Last week, Alabama coach Nick Saban scolded the media last week for not respecting Crimson Tide opponent Western Kentucky at the same level that Saban did.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman wasn’t critical of local media on Tuesday, but he took the Saban line in voicing his respect for the Mocs’ Thursday night foe Glenville State, an NCAA Division II program.
“Glenville is going to have some players, no question about that, on both sides of the ball,” Huesman. “We’ve got our work cut out for us this week. We have to worry about what we’re doing right and wrong, get it fixed and make sure we’re doing things to win a football game.”
Thursday's game has been declared a Gold Rush. The school will give away 3,000 T-shirts, 3,000 gold pom-poms, 3,000 thundersticks and 1,000 sunglasses – all gold-colored – at stadium gates prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff.
It marks the sixth Thursday night contest at Finley Stadium since 1997, and the Mocs are 4-1 in those games, including a 30-13 win over Glenville State in 2009. That was the only other time the two teams have met and the first for Huesman as UTC’s head coach.
UTC is 71-30-3 all-time in home openers, just 9-5 at Finley Stadium.
“You definitely have a different outlook on football when it’s your last go around,” senior running back J.J. Jackson said. “I’ll just try to go out and have fun. That’s the biggest thing, just go out and take it all in because it will be over before you know it.”
Should Thursday’s game turn out to be a close one, Huesman would like to think the odds would be in UTC’s favor to finally win in that scenario.
In 2011, the Mocs lost five games by a combined 12 points. Amazingly, they dropped games against Citadel, Georgia Southern and Wofford by the same 28-27 score, lost to Appalachian State, 14-12, and 14-7 to Furman.
Last week the Mocs scored a touchdown and converted a two-point conversion, capping a 79-yard, 10-play drive that took 2:13 off the clock, to tie Jacksonville State with 39 seconds left, only to see the Gamecocks kick a 37-yard, game-winning field goal as time ran out in a 27-24 nail-biter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Ron Moore for the Mocs’ clutch touchdown and sophomore running back Keon Williams ran for the equally important two-point conversion.
Russ Huesman was asked Tuesday if that late drive was a “mini-victory” for Jacob Huesman, his son who was caught in the middle of last week’s tumult when starter Terrell Robinson quit the team. Robinson later rejoined the team and is available to play against Glenville State.
“It was a mini-victory for our offense,” Russ Huesman said. “Jacob didn’t do that drive by himself. We had some big plays by a bunch of people.”
Did the drive boost the Mocs’ confidence to the point of providing them they have the ability to win a close game?
“Think back,” Huesman said. “We didn’t have a two-minute drive to win or tie a game last year – at all – and we had an NFL quarterback (B.J. Coleman). I was pleased with our offense and that was probably the bright spot for us. We take the ball (79 yards) with two timeouts and we get it down there with 39 seconds left and scored. We didn’t do that one time last year, but we’ll eventually get there. We’ve done it in the past.”
But Glenville State isn’t in the same league as South Florida, Jacksonville State, or UTC, despite the Mocs’ 0-2 record.
The Pioneers are in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with the likes of Carson-Newman, Charleston, Concord, Shepherd, West Liberty, West Virginia State, Seton Hill, West Virginia Wesleyan and Fairmont State.
So, is there any reason Thursday’s game should be close?
However, the Pioneers (1-1) are ranked nationally among the top 25 teams in total offense (14, 518.5 yards per game), passing offense (24, 289.0), rushing offense (23, 229.5) and scoring (19, 43.5).
Glenville State put up 527 yards of offense in last week’s 41-21 win over Fairmont State and Carson-Newman had to score like crazy for a 56-46 victory over the Pioneers in the season opener.
“They’ve got talented receivers, a running back (Rahmann Lee), who is a redshirt freshman that’s really good, and their quarterback (Darold Hughes) that can throw it. They do a great job offensively scheming people up and taking advantage of what they get.”
After the Jacksonville State game Huesman voiced concern on his postgame radio interview about the Mocs’ defensive play and hinted he would possibly make some changes in that unit prior to this week’s game.
On Tuesday, he backed away from following through with any personnel adjustments.
“We’ll probably go with the same starting lineup,” said Huesman, who can get to .500 (he’s 17-18 in his fourth season) with a win over Glenville State. “We’ve got to play more aggressive on defense. We have to challenge (pass) routes and tackle better. I think we’ll be OK. We’ve got good enough players on defense.”
However, the Gamecocks’ final drive – it was triggered by a long kickoff return – to the winning field goal frustrated Huesman.
“A lot of things went into the reason we lost,” the coach said. “We were down 24-10 and I was proud of the way our kids fought back. But our kick coverage on that last kickoff was not good and they got it out to the 45 and got down there for the field goal with no time left.
“I don’t think we played too well on defense. We missed too many tackles and the angles we took were poor.”
The Mocs don’t have time to dwell on the tough Jacksonville State loss because of the quick turnaround for Thursday’s game.
Huesman was asked about that on the weekly Southern Conferene coaches’ teleconference.
“Two things,” he said. “We had to get the soreness out of our players pretty quick and we had an extended practice on Sunday. (Monday night’s) practice was really crisp and most of the soreness was gone. And you’ve have to condense so many things into a much quicker time frame. It’s hard on coaches, too, but we’re getting it together pretty quickly.”
Jackson, who has rushed 11 times for 26 yards – the Mocs have just 305 rushing yards and Jacob Huesman has 167 – through two games, said the Mocs have handled the quick turnaround extremely well.
“I think so,” he said. “We’ve had some pretty good practices. I like how we have a Thursday night game because we didn’t have the weekend to sit around and think about it (the JSU loss). We got back into it. Practice meant a little bit more to people. I like how the quick turnaround put it in the back of their minds to they could get better.”
Thursday football is nothing new to Glenville State. This will be the Pioneers’ third straight Thursday night game this season. They will play next Friday at Lindenwood before playing their first Saturday game on Sept. 29 at West Liberty.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)