• Wofford (5-3, 3-1 SoCon) at UTC (6-3, 5-0)
• Saturday, 1 p.m., Finley Stadium
• 96.1 FM
A University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offense that has scored on 21 of its last 32 possessions the past three football games will need to continue making the most of each opportunity this weekend.
Because Wofford's triple-option offense is designed to eat up the clock as well as yards, the Mocs know they will have limited offensive possessions.
"We always want to put points on the board any time we have the ball, but we definitely need to focus on making sure we do that again this week," Mocs quarterback Jacob Huesman said. "We know points could be at a premium because you just don't get the ball as many times or have as many chances against these triple-option teams.
"It's always important to get points early, but maybe even more against these type teams."
Against The Citadel, which also runs a time-consuming triple option, UTC was dominant early, scoring on its first five possessions. That forced the run-first, run-often Bulldogs out of their comfort zone and led to a lopsided win.
Wofford, which had last week off to rest and prepare, is second in the Southern Conference in time of possession, keeping the ball an avearge of nearly 32 minutes each game. The Terriers also rank fourth among FCS programs with 297.3 rushing yards per game.
One way to ensure the UTC offense gets plenty of touches is for the defense to be as stingy as it was at The Citadel and again last week. The Mocs rank second in the SoCon in rushing defense (126.6 yapg) and scoring defense (19.2) and have held three opponents to fewer than 200 yards of total offense.
"It's like root-canal surgery just trying to get a first down on them," Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. "It's tough. Defensively, those cats know where to go, and they go at a great deal of speed and intensity.
"On offense we need to play keep-away and not allow their offense too many opportunities. It's that simple. If we give them too many opportunities they're going to hit on some home runs, and you can't afford to get behind against a team like that. All the accolades that Chattanooga has received, they've earned it. It's the best Chattanooga team I've faced. And I've been going against those guys since 1983."
If history is any indication, the game won't be decided until the late stages. Last year UTC extended a one-possession game with a late field goal for a 10-point win, and the combined margin of the two meetings before that was four points.
Even though a loss Saturday would mean the Mocs no longer control their own destiny, it wouldn't prevent them from earning the conference's automatic playoff berth. If there's a three-way tie atop the standings, similar to last year, among the Mocs, Wofford and Western Carolina, UTC would take the playoff spot by virtue of the point differential from the 51-point win over Western Carolina.
UTC's win last week did, however, open the door for the only way Wofford could claim the league title. Because Western Carolina had beaten the Terriers, it had the tiebreaker if both teams finished with one league loss. But now, should Wofford upset UTC and Western Carolina lose one more conference game (at Samford or against VMI), the Terriers would have the tiebreaker for the automatic playoff berth if they end the season by beating Furman and Mercer.
As confusing as all that may seem, UTC can clear up the playoff picture by simply beating Wofford.
Saturday's game, which is the regular-season home finale, is Military Appreciation Day with special pregame and halftime festivities planned. All current and retired military veterans and their immediate families will receive free admission to the game by showing a valid military or veterans ID at the First Tennessee Pavilion ticket windows on game day.
Also, UTC alumnus and Chattanooga native James Rogers will perform his Bicentennial song, "Fly, Eagle, Fly" at halftime, and the American Eagle Foundation's "Challenger" will fly over the stadium.
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.