published Sunday, November 10th, 2013

3 more weeks: Teams' seasons hinge on final games, but UTC Mocs lock up SoCon title early

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    UTC linebackers C.J. Murrell and Whit Shelton celebrate after the Mocs' Southern Conference win against Wofford on at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Mocs defeated the Terriers 20-10.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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    UT head coach Butch Jones drops his head as Auburn pulls away in the fourth quarter of the Vols’ 55-23 loss Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

As you prepare for church or whatever else you do on this November Sunday morning, know there are three Saturdays left in the college football season.

Three.

A year's worth of work has simmered since September and sped through October on high octane.

While the campaign is short on time, it is long on clarity following a 12-hour span that simultaneously shaped the rest of the month and crystallized the journey to date.

For the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Saturday was magical and memorable and could live forever in the history of the rebuilding program. The Mocs welcomed perennial Southern Conference power Wofford to Finley Stadium and dismissed the Terriers 20-10 in front of a crowd of 12,090. It was the 10th-largest crowd at Finley, and the win coupled with Samford's loss gives UTC a share of the conference title for the first time since Ronald Reagan was running for re-election. The Mocs can clinch the SoCon title outright with a win next weekend at Samford.

"When you get everybody thinking you can do it and not just a couple of players, that's when you win championships," junior defensive end Davis Tull said. "And we've all come together, and that's what this team is doing right now. We all believe in ourselves and each other."

With a lunchtime kickoff, the brick-by-brick reconstruction plan of University of Tennessee coach Butch Jones hit another snag from another opponent ranked among the nation's best. Jones and Co. started quickly, taking a seven-point lead in the first quarter before running out of steam against an Auburn running game that is the SEC's best. Auburn's 55-23 win was the Vols' fifth loss against a top-10 opponent this season and means that UT (4-6 overall, 1-5 SEC) must win its final two games against Vandy and Kentucky to qualify for a bowl game.

"We talk about pride in performance a lot around here," Jones said. "We talk about accountability in everything that we do. Stemming with me first and foremost, to our coach, to our players, and everyone associated with our football family. I think we just need to focus on one day at a time and winning each day. If we do that, we're going to take great strides. I said it last week, and I'll continue to say it. I'm disappointed; I'm not discouraged.

"I try to pick out one, or two, or three positive things and try to build upon that and learn from our mistakes. We did have some individuals step up and play winning football. Not many, but we did have some individuals play winning football for us."

The University of Georgia punched its postseason ticket Saturday, thumping Appalachian State 45-6. A season of much promise in Athens has been slowed by injuries, but the Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2) still are in the mix for a possible SEC East title.

"In the second half, we played a whole lot better," Georgia coach Mark Richt told reporters after the win. "We created some turnovers and played so many young guys, so that was great."

The two-time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide put an exclamation point on the glorious season Saturday against LSU. Alabama entered the game ranked No. 1 in the polls and the BCS rankings. The new BCS rankings will be released later today.

Staff writers John Frierson and Patrick Brown contributed to this report.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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