The Bucs are preparing to face what is possibly their greatest opponent and biggest rival this year.
This Saturday, the Bucs will take on the Chattanooga Mocs, the three-time Southern Conference leaders, at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
But outside of football, the ETSU-UTC rival runs deep in all sports at East Tennessee State University. Tensions rise every time the teams meet.
“This, in my opinion, is our cross-town rival,” said Head Coach Carl Torbush. “I would hope they feel the same way, or at least I hope at some point we make them feel the same way. I think in all other sports it’s already like that.”
The Bucs look to keep this rivalry going strong as they face the Mocs for the first time since before the return of the ETSU football program.
Chattanooga is not only ranked high in the Southern Conference, but also in the nation. Last season the team ended with a 9-4 record overall and 6-1 in the Southern Conference. With their respected performance last year, they were ranked No. 9 in the STATS Poll in NCAA Division 1 FCS Football and No. 8 in the Coaches Poll.
According to NCAA.com on Sept. 26, the Mocs are ranked No. 5 in STATS in FCS football.
With such a high ranking in stats, the Mocs bring a strong force on defense and offense.
So far this season, the Mocs are 4-0. In scoring, they are averaging 40.50 points per game and only allowing opponents 8.75 points. In total offense, they average 435.8 yards per game, 223.5 in rushing and 212.25 in passing.
“We have to stop the run, because that’s what a lot of teams get you going with,” said sophomore linebacker Kahlil Mitchell (South Pittsburg, Tenn.). “They try to run it and run it, and then they beat you with the pass.”
A key player to watch on offense will be senior running back Derrick Craine (McDonough, Ga.). Craine was named to the STATS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List in early August. Last season he set the single-season rushing record for the Mocs with 1,251 yards, and he is currently No. 5 in rushing yards in FCS Football with 457 yards.
“Craine is going to give Chattanooga a lot of yards rushing,” Torbush said. “He’s very mobile and has great speed. But they also spray the ball around really, really well. They lost a very experienced quarterback in Huesman last year, but they have continued to play well with [Alejandro] Bennifield (Lovejoy, Ga) this year. He throws the ball well and can also beat you running the ball.”
On defense, the Mocs have nine players who are in double digits for total tackles so far this season.
The Bucs are entering the game 2-1 (1-1 in the SoCon) in hopes of changing those stats to 3-1 and 2-1.
Kickoff for the game will be at noon.