With a dominating win already secured on Sept. 7, 2013, Rusty Wright — then the linebackers coach for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — saw then-head coach Russ Huesman do something he hardly ever did.
Take his headset off.
The occasion was the Mocs' 42-14 win over Georgia State in the Georgia Dome, the program's first and only win over a Football Bowl Subdivision team since NCAA Division I and Division I-AA were divided into FBS and Football Championship Subdivision respectively in 2006. UTC jumped out to a 42-0 lead, with the turning point being the game's second drive when the Mocs lined up for a 44-yard Nick Pollard field goal before faking it, with Jacob Huesman hitting Faysal Shafaat for a 27-yard score to make it 14-0.
"We got down there and our guys started playing," said Wright — whose own headset didn't work that day — during Tuesday's weekly media luncheon. "Next thing we know, it's 28-0 and we said we're going to win this thing, so let's keep playing and we did. We were up 14-0 real quick, and after that we were in control."
The Mocs finished with 401 rushing yards and over 500 yards of total offense that day while limiting the Panthers to just 30 yards on the ground. Keon Williams had 147 yards rushing and a score, while true freshman Derrick Craine had 53 and another touchdown. Shafaat caught both Huesman touchdown passes.
Though Football Championship Subdivision programs such as UTC appear to be winning more games than they used to against FBS programs — perhaps the most dramatic of those being Jacksonville State's last-second victory at Florida State last weekend — those wins remain the overwhelming exception, at least partly because FCS schools have 22 fewer scholarships (63 is the max per season) to work with on a yearly basis. While obviously wanting to win, sometimes it's better to judge FCS teams on moments as opposed to results.
This year's FBS foe for the Mocs is Kentucky, which is receiving votes in both the Associated Press and Coaches' Polls, heading into Saturday's noon kickoff at UK's Kroger Field. Though the Mocs have never previously faced the Wildcats, UTC's previous such pairings against FBS foes, including Southeastern Conference opponents, have resulted in some good efforts.
Today we look at some of the best moments of the last 10 games against FBS competition:
Florida State 52, UTC 13, Nov. 21, 2015: The final score was what it was, but on the opening kickoff, Henrique Ribeiro hit Kermit Whitfield and forced a fumble that was recovered by Dale Warren. Jacob Huesman then led the Mocs 35 yards downfield before Ribeiro hit a field goal to put the Mocs up 3-0. The UTC defense then forced a three-and-out, but the Seminoles shut down the Mocs offense. Still, UTC trailed just 7-6 in the second quarter before FSU scored 38 consecutive points in the win.
Alabama 31, UTC 3, Nov. 19, 2016: If you search hard enough on Twitter, you can still find the screen grab which reads "UTC 3, Alabama 0. End of first quarter." The Mocs forced a pair of punts on the first two Alabama drives, and Alejandro Bennifield led UTC down the field offensively with a number of short passes before Ribeiro connected on a 47-yard field goal to put the Mocs ahead. Of course, Jalen Hurts hit Calvin Ridley for a 47-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the second quarter and the Crimson Tide never looked back.
LSU 45, UTC 10, Sept. 9, 2017: A week prior, the Tigers' defense made headlines when it didn't allow BYU to get across midfield in a dominating victory. But the Mocs, quarterbacked by Nick Tiano, methodically drove 65 yards down the field before stalling at the 5-yard line. Victor Ulmo made a 22-yard field goal to give the Mocs the early advantage. The team also got a boost from senior Darrell Bridges, who rushed for 88 yards and a score.
Central Michigan 20, UTC 16. Aug. 28, 2014: For all the struggles against Power Five competition, that hasn't been the case against Group of Five competition as the Mocs could make a case it should have won its last two games against that level. UTC led 16-0 after a 70-yard connection between Huesman and Tommy Hudson with 3:34 to play in the second quarter before current Dallas Cowboy backup Cooper Rush led the Chippewas back, tossing a pair of touchdowns — one in each the second and third quarter. Huesman threw a pair of second-half interceptions to prevent the UTC comeback.
Western Kentucky 13, UTC 10, Oct. 24, 2020: This makes the list for the big play that didn't count. Like the Central Michigan game, the Mocs outplayed their Group of Five opponent and had a chance to win. The Hilltoppers took the three-point lead with 1:21 remaining, but Bryce Nunnelly would respond with a kickoff return of over 100 yards for a score. Only the line judge waved off the score, saying that UTC's Tyrin Summers had called for a fair catch prior to the return, which gave the Mocs the ball at the 25-yard line, needing to get downfield for the game-tying score, which they were unable to do.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.