LINCOLN, Neb. -- When fullback Taharin Tyson took a handoff on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's first offensive play Saturday against Nebraska -- a simple belly run that resulted in a 4-yard gain for the true freshman -- offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield showed he was a man of his word.
While recruiting Tyson, a two-star prospect out of Alcoa High School, Satterfield told him that if he signed with the Mocs and proved to be the player UTC thought he could be, Tyson would get the ball on the first play of UTC's season opener at Memorial Stadium.
"He had to come in and prove that he is who we thought he was," Satterfield said following No. 10 Nebraska's 40-7 win.
It was a playful proposal between two guys with playful personalities, and it worked. Tyson ran a similar play on UTC's second drive that went for 8 yards, and he finished with 15 yards on four carries in his collegiate debut.
"It was nice to get [that first carry] out of my system," Tyson said. "I got it out and I feel like I played a decent game."
Satterfield said he expected the first play to be a good one because it always worked in the preseason.
"As bad we were [offensively] during camp, he was our one bright spot -- the fullback belly play," Satterfield said.
Busy UTC backs
Mocs running backs J.J. Jackson, Chris Awuah and Marquis Green netted only a combined 65 yards on 21 carries Saturday, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
Awuah was held to 13 yards on 10 carries, but he also had four receptions for 43 yards. Plus, his 115 kickoff return yards gave him a game-high 171 all-purpose yards.
True freshman Marquis Green made a big splash in his first game. He led the Mocs with 37 yards rushing on seven carries and had three catches for 8 yards. His only miscue was a kickoff that kept slipping through his hands and resulted in a UTC first down at its 3-yard line.
"He turned some heads," Satterfield said.
Jackson, before he left the game in the first half with a high ankle sprain, had five carries for 15 yards and a 4-yard reception.
First time out
Tyson was one of 18 freshmen playing for UTC on Saturday, including kicker Nick Pollard. He played in last season's opener before taking a medical redshirt.
Other redshirt freshmen who started were left tackle Taylor Dodds, center Patrick Sutton, tight end Faysal Shafaat, defensive end Davis Tull and defensive tackle Keyon Reed. Tyson was the only true freshman to start. There were six freshmen and six seniors among UTC's offensive and defensive starters.
Far from Finley
UTC football teams don't travel a long way from home very often. In fact, the Mocs' journey to Lincoln was the third-longest trip in school history.
According to Google Maps, the distance from Chattanooga to Lincoln is 885 miles. The only longer trips were, in fact, much longer trips. In 1996 UTC played Colorado State in Fort Collins, a trip of 1,342 miles. By many, many miles the longest trip in UTC history was to Boise State, which the Mocs beat in 1992. Google has that trip at 2,058 miles each way.
Nebraska's 1971 national championship team, led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, was honored at halftime. ... The first offensive plays for both teams were fullback runs. ... Mike Hammons averaged 44.2 yards on his eight punts, and Pollard had a 37-yard field-goal attempt blocked.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...