Chattanooga (2-1) at Ga. Southern (2-1, 0-1)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
The one word that could describe the Chattanooga Mocs since 2010 has been “almost.”
When they beat Georgia Southern at home amid a five game winning streak, they almost looked like they’d finally make a return to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the first time since 1984. Then they lost three of four.
They almost beat Georgia Southern in Paulson Stadium for only the second time in their program’s history in 2011, but a missed two-point conversion resulted in a 28-27 loss.
They almost beat the Eagles in Chattanooga last season, but GSU quarterback Jerick McKinnon pounded the ball into the end zone during the third overtime to assure a 39-31 GSU win.
This year, under the on-field guidance of sophomore quarterback Jacob Huesman, son of head coach Russ Huesman, the Mocs (2-1, 0-0 Southern Conference) appear poised to cross the threshold and make a run at the program’s first-ever SoCon title.
Chattanooga’s SoCon schedule begins Saturday, when the Mocs visit Paulson Stadium to face Georgia Southern (2-1, 0-1) at 6 p.m.
“I’m hoping as a team, we can make a play at the end of the game like they have done (against us),” Russ Huesman said Tuesday on the weekly SoCon teleconference.
Jacob Huesman was a nightmare for GSU last season. Huesman, then a redshirt freshman, recorded career highs in rushing yards (170) and rushing touchdowns (2).
Georgia Southern is paying close attention to preparing for Huesman this time around.
“Last year, we covered them for a little bit, then the quarterback tucked it and got yards running the football,” GSU co-defensive coordinator Jack Curtis said. “We’ve got to do a better job. Once we get him to pull the ball down, we can’t let him rush for the amount of yards he ran for last year. We couldn’t get him on the ground. When you blitz, you’d better do a good job of containing the running lanes.”
“Anybody would be thrilled to have a kid like that on their team,” GSU head coach Jeff Monken added. “He’s a winner, and that makes them go.”
Chattanooga’s offense has been dynamic through three games in 2013. Huesman and running back Keon Williams have combined for 507 rushing yards and six touchdowns, while Huesman has completed 65 percent of his passes for 452 yards and six touchdowns.
Backup quarterback Terrell Robinson contributes all over the field for the Mocs.
“They live for the big play,” Curtis said. “They have a lot of tricks, whether it’s a reverse, a reverse pass, throw-backs to the quarterback. They use their athletes and they’re dangerous.”
Chattanooga led the SoCon with nine preseason All-SoCon selections, and five are on defense, including a preseason Defensive Player of the Year, lineman Davis Tull.
“I told the offensive line that this is one of the best defensive lines in the conference that we’ll face,” GSU offensive coordinator Brent Davis said.
The Georgia Southern offense has a lot of question marks heading into the game, including which running backs and quarterbacks will be ready with so many battling injuries. That leads to question marks in the offensive game plan, too.
“You’ve got to have enough things ready so if you don’t get a guy back, you can adapt,” Davis said. “You focus on some things in some different areas, and that takes focus from the base things you normally do. By this point in the season we should have enough banked reps that we can adapt.”
NOTES: Georgia Southern kicker Conner Tierney, who was charged on Sept. 21 with underage possession/consumption of alcohol and public intoxication, will serve a one-game suspension this weekend. True freshman Younghoe Koo will be the Eagles’ starting placekicker in his place. … Running Back Terrance Hunt continues to serve an indefinite suspension for undisclosed reasons. … Fullbacks Irving Huggins and Nardo Govan are expected to play for the first time at GSU on Saturday. Slotback Ezayi Youyoute, who has not played since having offseason shoulder surgery, is expected to see limited action on Saturday.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.