The plan was to not let All-America defensive end Davis Tull and the rest of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's talented defensive front set up camp in the UT-Martin backfield.
The plan, Skyhawks coach Jason Simpson said after UTM's 31-21 win over the No. 25 Mocs Thursday night at Finley Stadium, was to be patient. It was a well-conceived and well-executed plan.
"I had told myself, we're not going to lose this game by giving up sacks," Simpson said. "I wasn't going to let Tull beat us."
Allowing sacks isn't normally a problem for UT-Martin, which gave up just 12 in 2012 -- a season in which the Skyhawks attempted 418 passes. Thursday night, Tull had one sack for a 10-yard loss, but otherwise, like the rest of the Mocs' front line, he wasn't dominating.
UTC's defense, which was playing with three first-time starters due to injuries, was solid for much of the first half. The Skyhawks were able to move the ball on their first possession, gaining 100 total yards on a drive that was marred by holding penalties and ended with Mocs redshirt freshman cornerback Dee Virgin recovering a fumble.
The Skyhawks lost 14 yards on their next drive and didn't have any significant success until the Mocs' first big mistake on offense.
"It was scoreless for a while, but I felt like once the first team scored, they were going to get the momentum," said Mocs senior defensive tackle Derrick Lott, who finished with eight tackles.
UT-Martin was the first team to score, taking advantage of a Jacob Huesman interception -- tight end Faysal Shafaat got a hand on the ball -- with a 5-yard touchdown drive late in the first half for a 7-0 lead. The Skyhawks finished with 451 yards and overcame nine penalties for 105 yards.
The Mocs appeared physically outmanned at numerous positions on both sides of the ball. UTC's offensive line struggled to hold off the Skyhawks' rush, which produced three sacks.
"I was probably holding on to the ball too long and some of the routes were taking a little bit longer to develop," said Huesman, who finished 17-for-30 for 226 yards, with three touchdown passes and the interception. "Their linebackers, credit to them, they were flowing the whole game and making all the plays. They did a phenomenal job on defense.
"We should be able to compete with something like that. We looked a little lost today, I thought."
In his postgame news conference, Mocs coach Russ Huesman said again and again that UTC's staff did a poor job, that it didn't "coach 'em up" enough leading up to the game.
"To get physically manhandled by those guys, not good, and also to get outcoached, that's [on] me," Huesman said.
The Mocs' offense picked things up in the second half, gaining 234 of its 368 yards in the final two quarters, but defensively things got worse. Coach Huesman said UTC didn't make enough adjustments, or make them quickly enough, in the second half.
At least two Mocs took to Twitter late Thursday night or Friday morning to apologize for the team's performance. Senior linebacker Gunner Miller, a team captain, wrote simply: "Sorry Chattanooga." Junior center Patrick Sutton wrote: "Id [sic] like to apologize to anyone who watched last night. We are about to go back to work & turn it around."
The Mocs had meetings Friday and are off today. They will try again for their first win next Saturday at Georgia State.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him 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 ...