Wofford again stands in the way of the Mocs' milestones - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Wofford again stands in the way of the Mocs' milestones

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Nick Saban always preaches "the process."

Russ Huesman has long been an avid reader and follower of the Alabama coach's methods, and has long practiced a similar philosophy with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

As a result, Jacob Huesman, Russ' son and the Mocs' starting quarterback, practices that mindset a little more than most. So much, in fact, he was recently surprised when he realized the actual results.

"Somebody asked me the other day how we were doing. I told them we were 7-2. Then I did a double-take," Jacob said. "Man, 7-2? That really sounded good to say. We haven't won that many games since I've been here.

"It was a nice change-up to be able to tell somebody we're doing really well."

It's not that the Mocs haven't been doing well since Russ Huesman arrived five years ago. It's just this season is shaping up as the best the program has seen in decades.

UTC stands alone atop the SoCon standings at 5-1, a half-game ahead of Samford and this week's opponent, Wofford. The position comes courtesy of Chattanooga's first-ever five-game conference winning streak, which as come courtesy of back-to-back gut-check late-game rallies to help the Mocs finally find a way to win close games.

"I don't think there's any question that these last two games have helped us," Russ Huesman said of his team's 28-24 win over The Citadel and 35-28 win at Appalachian State. "I'd have liked to win both of them by 30, but then maybe we still don't know if we can win the close games.

"I probably would have slept a little better, though."

Either way, there was never going to be much sleep this week for the veteran coach with Wofford visiting for Senior Day at Finley Stadium.

The Terriers have won three straight against the Mocs, including the last two by a combined four points. Last year's 16-13 OT win clinched the Terriers' spot in the postseason and shut the door on Chattanooga's playoff hopes. 

"Everybody knows how important this win is," said senior defensive back Chaz Moore, who has never beaten Wofford. "They've been in our way every year. It's time to get over that hump."

The Mocs cleared that hump in Russ Huesman's first season with a lopsided 38-9 win, but there was far less on the line for both sides in that midseason matchup.

"They're a well-oiled machine. They're well-coached. Their team looks the same every year," Huesman said. "It's a big game. I don't think there's any question about it. It's a big game because it's not just a big game for one team or the other, it's a big game for both teams."

How big?

It will be just the second time UTC has ever been ranked to play a ranked foe at Finley Stadium. The Mocs broke into both major FCS polls this week at No. 23 in the coaches' Top 25 and No. 24 in The Sports Network rankings.

A SoCon championship is still in play for both programs with three weeks left in the season. The Mocs can clinch their first league title since 1984 by beating both Wofford and Samford to close their conference slate.

"The situation is different this time. We're more in control," Jacob Huesman said. "We always get to this Wofford game and think about how we need to win and then have a few other things happen. Right now we control our own destiny.

"It's a good position to be in, but something we've never really experienced."

A win in Saturday's regular season home finale would also mark a few other milestones that Mocs have never, or rarely experienced. Never before has Chattanooga won six SoCon games in a single season, and it hasn't enjoyed an eight-win campaign since 1980.

One more win would also put UTC in a solid position to make the FCS playoffs for just the second time in program history, and the first time since 1984.

"It's all I can think about when I go to sleep," said Moore. "We have a chance to turn Chattanooga around and win a ring, but you don't want to think too far ahead.

"You just have to focus on this week and take it day-by-day."

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