Three home games. Three lopsided losses.
Three long walks back to the Finley Stadium home locker room for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team, with onlookers hanging over walls yelling and cursing at players and coaches at the east end of the stadium about how "soft" the team is. How the Mocs "quit."
"Russ would have never let this happen!" one man yelled at the coaching staff, referring to former UTC coach Russ Huesman, who left last December for a higher-paying job at Richmond.
Three times the home team has sat in the locker room, while opposing teams — UT-Martin, Western Carolina and Furman — have loudly celebrated, reveling in the moment.
"It goes to show that the past couple of years, we've been the team to beat and have a target on our backs," Mocs cornerback C.J. Fritz said. "It's more frustrating to see teams beat us on our home field, but it also gives us more drive to come out and play better. We're going to put more emphasis on ourselves to make plays on defense and shut the game down.
"It's really on us on defense."
The Mocs will be back in Finley Stadium for a Southern Conference game this afternoon, hosting The Citadel (3-3, 1-3) at 2 on Military Appreciation Day. UTC (1-6, 1-3) has lost four of its past five games at home dating back to last season, and it has averaged 11.3 points, 20.7 rushing yards and 215.3 total yards in the three Finley losses this year.
When the Mocs scored 17 points in a 24-point loss to Furman, it was three more points than their combined score in the defeats by UTM and WCU. The 324 yards of total offense against the Paladins was 2 more than the total in those two losses.
The average margin of defeat in the three games has been 25.3 points.
"We haven't been our best at home," freshman quarterback Cole Copeland said. "It's frustrating, to say the least. As a team we're sick of seeing another coach get Gatorade thrown on them and hearing another team celebrate. It builds a little fire in you; hopefully we'll turn it around."
A lack of consistency at the most important position on the field hasn't helped. Copeland is the Mocs' third starting quarterback, and redshirt freshman Dominic Caldwell subbed in at the end of the WCU game after injuries to Alejandro Bennifield and Nick Tiano.
The Mocs have turned the ball over nine times at home, while forcing no turnovers.
The challenge is to play better. Inexperience has been a problem all season — coupled with new schemes — but as the season has worn on, it's becoming less and less of a viable explanation. Now for the Mocs to get off the skid, it'll be about execution.
"It kills you. Tears you up inside," coach Tom Arth said. "Whether hearing it in the locker room or seeing it on the field, it kills you as a competitor. Whether you're at home or anywhere, you go out there to play the best you can, and get the results to win the game. When that doesn't happen, it's really disappointing, really frustrating, and you've got to keep finding ways to be different, to figure out how you can be better.
"But it certainly is not a fun experience to be a part of."
Arth said Thursday that senior linebacker Tae Davis — who has been out the past two weeks with an upper-body injury — should be back today against the Bulldogs.
"He's been practicing and he felt good, so I'm hopeful he's going to be ready to go," Arth said.
Arth also said Tiano (shoulder) could be ready "in an emergency" after missing the past two weeks.
Senior linebacker Tavon Lawson, who was limited this week, is questionable and could miss his second consecutive game, as could senior running back Richardre Bagley, who could miss his third game and second consecutive.
Ruled out are Bennifield and junior defensive back Markell Boston.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.