UTC focusing on SoCon start, not GSU finale

UTC focusing on SoCon start, not GSU finale

September 28th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

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The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga isn't just looking to walk out of Paulson Stadium tonight with a win in the Mocs' final Southern Conference football game against Georgia Southern, a program that has owned them for the past quarter-century.

Sending the Sun Belt-bound Eagles (2-1, 0-1 SoCon) out with a loss would perhaps be a bonus, but UTC (2-1, 0-0) is far more interested in starting league play with a win than it is getting the last laugh in a series GSU leads 22-4.

"Nope, nothing beyond that," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said when asked if this game carried more weight because it's the last SoCon meeting. "We're just trying to win the game to try to win a conference championship. I don't think anybody would think it's more special because it's the last time."

Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are transitioning to the Bowl Subdivision and are ineligible for the SoCon title. Among the eligible teams, Wofford (2-2, 2-0) has the early league lead, beating Georgia Southern and The Citadel already. Wofford, UTC and The Citadel, along with Samford, are expected to contend for the title.

With Wofford already having posted a pair of quality wins, UTC has to keep pace -- starting tonight.

"We've got to start off with a win," senior cornerback Chaz Moore said. "I'm looking forward to going down there and pulling off a 'W' and starting the SoCon 1-0."

Mocs senior linebacker Gunner Miller is from East Ridge and grew up hearing about Georgia Southern and all the great players and success the Eagles have had over the years.

"It's always one of the games you look at on the schedule," he said. "To not see them in the future is going to be a little bit weird, but we get to see them this week. And that's the only game that matters.

"We've got to come into this game like they're any other opponent, no matter what's going on next year or this year. It's a conference game and we've got to go for a win."

Tonight's game also presents UTC with another opportunity for a notable win, something the Mocs have struggled with the past few seasons. They tend to beat the teams they're supposed to but come up just short against championship challengers. UTC is 5-12 against ranked Championship Subdivision teams in the Huesman era (2009-present).

Of those 12 losses, eight have come by 10 points or less. Last season, the Mocs lost in overtime to playoff-bound Georgia Southern and Wofford and on a last-second field goal at Jacksonville State.

"They got us last year, but we brought back a lot of guys from that team," said senior All-America linebacker Wes Dothard, who had 16 tackles against GSU last season. "We're ready this year. I think we're going to be ready for them. ... I think this is probably going to be the biggest game of the year for us.

"I think if we win this game right here, the ball's really going to get rolling. But we've got to win this game right here."

While Georgia Southern has dominated the overall series, recent meetings have been much more competitive. The Mocs have won three of the past seven, including the 2007 game, UTC's only victory in 13 tries at Paulson Stadium.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.