Chattanooga at Georgia State
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET
Georgia Dome (71,228) • Atlanta, Ga.
Radio: ESPN 105.1 FM
Series Record: First meeting
Why Saturday is important
The Mocs will have quite a bit on the line Saturday in Atlanta. A .500 start isn’t what the team envisioned for 2013 — the year Chattanooga finally breaks free from mediocrity — but if they can manage a win over the Panthers, they can salvage at least some of the squad’s preseason confidence. A loss would drop Chattanooga to 0-2 for the second straight year and the third time in Russ Huesman’s five seasons in charge. It’s way too early to label this one a “must-win” for the UTC, especially with lowly Austin Peay visiting the Scenic City next week — an almost guaranteed victory — but make no mistake, the Mocs needs this one.
Three things to know about Georgia State
The Panthers are in a two-year transition period from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision, which began in 2012. Georgia State, which began playing football in 2010, will be fully eligible for the Sun Belt title and postseason bowl games in 2014. GSU is one of two FBS-level opponents on the Mocs’ 2013 schedule — the other being two-time defending national champion, No. 1 Alabama (Nov. 23). ... Georgia State’s roster features 27 seniors, including 17 who were members of the Panthers’ initial squad in 2009. Linebacker Robert Ferguson is the only Panther to play in every game in Georgia State history. ... Quarterback Ronnie Bell had one of the most productive passing days in school history last week, completing 28-of-51 pass attempts for 391 yards. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound redshirt sophomore found the end zone three times in the 31-21 loss to Samford, but he was also picked off twice in the season-opening defeat.
What you should know about Georgia State head coach Trent Miles
Miles, just the second head coach in GSU’s short history, is in his first season with the Panthers, taking the reigns of the program after an impressive rebuilding job in his five seasons as head coach at his alma mater, Indiana State. ... Miles, who inherited an Indiana State program that had won just one game in three seasons, guided the Sycamores to winning seasons in each of his final three years there, and was named AFCA Region Coach of the Year in both 2010 and 2012. ... Miles has also made assistant-coaching stops at Northern Illinois (1991-94), Hawaii (1995-96), Fresno State (1997-99), Stanford (2001), Notre Dame (2002-04) and Washington (2005-07), in addition to serving one season as an offensive assistant for the Green Bay Packers (2000).
Chattanooga player to watch
Tight end Faysal Shafaat was one of the lone bright spots in Chattanooga’s Week 1 loss to UT Martin. The preseason All-American hauled in four receptions for 45 yards and two touchdowns in the Mocs’ 31-21 loss. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is clearly one of quarterback Jacob Huesman’s favorite targets, and he’ll be on the receiving end of plenty of passes Saturday.
Georgia State player to watch
The Panthers couldn’t get anything going on the ground last week against Samford, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying — GSU carried 25 times for just 72 yards. As Huesman said earlier in the week, Georgia State’s “got to be licking their chops” after watching UTC give up 289 rushing yards a week earlier. If Chattanooga’s run defense doesn’t improve, GSU running back Gerald Howse could be in for a big afternoon.
Random facts to impress your friends
The Mocs have 29 players on their roster from the state of Georgia, and 26 of those are from the Atlanta area. ... UTC is just 2-6 in non-conference road games under Huesman. ... The last time the Mocs defeated an FBS team was a 9-7 win over Southwestern Louisiana (Louisiana-Lafayette) on Sept. 1, 1984. ... Quarterback Jacob Huesman leads the SoCon and is No. 10 in the FCS with 316 yards of total offense. Huesman also leads the SoCon in passing yards (226), and he’s fourth in rushing yards (90). ... Shafaat was one of four SoCon players to find the end zone twice in Week 1, marking his first multi-touchdown game. ... Senior cornerback Chaz Moore is No. 2 in the SoCon and seventh in the FCS in kick returns, averaging 30.5 yards per return on last week’s two attempts. ... Redshirt freshman cornerback Dee Virgin hauled in his first career interception in last week’s loss. ... Four true freshmen made their UTC debuts last weeks, including wide receiver Xavier Borishade, running back Derrick Craine, long snapper Joe McMahon and defensive back Oscar Prado.
Senior captain Chaz Moore on dealing with last week’s loss: “We can’t let one game determine our season. Last year we had 11 games; now we have 11 games left. We just look at it as a learning experience. We must get better. There’s no way we can play like that and be a good team in this conference.”
The Mocs will win if ...
They catch a couple of early offensive breaks and tackle better than they did against the Skyhawks. UTC’s defense welcomes back a couple of key pieces — senior safety D.J. Key and junior defensive end Toyvian Brand — while junior wide receiver Terrell Robinson, who sat out last week’s game, has developed a knack for providing big plays — something the offense could have used a few more of last week.
The Mocs will lose if ...
They overlook the Panthers. For a squad that finished 1-10 a season ago, they sure looked good against Samford last week. Georgia State is much better than their 2012 record indicates, and just like last week’s game against UT Martin, Chattanooga is squaring off against a very formidable foe.
Chattanooga 27, Georgia State 24
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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