College football is finally upon us. For most fans, waiting for the season to kick off is like waiting for Christmas morning, counting down the minutes before unwrapping that Red Ryder BB Gun — or for the younger fans, that Playstation 4.
That hasn’t been the case for UTC head coach Russ Huesman, though. And probably every coach in America would agree.
“If you want football season to get here quickly, become a football coach,” Huesman told the Chattanooga Quarterback Club on Monday afternoon. “Then it jumps on you like that.”
“As coaches and players it feels like it was just yesterday that we finished up ,” Huesman added at Tuesday’s media luncheon. “It seems like it was just yesterday that we started fall camp. I knew it would come fast. It always does.”
And now, with the Mocs’ Thursday-night opener against UT Martin just a couple days off, Huesman’s starting to experience that usual early-season anxiety. The fact that UTC returns a wealth of talent and experience hasn’t changed that.
“I always feel nervous,” he said. “I could probably be bringing the Green Bay Packers out there and I’d still be nervous. I feel the same as I always do. I think camp went fairly smooth, but you’re always on pins and needles.”
Added junior running back Marquis Green, “Yeah Coach gets a little nervous. He gets a little upset, a little angry and irritable, but we understand. It’s coaching, everyone gets a little bit nervous. I get a little bit nervous.”
Chattanooga’s Week 1 opponent might have something to do with it, too.
UT Martin isn’t Nebraska or South Florida. It’s not Division II Glenville State, either. The squad that’ll be squaring off against the Mocs is certainly beatable, but it’s also capable of pulling off a pivotal season-opening win.
There’s a little more suspense attached to this one, but don’t expect Huesman to admit it, though.
“It’s a long season, and if you start getting too excited for a win or too down about a loss you’re in big trouble,” he said. “No matter what happens on Thursday we have to put it behind us and get better, whether we win big, lose big, win close or lose close. Whatever happens you have to play a 12-game season.
“I don’t think you can go into this game saying it’s make or break.”
True. A win wouldn’t get the Mocs into the playoffs, and a loss wouldn’t keep them out. Whatever happens Thursday night, though, will go a long way in terms of the team’s expectations — expectations that are currently sky-high.
Unlike the Mocs’ 2009 opener against Glenville State — a 30-13 rout — a win over UT Martin would mean more than a stat-stuffing, confidence-building start to the season. In that same light, a loss wouldn’t be viewed the same as last season’s 34-13 setback to South Florida, or the 40-7 throttling delivered by Nebraska a season earlier.
This one will be a true test.
“Those big teams, we played them pretty well but they just had way more depth than us,” said senior linebacker Wes Dothard, a preseason All-American selection. “This one right here, it’s going to be a test. 1-0 starting off the season would be huge for us.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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