Auburn ranked third

By Brad Bacon

Bradley-Bacon@mocs.utc.edu

AUBURN, Ala. (UTC/AP) — It was the ultimate call-out for an offensive lineman.

No. 3 Auburn coach Gene Chizik told his most experienced group three weeks into the season they weren’t being physical enough. He hasn’t had to repeat that message.

The Tigers’ offensive line has bullied opposing defenses ever since, helping spearhead one of the nation’s top rushing attacks and string together 300-yard games against Southeastern Conference defenses.

“It was one of those things where we were being physical, but it was just he wasn’t seeing enough of it,” guard Mike Berry said. “He knew we had the potential to be one of the best offensive lines out there. He just called us out that we had the potential to be even greater. We stepped up to the challenge and put it on our backs.”

The Tigers (9-0, 6-0 SEC) are averaging 352 yards rushing with 18 touchdowns on the ground over their last five games against league teams going into Saturday’s game with Chattanooga. The lowest output: 311 yards at Kentucky.

The highest: 440 against LSU, which has the SEC’s top defense. The Tigers are running for 307.7 yards a game and no SEC team has averaged 300-plus since the 1985 Auburn team led by Bo Jackson.

Consider Chizik pleased.

“I don’t think there’s any question in my mind: everything has started with the offensive line playing much better than they did earlier in the year,” he said. “That’s what makes it go.”

It’s not just lip service paid to the guys who do the dirty work but get little of the attention, either. Auburn has four senior starters on the offensive line with a collective 145 career starts.

And the Tigers kept up the success against Mississippi when Newton mostly handed off to tailbacks Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb instead of trying to break free for his own yards. Dyer wound up with 180 yards and McCalebb had 99.

“The last three or four weeks, it’s been quarterback runs,” Chizik said. “Well, they took away the quarterback runs and now it became a tailback running game. I think the stabilizing force in there is not necessarily the quarterbacks or the tailbacks. It’s got to go back to the offensive line. I think it all starts with the offensive line.

“It’s been a great thing to watch the improvement of those guys over the last month.”

Chizik’s next talk to the linemen came in a meeting after the LSU game, but this time he came in praise. And Ziemba said that meant a lot because “he doesn’t toss around compliments very often.”

“We like to be appreciated for what we do,” Ziemba said. “Every day I turn on ESPN and see Cam making a huge run or throwing the football well, or somebody else doing some good things, that’s appreciation in itself.”

Besides, he can borrow one of coach Jeff Grimes’ lines: “Little guys follow the big guys.”

The line’s only open spot entering the season was right tackle. A.J. Greene won the job but was injured against Clemson in Game 3, and junior college transfer Brandon Mosley has started since then.

The 6-foot-8, 319-pound Ziemba assured that the line would be one of the team’s strengths when he bypassed the NFL draft to return for his senior season.

But many of Auburn’s best runs have come behind center Ryan Pugh and guards Berry and Byron Isom, who are often called upon to do their version of a sprint downfield to take on a linebacker.

“It’s one of those things you’ve got to get on your horse,” Berry said. “Pulling 300 around isn’t an easy task. And you know (offensive coordinator Gus) Malzahn isn’t afraid to run the same play again. So you’ve got to be conditioned when your number is called.”

Defensive tackle Zach Clayton enjoys watching it happen.

“It’s always fun to see Mike Berry just pull around and cream somebody,” Clayton said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Struggling Vanderbilt still in SEC East race

By Jonathan Higdon
jonathan-higdon@mocs.utc.edu

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UTC/AP) — Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell is wearing all black and jokes he’s in mourning.

That likely is the best reaction to his Commodores coming off their highest scoring game since 1999 only to be shut out for the first time since 2003.

Yet the Commodores (2-4, 1-2) still control their own fate in the Southeastern Conference despite their 43-0 loss at Georgia. If the Commodores can bounce back Saturday night against No. 19 South Carolina, they would sit atop the Eastern Division.

