The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team's 2010 season perhaps will be most remembered for what the Mocs almost did, rather than their many achievements.
They almost upset third-ranked Appalachian State in their opener. The next week, they almost upset No. 6 Jacksonville State. And in the end, the Mocs went 6-5 and almost made the playoffs.
"There were three games where we played well and probably should have won and could have won, and we didn't," UTC coach Russ Huesman said, referring to the first two losses and one to Elon. "Someday we're going to win those three."
The season, the second under Huesman, was a big success in many respects. The Mocs went 6-5 for back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1990-91. They were 5-3 in the Southern Conference and tied for third place.
UTC also set a school attendance record with a total of 63,494 in five games at Finley Stadium.
"This was a year to remember," quarterback B.J. Coleman said. "There was a lot of doors that we knocked down, we beat some teams that were good football teams and all in all you feel a little bit better than 6-5."
Coleman's favorite target, Joel Bradford, put it even more succinctly: "This 6-5 season does not seem like we were 6-5."
The Mocs' five-game win streak in the middle of the season, the program's longest since 1980, put them in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1984. But a home loss to Elon on Oct. 30 and last Saturday's season-ending 45-14 defeat at No. 9 Wofford ended UTC's playoff hopes.
"All I know is this is about the worst feeling I've ever had as far as football goes," linebacker Ryan Consiglio said after the Wofford game, "and I figure this will stick around for a little while and be some motivation."
The Mocs' five losses this season were to teams with a combined record of 44-11, including 11-0 Auburn. They lost to three playoff teams - top seed Appalachian State (42-41), Jacksonville State (21-17) and Wofford - and beat one, Georgia Southern (35-27).
UTC led the SoCon in total offense heading into the finale. Coleman threw for 2,996 yards and 26 touchdowns and Bradford set a school record and led the SoCon with 1,284 receiving yards.
Defensively, the Mocs were inconsistent and prone to giving up big plays. Injuries and a lack of depth played a part in those struggles. At Wofford, UTC suited up just 19 defensive players.
"When we played well, I think we were pretty good," defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. "When we played poorly, we were really bad."
It also wasn't a good season for the kicking game. The Mocs finished last in the league in both field-goal and extra-point percentage.
Huesman said he made a mistake when he "hung my hat" on true freshman Nick Pollard, who missed the season with a hip injury. That ultimately led to moving wide receiver Jeff Veres to kicker.
"Special teams, we're going to have to revamp, we're going to have to figure it out," Huesman said. "Nick's going to come back and he's going to be a great kicker for us next year and for the next four years."
Defensively, UTC loses cornerback Buster Skrine, a four-year starter. Offensively, the Mocs must replace several key starters, including offensive linemen Chris Harr, T.J. Hurless and Justin Galyon.
They hoped to get into the playoffs this season, so does that mean they will expect to in 2011? Huesman said he wants his program to move forward every season.
"Obviously the next step is the playoffs next year," he said. "That's moving forward; 6-5 next year is probably not moving forward."