University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head football coach Russ Huesman met with the local media at the Mocs’ weekly luncheon today. Coach Huesman recapped last week’s Central Michigan game and talked about the upcoming home-opener with No. 9 Jacksonville State.
Saturday’s game is a WHITEOUT against the Gamecocks and kicks off at 6:00 p.m. (E.D.T.) at Finley Stadium. UTC is No. 13 in this week’s top 25, the highest national ranking under Huesman. Below are selected quotes from Coach Huesman, sophomore running back Derrick Craine and junior defensive lineman Josh Freeman.
For a full video of today’s press conference, click on the “Related Links” at the top of the page.
Head Coach Russ Huesman
Thoughts on the Central Michigan game
“I thought our guys played hard at Central Michigan. I don’t think we played as smart in some situations as we should have, as you have to when you play good teams. We gave great effort on both sides of the ball and in kicking. It wasn’t the outcome that we wanted by any stretch of the imagination. We thought we could win that game. They’re a good team. They made more plays than we made, and I believe we probably made more mistakes than they made. Normally that’s what happens in a game like that.”
Thoughts on rankings
“I don’t know that I pay too much attention to rankings. I think the reason why we moved up is because a couple of teams in front of us didn’t do very well. I’d say that’s probably the only reason. I’d say people looked at that and thought we should have lost, didn’t drop us and didn’t raise us. I can’t imagine anybody thinking a 20- 16 loss would jump you up. I think a couple teams didn’t play very well and got dropped down.”
On playing tough games
“I think they help you in the long run. They aren’t fun when you’re playing them, but they do help you. I think they make your team better after a couple tough ones like this.
“Whenever you play quality opponents early, you know the summer you’re gearing towards that. You’re not just gearing towards a whole football season. You’re working out. You’re training and saying wow we got Central Michigan and Jacksonville State the first two games, we better be ready.
“I do think that helps the mindset a little bit as to who you play early. I do think that will help you play better as the year goes on. With that being said, I’d rather have two really easy games to start off (laughs), but you can’t always get what you wish for.”
How do you put the Central Michigan game behind you and focus?
Well, we had the team meeting on Friday. You could see a lot of guys that felt like they should have played better, were a little bit down. I told them I said “Guys, it’s over. When you walk out of this room, that game is gone. Don’t worry about it. Put a smile on your face. Enjoy your life, and let’s get ready to go play another game.”
“To dwell on it… I’m the one that normally dwells on losses more than anybody. I put this one behind us quickly. I thought we could have won the game. We felt going in we could win the game. But when you have an opponent like Jacksonville State showing up, if you pout or worry about it more the next day then you’re going to have issues.”
Is that one of the hardest things to not dwell a loss and have players do likewise?
“Yea, I think probably coaches more than players. Players are young. They have their life in front of them. I think they bounce back a lot quicker than coaches do. I’ve had losses before where it ate at me the whole week and ate at me until I got to play another game or coach another game. I don’t know, maybe it’s just how I am. They eat at me longer. I think the players get past it pretty quick.”
Is this still a rivalry Game?
“I do. They’ve been good for a while now. I played them three times when I was in school here. I can remember some of those games vividly and I think it’s always been that way even back then. I think they were division two back then, and they were great games back then too. So we know how good they are. They’ve done a great job with that program. Their fan support is excellent, their facilities, and they’ve got something pretty good down there.”
Do you see any similarities between Central Michigan and Jacksonville State?
“Probably the physicalities of it, both sides of the ball. I think Jacksonville State will surprise you because they are very, very physical on defense. I think that’s where Central Michigan gave us some problems is how physical they were on defense. I think Jacksonville State is very similar to that.
“I think the back we’re fixing to play is as good as there is in the country, probably. I don’t want to say at any level, but at our level you won’t find a better back in the country. He’s phenomenal.
“I love their quarterback. He’s so dynamic. They’ve got wide outs. They can play and go up and get the football. They got one guy Josh Bards we recruited very, very hard. I remember watching him play basketball on a couple of occasions. We tried to get him to come to school here and he chose Jacksonville State. So we knew he was a good one, and he’s had a good career so far: a young career but a good career.
“I think they are big a physical up front. I think they will surprise most people about how big they are up front. They’re a solid team no question. I don’t see really any weaknesses in them. I think it’s going to be a great football game.”
Junior DL Josh Freeman
Thoughts on the Central Michigan game
“We went up there with the mindset that they couldn’t block us and we wanted to get after them, and I thought we did a fairly decent job of that. We could have been better, of course, but we wanted to go dominate. Maybe we didn’t dominate, but I think we did a good job on our part.”
On playing a top-10 team like Jacksonville State
“We like the big games and top 10 teams. It brings the best out in you and the competition is hot. It is always a great environment and that makes it fun.”
On Jacksonville State
“They are going to spread us out, but they will still run right at us. They have a lot of guys back there who want to run the ball and who run the ball really well. That said, we want to go in and take the run away. We want to make them pass the ball so we can go get them.
“As far as playing the spread, it doesn’t really change a lot for us up front. The quarterback is always a threat to run, and that’s tough to defend, but we have to do our best to keep him under wraps and get after him.”
On JSU Running Back DeMarcus James
“We have to get him on the ground. He is a big guy. His legs are huge and he does really well after contact. You don’t see him going down on the first hit. We have to focus on getting him on the ground.”
Sophomore Running Back Derrick Craine
On preparing for Jacksonville State
“Everybody is working hard. We had practice at Finley Sunday and everyone is really excited for this week. Jacksonville State is going to be a tough opponent for us. We have to score against this team. We have to be competitive because it is a matter of who wants it more.”
On getting on the scoreboard first and maintaining the lead
“It’s going to be very important to get out to a quick start. I think we’ve always been quick-hitters, and our motto this year is “finish.” We didn’t hold the lead at Central Michigan, and that’s one thing we have to do this week. We have to maintain the lead and continue to put points on the board.”
Thoughts on Saturday’s potential crowd
“The bigger the crowd, the better we will be. The crowd plays a huge part in our success. As far as attendance goes, I think we’ll have a really good crowd. Plus it’s going to be a “White Out,” so we want and need as many people there as we can get to support us. I think having a great crowd behind us will make us better.”