Let’s face it; It’s really been a long time since we talked about how big, or important, a UTC football game at Finley Stadium is. The Mocs (4-3, 3-1) will host second ranked Georgia Southern (6-1, 5-1) Saturday evening at 6:00 in a crucial Southern Conference contest. It’s crucial, because the winner then becomes one of only two teams in the SoCon, with just one loss. If The Citadel will play its part on Saturday, with a win at Wofford, the winner at Finley Stadium takes over first place all alone, and the Mocs have a great chance to be that team.
UTC Head Coach Russ Heusman is getting close to the end of his fourth season here, and after back-to-back 6-5 seasons to begin his head coaching career, the Mocs dropped to 5-6 in 2011. Even though it may have appeared to be a small setback for Heusman in year number three, it wasn’t completely unexpected. The Mocs starting quarterback, B.J. Coleman suffered a shoulder injury midway through the campaign, and would come back just in time to play in his final collegiate game. Even though backup Terrell Robinson played well enough to win SoCon Freshman of The Year honors, the Mocs were never the same offensive threat without Coleman.
A lot has changed since last season. Though the Mocs suffered three losses in their first four games in 2012, they have now won three in a row, and have put themselves back in contention in the Southern Conference race. A win over the Eagles this week, would set up UTC’s game at Wofford on November 10th as a battle for the league title. With four games left, the Mocs already control their own destiny in winning that title. Fortunately for UTC, only Wofford, (6-1, 4-1) has a winning record among their final three opponents. (Western Carolina 1-7, 0-6 there, and Elon 3-4, 1-3 at Finley.) So, I hope you see just how big this game is on Saturday night.
The Mocs history against Georgia Southern is less than impressive. UTC has lost 21 of the 25 games played in the series, with the Eagles claiming a 28-27 win last year in Statesboro; One of the Mocs’three 28-27, one point losses.. While UTC, and most every other FCS school has struggled with the mighty Eagles, Coach Russ Heusman has done quite well. He is 1-2 against GSU, with that one win coming in 2010, 35-27 at Finley Stadium. The Mocs are also 3-3 in their last six meetings with GSU, so the UTC players know they can win, and some of them have even experienced a victory on the field over the Eagles.
If ever a huge, loud, supportive crowd was needed at Finley Stadium, this is the game to gather folks. UTC is very close to being relevant in the Southern Conference again, and it’s taken a former Moc to finally right the ship.
UTC football has been terrible for a long time. Since 1984, when Coach Buddy Nix guided his team to the first and only playoff appearance in school history, the Mocs were a dismal 102-175-1 before Huesman took over in 2009. Since then, they actually have a winning record (21-19). That’s not yet what you might call relevant in the SoCon, but it’s a lot closer than it has been. Will a loss to Georgia Southern be devastating to the UTC program? No way. Even if they lose and win two of their last three, which they should, they would be 6-5 once again. That’s certainly not what we want as fans, and it’s sure not what Coach Huesman wants as head coach.
Remember……we need a big, boisterous crowd Saturday night. Eight wins and a Southern Conference Championship is in play. It’s time we went for it!
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. 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 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).