As he sat in his office last Sunday and discussed the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team's 34-17 loss to Appalachian State the night before, Mocs coach Russ Huesman offered some insight into what might be keeping them from winning close games.
UTC is almost legendary in the Southern Conference now for it's oh-so-close defeats. Before losing by 17 to the Mountaineers, the Mocs' previous six losses to Football Championship Subdivision opponents had been by a combined 15 points.
"Last night was frustrating, and it's frustrating because you shouldn't have to just survive to win close games," Huesman said Sunday. "We've got good enough players that we shouldn't have to say, 'Let's just survive and somehow make a play to win.'"
Huesman said he doesn't just want his Mocs (1-3, 0-1) to eke out wins, starting with Saturday's game at No. 15 The Citadel (3-1, 2-0). Wideout Marlon Anthony said after the ASU loss that the Mocs "don't plan" on making games close.
"Every game we go out there wanting to demolish the other team," he said. "We've just got to show it. I know the scoreboard hasn't showed it yet, but we are that good."
The Mocs have started out games looking like they're ready to dominate, only to fall apart at the end. In many of their close losses they had the lead in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold it.
The best example of just trying to survive instead of conquering may be the Mocs' last meeting with The Citadel. UTC dominated the first half and led 24-0 at the break. An early field goal made it 27-0 in the third quarter, but the Mocs went into survival mode after that and got two first downs the rest of the game.
The Citadel rallied for a 28-27 win, the first of three 28-27 defeats last season -- all of them to SoCon triple-option teams.
"That's a hard one to get," Huesman said of figuring out how going into survival mode happens. "Maybe in the fourth quarter it's 'Let's don't make a mistake,' and you can't take that approach."
UTC might benefit from looking at what The Citadel did to Appalachian State earlier this month. The Bulldogs got off to a fast start and kept pouring it on -- with 6:16 left in the second quarter it was 31-0. But the Bulldogs didn't stop and went on to win 52-28.
Mocs quarterback Jacob Huesman said UTC has to play relaxed and enjoy the moment.
"The worst thing that could happen right now is for us to get all tensed up and be like, we have to win this game," he said. "We've got to play loose and we've got to have fun out there."
Is that easier said than done?
"Yes, especially when you're sitting at 1-3," he said.