published Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Wofford, UTC still have high stakes

The situations are a little different, but for the second year in a row the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Wofford will play a high-stakes regular-season finale Saturday.

Wofford has been ranked in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision top 10 for most of the season and had a shot at clinching the Southern Conference championship (and automatic bid to the playoffs) last week at home against Georgia Southern.

GSU's Eagles won 31-10 to clinch the SoCon crown, and now the Terriers (7-3, 5-2), who shared the league title last season, head to Finley Stadium in need of a victory to become playoff eligible. They have seven wins but only six versus NCAA Division I competition because one of their games was against Virginia-Wise, an NAIA school.

"I think our kids, they understand what's at stake," Terriers coach Mike Ayers said. "They understand that this year, we didn't get it done to have an opportunity to win the championship. But there's still other things on the line, and what we've got to do is come ready to play and come ready to fight the fight."

FCS teams that schedule games against non-Division I schools run the risk of coming up a win short of the NCAA's seven-win standard. Ayers said it's hard for Wofford to find nonconference games against FCS programs.

"You try to find games at your own level and its difficult when you've been successful," he said. "A lot of folks just don't want to play you if they're out of your league."

UTC (5-5, 3-4) will be fighting for a third straight winning season, something that hasn't happened in more than 20 years. The Mocs also could get a bit of revenge against the Terriers, who routed them 45-14 in the finale last season, ending UTC's shot at the playoffs and clinching a share of the SoCon title for Wofford.

Mocs coach Russ Huesman said he hasn't talked about that with his team, and doesn't intend to.

"What they did to us last year means nothing," he said.

Saturday will be a matchup of the top offense and defense in the SoCon. The Terriers lead the league in total offense (447 yards per game), and UTC has the No. 1 defense (297 yapg).

Mocs senior linebacker Ryan Consiglio, who is third in the SoCon with 102 tackles, will be playing in his final game. He said he wants to go out with three straight winning seasons, and he wants the defense to finish at the top of the league in several categories.

"Finishing first in the SoCon in total defense and points allowed and all those things, they're still still very, very big on our goal list," he said. "And they're both very, very attainable."

Extra points

The Mocs went through a spirited practice at Finley Stadium on Tuesday. Linebacker Gunner Miller (knee) and safety D.J. Key (ankle) practiced, but running back J.J. Jackson (knee) did not. ... Wofford linebacker Mike Niam, who leads the Terriers in tackles, is done for the season with a knee injury, Ayers said.

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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