The Chattanooga Mocs come into Champaign with a 3-0 record with wins over Wofford, Eastern Illinois, and North Alabama. Let’s preview what the Mocs will look like on Thursday night.
Rusty Wright has been a coach at Chattanooga since 2013 and the head coach since 2019. Before this season, he had a 18-13 overall record at Chattanooga and barely missed a bid for the FCS playoffs last year.
Both the offensive coordinator Joe Pizzo and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward started with Wright in 2019. The Mocs pride themselves on defense as they led the SoCon in every major category including scoring, interceptions, and sacks in 2021. On defense overall, they are ranked 10th in FCS and have held their opponents to 11 points per game.
Preston Hutchinson has started every game for the Mocs this season. He is a grad transfer from Eastern Michigan where he started 9 games, threw for 16 touchdowns and ran for 11. Against North Alabama, he threw for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns and ran for 2 more. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who has hurt opponents with both his arms and legs this year and is one of the biggest playmakers for the Mocs.
The Mocs’ backfield is led by Ailym Ford, who has run for over 100 yards twice before this season. This year, he’s off to a hot start, racked up 229 yards and 4 touchdowns in Chattanooga’s first three games.
Ford is only 5-foot-9, but is a power running back who runs through tackles and finds a way to get the extra yard. While effective in the SoCon, the Illini should be able to slow down Ford’s impact in the game.
The Mocs don’t have a dominant receiver, instead preferring to spread the ball around (seven receivers gained 20 or more yards against North Alabama). If Hutchinson tries to create space with his legs, his wide receivers will receive more opportunities.
Sam Philips led the Mocs in receiving yards against North Alabama; he had 5 receptions for 96 yards. Shatarius Williams was a walk-on at Alabama in 2020 and 2021. He transferred to Chattanooga and is 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds. Overall, the Chattanooga wide receiver room is inexperienced and will struggle against the Illinois defense.
The Mocs’ defense is one of the best in the SoCon. Defensive end Devonnsha Maxwell leads the defense and is a two-time FCS All-American. Unsurprisingly, Maxwell was named the Preseason SoCon Defensive Player of the Year. Last year, he lead the conference with 12 sacks and 15.5 Tackles for loss. So far this season, he has 1.5 sacks and 8 tackles.
Along with Maxwell, the Mocs are led by defensive linemen Ben Brewton and Jay Person Both have been productive getting to the quarterback this season. The linebackers include Ty Boeck, a preseason All-SoCon selection who has 25 total tackles so far this season. The Mocs pride themselves on their defense, their best unit this season.
While the Mocs are 3-0, they haven’t played a team with the Illini’s talent level.
To win, the Illini need to give Chase Brown room to run, facilitated by Tommy Devito completing open passes. The Illini also need to convert during their opportunities in the red zone, a point of struggle against Virginia.
While the Mocs will stick with the Illini during the first quarter, the Illini should soon take the lead and prevail over the Mocs.