Wiedmer: Football Mocs are testing the patience of the UTC fanbase

Wiedmer: Football Mocs are testing the patience of the UTC fanbase

October 3rd, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

The website MocFans.com was busier and angrier than normal Sunday evening.

Watching your favorite college football team turn a 27-0 lead at home into a 28-27 loss to The Citadel will do that to some folks. Especially since so much was expected of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga squad this season.

Instead, UTC now stands 2-3 heading into Saturday's Southern Conference game at Georgia Southern, the No. 1 team in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision.

Worse still, the Mocs almost certainly must now go 5-1 the rest of the way to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 1984.

So with all that swimming around inside our Mocs fans' frustrated heads, the bitterness flowed. Under the thread "False Advertising" came the following rants:

A) "This year I was hoping for a team with sizzle, but what we have is a team that fizzles."

B) "What a complete collapse. Not just the game, the season. I stepped up and bought season tickets this year and I wondered why it was possible to get tickets on the 50-yard line. I think now I understand."

Yup, heck has no fury like a disappointed season-ticket holder.

Sadly, this isn't as hard to understand as one might think, though it is rather difficult to ever understand blowing a 27-0 lead at home when you're ranked 17th in one FCS poll and The Citadel was yet to win a SoCon game when it arrived at Finley Stadium.

Still, many close to the program at season's dawn -- including the UTC beat writer for this newspaper, John Frierson -- believed the Mocs could be better but not improve on head coach Russ Huesman's first two 6-5 seasons because of a brutal schedule.

However, the question may now become whether or not the Mocs can even reach 6-5.

This is clearly a flawed team. It struggles mightily to run the ball, and however talented senior quarterback B.J. Coleman may be, if the opponent knows you have to pass to move the chains, it's tough to win.

For proof, just revisit Tennessee's struggles in Florida's Swamp two weeks ago. Good as UT quarterback Tyler Bray is -- and there may not be a better pure passer in college football other than Stanford's Andrew Luck -- the Vols couldn't run it a lick against the Gators (minus-9 yards), which led to two Bray interceptions, which led to a 33-23 loss.

Unless the Mocs' offensive line improves dramatically between now and crucial late-season home games against Furman (Oct. 29) and Wofford (Nov. 19), it's tough to see this team finishing with a winning record, much less a playoff bid.

It's not just the running game, however. Special teams are anything but special. A blocked field goal against Appalachian State and a blocked punt against The Citadel are the chief reasons UTC stands 0-2 today in the SoCon instead of 2-0.

In fact, the only facet of this team that's pretty much bullet-proof is the defense, which went a preposterous eight straight quarters without surrendering a single point from halftime of the 23-14 win at Eastern Kentucky to the second half of The Citadel loss.

And that's what makes this all so painful for the 10,700 fans who filed into Finley on Saturday for this latest Mocs meltdown. For all its troubles, UTC remains achingly close to greatness, at least by blue and gold standards.

Yet that's also the problem. Or as one web worrier wrote Sunday:

"This is why Chattanooga is Chattanooga. How many times does this have to happen? I bought season tickets this year in hopes that BJ and company would have a great season. My hopes are now done. I saw the score at 27 to 7 and thought the game was well in hand. I guess I was wrong. I won't be buying season tickets anymore. I'm a Mocs fan for life, just not one willing to pay money to watch my team lose like this. I will pull for the Mocs from afar."

There is one positive to all of this beyond the fact that the start of basketball practice is less than two weeks away. As any good psychologist will tell you, the opposite of love isn't hate. It's apathy.

To that end, if the plethora of passionate posts on mocfans.com be any indication, apathy may be the one problem the Mocs football program doesn't have this week.