They'd been there before, so it's no surprise that University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football players didn't panic when down 11 points early to Virginia Military Institute with a loud Foster Stadium crowd backing the home team Saturday afternoon.
It's not a situation the Mocs would like to consistently put themselves in, though.
UTC was at its best under pressure against the Keydets, and key plays in key moments proved to be the difference in a 33-27 victory that pushed the Mocs' Southern Conference winning streak to 10 games going into this week's trip to Wofford.
The Keydets led 21-10 early in the second quarter after a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Al Cobb on the play following an interception thrown by UTC senior quarterback Jacob Huesman. The Mocs turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, but they answered with three field goals on their next four possessions and UTC's Sema'je Kendall then intercepted a VMI pass and returned it for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, VMI had five punts and the aforementioned interception in its six full possessions during that span. By the time the Keydets started to have some success again, the Mocs had built a 12-point lead on their way to the six-point win.
Of course, the Keydets' touchdown with 6:14 to play left a lot of time, but the Mocs made sure the home team didn't get the ball back. A holding penalty on second down left UTC 18 yards away from a first down, but Huesman threw a quick screen pass to receiver Xavier Borishade, who gained 17 yards on the play. Derrick Craine then ran 5 yards for a first down.
Then, with the Mocs facing fourth down from the VMI 33, Huesman completed a slant pass to receiver Alphonso Stewart for 17 yards, effectively ending the game.
"It was huge to get that," UTC head coach Russ Huesman said. "Xavier made a nice play, and then we have the play at the end with the ball in Jacob's hands throwing it to Alphonso. We went back and forth on whether to go for it but took a shot and went for it.
"Thank goodness we got it."
He said the coaching staff considered a pooch kick, which would have left the Keydets with about a minute and a half to drive the length of the field and attempt to score.
Luckily for the Mocs, he has ingrained a mentality in his players, who were confident they were in a good position throughout the game — even when they trailed by 11 in the first half.
"We didn't panic," said Craine, who rushed for 112 yards. "We knew we could come out and put points on the board. Coach tells us to play like champions because that's what we are. We've won the Southern Conference two years in a row, and we had to overcome. That's what we were able to do today."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/genehenleytfp.