CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Russ Huesman had a quick reply last weekend when a friend first texted him that Appalachian State was down 31-7 against The Citadel.
"Their App, they'll come back," the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach said confidently.
The Mountaineers did not rally to win, instead falling 52-28 in an ugly home loss to the suddenly surging Bulldogs. The loss stunned Huesman, though that's nothing new for the Mocs' coach when it comes to his history with the Mountaineers.
Chattanooga has led or been within one point in the final quarter in each of Huesman's three meetings with ASU, only to see wild rallies or strange twists extend the Mountaineers' winning streak to seven in the series.
"That's what good teams do. That's what winning teams do," Huesman said. "They've won a long time there now, and you don't win three national championships without figuring ways to win the close one."
Chattanooga trailed just 21-20 with 10:43 to play in Huesman's first game in Boone, NC, in 2009, only to see ASU score two late touchdowns for a 35-20 win.
The rematch was far more painful for UTC.
The Mountaineers scored 28 straight points in a 12-minute span to take a 42-35 lead, then thwarted Chattanooga's game-winning two-point conversion attempt with 52 seconds left to seal an improbable 42-41 win.
"We made the mistake of relaxing. You can't relax on a team like App State," senior linebacker Shane Heatherly said this week. "That game in particular has bothered more than any other one I've ever played in."
The horrors continued for UTC in Boone in 2011.
Chattanooga's defense didn't allow a point, but the Mountaineers returned both a botched field goal snap and an interception for touchdowns in a strange 14-12 win.
"Last year we let that one get away from us. We should have won that game," said tight end Faysal Shafaat. "Our defense held them, but there were some unfortunate events that happened."
The recent history of the series has been quite unfortunate for the Mocs, who are just 2-5 against the Mountaineers at Finley Stadium.
App State has won 24 of the last 27 overall to open a 25-10 lead in the series. Chattanooga's last win was in a 59-56 shootout in 2004.
"I'm from North Carolina, so I'm reminded every time I go home that we've never beaten them," said Heatherly, who hails from Waynesville, NC. "But our team is ready. We just have to make plays and I believe we'll have a chance to win."
Huesman isn't using the past as motivation for his team's 6 p.m. ET kickoff with the Mountaineers this Saturday at Finley, but he's not pulling any punches.
He said he's got some good players who have done some good things in their time in the Scenic City, but the time has come for his program to break through.
"It's time to win. It's time to finish," he said. "It's time to win the close game, and I think these kids believe they can do that"
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