The Citadel did to Appalachian State last Saturday what the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Mocs dream of doing.
In a crushing 52-28 victory over the Mountaineers, the Bulldogs rolled up a whopping 618 yards of total offense and App State coach Jerry Moore said about half that total came on “big plays” of 20-yards or more.
So, the Mountaineers don’t want to suffer the same fate against UTC on Saturday at Finley Stadium.
On the other hand, UTC coach Russ Huesman said the Mocs aren’t getting enough big plays to beat the top-tier teams in the Southern Conference, or anywhere else.
So, Huesman hopes to see a few of those 20-plus yard plays as the Mocs celebrate homecoming against the Mountaineers. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
“We gave up a lot of big plays,” Moore said in rehashing the Citadel loss. “There’s close to 360 or 370 yards just in big plays. It was (due to) their preparation and our lack of that probably.”
As an example to back up Moore’s assessment, the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week was Citadel quarterback Ben Dupree, who rushed for a career-high 180 yards on 20 carries and scored touchdowns on runs 57 and 46 yards. He was 2 for 4 passing for 56 yards, giving him 236 total yards. Aaron Miller completed both of his passes for 99 yards.
For the game, Citadel rushed for 463 yards and had three runners with at least 100 yards.
“We had a lot of missed assignments and a lot of confusion and that leads to (big plays),” said Moore, who is 208-85 with three national championships in 24 years at Appalachian State. “At first I thought there was a ton of missed tackles. There were plays they had people untouched and it was more of an assignment thing as much as missed tackles.”
Huesman, meanwhile, says the Mocs continue working on making big plays a part of their offensive attack. UTC had a few big plays in a 35-0 win over an inferior Glenville State last week, but the head man is disappointed in those numbers.
“We beat Glenville State three-to-nothing in the big-play battle – 20 yards or more – and that’s not near enough,” Huesman said. “We have to get more explosive plays out of this offense.
“We have some kids who can make plays, who can run and stretch the field. We’ll continue to look into that. Terrell (Robinson) is a big-play matter where he goes. We’ve got to keep finding ways to get him the ball.”
Another troublesome sore spot for Huesman is the team’s point production compared to its offensive output.
In the past two games, UTC has gained 410 and 477 total yards and scored 24 and 35 points against Jacksonville State and Glenville.
Against Glenville, UTC scored 21 first-quarter points and 14 over the next three quarters. Of the Mocs’ five touchdown plays, one was a “big play,” that being a 44-yard pass play from Jacob Huesman to Robinson in the first quarter.
In the Jacksonville State game, the Mocs’ longest scoring play was Huesman’s 16-yard pass to Ron Moore.
“If you’re putting up those types of numbers (yardage), you’ve got to get more points,” Russ Huesman said. “We got it down there in the red zone twice against Jacksonville State, maybe even more than that. One time we fumble it, another time we miss a field goal. That’s two opportunities for more points. We should have scored more against Glenville and left them out there (on the field).
“We have to score more points with the yards we’re putting up, no question about it.”
And Huesman wants to see more quick-strike scoring drives for obvious reasons.
“We can’t just say we’re going 12 plays, 14 plays and 75 yards every time,” he said. “Odds of you scoring aren’t good. If you have three plays, 60 yards, five plays 75 yards, you’ve got to have big plays in there. If you’re just grinding it, eventually you’re going to make mistakes. Then you don’t have points.”
Dupree wasn’t the only Citadel player breaking long gainers against the Mountaineers.
Darien Robinson had a 45-yard scoring run. Rickey Anderson broke a 29-yard gainer. Receiver Matt Thompson caught three passes for 123 yards – an impressive average of 41 yards – and had one 53-yarder. Dominic Jones’ one reception went for 32 yards.
“This is awful to say, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort,” Moore said. “We played pretty hard, but just made a lot of mistakes.”
Just like Citadel took some shots downfield against App State, Huesman said the Mocs have tried to do the same thing, just with much less success than the Bulldogs enjoyed last weekend.
“We’ve tried to take some shots,” he said. “We had one (play) open and Terrell got hit when he threw the ball, it kind of fluttered out there and came up short. We have to make someone miss in the open field to make a big play. I don’t know if we’ve done that like we should.”
While the Mocs are coming off a big win, Moore said the Mountaineers are trying to rebound from the drubbing they took on Saturday.
“The mood is fine,” he said. “I think we’ve got a fine football team and those things happen to you in sports. How you bounce back determines what kind of team you are and what kind of players you have.
“You try to think about the right things to say and right things to do. Somewhere in the mix you find the answers. The answers come between the staff and players and hope that you prepare well for the next ballgame. That’s kind of where we are.”
The Mountaineers’ lopsided loss hasn’t changed Huesman’s perception of his next opponent, one that has beaten the Mocs seven consecutive times.
“We know we’re playing a good football team,” he said. “I guarantee you they’re working hard this week. They’re correcting mistakes. … I don’t think anybody’s saying, well, 52-28, they’re no good. I don’t sense that in our football team. I think they respect App and know we’re fixing to play a good team.”
And Moore continued his yearly praise of the Mocs’ improvement.
“I’ve said this the last couple of years,” he said. “They’re probably the most improved football team in our league. I certainly haven’t changed my mind about that. We have great respect for them and should be a game just like about all the rest of them – a real tough, tight ballgame.”
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)