“It’s in our hands,” Caldwell said Monday. “There’s not a team on our schedule that we can’t beat, and there’s not a team on our schedule that can’t beat us. That’s exactly what I’ve told them, and how it’s up to us to step up and take the fight to them.”

First, Caldwell must get his offense working again, which won’t be easy.

The Commodores managed a measly 140 yards of offense by Georgia. They hadn’t been shut out since a 48-0 loss to Tennessee back in 2003, and all that came after a 52-6 win over Eastern Michigan that had been Vanderbilt’s biggest scoring win since 1999.

They got across midfield just twice against Georgia, the first on the opening drive and reaching the Bulldogs 37. Caldwell said he was informed they faced fourth-and-4 instead of fourth-and-2. He decided to punt only to see a touchback, and he said Monday he would have gone for first down had he known what the yardage actually was.

“I was mistaken. My fault,” Caldwell said.

The second trip across midfield didn’t come until the fourth quarter when Jared Funk replaced Larry Smith and faced Georgia’s third-string defense.

Vanderbilt also had two turnovers and gave up a safety on a bad snap by fifth-year senior center Joey Bailey that ended one drive in the second quarter on the first play. The Commodores finished with 48 yards rushing, their fewest since managing 33 last season against Mississippi State.

“Physically up front, we got manhandled,” Caldwell said. “We could not run the ball in the middle. We need to be able to do that to set up some perimeter runs. We ran the option pretty good. We got a little outphysicaled there too at wideout, having to make blocks.”

The Commodores did have some luck. Replay reversed a fumble returned for a touchdown into a dropped pass by Mason Johnson, which would have given the Commodores a first down in the first quarter if he had held onto the ball.

As a result, Vanderbilt now ranks 102nd out of 120 FBS teams on offense with 315.2 yards per game. Caldwell said his offense has to help the defense when asked how the defense needs to improve.

“First of all, we’ve got to help them offensively. Leaving them on the field, got to give them the spark of hope. This is a team thing …. We never gave the defense a spark, a hope, sustain a drive go down and score some points,” Caldwell said.

It may not get much better against South Carolina.

Bailey likely won’t play Saturday night with a high ankle sprain, meaning Caldwell has to choose between a pair of freshmen — either Logan Stewart or James Kittredge — to start at center.

“Hopefully, we’ll get the ship steered in the right direction, bounce back this week,” Caldwell said. “That’s our objective. Started on it (Sunday) and had a good day of practice and try to get everybody’s wounds healed, licked and ready to go.”

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Flag Football at Chattanooga Sports Complex

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/The Loop) — Ever wanted to play football indoors like the pros? How about play football after January? The Chattanooga Sports Complex located in Hixson, Tennessee now offers you the opportunity to do both.

Chattanooga Sports Complex, known primarily for their indoor soccer leagues for all ages, also offers youth lacrosse leagues, and now a five on five, no contact, indoor flag football league for adults. The league is split up into two divisions, the A Division for teams that are experienced at flag football, and the B Division for teams new to the league or the rules of flag football.

The complex has five seasons per year, and just weeks in between the end of one season, and the start of the next. The current season is underway and is in week four. Each season consists of eight regular season and at least one single elimination playoff game to determine a league champions. Teams must have at least five players on their roster, and as many as ten, and must collectively play a $475 fee to compete in the league.

“It’s a financial commitment,” says Carlos Sanchez, of team Invictus, “But it’s worth it.”

Invictus is in their initial season in the league so they have been assigned to the B Division, but they hope to qualify for the A Division by next season.  ”It has taken us a few weeks to get all the rules down, but we are definitely improving each week.”

In addition to the 60 by 30 yard synthetic turf field, the facility also features a seating for about 200 spectators, a concession area and free wireless internet. Robby Miller, also a member of Invictus said, “The facility is great. It’s great to play indoors and not have to worry about the light or weather.”

