Mark Wiedmer: Mocs still not able to zap the Apps

Mark Wiedmer: Mocs still not able to zap the Apps

September 23rd, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Appalachian State's 34-17 victory over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga just completed Saturday night, someone asked ASU coach Jerry Moore how tough the Mountaineers' practices had been the past week.

After all, this same No. 17 App crew had fallen 52-28 at home to The Citadel a week earlier.

"Well, we had one guy get a concussion in practice and didn't play tonight," Moore said. "That should tell you something."

Given that ASU has won three national championships over the past decade, perhaps that should tell fourth-year UTC coach Russ Huesman how he might want to practice his Mocs in preparation for this Saturday's trip to, gulp, The Citadel.

At least his son Jacob, the team's starting quarterback at the moment, seemed to hint at the wisdom of such a strategy.

Asked if the Mocs needed to play mad, the freshman said, "Maybe mad and controlled."

They need to change something. Now 1-3 for the season, UTC must likely go 6-1 the rest of the way if it is to have any chance of reaching the FCS playoffs for the first time since 1984.

Given Coach Huesman's comments after this one, that might seem a bigger mountain to climb than the Mountaineers, who've now won eight straight against the Mocs.

"I didn't think we played well across the board," he said. "We got outplayed and we got outcoached. We've got to find ways to be better for four quarters. It's pretty frustrating."

This program has been extraordinarily frustrating since long before Huesman arrived. Despite a geographical location nearly every coach in the SoCon envies, despite a stadium that's arguably the best in the league and a city that has no serious competition except for Charleston, S.C. (The Citadel), this program keeps coming up short when it matters most.

Just return to Saturday's start.

The weather (78 degrees and sunny), the crowd (13,726) and the scoreboard all looked perfect for the home team after one quarter. The Mocs led 10-0 at that point, much to the delight of a raucous homecoming gathering, most of the spectators impeccably frocked in UTC Blue and Gold.

But beyond those obviously important numbers of 10 and zero, trouble was brewing. Big trouble. Troubling trouble.

Though the Mountaineers were officially behind, they were leading total yardage by a 71-41 count. That number would swell to 208-71 by halftime, when the score was tied at 10.

Forcing two early turnovers had led to two quick Mocs scores, but two years ago ASU trailed 35-14 less than a minute into the fourth period and won. Come the crunch, a big play needed, the Mountaineers are far more likely to wink than blink.

And so it came to the start of the fourth quarter, the game still knotted at 10, but App now ahead 304 to 116 in total yards and owning the ball on the UTC 29.

The Mocs forced a field goal, which ASU hit to lead 13-10. A UTC turnover later in the period led to the decisive Mountaineers score, a rainbow pass that should have been intercepted but instead fell into App arms for a 36-yard touchdown.

Appropriately resigned to an eighth straight defeat, a goodly number of those 13,726 fans trudged to the exits, many of them already in the parking lots by the time the ASU lead grew to 27-10, then 34-10.

That Jacob Huesman's backup -- opening-game starter Terrell Robinson -- led the Mocs on a 65-yard drive at the finish may even have added to Russ Huesman's problems.

On a team already struggling, it is barely reaching to believe the coach could have a quarterback controversy on his hands between his son and Robinson, who briefly quit the team after the opening loss to South Florida.

"I don't think [Jacob] played very well, I hate to say that," the coach said as he scanned statistics that showed young Huesman completing 16 of 28 passes for 140 yards, two interceptions and one TD.

But it wasn't only his son. Take out the meaningless final UTC drive and the Mountaineers doubled up the Mocs on offense, held them to 87 yards rushing and sacked UTC QBs four times.

"They just whupped us after the first quarter," said UTC's coach.

But this might hurt the most: Said Moore of his Mountaineers, "We're a relatively young team."

If not a concussion, those words are surely enough to give Mocs Nation a very bad headache going forward.