University of Tennessee at Chattanooga linebacker Muhasibi Wakeel had a total of 12 tackles as a redshirt sophomore last season. The year before, he made 13.
In Saturday's 28-24 come-from-behind Mocs win over The Citadel at Finley Stadium, the junior from Decatur, Ga., was in on 17 tackles. Only five were solo stops, which means he was part of the pile over and over again.
Mocs coach Russ Huesman wasn't surprised.
"That position gets them all the time," Huesman said Sunday. "I told him during the week, I said, 'Mu, you're going to have 15 tackles in this game.' He said, 'I hope so.'"
That position was Sam linebacker. The Mocs (6-2, 4-1 Southern Conference) have spent most of the season with five defensive backs on the field, but against The Citadel (2-6, 2-4) and its triple-option attack, UTC switched things up and returned to its traditional 4-3 defense.
Linebacker Gunner Miller moved from Sam to Will, Wakeel played Sam and Wes Dothard stayed at Mike. Meanwhile, Chaz Moore played a regular cornerback spot, instead of playing up like an outside linebacker, and Dee Virgin came out -- at least until Moore left the game with concussion-like symptoms.
"I just thought with Mu at Sam and Gunner at the Will, I thought it gave us a better chance," Huesman said. "A little less speed, but I thought we'd be a little bit more physical."
Miller suffered a left hand injury during the game and played through it as well as he could, sometimes giving way to Nakevion Leslie. UTC also lost starting defensive end Toyvian Brand (stinger) late in the game.
With so much going against it, Wakeel said, being part of a defense that held together and held the Bulldogs to only 27 yards in the fourth quarter was pretty special.
"All that adversity we went through, and being down 17-7 at the half, and just coming back to win the game -- I was just proud of everybody," said Wakeel, who now has 40 tackles this season.
Asked about his own play in far-and-away the best game of his career, Wakeel instead focused on those around him.
"I was just trying to give it all for the team, to be honest with you," he said. "We've been through so much as a unit, so many guys going down, that we just came together at the right time and the right moment."
Wakeel wasn't the only UTC player to have a breakout performance in a critical win, one that keeps the Mocs a game behind Samford (6-2, 4-0) and tied with Wofford (5-3, 4-1) in the SoCon standings.
Wide receiver C.J. Board caught a combined seven passes in UTC's first two games, then had a total of two grabs (all against Georgia Southern) during the next five. Against The Citadel he had career highs with five catches for 59 yards.
Defensive end Keionta Davis didn't have a sack and hadn't seen much playing time before Saturday. But called on for The Citadel's final drive, he had 1.5 sacks to help UTC seal the win.
"We had a bunch of guys that laid it all out there," Huesman said.
Huesman said running back Keon Williams has a sprained ankle and his status for this week's game at Appalachian State is unknown. He said Williams had not been ruled out for the game. ... Cornerback Chaz Moore (concussion) should be cleared to play, while wideout Tommy Hudson (concussion) is questionable. ... Huesman said Miller (hand) will likely play.
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 ...
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