A year ago, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team hardly broke a sweat while blasting Samford 48-14 in the Mocs' home finale.
The Bulldogs finished 4-7, losing four of their last five games, and were 2-6 in the Southern Conference. The Mocs will face a much better Bulldogs bunch Saturday at Seibert Stadium in Birmingham.
Samford (5-3, 3-3) has won three of its last four games, including a 52-24 rout of Western Carolina last week, and its only losses were to the league's big three: No. 3 Appalachian State, No. 4 Georgia Southern and No. 9 Wofford.
Samford coach Pat Sullivan said he already was planning to make some significant changes in his program before the loss to UTC, a loss he described Tuesday as "probably the poorest game that we played overall since I've been here."
The biggest changes were to his offensive staff. Offensive coordinator Steve Brickey was let go and Sullivan brought in Rhett Lashlee, who was an offensive graduate assistant at Auburn for two years, working under Gus Malzahn in the Tigers' fast-paced system.
Lashlee played for Malzahn in high school and for a year at Arkansas and said he's known the offensive guru for 14 years.
With Lashlee and two other new offensive assistants, Samford's offense is much improved. The Bulldogs are averaging 33.4 points per game (third in the SoCon), nearly double their 17.8 of 2010, and their average of 408.9 yards a game (third in the SoCon) is 55.6 more than last season.
"Obviously Coach Lashlee has done a wonderful job," Sullivan said, "but I think some of the other guys that we brought in -- [receivers coaches] Travis Tricket and Antonio Carter -- have also brought an enthusiasm in."
UTC coach Russ Huesman the Bulldogs look "way different" on offense.
"They're good and they pose a lot of problems," he said.
Overall, Huesman said, Samford looks a lot like Furman in that it has a physical team with a quarterback playing at a high level and a sound running game. Furman beat the Mocs 14-7 last week at Finley Stadium. Samford won 26-21 at Furman on Oct. 8.
Samford's strength is its offense -- the Bulldogs rank near the bottom of the league in scoring and total defense -- and UTC's strength is its defense. The Mocs are second in the SoCon in scoring defense (20.0 papg) and first in total defense (292 yapg).
"It should be an excellent game between two pretty good football teams," said Huesman, who is 2-0 against the Bulldogs.