Despite a 1-3 start and last Saturday's fourth-quarter meltdown against No. 16 Appalachian State, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football players haven't given up on each other or this season. Far from it.
"We're all a family here and we've just got to make sure everybody stays on the same page and has the [right] mindset, because nothing is undone yet," junior safety D.J. Key said following the 34-17 loss to the Mountaineers in the Mocs' Southern Conference opener. "We still can do all of our goals and all the things we set out to do."
Those goals are to make the playoffs and compete for the SoCon championship. Coach Russ Huesman said his only concern this week is 15th-ranked The Citadel (3-1, 2-0), which hosts UTC at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Saturday.
"We've got to win a game," Huesman said.
With seven games remaining, all against SoCon opponents, UTC pretty much has to win out to reach its goals. Its win over Division II Glenville State doesn't count toward playoff eligibility, so to get to the magic number of seven wins -- the unofficial minimum to receive an at-large bid -- UTC has to go 7-0 the rest of the way.
Should that happen, the Mocs would have an excellent shot at the SoCon's automatic bid. This season is shaping up to be one with parity in the league, so there is a good chance nobody is going 8-0 in SoCon play. The Mocs can get to the playoffs with six Division I wins if they win the SoCon; a 6-5 Coastal Carolina squad shared the Big South title in 2010 and via tiebreakers won the automatic bid.
Five SoCon teams are ranked in the Sports Network poll, and four made the Football Championship Subdivision coaches' Top 25 released Monday. Wofford is the top SoCon team in both polls (No. 5 in each), followed by Georgia Southern (No. 10 SN/No. 9 coaches), The Citadel (No. 11/No. 15) and Appalachian State (No. 17/No. 16). Samford is No. 25 in the coaches' poll.
UTC offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said his unit will get back to the spread system the Mocs practiced in camp and ran during their first three games. That's what best suits UTC's personnel, he said.
"We're not going to overpower people. We're just not going to do that right now," he said Monday, "so we've got to be able to create mismatches and get people out in space -- and do that consistently."
Three of UTC's first four games didn't go as the Mocs would have liked, and now just producing the program's third winning season in the past four years will be a challenge. It's a challenge the coaches and players believe they can meet.
"If you don't believe in your team, you're not going to win," wideout Marlon Anthony said. "We've got to believe; we've got to prepare and prove that we're the same team that we thought we were before the season."
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.