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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / UTC punt returner Tyron Arnett (11) is surrounded by Austin Peay players as he fumbles the ball during the second quarter of Thursday night's game at Finley Stadium. Arnett recovered the ball, but the Mocs' possession ended three snaps later with an interception.

There will be plenty of questions to answer this week at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football practice.

Some of them are personnel decisions for Rusty Wright and his staff to make, now that they've had time to review video of the Mocs' 30-20 season-opening loss to Austin Peay.

But in the immediate aftermath of Thursday night's game at Finley Stadium, Wright had no problem pinning the blame at the top of the program.

"It's all on me," said Wright, who is in his third season as head coach at his alma mater. "It's not their fault; I didn't have them ready to play, I didn't give them the best opportunity to go out there and be successful and, man, that falls on nobody but me."

An easier opponent might have given a false sense of how talented this team is, but what the Mocs appeared to be against the Governors — like UTC, they were ranked in both preseason Football Championship Subdivision polls listed by the NCAA — is a talented team with gaps. Those were laid bare against the Governors (No. 20 in Stats Perform Top 25, No. 25 in coaches poll), who essentially exposed the 18th-ranked Mocs as a largely one-dimensional team with some obvious quarterback concerns.

Austin Peay's defense played the second half like an opponent that didn't respect UTC's passing game, and as the game wore on, it showed the Mocs were unable to give them any reason to. But that had nothing to do with UTC's defensive struggles, which allowed the Govs to wear on the Mocs as the game wore on. It had nothing to do with a litany of personal foul and procedural penalties that affected time of possession.

"It's just a matter of every little detail," Wright said. "You get into a game like this with a group that is in the top 25, everything's magnified, you know? And I thought that we'd grown a little bit to get past that point, and I didn't give us an opportunity to grow to get past that point. I took things for granted that we were going to handle, and we didn't handle them very well and that falls squarely on me."

The Mocs won't play at home again until Oct. 2, when Western Carolina visits for UTC's Southern Conference opener. Between now and then are consecutive road games against North Alabama — which lost its opener 49-28 at home to Southeastern Louisiana this past Saturday — and another at Kentucky, which beat Louisiana-Monroe 45-10. Those matchups will be followed by an open date for UTC.

By the time the Mocs are back at Finley, there will be more information about this team that had high expectations entering the season. Were those warranted?

The answer still feels like yes. Austin Peay is a really good football team, too, and it felt like the Mocs were just as good of a team despite Thursday's result. There are things that undoubtedly need to be cleaned up, but one game — albeit a painful one for fans — won't define this team.

"The leaders on this team, we just have to hold each other accountable," said fifth-year senior safety Brandon Dowdell, who had two interceptions Thursday. "Great teams don't lose two games in a row, so that's our main focus: taking things one step at a time, taking things one practice at a time and to not lose two games in a row.

"We're just going to get back in the film room, get back up, practice, clean up some little things and just keep going."

Added running back Tyrell Price, who had 42 yards and a touchdown: "You're always going to be a little disappointed when you lose. We can either let it break us down or build us up, so we're going to use this as motivation. We're going to come out the next couple of days and go with it and get prepared for the next game.

"We can all dwell on the loss and just let it bring us down for the rest of the season, but I'm pretty positive everybody can learn from this loss."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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