There was no need for reminders, no reason to discuss the outcome of last year's heartbreaking loss at Samford.
In the two weeks of preparing for tonight's game, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coaches and players did not bring up the events that led to the three-point overtime loss that cost them the outright Southern Conference championship and a playoff bid.
Plays that could have been made but weren't, costly inches here and there, are still fresh in their minds, but rather than discuss it as a team, the coaches and players preferred just to prepare. Head coach Russ Huesman pointed out early this week that narrow losses are never decided by just one play or one player, but a collection of plays made throughout the game to set up the outcome.
"Nobody really wants to talk about it, and there's really no need," said senior punter Nick Pollard, whose 31-yard field-goal attempt against the Bulldogs hit the left upright and fell no good on the final play of overtime. "It's a new season and a lot of different players for both teams. But of course we remember it.
"As a kicker you just want to put it behind you. But I'm definitely hungry for this one, I can tell you that much. I'm ready to get at it. There are plays you think back on, but you have to realize that's behind you and move forward. That's all I can do now."
Pollard has continued to be a weapon for the Mocs defense with his rugby punts and directional kickoffs helping pin opponents deep in their own territory.
On the play before Pollard's miss, fullback Taharin Tyson narrowly missed coming up with a catch near the back of the end zone, a pass that sailed just over his fingertips.
"It's a play that maybe I should have made," Tyson said. "You don't like to think about it a lot, but maybe the memory of that one will help me make a play if I get another chance."
Tonight's game continues a very difficult, monthlong stretch to open a season for UTC. After narrow losses at FBS foe Central Michigan (a likely bowl team) and to No. 8 Jacksonville State, the Mocs now open conference play against the preseason co-favorite. Aside from a trip to Tennessee in two weeks, having the schedule so front-loaded does mean that a win today could set the Mocs up for a less difficult run toward a SoCon title and the program's first playoff berth in 30 years.
"We've had a couple of big games already this year, games that were winnable, but we didn't come out on top so we have to keep working to correct some things to help us win those in the future," said senior receiver Tommy Hudson. "We have to take care of business early in the game to be in better shape later.
"This is one that all of us have looked forward to. We didn't have to say much about it. We've just worked hard for a couple of weeks and are ready to play."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.