Russ Huesman thought about the question for a moment. His forehead wrinkled and he got a perplexed expression on his face.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach was asked about his approach to Saturday’s game at No. 2 Auburn.
“I guess everybody wants me to have some sort of philosophy or take on this week’s game, and I just don’t,” he said Monday. “We’re going to get ready and go play and see how the game unfolds, and then make decisions from there.”
The question arises because the Mocs (5-3) have little chance of beating the undefeated Tigers, who are No. 2 in the BCS rankings, and have two very important Southern Conference games remaining.
At 4-2 in the SoCon, UTC is alone in third place with must-win league games remaining against Samford (4-4, 2-3) and seventh-ranked Wofford (7-1, 5-0). Following last week’s 49-35 home loss to Elon, the Mocs have to win both to have a shot at an at-large playoff bid.
“No matter whether we’re playing Auburn or Elon or Georgia Southern, we can’t afford injuries and I don’t think this will be any different,” Huesman said. “We came out of Alabama last year healthy — nobody was banged up — and I anticipate coming out of this one the same way.”
Some might think the smartest thing UTC could do Saturday is leave quarterback B.J. Coleman at home. That’s not going to happen. Coleman will play and UTC will try its best to hang with the Tigers, who have scored 51 or more points three times this season.
If the Mocs are down by 30 or 40 entering the fourth quarter, Coleman’s backup, redshirt freshman Graham Nichols, might actually get to play for the first time in his career. Otherwise, Coleman will be in there.
“I don’t think we risk any more chance of getting hurt in this game than we do playing [Division II] Glenville State first game of the year last year,” Huesman said before being informed of how Auburn’s defense has battered opposing quarterbacks pretty hard this season.
Clemson’s and South Carolina’s QBs had to stumble groggily over to the sideline at least once, while Arkansas star Ryan Mallet (concussion) and LSU’s Jarrett Lee (sprained wrist) were both more serious victims of tenacious defensive tackle Nick Fairley, a 6-foot-5, 298-pounder who will be an All-American at season’s end.
Fairley is second in the Southeastern Conference with 7.5 sacks and leads the SEC with 18 tackles for loss.
“I would never, ever, ever approach any game we play to try to save players. I don’t think that’s fair to, really, anybody,” Huesman said. “Our approach is going to be to get better this week, to get ourselves better. ... Because if we don’t get better, we’ve got no shot the rest of the season.”
After two weeks of being ranked, the Mocs are out of the latest polls. They were No. 20 in last week’s Sports Network media poll and No. 23 in the FCS coaches’ Top 25. ... Joel Bradford continues to lead the FCS in receiving with 128.4 yards per game. Linebacker Ryan Consiglio’s 91 tackles are second in the SoCon and 11th in the FCS.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeat.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth 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 ...