Throughout spring football practice, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's running game showed much improvement. There were holes to run through and the backs were getting through them for quality gains.
The running game continued to be effective during Saturday's Blue & Gold spring game at Finley Stadium, and the threat of the run paid off in the play-action passing game. Tight end Faysal Shafaat's two touchdown catches, the second a 13-yard score that put the Blue team up 33-29, both came on routes across the middle after play-action by quarterback Jacob Huesman.
"They get so caught up in [outside and inside run plays] that it opens up nicely for me," said Shafaat, who had five catches for 51 yards. "Jacob did a nice job hitting me both times."
The backs also made things happen with the ball in their hands, and nobody had a better day than offensive MVP Tolerance Shepherd. The freshman rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and turned a screen pass into a 75-yard touchdown.
Four running backs also combined for four catches and 117 receiving yards.
Mocs coach Russ Huesman said he wasn't too happy with how the defense performed, but the offense deserved plenty of credit for making plays.
"I'm not going to take anything away from the offense today," he said. "They executed really well; they ran hard; they caught the ball."
Jacob Huesman and Terrell Robinson took turns running the Blue and White offenses. Jacob completed 20 of 26 passes for 370 yards, with four touchdowns. He and Robinson connected for 21 yards on the first play and for 43 yards later in the game.
Robinson had a 70-yard touchdown run for the Blue, which led 19-0 before the White rallied for a 36-33 win. He also went 9-for-17 passing for 96 yards, with a 23-yard touchdown throw to Eric Foster.
In an action-packed game, the offense made most of the big plays -- but not all. Here are a few memorable moments:
• After a 53-yard Nick Pollard punt was downed at the White 1-yard line, running back Kenny Huitt was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
• Cornerback Will Johnson provided the defense with its best play when he jumped in front of a Robinson pass and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown.
• Robinson had the longest run of the day on a 70-yard touchdown, though the defense argued that the redshirted quarterback, who can't be hit, was touched down on the play.
• Shepherd had to think a moment when asked about which of his big gains was the best. He picked the 75-yard screen pass for a touchdown over the 57-yard run.
• On the final play of the game, Jacob Huesman hit walk-on wideout Riley Davis for a 39-yard touchdown down the middle to give the White team the win.
On the sideline
Many of the Mocs played little or not at all, either because of injury or the coaches wanted to sit the veterans so younger players could get more game-type work. Among the hurt players was defensive end Vantrell McMillan, who suffered a right knee injury Wednesday during UTC's final practice of the spring.
McMillan, a freshman who redshirted last fall, said he hurt the knee when he pulled up to avoid hitting Jacob Huesman. The extent of the injury is still not known.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
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 ...