For a defensive-minded coach, the words probably tasted like acid coming out of his mouth.
In the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team's 31-21 season-opening loss to UT-Martin at Finley Stadium on Thursday, coach Russ Huesman said, the Mocs "missed 36 tackles."
UT-Martin running backs, receivers and quarterbacks all shed would-be tacklers as the Skyhawks piled up 451 yards of offense.
"Thirty-six is mind-boggling, absolutely mind-boggling," Huesman said Saturday. "Thirty-six is probably the most I've ever seen in my entire life -- from a good football team. I've seen some bad football teams with 36 missed tackles."
The Mocs were playing with an injury-depleted defense that was missing three starters -- safeties D.J. Key and Zach McCarter and defensive end Toyvian Brand -- and Huesman said the coaches didn't do a very good job of substituting at numerous positions. And tired players make for poor tacklers.
"We didn't substitute enough, and I think it came back and bit us," Huesman said. "That's on me and the coaches. We'll fix that. We're not going to be dead in the fourth quarter."
According to the game book, UTC played just 38 players; the Skyhawks played 51.
Linebacker was one position where Huesman said he wished the Mocs had substituted more, giving seniors Wes Dothard and Gunner Miller some breathers early in the game and getting Muhasibi Wakeel and A.J. Hampton more playing time.
"It's hard to take an All-American [Dothard] off the field; it's hard to take a four-year starter [Miller] off the field," Huesman said. "But looking back at it, we should have."
In the secondary there weren't a lot of players left on the bench because of injuries. Redshirt freshman cornerback Dee Virgin and senior safety C.J. Murell made their first career starts, but Murrell left with an ankle sprain and did not return. Along with Key [foot] and McCarter [knee], UTC was without cornerback Will Johnson, a redshirt freshman who was having a very good preseason before suffering a shoulder injury that will keep him out a game or two.
Huesman said he thought the Mocs should have Key and McCarter back for Saturday's game against Georgia State in the Georgia Dome. McCarter went through a little more than half of preseason, while Key, the two-time All-Southern Conference strong safety, participated in part of one practice.
Brand, who took over at the right defensive end spot after Zach Rayl suffered a season-ending knee injury, did not play due to an ankle injury. Huesman said he wasn't sure of Brand's status for Georgia State.
Huesman said after the opener that wide receiver Terrell Robinson didn't play against UT-Martin because of an injured hamstring, though he was available in an emergency. Robinson should be available against the Panthers, he said Saturday.
Twelve true and redshirt freshmen played for UTC in the opener; four started. Starting left tackle Corey Levin, a redshirt freshman, was the best of the bunch, Huesman said.
"Corey Levin was the offensive player of the week. He played really, really well," Huesman said. "The rest of the guys looked like freshmen. Nothing against them, but they all looked like freshmen."
The Mocs were off Saturday and will resume practice this afternoon. ... Georgia State, which is now a member of the Bowl Subdivision Sun Belt Conference, opened its season Friday night with a 31-21 loss to Samford.
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 ...