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UTC defensive lineman Vantrell McMillan runs during a Mocs' football practice.

It's a dilemma with a simple solution, but one that's not so easy to obtain.

After two tough losses to open the season, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team has had its confidence shaken a bit. For the Mocs to begin regaining their swagger they need only to win, starting today at Austin Peay.

"That was the topic of our meeting on Monday, how to create confidence for people that are seeking it," Mocs offensive line coach Chris Malone said. "Confidence comes from success. It's like asking out a pretty girl. If she says yes, you get more confident. You have some success and you don't know where it comes from, but suddenly it's like momentum in a game: You can't explain where it comes from or how you lose it.

"We're all a little fragile right now. We lost our mojo somehow, and we're like Austin Powers, we need to get it back."

Success breeds confidence, and a team that plays with an expectation of success leads to more winning. That rinse-and-repeat formula sounds easy enough, and today's matchup gives UTC the chance to begin gathering back that confidence before a bye week and then diving into the Southern Conference schedule.

"We have to get a win first. However it is. We have to play well this week and somehow come out with a win," head coach Russ Huesman said. "The bye week could come at a good time where we could step back and assess and get kids better and do those types of things.

"But we've just got to win a football game. That's the bottom line."

After beginning the season with losses at an FBS team (Central Michigan) that looks like a bowl candidate and in overtime to a national top-tier FCS foe (Jacksonville State), the Mocs play this evening at Austin Peay -- a program with a 13-game losing streak. And one that UTC hammered by 32 points last season.

Those factors are expected to help UTC begin to get untracked offensively, while a defense that has been solid for the most part this season continues to fine-tune as well. The offense has managed just 120 total yards in the Mocs' last six quarters of play, which has led to a frustrating week of practice.

"This is a big week for us because we don't have a win under our belt yet, and when you get a win, everyone around the program is more uplifted," sophomore offensive lineman Corey Levin said. "After a tough loss, this is a good week to get confidence going. Going into our bye week, it's really a huge week to get a 'W.'

"There is definitely no margin for error anymore. We have to get a win this week. There's no other choice."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.

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