The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team took care of business Saturday against Western Carolina, picking up the Mocs' first Southern Conference win with little difficulty.
It was the start of a five-game stretch during which UTC (3-2, 1-1 SoCon) needs to, and should be able to, string some wins together before facing the arduous finish to the Mocs' regular season.
"We've just got to lock in," senior cornerback Chaz Moore said following the 42-21 win at Finley Stadium.
The Catamounts (1-5, 0-3), who lost their 25th straight SoCon game, were the first of five consecutive opponents the Mocs will face that at present have a losing record. UTC hosts Furman (2-3, 1-1) on homecoming this week, followed by a trip to Elon (2-4, 1-1), a home game against The Citadel (2-4, 2-2) and a visit to Appalachian State, which is a surprising 1-4 (1-1 in SoCon play).
"[Mocs coach Russ] Huesman was talking about it earlier, the next seven games, just take it one game at a time and they've got to be seven wins," said Mocs defensive tackle Daniel Ring, who had 2.0 tackles for loss against WCU. "Western Carolina's over, and now we're going to look at Furman and do what we've got to do."
Following that five-game stretch, in which the Mocs should be the favorite, with the possible exception of App State, UTC closes the season at home against Wofford (3-2, 2-0), on the road at Samford (4-2, 2-0) and at top-ranked and two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama. Wofford and Samford share the SoCon lead and both have wins over Georgia Southern, which edged the Mocs 23-21 on Sept. 28.
"Obviously our goal is to win out, and it's not going to be easy by any means," Jacob Huesman said after throwing a career-high four touchdown passes. "I think we've got a good enough football team that we can do it."
To win out, UTC likely needs to do a lot of what it did well Saturday. The Mocs picked off four passes, including three on three straight Catamount possession, and held WCU to 98 yards rushing.
Offensively, the Mocs rushed for 209 yards, threw for 223 and were 9-for-15 on third down. The only offensive miscues were four sacks allowed and Jacob fumbled the ball at the goal line.
"I thought offensively for four quarters we played really well," Huesman said. "We converted some big third downs during the course of that game, we broke tackles, we made some plays on the perimeter, our receivers did a really nice job on the perimeter.
"Jacob was very, very shaky in the first half, and I think in the second half he managed our offense a lot better."
The Mocs took a 28-0 lead midway through the third quarter on Jacob's 6-yard touchdown run. UTC was in total command at that point, but the Catamounts were able to make some big plays the rest of the way, scoring on 46-yard and 25-yard receptions.
Western Carolina had 63 yards at halftime and finished with 289.
"We can't get beat deep in the fourth quarter like that," Moore said. "We can't give up points like that. We've got to make sure that doesn't happen next game."
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.