And so began, Sunday, a very long wait.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga ended its Southern Conference schedule Saturday night with a crushing 17-14 overtime loss at Samford. A share of the league championship is assured, no small thing when the last one happened in 1984, but that's all that is locked down at this point.
"I'm proud of this team and we've been fighting all year, but nobody wants to share a championship," UTC senior cornerback Chaz Moore said. "Now all we can do is wait to see if we get in the playoffs."
Sitting on coach Russ Huesman's desk Sunday afternoon was the Clarence Stasavich Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the SoCon football champion. Huesman said he showed it to the team at the afternoon meeting and players took pictures with it, demonstrating an appreciation for what was a big accomplishment for the program.
"I think they're pretty excited, and we'll see what happens this weekend," he said, referring to next Sunday's release of the Football Championship Subdivision playoff bracket.
UTC (8-3, 6-2 SoCon) can still win the league title outright, if Samford (7-4, 6-2) and red-hot Furman (6-5, 6-2) lose this week. The more likely outcome is that the Mocs will share the trophy with one or both schools.
That puts the SoCon's automatic bid to the playoffs up for grabs based on tiebreakers, which will likely favor Furman and Samford because they beat Georgia Southern and UTC lost to the Eagles. The Mocs' two SoCon losses were 23-21 at Georgia Southern and Saturday's 17-14 defeat at Samford.
The field won't be announced until 11:30 next Sunday morning, after UTC wraps up its regular season at Alabama.
"The thing is, you just don't know what [the selection committee is] thinking," Huesman said. "Is the Southern Conference a three-bid league, two-bid league, one-bid league? You just don't know.
"I would think with eight wins, where we are right now, I would think people have to say, yeah, they should be in."
If the Mocs miss the playoffs, it won't be by much. They didn't miss claiming the automatic bid and SoCon title outright by much Saturday night.
Down 14-0 early in the fourth quarter, linebacker Wes Dothard got the Mocs going with a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, after another defensive stop, Jacob Huesman threw a 3-yard jump pass to tight end Faysal Shafaat to tie the game with 4:59 to play.
In overtime, UTC's defense forced Samford to settle for a field goal and Warren Handrahan delivered with a 43-yarder to make it 17-14. When it was UTC's turn on offense, the Mocs faced a third-and-4 at the 8-yard line and Jacob Huesman tried to throw across his body, right to left, to an open fullback Taharin Tyson. The throw was a couple of inches wide left.
When UTC kicker Nick Pollard tried to tie the game with a 31-yard field goal, the ball struck the left goalpost and dropped straight down.
"It was like an inch away on Jacob's throw, then the kick -- those things happen, but it shouldn't have come to that point," senior right guard Kevin Revis said. "It hurts because it was so close. At least we've got a shot at the playoffs."
After winning three straight tight games -- against The Citadel, Appalachian State and Wofford -- the Mocs were inches short of another. Now comes a long week of preparing for and playing top-ranked and two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama, followed by the playoff bracket announcement next Sunday.
Of course an upset of the mighty Crimson Tide would go a long way toward boosting the Mocs' resume.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter 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 ...