The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's seniors wanted to close out their football careers with a win and a third straight winning season. Wofford denied them that with a 28-27 victory Saturday.
There were some tears shed after the game, but the Mocs seniors also were able to hold their heads up and talk with pride about what they've accomplished. The four-year players started their careers with a 1-11 season in 2008 and ended them with their fifth nail-biter loss this season -- to the No. 12-ranked Terriers.
"This doesn't change what's been built and what we've been able to do," quarterback B.J. Coleman said. "There is so much more that goes into it than just the winning part. We have built things from the ground here that are very tough to do in a three-year span.
"The feeling that we have when we come into a stadium, knowing that we're in every single game. We lost five games by a total of 12 points -- that might not ever happen again."
UTC had six senior starters this season: Coleman, Joel Bradford and Sloan Allison on offense and Ryan Consiglio, Jordan Tippit and Chris Lewis-Harris on defense. Defensive tackle Nick Davison also was a senior, but he is expected to return in 2012 after suffering a torn ACL early in the season.
Of those six, five earned All-Southern Conference honors at some point in their careers, and one or two could receive more following this season.
More importantly, UTC's seniors helped lead the program's turnaround under third-year coach Russ Huesman.
"What a great senior class," Huesman said. "Those guys fought. That's a great group. They helped start this thing, and for us to lose 28-27 three times is ridiculous. We had so many opportunities to win all those games. It's tough to swallow."
Wofford coach Mike Ayers said UTC's program had come "light years" in the past few seasons.
For the quarterback-receiver combo of Coleman and Bradford, Saturday marked the end of a career playing together that began in the sixth grade. They both set school records in their three seasons together at UTC and they connected for one last touchdown in their final game, a 13-yarder that gave the Mocs a 14-7 lead.
Coleman finished his career with a school-record 52 touchdown passes, Bradford finished with 1,944 receiving yards (fifth all-time) and Allison had a career-high seven receptions in his final game.
Consiglio, the Mocs' Sam linebacker, saved his best for last -- a career-high 19 tackles. He finished the season with 120, the most in the SoCon.
"I think I'll be able to live with that," he said. "I certainly wanted to come in here and do something that I would remember. I didn't want to come out and flop around in my last game, so 19 is pretty solid with me, I guess."