Games are played every Friday night beginning with the first game at 6:20, and last until the end of the final game which starts at 10:20. Games are also occasionally played on Tuesday nights. Referees and flags are provided by the league, but teams are required to provide their own uniforms, which are only required to be shirts of the same (or similar) color.

For more information about the league, flag football rules, and more visit www.chattsports.com.

Mocs Healy Happy to be Home

By Andrew D. Holt (UTC/The Loop)—

When Will Healy walked off the Finley Stadium field after his Richmond Spiders won the FCS championship last December, he had a feeling he would be back — and soon.

 For Healy, the past eight months have been an exciting, yet busy time. A time that included his Richmond Spiders winning their first ever national championship was made even sweeter a few days later as he landed his first college coaching job at UTC. “It’s been pretty remarkable,” said Healy, a 2003 Boyd Buchanan graduate. “Winning the national championship in my hometown, in front of my family and friends, it was just a storybook ending.”

To say that Healy, a Chattanooga native, has football in his blood is an understatement. In fact, his family history, as it relates to football, resembles the lineage of two current NFL quarterbacks with the last name Manning. Both Healy’s father and uncle played major college football in addition to his grandfather, who was an All-American offensive lineman at Georgia Tech. As a 2008 graduate of the University of Richmond and former member of the football team, Healy is merely keeping the family tradition alive — only this time he’s taking it one step further as a coach.

The national championship marked the end of Healy’s playing days but he had a feeling, or at least hoped his career with football wasn’t completely over. Less than a week after UTC announced the hiring of former Richmond defensive coordinator Russ Huesman as its 22nd head football coach, Huesman called Healy and offered him a position on his coaching staff. “[Huesman] told me he wanted me on board, and it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down,” Healy recalled.

Healy’s title is offensive assistant, but he maintains that he’ll spend most of his time with the quarterbacks, fitting for a player who played the position from middle school all the way through college. Whatever his title, he’s just glad to have the opportunity to jump right into coaching straight out of college without having to work as graduate assistant, which is the more conventional route.

But the lure of home and the UTC job was too much for him to pass up. “What was so appealing about this was to be able to have some input in what goes on offensively,” he offered.

Because he was hired just a few weeks before high school players can sign their national letters of intent, Healy spent much of his first month working the phones and evaluating film of potential prospects, something he admittedly enjoys. “The recruiting aspect is something that’s really exciting to me,” said Healy, the youngest member of the new football staff. “It’s an interesting thing to view from the coaching side. I like building those relationships.”

At just 24 years old, Healy knows his age might be a bit of an obstacle to overcome, but he considers it something he can turn into a positive. “I’m barely removed from the situation,” he said. “So I know what they’re going through when they have to get up early and go run outside in the freezing cold.” As a first-year coach, Healy recognizes it will take him some time to develop his own style of coaching but insisted much of his philosophy will be centered upon strong relationships with his players, something he valued as a former player. “I think it’s really important for these guys to realize that I care about them, and that I want them to do well,” he said. He said his goal is to teach as much as possible, while learning at the same time, because even by his own admission, he doesn’t know it all.

Healy knows what it takes to rebuild a losing program. It was just three years ago when the University of Richmond president sought to eliminate scholarship football because of the school’s struggles to field a competitive team. “I want to try and bring some of those same philosophies that made us so successful at Richmond here to UTC,” he said.

It’s a bit cliché to say that it will take a lot of hard work to turn around a program that’s been mired by failure as much as UTC has in the last several years, but it is the truth says Healy. “We have to help these players understand what it takes to be successful,” he said. “It’s a mentality, whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field, whatever opportunities these guys have, they have to give 110 percent.”

Even with the past lack of success, Healy believes there are still a lot of good things to sell at UTC and that it’s just a matter of putting a winning product on the field. “I believe in what Coach Huesman’s trying to do and I believe in what these other coaches are teaching,” he said. “And I couldn’t be happier to be back home to help turn this thing around.”