published Friday, November 1st, 2013

Big challenges still ahead for 6-2 Chattanooga Mocs

  • photo
    University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman looks toward players at Finley Stadium.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

October was a good month for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team. The Mocs won all four of their games, twice didn't allow a touchdown and in one game rallied in the closing minutes to pull out a win — something they typically have been victims of in the past few seasons.

Now it's November, which should be UTC's toughest month of the season. If the Mocs (6-2, 4-1) are going to win at least a share of the Southern Conference title or claim a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, they are going to have to earn it.

Up first is Saturday's game against Appalachian State (2-6, 2-3) at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C., where UTC hasn't win since 1983. The Mountaineers might only have two wins, but they still have plenty of talent, which they showed in last week's 38-14 rout of Georgia Southern.

"If you look at them on the schedule and see their record, you'd be like, it's just another team -- but it's not," UTC senior linebacker Gunner Miller said. "It's App State and you're going to Boone to play them. You look at film of them last week against Georgia Southern: They're a really good team.

"They're dangerous and they seemed to finally catch their stride last week. When they're up, they're up and ready to play."

Appalachian State is the only SoCon team UTC's seniors haven't defeated. The Mocs' last win against the Mountaineers came in 2004's 59-56 shootout at Finley Stadium. Since then it has been all App State, but the past three meetings have been very competitive.

In the 2010 season opener, UTC went for the win on a two-point conversion late. It was stopped and the Mountaineers won 42-41. UTC held App State without an offensive touchdown in 2011, but a fluke play on a field-goal attempt and an interception return for a touchdown led to a 14-12 ASU win.

Last season's game was tied at 17 going into the fourth quarter before the Mountaineers pulled away for a 34-17 win.

"That one two years ago was tough because we didn't give up any points on defense," Mocs junior defensive end Davis Tull said. "They all sting. Everyone wants to beat the App States and Georgia Southerns, and losing those games always hurts."

A confidence boost

Any win over App State or Georgia Southern, the SoCon's traditional powerhouses, is a big win. So is any fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory, like the Mocs had last week.

UTC trailed The Citadel by 10 points in the middle of the third quarter and was down 24-21 with less than four minutes to play. After the defense forced a punt, UTC's offense drove 79 yards without a misstep and quarterback Jacob Huesman ran the ball in for a 13-yard touchdown to make it 28-21.

The defense held again in the final two minutes to seal the win.

"I thought about that immediately after the game, that that win, winning it like that, will help our confidence," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "For the rest of the year -- not just this week against App -- knowing that we are capable of winning those games, that's huge."

From 2011 through this season, UTC has lost nine games by a touchdown or less or in overtime. That's nine of their 13 losses in that stretch. Perhaps some kind of curse was lifted last week.

"I don't about a curse being lifted, but I think we learned how to win last week," senior right guard Kevin Revis said. "We were all talking after the game and said, we finally won one. That's all I could say after the game: We finally won one."

Tough finish

Samford's Bulldogs (6-2, 4-0) are atop the SoCon standings after beating Wofford (5-3, 4-1) last week. UTC is tied with the Terriers, who visit Finley Stadium next week. On Nov. 16, the Mocs play Samford in Birmingham.

UTC also has to play two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama on Nov. 23. With three of its last four on the road and four tough opponents ahead, it's likely one of the most difficult finishing stretches in the FCS.

"I don't think there's any question about that," Huesman said. "We're getting ready to play three really, really good [SoCon] teams. Two of the best teams in the league, record-wise, and in my opinion, in App, probably one of the scariest teams in the league."

The SoCon title race appears to be down to those three teams, and the Mocs know that if they take care of business, a SoCon title and playoff spot can be theirs.

"Stuff hasn't always bounced our way the past few years, and it's nice that we have it in our control and we don't have to rely on anybody else but us," Revis said. "We realize what's in front of us, and I think everybody's going to rise to the challenge."

Extra points

Running back Keon Williams (ankle) did not practice this week and is doubtful for Saturday's game, Huesman said, though he will make the trip. UTC also aill be without wide receiver Tommy Hudson (concussion). ... Suscribers to UTC's MocsVision will be able to watch Saturday's game online at GoMocs.com.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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