Sure, it moved the Mocs one step closer to a Southern Conference title and a spot in the FCS playoffs, but does a four-point victory over a two-win team really mean that much?
Yes, it does. Definitely.
It was only one win, but the momentum the Mocs gained from Saturday’s come-from-behind triumph over The Citadel was immeasurable. It also awarded them the opportunity to control their own postseason destiny, something that hasn't been the case in Huesman's first four seasons in charge.
“I thought it was a great win for our program to come back and get a win against a good team in The Citadel,” UTC head coach Russ Huesman said at Tuesday’s media luncheon. “I thought it was an important win, not only to keep us alive in the race and keep us moving, but we haven’t had a win like that since I’ve been here.”
The Mocs’ hard-fought, 28-24 win over the Bulldogs marked the fifth fourth-quarter comeback of the Huesman era (since 2009), but Saturday’s was by far the most satisfying. They proved to the SoCon, and more importantly, themselves, that those types of games can be won and need to be won.
“If you’re going to win championships, you need to get one or two of those a year,” Huesman said. “We’ll probably have a couple more tight ones before it’s all said and done. Hopefully we learned something from it.”
At 6-2 for the first time since 1997, the Mocs have already equalled their win total from three of the last four seasons, and all of the sudden, the possibilities seem endless for UTC.
“It feels good getting to six and it not being the end of the season,” said redshirt freshman Keionta Davis, who recorded back-to-back sacks on The Citadel’s final offense series. “Six has been our limit for so long, and it’s time to break that limit, just keep going and going.”
Experiencing success is nice, but Huesman and the rest of the coaching staff will be making sure the Mocs don’t get ahead of themselves this week. They still have four games remaining, including a date with top-ranked Alabama, and it’s without a doubt the toughest stretch of the season.
“Hopefully our team isn’t thinking about any kind of stretch right now, just [Appalachian State],” Huesman said. “That’s a big enough test right now. That should be all we concern ourselves with — this one at App State.
“There’ll be a lot of emotion, but I told them they’re not going to click a switch on Saturday, jump up and down, hoop and hollar, sing songs to get excited and expect to win. What we do yesterday, today, tomorrow, Thursday and Friday leading up to it [will determine] if we’ll be able to compete or not.”
Just a couple weeks ago, Appalachian State (2-6, 2-3 SoCon) appeared to be a gimme game. After Saturday’s shocking upset of Georgia Southern, though, that’s clearly not the case.
The league, and the entire FCS, had been waiting for the Mountaineers to finally flip the switch, and they just happened to do it in time for Chattanooga; a team they’ve beaten 14 straight times at Kidd Brewer Stadium — the site of Saturday’s game.
“I think they probably feel like that’s how they should have been playing all year, and it probably is,” Huesman said of the Mountaineers — the only SoCon squad he hasn’t defeated as a head coach. “In the Georgia Southern game they looked like a well-oiled machine, and that’s probably what we need to expect from them this Saturday.”
Huesman said that running back Keon Williams’ ankle injury, which forced him to miss all of last week’s game, “wasn’t as bad as it looked.” He’s still questionable for Saturday’s game at Appalachian State, but there’s at least a chance the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder suits up against the Mountaineers.
Senior cornerback Chaz Moore and junior wide receiver Tommy Hudson both suffered concussions in the win against The Citadel. Moore should be ready in time for Saturday, but Hudson has been ruled out. Senior cornerback Kadeem Wise will handle the punt return duties this week.
Junior defensive end Toyvian Brand suffered a shoulder stinger for the third straight week on Saturday, and he’ll undergo an MRI this afternoon. Huesman said he thinks he will play this week, along with senior linebacker Gunner Miller, who sprained his hand in the win over The Bulldogs.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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