Photo by Stephanie Swart
By Parris Clarke, Assistant Sports Editor-
The novel spring football season is officially underway for UTC, as they’re coming off a momentous upset victory against the, then ranked, No. 11 Wofford Terriers.
This win checked multiple boxes for second-year head coach Rusty Wright. It’s the first time Wright has beaten a ranked opponent — he was previously 0-3 against ranked teams. Also, the Mocs have vaulted themselves into a ranked position. They now sit at No. 18 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25. It’s the first time Wright has commanded a ranked team.
The Mocs can’t bask in their accomplishments for too long. Saturday, they visit Charleston, South Carolina to face off against the Citadel Bulldogs who are hungry for a win.
Like UTC, the Citadel was one of the few teams to play during the fall. However, unlike UTC who played only one game, the Citadel played a five-game fall slate, which included a game against College Football Playoff finalist Clemson.
The Citadel went 0-5 during the fall and lost last week to Mercer in their first spring contest 42-28. Needless to say, the Citadel wants a win as bad as anyone.
The Citadel quarterback, Jaylan Adams, should be a major point of emphasis for the Mocs this week, but not because of his arms, because of his legs. Adams ran the ball 27 times for 144 of the Citadel’s 338 rushing yards, including a touchdown on the ground to top things off.
A key to stopping this dynamic running game for UTC will be to get pressure early and often. Luckily for them, the defensive line looks up to the challenge. Junior defensive lineman Devonnsha Maxwell was named as a National Player of the Week honorable mention for his performance against Wofford. Maxwell notched two sacks, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble for the Mocs. Pressure like this will be crucial for UTC’s success.
Offensively, UTC will need to attack the Citadel in the passing game. Against Mercer, the Citadel gave up 200 yards and three touchdowns through the air. This will be a test for quarterback Drayton Arnold, who will be making only his third start Saturday. Arnold played a solid game against Wofford, but wasn’t asked to do too much. He was a game manager for the most part, which deserves credit, seeing as UTC earned a win. This week, he’ll have to air it out against the Citadel if the Mocs want a chance to win.
Another thing to expect this weekend is the unexpected. Both coaches in the last week harped on the fact during the COVID-19 era of football the unpredictability factor is very high.
“COVID football,” Citadel head coach Brent Thompson said. “Anything can happen.”
Harping on the pandemic aspect of things may seem like beating a dead horse at this point, but the ramifications can’t be overstated. The uncertainty of things has left coaches wondering what the makeup of their team is even up until the day of the game.
“I didn’t know if we could tackle anybody honestly, because we haven’t done it very much,” Wright said.
When the Mocs take the field at 1 p.m. from Johnson Hagood Memorial Stadium it’s best to be prepared for anything. Because as Thompson said, it’s COVID-19 football. Anything can happen.