GREENVILLE, S.C.—Chattanooga's second-half implosion on Saturday at home against The Citadel left head coach Russ Huesman and the Mocs in a tough situation. The Mocs have now dropped to 0-2 in the Southern Conference and 2-3 overall.
The Mocs went into their second weekend of Southern Conference football ranked No. 15 in the nation, and it appeared the Mocs might climb up the national polls a little more, leading 27-0 over The Citadel in the third quarter. However, an opportunistic Bulldogs football team never stopped believing and never gave up, coming all the way back to post a miraculous 28-27 win.
Over the past couple of years, the Mocs certainly haven't been strangers to blowing big leads late in football games. Looking back to the 2010 season, the Mocs held pretty substantial third-quarter leads on both Appalachian State (35-14) and Jacksonville State on the road (17-0), only to blow both games and drop back-to-back heartbreakers.
This season, the Mocs appeared as if they would get league play off to a strong start this season, leading Appalachian State 6-0 in the third quarter of their Week 4 matchup. However, a special teams miscue and an interception returned for a score resulted in a 14-12 loss in the High Country.
Talent-wise, Chattanooga appears to have as much as any team, if not more, in the Southern Conference this season. However, with Saturday's 28-27 loss to the Bulldogs, Chattanooga once again finds itself in a "backs-to-the-wall" situation.
With seven wins Division I wins being the minimum considered for making the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, the Mocs road certainly doesn't get any easier. In fact, the Mocs need to go at least 5-1 the rest of the way to make the postseason.
The Mocs will face top-ranked Georgia Southern on the road this coming Saturday. The Mocs did beat the Eagles 35-27 last season at Finley Stadium, but had to battle back from a halftime deficit.
After the game with the Eagles, the Mocs will face Western Carolina before traveling to Elon the following week.
Upstart Furman visits Finley Stadium on October 29, and the Mocs will play at Samford on November 5.
After an open week, the Mocs will close out the 2011 season by hosting Wofford on Nov. 19, so there is much work still to be done for the Mocs.
Most of Chattanooga's troubles can be traced to their lack of production offensively.
The Mocs have had trouble adjusting to losing three starters along their offensive line to graduation, and B.J. Coleman, the Mocs' All-American signal-caller, has had less time to find receivers this season. Coleman has been under constant pressure the past two weeks against Appalachian State and The Citadel.
The Mocs head into Saturday's contest at Georgia Southern ranked No. 8 (out of nine) in the SoCon in scoring (21.4 PPG), No. 8 in total offense (345.2 YPG), No. 9 in rushing offense (92.0 YPG) and No. 3 in passing offense (253.2 YPG). The Mocs have also yielded a league-high 14 sacks through the first five games of the 2011 season.
After the loss to The Citadel, Coleman was left searching for answers. He made a statement in the post-game interviews saying that this is the most challenging point in his three seasons as the Mocs quarterback, and it would be up to him and the offense to try and solve the offensive puzzle this week in preparation for Saturday's monumental road clash at Georgia Southern.
For Coleman personally, it has not been the kind of start he would have hoped for in his final season in the Scenic City. Going into Saturday's showdown in Statesboro, Coleman has completed 109 of 181 passes for 1,270 yards, with six TDs and six INTs.
With the status of All-American wide receiver Joel Bradford (36 receptions, 436 yards, 2 TDs, 12.2 YPR in 2011) not yet known for Saturday, coupled with problems offensively and on special teams, the Mocs are facing themselves as much as preparing for top-ranked Georgia Southern this week.
The Mocs must solve their internal problems before they can worry about the Eagles.
One thing is for sure: the SoCon will find out just what Chattanooga is about on Saturday when it travels to Georgia Southern.