published Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Wiedmer: Football Mocs are testing the patience of the UTC fanbase

The website was busier and angrier than normal Sunday evening.

Watching your favorite college football team turn a 27-0 lead at home into a 28-27 loss to The Citadel will do that to some folks. Especially since so much was expected of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga squad this season.

Instead, UTC now stands 2-3 heading into Saturday's Southern Conference game at Georgia Southern, the No. 1 team in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision.

Worse still, the Mocs almost certainly must now go 5-1 the rest of the way to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 1984.

So with all that swimming around inside our Mocs fans' frustrated heads, the bitterness flowed. Under the thread "False Advertising" came the following rants:

A) "This year I was hoping for a team with sizzle, but what we have is a team that fizzles."

B) "What a complete collapse. Not just the game, the season. I stepped up and bought season tickets this year and I wondered why it was possible to get tickets on the 50-yard line. I think now I understand."

Yup, heck has no fury like a disappointed season-ticket holder.

Sadly, this isn't as hard to understand as one might think, though it is rather difficult to ever understand blowing a 27-0 lead at home when you're ranked 17th in one FCS poll and The Citadel was yet to win a SoCon game when it arrived at Finley Stadium.

Still, many close to the program at season's dawn -- including the UTC beat writer for this newspaper, John Frierson -- believed the Mocs could be better but not improve on head coach Russ Huesman's first two 6-5 seasons because of a brutal schedule.

However, the question may now become whether or not the Mocs can even reach 6-5.

This is clearly a flawed team. It struggles mightily to run the ball, and however talented senior quarterback B.J. Coleman may be, if the opponent knows you have to pass to move the chains, it's tough to win.

For proof, just revisit Tennessee's struggles in Florida's Swamp two weeks ago. Good as UT quarterback Tyler Bray is -- and there may not be a better pure passer in college football other than Stanford's Andrew Luck -- the Vols couldn't run it a lick against the Gators (minus-9 yards), which led to two Bray interceptions, which led to a 33-23 loss.

Unless the Mocs' offensive line improves dramatically between now and crucial late-season home games against Furman (Oct. 29) and Wofford (Nov. 19), it's tough to see this team finishing with a winning record, much less a playoff bid.

It's not just the running game, however. Special teams are anything but special. A blocked field goal against Appalachian State and a blocked punt against The Citadel are the chief reasons UTC stands 0-2 today in the SoCon instead of 2-0.

In fact, the only facet of this team that's pretty much bullet-proof is the defense, which went a preposterous eight straight quarters without surrendering a single point from halftime of the 23-14 win at Eastern Kentucky to the second half of The Citadel loss.

And that's what makes this all so painful for the 10,700 fans who filed into Finley on Saturday for this latest Mocs meltdown. For all its troubles, UTC remains achingly close to greatness, at least by blue and gold standards.

Yet that's also the problem. Or as one web worrier wrote Sunday:

"This is why Chattanooga is Chattanooga. How many times does this have to happen? I bought season tickets this year in hopes that BJ and company would have a great season. My hopes are now done. I saw the score at 27 to 7 and thought the game was well in hand. I guess I was wrong. I won't be buying season tickets anymore. I'm a Mocs fan for life, just not one willing to pay money to watch my team lose like this. I will pull for the Mocs from afar."

There is one positive to all of this beyond the fact that the start of basketball practice is less than two weeks away. As any good psychologist will tell you, the opposite of love isn't hate. It's apathy.

To that end, if the plethora of passionate posts on be any indication, apathy may be the one problem the Mocs football program doesn't have this week.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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NorthChatter said...

I think I will go ahead and stay on the bandwagon. It is nicer on here with the extra elbow room.

October 3, 2011 at 4:27 a.m.
cmocs said...

While Weeds cherry picked some comments from people that rarely or have never posted before, most of the long term posters/supporters of, while frustrated by the loss, are a little more forgiving and optimistic. We're not quite on suicide watch yet.

What it really comes down to is that some of the fans saw the miracle that Russ and company performed to get over .500 the last two seasons with the leftovers from Rodney Allison's program and started believing too much of their own hype that the Mocs would be a SoCon championship team this year.

Other were cautious and agreed with Frierson's take on the situation. He knew this might be a struggle this year as the team is comprised mostly of underclassmen.

This process is going to take more than 2 1/2 seasons (the only reason they have gotten as far "ahead" as they have is because of BJ Coleman coming home...without him, they would have been lucky to win a handful of games the last two years).

I am certainly not going to give up after one bad home loss. I guess people quickly forget just how far the Mocs have come in a relatively short amount of time.

Have we already forgotten how gawd awful the Mocs were just 3 seasons ago when they won one game (against mighty Cumberland) and their defense surrendered 455 points in in a 10 loss season.

Or maybe they forgot the year before that when the Mocs lost on their home field to Carson-Newman (an NAIA team with only 36 scholarships to give). The Mocs were so bad then, fans were actually worried about playing C-N and most people weren't terribly surprised when the Mocs lost.

<p> is about to celebrate it's 10th anniversary and trust me, the product that is on the field, while not perfect, is definitely the best it has been in the last decade. Now is not the time to give up on a team that scored a near perfect 990 on their latest APR report, it is the time to rally behind them. There kids work hard on and off the field, go to class...and graduate.

I support Russ and the boys...enough so to put my name behind it...

David Smotherman Administrator - GO BIG C!

October 3, 2011 at 4:38 a.m.
ldurham said...

Wow Wiedmer wrote about UTC. They must have done something bad to make it on the TFP sports front page. Looks like Alabama will have to stumble to get any attention from the TFP too.

October 3, 2011 at 8:23 a.m.
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