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Mocs' opener at Nebraska presents unique challenges

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- There is no down time in Russ Huesman's schedule in week one of the 2011 college football season, yet it will somehow include less coaching than every week that follows.

"I can tell we're playing a BCS school," Huesman said at Tuesday's weekly press conference. "I've been on the phone all morning."

On the phone with Lincoln, Nebraska, to be more specific.

Such is the life of an opposing head coach when his team is playing a perennial football powerhouse like Nebraska. There's more media requests, more radio interviews and more cameras, but Huesman wouldn't have it any other way.

"This game you have to do," Huesman said about playing the tenth-ranked Cornhuskers. "It's like if Notre Dame calls and asks to play the first game next year, we'll do it.

"These schools have so much tradition that you have to do it for your players and your fans. I didn't even think twice about it."

Twice already Huesman has led UTC up against a top ten foe. In fact, in each of Huesman's two seasons the Mocs played the No. 1-ranked team and eventual national champion (Alabama and Auburn).

Still, Huesman knows from experience that previous experience against big-time programs won't entirely eliminate that 'wow' factor that will accompany his players' first step onto Memorial Field.

"Once they get into it a couple of plays it will get better. We just have to forget about what's going on around us," Huesman said.  "When I met (Alabama head coach Nick) Saban I about fell down and passed out. But you've got to forget about those things and go play."

To do that, Chattanooga will put its focus into the things they'll be able to do against Nebraska. Only problem is that list of things might be pretty limited.

"It's tougher to do some of those things that we'd like to do, run and pass, against these guys that we'd be able to do against some of the other teams we play," said senior quarterback B.J. Coleman. "You have to find what works and what doesn't. Then you discard what doesn't and just focus on the things you can do well."

For Huesman, the game is not as much about the end result as it is about the process. He wants to see if his team is ready for what is to come after the Cornhuskers. Those items likely won't show up on the scoreboard.

"We don't want a bunch of penalties. Hopefully we tackle better than they did last year (against Auburn). You really just want to see how they compete," he said.

Modest goals perhaps, but huge steps towards a daunting FCS schedule that follows the "guarantee game" opener. More importantly, doing the little things right will make a rare flight back home a little more peaceful for a head coach deathly afraid of flying.

"I think I like to recruit in our recruiting area because I don't have to get in a plane, and I like to play teams in our recruiting area because I don't have to get in a plane," Huesman said with a smile. "But I'll be all right. I've got my techniques to help me get through the flight."

Hopefully he's got a few to get the Mocs through the game, as well.

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