By all accounts, the UTC football team has moved on from its season-opening loss to UT Martin. It might not want to completely forget it, though. At least not the lesson the team learned after the humbling 31-21 setback to the Skyhawks. It's pretty relevant to the situation Chattanooga presently finds itself in.
The Mocs are getting some pats on the back and feeling pretty good about themselves after last week’s 42-14 win over Georgia State. Now, UTC turns its attention to its next opponent — an 0-2 Austin Peay team.
It’s an opponent that most feel the Mocs should beat, but if history has taught them anything, that’s a recipe for disaster.
“We probably went into [our first game] a little overconfident, even though I continued to tell everybody that Martin was good,” UTC head coach Russ Huesman said. “I don’t know if they wanted to listen ... I think they got humbled.”
Senior cornerback Kadeem Wise took it a step further, saying that Week 1 loss was just as important — if not more important — than the team’s Week 2 victory.
“I don’t think we needed a win like this,” the senior defensive back said, referring to Saturday’s lopsided victory. “I think we needed the loss early in the season so we could readjust ourselves — get our minds right.”
If the team’s dominating victory over the Panthers was any indication, it seems they have. The question is, though, can they keep their minds in the right place, or will the Mocs make the same mistake against the Governors that they made against the Skyhawks?
“Just like we had to put the loss behind us, now we’ve got to put this one behind us,” junior quarterback Jacob Huesman said after Saturday’s game. “We can’t get too much of a big head about it. We’ve got to look at next week like it’s Week 1.”
Added senior linebacker Wes Dothard, “We’re just going week by week; game by game.”
Even against an opponent like Austin Peay.
The Governors, victims of a murderous non-conference schedule, have been outscored by a combined 80 points, failing to register a single touchdown through their first two games — both losses lopsided to Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
“I don’t wish that upon anyone to be honest with you,” Russ Huesman said of APSU’s schedule, which also includes a date with FBS-level Ohio on Sept. 21. “It’s a tough, brutal schedule, but it looks like they survived it and actually stood up pretty good against them.”
Austin Peay’s unforgiving early-season schedule has put Chattanooga’s coaching staff in a tricky situation, though. How do you prepare for a team that’s been so badly beaten by such great competition? What — if anything — can you take from those games?
“I think the biggest thing taken from the Tennessee and Vanderbilt games was they weren't manhandled,” Russ Huesman said. “Tennessee and Vanderbilt have more team speed than them — they've got more team speed than us too ... It’s really hard to gauge them; I just know that they were pretty physical.
“I think [the players] know that the OVC is a pretty dang good conference, and anybody in that league could beat anybody in the Southern Conference. If they haven’t figured that out yet then they shouldn’t be college students. We understand we’re not playing a non-scholarship football program or a Division II school. We know we’re playing a quality opponent.“
Suspensions: One of the worst-kept secrets in Chattanooga came out after the Mocs’ victory over the Panthers.
After several days of speculation, Russ Huesman finally revealed that the five UTC players who sat out the first six quarters of the season due to various injuries, weren’t injured at all. They were, in fact, suspended for a violation of team rules.
“There were five of them that were suspended,” Huesman said after Saturday’s game. “Toyvian [Brand], Terrell [Robinson], Will Sharpton, Kenny Huitt and Dean Haynes. We’re moving forward.”
The fifth-year head coach offered little to address the matter at Tuesday’s media luncheon, saying “[Athletic director David Blackburn and I] talked before and after ... I’m not going to answer anymore, we’re going to move forward.”
Two of the five suspended players — Terrell Robinson and Toyvian Brand — appeared in the second half of Saturday’s win.
• OUT: S C.J. Murrell (foot), S Dean Haynes (ankle), OL Hunter Townson (shoulder), DE Zack Rayl (knee), DE Vantrell McMillan (knee)
• LIMITED: CB Will Johnson (shoulder), S Zach McCarter (knee)
Freshman running back Derrick Craine was held out of Tuesday’s practice with what Huesman called a slight hamstring strain. Craine, who ran for 53 yards and his first career touchdown against Georgia State, should be ready to play against the Governors on Saturday.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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