The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team has been superior through the first three quarters of its games this season, only to see all the good work undone in the fourth.
"We've shot out of the gate well and just haven't finished," quarterback B.J. Coleman said.
The Mocs have outscored their opponents - Appalachian State and Jacksonville State, who are ranked first and fourth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision this week - 45-21 in the first three quarters.
In the fourth, however, UTC has been drummed, 42-13.
"It's staggering," defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said.
Those fourth-quarter flops are why the Mocs are 0-2 heading into Saturday's game against Eastern Kentucky at Finley Stadium.The Colonels also are 0-2, but they haven't had any victories within their grasp as the Mocs have, twice.
UTC led Appalachian State 35-14 one play into the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers then went on a 28-0 run and won when UTC's two-point attempt with 52 seconds left was unsuccessful.
Last week, UTC led Jacksonville State 17-7 entering the fourth quarter, but the Mocs' win-sealing drive in the closing minutes was derailed by a botched snap, ultimately allowing the Gamecocks a chance for the go-ahead score.
All of those close encounters with success, linebacker Ryan Consiglio said, make Saturday's game more important than a nonconference game in September should be.
"This is a must-win game, if there is such a thing," Consiglio said. "For all reasons. No matter how we do it, we just have to make it happen.
"I don't care if it's 2-0 or 100-98, it just has to happen one way or the other."
The Mocs' mantra this week has been "finish," something the players and coaches have said hundreds of times in meetings and during practice. Consiglio is one of the players who had chances to help finish off both Appalachian State and Jacksonville State. In the third quarter of both games, when the Mocs were still in control, he dropped interceptions.
Neither was an easy catch, but Consiglio - who had 14 tackles and an interception at JSU - said they were plays he should have made.
"That one against App definitely has still bugged me to this day," he said. "It might not have been a gimme, but if you want to be an all-conference player, a good player, you need to make plays like that. I've beat myself up about it, but in the big picture you've got to move on and get the next one."
Both Coleman and Consiglio said Saturday's game will be a test of the Mocs' character, because while UTC is only a couple of good plays away from a 2-0 record, it risks being 0-3 if it doesn't play well for four quarters against the Colonels.
"We're going to see what kind of football team we have this week when our backs are against the wall," Coleman said. "We'll either come out fighting or not, and I think these guys are willing to do that."
Cornerback Buster Skrine (dislocated elbow) practiced Thursday for the first time since the opener. If he's cleared today, Skrine could be available against EKU. ... As of Thursday afternoon, 5,470 tickets have been distributed for Saturday's game. ... UTC is hosting Youth Night at the game, and children in the eighth grade or younger wearing a sports-related outfit will get in free.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or (423) 757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeat.