By Chris King
The Southern Conference champions three years running will stay home for the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs to host the Fordham Rams. The news was received during a watch party in the UC Auditorium Sunday morning.
“We are thrilled to be in the position that we are in,” head coach Russ Huesman said. “We are 8-3, have a share of the conference championship and we get to play in front of home fans another week. I can’t imagine anyone in Chattanooga that isn’t excited about the playoffs and the situation that we are in.”
For the second year in a row, the Mocs will host a home playoff game in the FCS Playoffs. Last year Chattanooga received a first-round bye going into the playoffs, and hosted Indiana State in the second round where they claimed the first playoff win in school history.
Now, UTC have set their sights on picking up playoff victory number two at Finley Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We’re happy to be in the playoffs playing a good Fordham team,” said senior quarterback Jacob Huesman. “I am happy that we get to play in front of our home fans rather than traveling on the road.”
The Fordham Rams (9-2), hailing from the private University out of Bronx, N.Y., received an at large bid into the FCS Playoffs after finishing second in the Patriot League behind Colgate. Fordham’s two lone losses on the year have come against Villanova in early September and at Colgate in a close 31-29 battle. The Rams finished 5-1 within the Patriot League with a marquee victory over Army in the first game of the season.
“Fordham can play. They beat Army this year and lost to Villanova 14-7,” coach Huesman said. “They are a playoff team each and every year and we know that we will have a tough test. This is an exciting day and this is fun.”
The Mocs finished the regular season on Saturday by falling to ACC powerhouse Florida State 52-13, giving UTC an 8-3 record on the season. Despite the loss, UTC had two players surpass 1,000 yards rushing for the season in the game against the Seminoles. Jacob Huesman finished the day with 21 yards rushing on seven carries and one touchdown, putting him at 1,018 yards on the season. Junior running back Derrick Craine, McDonough, Ga., had 36 yards on 12 carries that gave him a total of 1,002 rushing yards on the season.
“We are very excited to play against Fordham,” said senior linebacker A.J. Hampton. “We have never played against the Rams so it’ll be a new experience but we are excited to play in Finley again.”
The winner of the Chattanooga and Fordham matchup will face the No. 1-seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks the following week in Jacksonville, Ala.
“This is what you look for right here,” said coach Huesman. “We’re one of 24 teams right now that can win an FCS Championship. We’re excited.”
*Header photo by Jenna Kalmon