• UTC (0-1) vs. Jacksonville State (0-1)
• Saturday, 6 p.m.
• Finley Stadium
• 96.1 FM
The biggest second-half struggle for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in its football season opener was finding room to run. Facing a much larger defensive front, the Mocs' ground-oriented offense managed just 9 yards in the second half, losing yardage on each of their last five rushing attempts.
While Saturday's opponent, ninth-ranked Jacksonville State, isn't as imposing up front, several UTC players and coaches said it's no stretch to say the visitors might be a better overall team than Central Michigan.
"Their front four on defense is as good if not better than what we just saw," Mocs offensive coordinator Jeff Durden said.
The reason the Mocs believe they might be facing a tougher defense can be summed up in one word: speed.
"They look a lot faster than Central Michigan," said senior receiver Tommy Hudson, who had two touchdown catches against the Chippewas. "It will be challenging. A lot of us are watching more film and doing more work on our own to focus on this game so we can learn more about them and where we can make plays.
"They're not as big and even though they're not a [FBS] team, they look as good or better in a lot of areas."
Big crowd desired
The Mocs are hoping for, and expecting, a large turnout for Saturday evening's game. Since Georgia does not play this week and Tennessee's game kicks off six hours before UTC, the Mocs are not competing against those teams for fans' interest.
Players and coaches admitted Tuesday that a big crowd can be a factor as well.
"The bigger the crowd, the better we are," said sophomore running back Derrick Craine. "The crowd plays a huge part in how we play, I firmly believe that. Just having the crowd behind us will make us that much better."
JSU an old rival
The Gamecocks are one of UTC's oldest rivalries, with the series dating back to 1904. The Mocs lead the all-time series 26-11, but the Gamecocks won the last meeting in thrilling fashion. In 2012, after UTC had rallied from a 17-0 deficit to tie the game with just 39 seconds remaining, Jacksonville State used a long kickoff return to set up a 37-yard field goal as time expired for a 24-21 win.
The Mocs are just 1-3 against the Gamecocks at Finley and 2-6 in the series since 2004.
One victory away
Early in his sixth season, UTC coach Russ Huesman needs just one more win to equal the program's victory total the 10 years before his arrival.
Huesman, who has been voted Southern Conference coach of the year twice (2009, 2013) has a 31-26 overall record and led the program to a share of the league title last season. In the decade before that, UTC compiled a 32-81 record under three coaches, with just one winning season (6-5 in 2005). Huesman has finished with a winning record in four of his previous five years.
He was 3-0 against Jacksonville State as a Mocs player but is 1-2 against the Gamecocks as a coach.
Tickets for the game are available by calling 266-MOCS (6627) or by visiting the UTC ticket office inside McKenzie Arena, located next to Gate 1. The ticket office is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The ticket booth in the First Tennessee Pavilion, next to Finley Stadium, is open Friday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and also on game days, beginning at noon. The best way to save time when buying tickets is at GoMocs.com and print them at home.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.