CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Russ Huesman noticed a definitive change in his team after the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's disappointing season-opening loss to UT-Martin.
"I may have been that it was just psychological. I think they got humbled," Huesman said of the Mocs' 31-21 setback. "I think maybe they went into that thing a little overconfident, even though I kept telling anyone who would listen that Martin was a good team.
"We went 6-5 last year. No one here should be overconfident."
Instead, the Mocs are now motivated.
The veteran group refused to dwell on the negatives in the loss, pushing forward to correct the mistakes and deficiencies exposed by the Skyhawks.
Ten days later, UTC delivered the performance many expected in the opener, routing Georgia State 42-14 in the Georgia Dome.
"I felt like we had something to prove, especially since we didn't show anything in the first game," said center Patrick Sutton. "I'd say we had a chip on our shoulder."
The offense carried an especially large chip after failing to score in the first 30 minutes against UT-Martin. Vowing not to dig another first-half hole, UTC lowered its shoulder right from the start Saturday and marched 70 yards for a score on the game's first possession.
It was a sign of things to come, especially from junior running back Keon Williams.
"In the first quarter he had a big play where he ran somebody over, basically. He got up and was talking a little talk," Sutton recalled. "That gave us something to go off of."
Williams ripped off a series of punishing runs en route to a career-high 147 yards and SoCon Offensive Player of the Week honors.
"He's been good all camp and made a commitment to be good," Huesman said of the Red Bank grad. "When we recruited him we though that's what he could be. I'm happy for him because he's a good kid and the players love him."
His effort sparked a physical Chattanooga attack that was in control from start to finish, racking up a whopping 401 yards on the ground -- UTC's highest single-game total in 19 years.
"That is definitely one of the better moments in my career," Sutton said of the offensive line's 400-plus yard showing. "When you're rushing for 400 yards, you're doing something right."
The Mocs (1-1) were doing so much right Saturday they were even able to push the pace a little more than usual, going no-huddle for certain sequences and finding great success.
"I think it does nothing but help you as far as wearing down a defense," Sutton said. "Whenever we were at our best Saturday, I think we were doing no-huddle stuff."
However, Huesman was quick to temper the up-tempo talk ahead of Saturday's 6 p.m. ET home date with Austin Peay (0-2).
He watched Chip Kelly debut his high-powered offense on Monday Night Football, and while Huesman would like to play at that break-neck pace, he knows he operates on a much different speed limit.
"I almost had a heart attack watching that last night," Huesman said of Kelly, who he called an "old friend" from Kelly's days at New Hampshire. "I mean, he's as fast as that offense. If you don't have a guy that's calling plays that is fast and knows it and is just shooting them out there, I'd probably have a heart attack."
Huesman "moving forward" after suspension/injury controversy
Huesman said Tuesday he was through discussing the team's early-season controversy surrounding the suspension of five players.
The fifth-year coach said he spoke "before and after" with athletic director David Blackburn about his handling of the situation, which included publicly stating at least one suspended player was withheld from the first six quarters of play because of injury, not suspension.
When pressed about the situation in Tuesday's presser, Huesman quickly shut it down.
"I'm not going to answer any more on that," he said. "We're going to move forward."
The five suspended players -- Terrell Robinson, Toyvian Brand, Will Sharpton, Dean Haynes and Kenny Huitt -- are all available to play this week against Austin Peay.
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