This Saturday the Chattanooga Mocs will face Wofford in their final home game of the season. UTC will play at Samford next week and close the regular season in two weeks when they play at top-ranked Alabama. For the past 28 years, this usually meant that fans would get ready for basketball season, and while the UTC faithful are excited about their hoops again, they are also still very excited about the fortunes that could lie ahead for the football squad.
The Mocs are currently 7-2 overall with five straight wins. They are also 5-1 in Southern Conference play and a win over Wofford on Saturday afternoon would give them something they haven’t had since 1984: at least a share of the SoCon Championship.
The game which kicks off at 2 p.m. is just the second match-up of ranked teams in the history of the stadium. (Wofford ranked #15; UTC ranked 24th) It’s being called the biggest regular season game in the 16-year history of Finley Stadium-Davenport Field, and, if Chattanooga doesn’t fill every seat, there should be an investigation.
The Mocs control their own destiny in the final three weeks of the season. If they win both their final two SoCon games, they finish 7-1 and outright league champs. They would also make the NCAA FCS Playoffs, for the first time since 1984. As of today, there are four teams still alive in the Southern Conference: the Mocs are in first place at 5-1, with Wofford and Samford tied for second with records of 4-1, and Furman is still alive with a mark of 3-2.
The Mocs also have seven wins for the first time since 1997, the year Finley Stadium opened. The last time they won as many as eight games was 1980 when current Coach Russ Huesman was a junior defensive back. In other words, this has been the best football season for the Mocs in a long, long time.
Some UTC fans have been so used to less than mediocre seasons that they seemed to be surprised when they discover the Mocs are in first place this late in the year. I hope they haven’t already made plans to be elsewhere this Saturday. The Mocs need them to be at Finley Stadium.
The UTC program has come a long way in the five seasons under Russ Huesman. They have recruited better, coached better and his teams have played better. After four pretty good seasons, it appears that the Mocs have finally turned the corner. Now, I don’t want to put any more pressure on Coach Huesman or his team, but it’s time to make a big statement about just where this program is. They need to win against Wofford, and they need to win at Samford next week. They don’t need to back into a league championship. UTC should be the only name on the trophy in 2013.
There will always be a few nay-sayers that will say they backed into it anyway because perennial champs Georgia Southern and Appalachian State weren’t eligible for the title because they are moving up to the FBS division next year. But the Mocs beat App State and lost a heartbreaker at Georgia Southern for their only league loss.
The Mocs need you at the stadium Saturday. They need all the support you can possibly give them. Wear your gold and cheer as loudly as you can. Let’s make Finley Stadium a real home field advantage for the home team. After all, Coach Huesman’s Mocs have made football a lot of fun again.
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).