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Defense Setting the Tone for Mocs

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Notably, the start to this spring has been a continuation from last fall for the Mocs defensively.

In Saturday's triumph over nationally-ranked Wofford, the Chattanooga defense looked like one of the best in the country. The Mocs held the Terriers to less than 200 yards of total offense, including only 128 after Wofford's first drive of the game. After giving up an opening touchdown on a 12-play, 71-yard march, the Mocs promptly gave up nothing but field goals the rest of the game. Chattanooga limited the Terriers to just 3.8 yards per rush and 3.4 yards per pass, forcing two fumbles and an interception.

The end result was an impressive 24-13 win for the Mocs, one that reshapes the Southern Conference standings.

Led by Kam Jones with ten total tackles, Brandon Dowdell with seven stops, a tackle for loss and interception and Devonshaa Maxwell with three TFLs, two sacks and a forced fumble, Chattanooga prevented Wofford from settling into an offensive rhythm. Production whatsoever, for the Terriers, was very hard to come by. In fact, the Mocs allowed just four plays of ten yards or more all game. The Chattanooga defensive front set the tone early, often and controlled the afternoon.

Notably, the start to this spring has been a continuation from last fall for the Mocs defensively.

In a near upset of FBS Western Kentucky, Chattanooga held the Hilltoppers to only 13 points last October. The Mocs led 13-6 late in the fourth quarter in that contest, not surrenduring a touchdown until 1:21 to play. Facing a team who scored 21 points against ACC foe Louisville and 24 versus nationally-ranked Liberty, Chattanooga totaled ten tackles for loss and gave up just 13 first downs. Similarly, the Mocs limited WKU to just 3.7 yards per rush and 5.3 yards per pass. The Hilltoppers had more punting yards than rushing or passing production.

Over its last two outings, one from the fall against an FBS opponent and now one from the spring against the nationally-ranked pre-season SoCon favorites, Chattanooga has given up combined totals of just 26 points and 453 yards.

Veteran defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has the Mocs playing as well as any group in college football. A former interim head coach at Louisville, defensive coordinator at Fresno State and South Carolina and assistant at Arkansas, Virginia Tech and in the NFL, Ward, previously with Chattanooga in the mid 1990s, has done great work with the Mocs once again. The former Alabama star and well-respected coach currently has Chattanooga ranked in the top five nationally in total defense.

Ward, correspondingly, also has the Mocs positioned for a run.

Head coach Rusty Wright and Chattanooga have a really good team. An upcoming three-game stretch against The Citadel, Furman and Mercer, with two of those contests coming on the road, will be a definite challenge for the Mocs, though one that also comes with great opportunity. The victory over Wofford has UTC immediately positioned as one of the leading names, frontrunners even, in the SoCon. Momentum firmly in place, more potentially awaits.

A premier defense now leads Chattanooga into the month of March. It has also helped lead the Mocs back into contention.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports