The last time starting quarterback Cole Copeland took snaps against ETSU in east Tennessee’s biggest rivalry, the weather was miserable, windy and cold. The score was a fittingly tepid 10-3, with UTC coming away with their third win in a rough 2017 season. Copeland, then a freshman filling in for Nick Tiano, is now a fifth-year senior and ready to help the Mocs rebound from last week’s disappointing overtime loss to VMI.
“I threw one little out route and the ball was going everywhere,” Copeland said about the 2017 game.
“It was a good win though. Every time ETSU and Chattanooga play, we know it’s going to be a physical game and we know what we’re going to get ourselves into.”
The Mocs probably won’t be asking Copeland to throw 40 times against the Buccaneers though, as they boast two of the best runners in the conference. Their “lead” halfback Ailym Ford rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns against VMI last week. He has 494 yards on the season and five scores on the ground.
Fortunately for Chattanooga, there is an argument to be made that the explosive Ford isn’t the clear-cut best option at running back. Super-senior Tyrell Price has run for 354 yards on the year and has four scores. He actually outrushed Ford 122-118 last week and also had two touchdowns of his own. Both backs have their own distinct strengths and coach Rusty Wright and the staff have the luxury of figuring out how to best utilize their skill sets.
“Both of those guys do things a little differently, and set up things differently,” coach Wright said. “That’s one thing we’re starting to figure out: if one of them hasn’t gotten something going, then you have to change up how we’re doing things to get them going.”
The Mocs will also lean on the pass-rushing skills of Devonnsha Maxwell, who has four sacks this season. Despite facing a steady array of double teams, Maxwell says maintaining a high level of intensity snap after snap is “second-nature” to the junior from Valdosta.
“It’s hard, but I’ve been doing it since I was ten years old. It’s now second nature to me,” Maxwell said. “It can be hard though. Sometimes it is hard (to be double-teamed), but I see it as respect. Once you beat one guy, you have to expect another guy to be there.”
ETSU, who shocked the college football world by defeating a SEC team in Vanderbilt during week one. Even though the Commodores are more well-known as a baseball power than for their football prowess, it was still an example of a FCS school taking down a FBS program in convincing (23-3) fashion.
“It’s a pretty big rivalry,” Maxwell said of the upcoming game. “ETSU is a pretty good team and they have our respect and we have their respect, and it wasn’t a surprise when they beat Vanderbilt.”