman and Terrell Robinson, as he is a dual threat under center. Earl finished his career third in school history in career passing yards (6,400).
SMU transfer Chris Sanders (1999-2000) came to Chattanooga as a junior, and holds many of the school’s passing records, despite playing only a couple of seasons in the Blue and Gold. Sanders is the school’s all-time leader in career passing yards (7,230 yards), career 300-yard passing performances (12), 200-yard passing performances (22) and single-season TD passes (27, 1999).
Most recently, B.J. Coleman (2009-11) would transfer to Chattanooga from Tennessee in 2009, and under then first-year head coach Russ Huesman, Coleman and the Mocs offense would flourish, leading the Blue and Gold to the brink of the playoffs in a couple of those seasons. Coleman still holds the school record for career TD passes (52), and ranks second in the program’s record book in career passing yards (6,871 yards).
Heading into the 2013 season, the Mocs hope to re-visit their championship tradition, and with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern being ineligible for a Southern Conference title this season and with 19 starters back from a 6-5 squad of a year ago, the Mocs will likely find themselves in the favorites role in the league title race for the first time in quite sometime.
2013 Chattanooga Preview:
The Chattanooga Mocs will likely enter the 2013 season as the odds-on favorites to claim the 2013 Souhern Conference title, and with 19 starters returning, who would bet against them.
The Mocs welcome the return of seven All-SoCon starters from a year ago, and UTC should be strongest on the defensive side of the football, with the return of 10 starters, while nine starters are back the offensive side of the football.
Set to lead the Chattanooga spread offense for a second-straight season is Jacob Huesman (167-of-256 passing, 1,712 yards, 14 TDs, 6 INTs/904 rush yards, 7 TDs).
Just like his predecessor B.J. Coleman, Huesman quickly molded himself into one of the SoCon’s top all-around quarterbacks last season. Huesman was a candidate for the Jerry Rice Award last season, which is given to the top freshman player in the FCS.
His 904 yards rushing were a school-record by a quarterback, while he also added seven rushing scores. All told, the true freshman completed the season with 2,616 yards of total offense and 21 TD responsibilities.
Huesman helped lead a Chattanooga offense that seemingly improved as the season progressed, but still has room for improvement, as the Mocs ranked just eighth in the nine-team Southern Conference in total offense (349.8 YPG) last season.
Huesman isn’t the only player in the Chattanooga player set to start at one of the skill positions that has starting experience under center, as wide receiver Terrell Robinson (40 rec, 489 yds, 5 TDs, 12.2 YPR/296 pass yds, 2 TDs/222 rush yds, 3 TDs) was actually the starter under center prior when Coleman went down with a shoulder injury in 2011, and even split some snaps early on in the season for the Mocs with Huesman last season. Robinson is the type of athlete that the can be inserted into the spread offense to change the pace of a game with his athleticism, and the ability to do a number of different things for the Mocs out of the backfield as a runner and as a passer.
One of Robinson’s most notable performances as a starter came a couple of years ago against Georgia Southern, when he nearly led the Mocs to an upset win over Georgia Southern on the road, as the Mocs eventually dropped a 28-27 decision. It was the coming-out party for Robinson, who did most of his damage rushing the football, finishing with 114 yards and three rushing scores against the Top-ranked team in FCS football.
As the Mocs’ starting ‘X’ wide receiver, Robinson was sensational last season, charting a team-high 40 catches for 489 receiving yards and five scoring catches. Robinson also rushed for 232 yards and three TDs on 52 rush attempts, averaging 4.5 YPC. In total, including his time as a passer, runner and receiver last season, Robinson totaled 10 TDs (5 rushing, 2 passing, 3 rushing). There’s a good chance that he might split snaps with Huesman again this season, even though Huesman is the starter entering the season.
As in most spread offenses, the Mocs didn’t have one running back doing a lion’s share of the work, and it was a committee that helped UTC churn out yards on the ground last season, and it will be Kendrix Huitt (57 rush att, 288 yds, 3 TDs, 5.1 YPC), Marquis Green (24 rush att, 126 yds, 3 TDs, 5.6 YPC) and Keon Williams (51 rush att, 155 yds, 3 TDs, 3.0 YPC). Huitt is probably the best combination of power and speed, but it was Williams that was the highly-touted running back in the recruiting process three years ago, but the three-star recruit has had some off-the-field issues, as well as injuries, which have limited him becoming the type running back that many thought he would be at this point in his career.
The real x-factor in this Chattanooga offense this season might be Tolerance Shepherd, who will play the slot position, which was occupied by J.J. Jackson last season. Shepherd is a player much like former Moc Brian Southerland, who was a player that always presented a threat with his speed. That is the exact type player that Shepherd will be in this Chattanooga offense, and getting the ball in his hands will be paramount for this offense this season with his tremendous speed.
Shepherd had a strong performance in the spring, rushing for 110 and a pair of scores, while catching a 75-yard TD pass out of the backfield, giving you an idea of his overall explosiveness. Tahrain Tyson (6 rush att, 22 yds, 3.7 YPC) will also figure into the plans at running back this fall, as he will be utilized as the fullback in short-yardage situations.
