I have some advice for Mocs’ football fans: Be patient. I know that seems like a lot after decades of losing records, poor performance on and off the field, numerous coaching changes and millions of dollars in lost revenue. But that’s what we all need to do. The 2011 version of UTC football is off to a disappointing start (2-3 overall and 0-2 in the SoCon). They’re coming off one of the most frustrating losses in school history as last week the Blue and Gold blew a 24-0 halftime lead and lost to The Citadel 28-27. Not even the young men who played in the game can believe how this one got away from them. And now I see and hear a lot about their 2011 season being “lost” if they lose at top-ranked Georgia Southern this weekend.
In looking back at news reports from the 2008 season, current UTC Head Coach Russ Huesman wasn’t even on the radar as far as potential FCS head coaches go. He was on no one’s wish list following the dismissal of Rodney Allison. Huesman who played here at UTC for both Joe Morrison and Bill Oliver was an assistant coach at Richmond. He was the Spider’s defensive coordinator when they won the FCS National Championship at Finley Stadium, but no one thought of him as a bona fide candidate for the job until just a few weeks before the national title game. As they say, “the rest is history”, as the Mocs have gone 6-5 in each of his first two seasons. A 6-5 mark is certainly nothing to jump up and down about for most college programs, but for UTC those 6-5 records were the first back to back winning seasons since Buddy Nix’s squads went 6-5 and 7-4 in 1990 and 1991. In the last thirty years the Mocs have had just twelve winning seasons and Huesman has had two of those. The man can coach football. He wants to be here which is something very few coaches in the country would have said a mere three seasons ago. His quick success has created a somewhat mythical mindset among some fans……they are setting their own goals for the team that are almost unreachable. And this is a school that pondered dropping football just three years ago.
The Mocs are a very young football team. They list just eleven seniors, and nine juniors on the roster, while almost half their numbers are freshmen (34), with fifteen sophomores. Remember the guys in the junior class who were here just three years ago were 1-11 in Coach Allison’s last season. Their kicking game is very erratic and has been for some while. The offensive line is young and not blocking well at all right now. I’m not making excuses, just stating facts. There are some bright spots for the Mocs, highlighted by the senior McCallie combination of receiver Joel Bradford and quarterback B.J. Coleman. In August, Coach Huesman knew the potential was there to be a better team than last year but he also knew potential was there to not be as good. The Mocs have played a brutal schedule so far in going 2-3. Losses at Nebraska and a 14-12 heartbreaker at FCS power Appalachian State have been surrounded by impressive wins over OVC powers Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky. Then there’s that 28-27 loss at home last week to The Citadel that no one can figure out. It doesn’t get any better. After this weekend’s clash at top-ranked Georgia Southern, the Mocs still have five very tough Southern Conference games remaining, so to be brutally honest, it’s not likely this team will win five of their last six games. (The stretch certain fans and writers said would take to make the FCS playoffs.)
In covering sports in this city for more than 36 years I have learned some Mocs’ fans will never be happy. Some even try to toss disparaging remarks and trash talk toward the Tennessee Vols and their fans. Others look for reasons to hate the local newspapers because game write-ups aren’t on the front pages. Don’t be happy with or accept 6-5 records for the UTC football team. I promise you the Mocs’ coaches and players aren’t happy or accepting of them. After all we’ve been through….just be patient.
contact Randy Smith at email@example.com
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 42 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer, author and is also a media concepts teacher at Red Bank High School in Chattanooga. He is currently teaching an "Intro To Sportscasting" class at Red Bank, the only class of its type in Tennessee.
Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 10 years.
Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry Davey and Alison Smith). They also have one grandchild (Coleman).