The only thing Georgia Southern University can do to keep playoff hopes alive this weekend in Chattanooga is to beat the Mocs, who are currently 3-1 in the Southern Conference.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga started the season slowly and went 1-4 to start the season. Afterwards, UTC went on fire during SoCon play, and now the Mocs are among the three one-loss teams in contention for the SoCon title.
“If we don’t get it done this weekend, we’ll be on the outside lookin’ in. It’s an important game, the biggest game we’ve had this year, and they’ve got a heck of a football team,” head coach Jeff Monken said.
If UTC wins on Saturday, playoff chances would be dismal for GSU. Even if the Eagles beat Appalachian State University next week and UTC loses to one of their final three SoCon opponents, the Mocs would still own the tiebreaker over GSU.
If the Eagles win both of their next two games, they will be able to taste postseason Gatorade for the third straight year under Monken.
The Mocs will be pumped up and ready to play at home. Not only is it hosting GSU during its homecoming, but Chattanooga has also been on a tear, beating Samford University, Furman University and The Citadel in the last three games.
“They run a lot of trick plays, which keep you on your heels,” Monken said. “We gotta make sure we take care of the ball. When they get it, they’re pretty good at controlling it.”
During the 20-13 UTC victory against Samford last week, freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman provided 229 of the 250 yards of offense the Mocs had during the game. Huesman rushed for 64 yards and scored a touchdown on a ground. He also threw for 165 yards and threw a touchdown.
Huesman leads the Mocs in both rushing and passing this season, and the Eagles will be expected to shut him down if they expect to take the victory.
On defense, the Eagles are a little banged up. Senior defensive tackle Brent Russell is nursing a leg injury, but he is expected to be ready to play on Saturday.
Senior safety JJ Wilcox bruised his quad after a hit last Saturday against Furman and has had limited participation in practice this week in an attempt to be ready to play against the Mocs.
Last season, GSU defeated the Mocs 28-27. UTC fell short of tying the game late in the fourth quarter after missing a two-point conversion.
In the game on Saturday, sophomore b-back Dominique Swope will look to score a touchdown in his ninth-straight game, and junior quarterback will look to lead the Eagle offense to an efficient, turnover-free day against the Mocs.
That may be tough, considering UTC is ranked second in the SoCon in rushing defense, holding opponents to 113.7 rushing yards per game. UTC is also ranked second in total defense, just behind GSU.
The turnover margins between the two teams are alarming as well. The Mocs have caused six more turnovers than they have given up. Meanwhile, the Eagles have given up two more turnovers than they have forced.
The Eagles have won 21 of the 24 games the two teams have played against each other. However, the GSU is just 3-3 versus UTC in the last six games.