In late November 2001, Indianapolis lost to San Francisco, 40-21, and Colts coach Jim Mora entered the room for his postgame interview.
Mora began the media session by blaming the offense directed by quarterback Peyton Manning, the Tennessee All-America who threw four interceptions, one resulting in a touchdown and the other setting up touchdowns.
Mora went on to call the Colts’ performance “disgraceful.”
“You can’t turn the ball over five times (the Colts also lost a fumble) like that. Holy crap! I don’t know who the hell we think we are when we do something like that. … That’s pitiful! I mean, it’s absolutely pitiful to perform like that. Pitiful!”
Near the end of the press conference, Mora was asked by Tim Bragg, a reporter for WRTC, about the Colts’ chances – Indianapolis was 4-6 after the 49ers’ loss – for making the playoffs.
In what has become one of the most famous postgame rants in NFL history, Mora went into a high-pitched ballistic bombast.
“What’s that?” Mora asked incredulously. “Playoffs? Don’t talk about – playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game! Another game.”
For the record, the Colts made the playoffs only to lose a wild-card game, 23-17, in overtime to the Miami Dolphins.
When the subject of playoffs came up for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman on Tuesday, he didn’t burst into a Mora-like tirade. He did light-heartedly chastise a local reporter for writing on the subject just four games into the season, though.
Asked at his press conference about the Mocs’ chances of reaching the FCS playoffs, Huesman said, “I’m not even going to start that. We’re going to try and win every game, whatever that number is. Let’s just go win a game and see what happens the next week. I think we’ll get on a roll and we’re going to go.”
UTC faced a similar situation in 2011, finished 56 and failed to earn a postseason berth. In fact, the Mocs have appeared in exactly one FCS playoff game in 1984, losing to Arkansas State, 37-10, after winning a Southern Conference championship – UTC went 5-1 in league play – in coach Buddy Nix’s first season.
Without question, the Mocs face an uphill battle to earn a spot in the 2012 playoffs. They are 1-3, but the lone victory came against Division II Glenville State and that won’t even count toward playoff eligibility.
FCS teams are required to post seven wins to receive an at-large bid. In that scenario, UTC would have to win its remaining seven Southern Conference games, starting Saturday against The Citadel, ranked 11th in the latest Sport Nework FCS poll.
Huesman, however, has a past in overcoming that type adversity. In 2005, while an assistant for Dave Clawson at Richmond, the Spiders were 1-3 and reeled off seven consecutive wins to capture the Atlantic 10 championship. Richmond beat Hampton before losing to Furman in the playoffs.
That experience could serve him well down the stretch with UTC.
After Citadel and an open date, the Mocs will face Furman (No. 25, FCS coaches poll), No. 9 Georgia Southern, Western Carolina, No. 5 Wofford and Elon.
Frankly, it’s a daunting challenge.
But if UTC could run the table it would have a shot at the league title and accompanying automatic playoff bid.
Appalachian State and Georgia Southern reached the 2011 playoffs.
The Mountaineers lost to Maine in the second round. The Eagles beat Old Dominion and Maine before falling to North Dakota State in the semifinals.
This season, UTC already has lost to Appalachian State. As pointed out, the Mocs play Citadel and lost to the Bulldogs, 28-27, in 2011.
Then comes Furman, which beat UTC, 14-7, last season.
Samford is up next on Oct. 20. UTC beat Samford, 24-9, a year go.
Georgia Southern comes to Finley Stadium on Oct. 27. The Eagles escaped with a 28-27 win last season.
Next up is a trip to Western Carolina, a 51-7 victim of the Mocs in 2011.
Then UTC goes to Wofford, which edged the Mocs, 28-27, last year.
In the regular-season finale, the Mocs play Elon, a team they whipped, 42-18, last October.
The challenge UTC faces beginning on Saturday is not losing focus. At all.
“I know we have to play The Citadel this week,” offensive lineman Kevin Revis said, “and if you look past it, that’s not the way to do it. Citadel is a good team and we are going to have to play a good game to beat them.
“… SoCon is a great league and everybody has pretty decent teams. We just know we have to be ready every week.”
NOTES: Citadel is trying for a 3-0 league start for the first time since 1992. … UTC leads the series with Citadel, 26-17-2. The Mocs own the series’ longest winning streak – four victories that spanned 1936-1970. … Before winning in Charleston, S.C., in 2010, the Mocs had lost three straight times at Johnson Hagood Stadium. … Citadel coach Kevin Higgins is in his eighth season after spending four years with the Detroit Lions. … The Mocs are 6-6 in road games under coach Russ Huesman. … Huesman and Mocs assistants are joining coaches across America on Saturday by wearing a patch on their left arms to help defeat a terrible genetic disorder. It's called “Coach to Cure M-D.” The American Football Coaches Association is working to raise awareness and research funding to cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most prolific genetic killer diagnosed in childhood. For more information, visit www.CoachtoCureMD.prg. … It would behoove the Mocs to be ahead or close to the Bulldogs at halftime. This season Citadel has outscored four opponents, 52-7, in the third quarter. … Russ Huesman (1978-81) is tied for sixth place on the Mocs’ all-time interception list with nine.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)