Alongside Robinson at receiver, Tommy Hudson (31 rec, 304 yds, 9.8 YPR) and Marlon Anthony (11 rec, 101 yds, 1 TD, 9.2 YPR) are reliable veteran wideouts, and the duo will be in competition for the starting job at the ‘w’ wide receiver position. Hudson saw his best performances come down the stretch for the Mocs last season, posting six catches for 73 yards in an overtime loss to Wofford, while hauling in four passes for four passes for 80 yards in the regular-season finale win over Elon.
Rounding out the receiving options for UTC will be ‘Y’ wide receiver Tray James (11 rec, 89 yds, 1 TD), as well as the top tight end in the SoCon, in Faysal Shafaat (). Shafaat likely will enter the season as the top receiving option once again for the Mocs, as Chattanooga will have a litany of options in the passing game. Shafaat is not only considered the top receiving option at tight end in the Southern Conference, but also considered one of the top receiving tight ends in all of FCS football heading into the season.
The past few seasons have seen the Mocs suspect on the offensive line, including surrendering 23 sacks last season. This fall, the Mocs return four of five starters to the offensive line, with the strength of the offensive front being Kevin Revis (RG) and Hunter Dockery (RT). Synjen Herren (LG), who is currently recovering from injury, and center Patrick Sutton, who has started every game since walking on to the team three years ago. The lone new starter is at left tackle, where Adam Fuller must be replaced at left tackle. Set to fill that role this fall will be Brandon Morgan, who started four games last season before suffering an injury.
The Chattanooga defense was among the best in the Southern Conference and nation last fall, finishing as the second best outfit in the Southern Conference and the 10th best in the nation (307.9 YPG).
The Mocs have a defensive line which enters the season, with a Buck Buchanan Award favorite, in defensive end Davis Tull (56 tackles, 19.0 TFL, 12.5 sacks, 3 FFs), while defensive tackle Derrick Lott (57 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR).
Tull is a dynamic performer at defensive end, and he heads into the season as arguably the nation’s top pass-rusher. Against the Paladins last season, Tull had a pair of sacks and a forced fumble last season, as he was an overpowering force along the Mocs’ defensive front.
Tull was named as the Southern Conference’s preseason co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Lott, a preseason All-SoCon selection after transferring in from Georgia prior to the 2012 season, posting a 15-tackle performance in the overtime loss to Georgia Southern.
The Mocs’ coaching staff is also extremely high on defensive tackle transfer Chris Mayes from Navy, as the Mocs got even stronger across the defensive front in the off-season. Experienced defensive end Zach Rayl (22 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR), who came to the Scenic City as a linebacker, rounds out the starters along the defensive line for UTC. Toyvian Brand (25 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1 FR), who started every game last season along the defensive front for the Mocs, also returns to provide quality depth at defensive tackle.
Wes Dothard (94 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FFs) headlines an athletic and experienced group of linebackers, which also includes Gunner Miller (45 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 INTs) and Muhasibi Wakeel (12 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 FF), who was the top reserve linebacker among the 2012 contingent. Dothard heads into the season as a candidate to claim the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year accolade, along with being a Buck Buchanan Award candidate. Miller and Dothard had six and five tackles, respectively, in the Mocs’ win at Paladin Stadium last season.
The Mocs also have veteran playmakers returning in the secondary, anchored by Kadeem Wise (55 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FRs), which is the player that made the interception of Cody Worley back in 2010 to help the Mocs preserve the 36-28, come-from-behind, win in Greenville. Wise is a three-time All-SoCon selection and has 10-career INTs.
Sema’je Kendall (21 tackles, 7 PBUs) and Chaz Moore (52 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBUs) will compete to start at the other cornerback position. Moore is a veteran playmaker in the Mocs’ secondary, posting a team-high seven tackles against Furman last season, while Kendall led the UTC secondary with seven pass breakups in 2012.
Rounding out the starters in the Mocs secondary will be D.J. Key (82 tackles, 2 INTs, 4 PBUs, 0.5 sack) and Zach McCarter (31 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 FR, 1 blkd kick). McCarter is the lone new starter in the secondary, replacing Chris Lewis-Harris, who has graduated. Key is a physical performer in the Mocs secondary and he is good in coverage and in coming up and making plays against the run.
The kicking game has been a constant problem for the Mocs during Huesman’s tenure, and few will forget the games that special teams have played a big role in for UTC, including the 2010 opener against Appalachian State and the 2011 regular season clash against The Citadel. Nick Pollard is an all-conference talent at punter (41.5 YPP/21st in FCS) and placekicker (9-of-15 on FGs/28-of-30 on PATs).
The Mocs are a team, that on paper, should be in line to win their fifth Southern Conference title, which would be the program’s first league crown in nearly three decades, and make the program’s second playoff appearance, and first postseason appearance in 27 years.