This Saturday a "rivalry" game will occur at Finley Stadium, matching a home team that can't win at home and a team that can't win on the road.
Something will have to give.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team will end its first season under coach Tom Arth by hosting East Tennessee State at 2 p.m.
The two programs are very similar statistically. Each has struggled to run the ball, ranking as the two worst teams in the Southern Conference in yards per game although UTC's average of 125.7 in its last three games would rank the Mocs sixth in that category. The teams are neck-and-neck in nearly every category.
"I think they're obviously a very different team, with a very different group of players, but they're good," Arth said. "Defensively they present a lot of challenges and their quarterback (Austin Herink) makes that offense go.
"We have another big challenge this week, and we're looking forward to getting back out there."
Herink, from Cleveland High School, has thrown for 2,121 yards and 14 touchdowns this season for the Buccaneers.
The teams have matching 2-5 marks in league play, and the Mocs will enter Saturday's game with an 0-4 home record while the Bucs are 0-4 on the road. ETSU is 4-6 overall, holding a 2-1 nonconference record with wins over NCAA Division II Limestone and Robert Morris and a loss at top-ranked James Madison. The Mocs were 0-3 against nonleague competition, losing to second-ranked Jacksonville State, Top 25 Football Bowl Subdivision member LSU and UT-Martin.
The Bucs edged Mercer in overtime on Sept. 23 in Johnson City and played The Citadel and Wofford close in losses. Meanwhile, the Mocs won only one of their first seven games but have played well in their last three, highlighted by a 23-21 road win at then eighth-ranked Samford.
"We've had similar years," defensive lineman Taylor Reynolds said. "They're coming in playing one last game just like we are, and they probably have a lot of pride coming in and are trying to beat us, so we have to do the same. We have to have a great week of execution and not act like it's our last game — but at the end of the day, play like it.
"We have to play our hearts out on Saturday and hopefully come out with a win."
The two programs have a long history together, but Saturday will be only their second meeting in 14 years. The ETSU program was disbanded after the 2003 season, which resulted in a lost decade of battles between the two schools. The Bucs revived their program in 2014, starting play a year later, and have won 11 games in the three seasons since.
"People want to talk about a rivalry, but it's a little different just because they just came back into the conference," safety Lucas Webb said. "But you can already tell they're starting to pick up speed. They're starting to get things rolling, and I think it'll be a good challenge on Saturday."
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