University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman was happy and proud after his Mocs beat Wofford last Saturday, clinching at least a share of the Southern Conference championship. But he was far from jubilant.
The 18th-ranked Mocs (8-2, 6-1) have won eight games for the first time since his junior season as a UTC player in 1980, and after they came so close to breakthrough seasons the past four years, it's finally happened. Still, Huesman isn't jumping up and down.
"I hope our players feel good about it," he said Tuesday. "Me personally, it just doesn't feel like we've won anything yet. ... I kind of hope the guys feel the same way.
"It's a weird feeling, that I didn't enjoy it like I probably should have. But that's the nature of the business, I guess."
Yes, the Mocs have done something that hasn't happened since 1984, clinching a share of the league title, but that doesn't guarantee them anything. They haven't earned the automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs -- they can with a win at Samford (6-3, 4-2) on Saturday -- and receiving an at-large bid into the 24-team field isn't a certainty.
"Winning that game Saturday just made this one that much bigger, obviously," Huesman said.
While the players thoroughly celebrated on the field after beating Wofford, they were calm and focused at the team meeting Sunday, the coach said. During Tuesday's practice at a very cold and windy Scrappy Moore Field, it was business as usual for the team.
"We're going back to work this week," senior safety D.J. Key said. "They're a good team and we want it for ourselves. We're going hard and treating it like another game."
Key and his fellow fifth-year seniors -- Kadeem Wise, Wes Dothard, Gunner Miller and Hunter Dockery; Miller and Dockery are out with injuries -- have worked long and hard to get to this point. They arrived in Huesman's first signing class, after UTC went 1-11 in 2008.
So many times the past few seasons, the Mocs were knocking on the door of making the playoffs or getting a piece of the SoCon title, only to let it slip away. They are determined to finish the job this time, Key said.
"Our mindset is always finish the fourth quarter, finish the games, and now we want to finish [the season]," he said.
Quarterback Jacob Huesman said he and his teammates want to be selfish when it comes to the conference championship.
"We don't want to share it," he said. "We're stingy with it. We don't want people to look back on 2013 and say, 'Well, Chattanooga won the SoCon, but so did Samford, so did another team -- Wofford or Furman are both close to it, depending on how the chips fall.'
"It's nice to know that if we win this next one, our future is guaranteed."
A year ago, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Wofford shared the championship with 6-2 league records and all three made the playoffs. The SoCon could be a two-bid conference this season because of its poor ranking among FCS leagues and because several strong conferences are likely to get at least four teams in the field.
Running back Keon Williams (ankle) participated in individual workouts Tuesday, his first on-field activity since getting injured against The Citadel on Oct. 26. ... UTC's 2,352 rushing yards are the most by a Mocs team since 1991 (2,364).
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
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 ...