CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Russ Huesman isn't a fan of a "bend but don't break" defense.
The thought of giving up large chunks of yardage before finally making a stand when you need to just doesn't sit well with the defensive-minded University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach.
"That kind of makes me nervous throughout the course of a game," Huesman said.
Luckily for Huesman, the Mocs are far from that type of unit this season. In fact, statistically they're one of the best defenses in the country.
UTC enters Saturday's game at Elon ranked in the top eleven in the nation in five key defensive categories, and Huesman makes sure his players know it.
"(Defensive coordinator Adam) Fuller has a poster in the linebacker's meeting room that has where we are nationally in total defense, scoring defense and turnovers, and also where we are in the Southern Conference," Huesman said. "I've done that everywhere I've been. I think it's important the guys see that and achieve to be the best in the country.
"Every Sunday we get the stats and put them up and make sure they see it."
Chattanooga players have taken pride in the weekly ritual under Huesman, especially this season.
The Mocs lead the nation in pass defense (117.4 yards per game). They also lead the SoCon and rank in the top ten nationally in pass efficiency defense (No. 3 at 101.15), opponent first downs (No. 2 at 13.4/game) and fumbles recovered (No. 8 with 10).
They're also second in the SoCon and top 25 in the country in three more areas: total defense (No. 7 nationally at 288.6 ypg), turnover margin (No. 11 at +8) and scoring defense (No. 25 at 21.1 points per game).
"I like looking at that stuff," said linebacker and team captain Ryan Consiglio. "I think it's important to know what you're doing nationally and in the conference.
"It gives you a way to hold yourself to certain standards."
Those standards aren't limited to the team categories. The Mocs' players have their own "game within a game" to keep pushing each other.
"Oh yeah, the production board," Consiglio said with a smile. "As a player you get graded after every game. You get different points for every type of play. For example, a tackle is worth two points.
"You just keep tallying up those points throughout the season. It's a good way for you to stay competitive within your own team."
All that mathematical motivation is helping the Mocs focus on the one number they can't afford to change: the one in the loss column
At 3-4 overall, UTC has to win its final four regular season games to even be considered for a postseason berth.
"I feel like having that killer instinct, that do or die instinct, is something we're going to have to hang our hat on if we want to win out. That's what we have to do if we want to make the playoffs," Consiglio said.
If that happens, Huesman may have to come up with some new ways to motivate his players next season to carry over his defense's momentum.
He's been impressed by the string of success defensive success Nick Saban has recently enjoyed at Alabama, and Huesman wouldn't mind learning a thing or two from one of his all-time greats.
"Saban's the best coach in the country at any level," Huesman said. "If he'd ever let me, I'd come down there and spend a week with him and just follow him around.
"But he's not going to let me."
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