(STATS) - Having an early lead or a late deficit are vastly different scenarios during a football game, but the more the Chattanooga Mocs win, the more they develop an even-keel approach with any score.
Live in the moment, not too high and not too low, coach Russ Huesman has been reminding his players.
"I think the beauty of it is that we've been there before," junior running back Derrick Craine says of the two-time defending Southern Conference champions.
"Coach always tells us to play like champions because we are champions."
On Monday, the Mocs moved somewhere they haven't been before - the No. 4 ranking in the STATS FCS Top 25, marking the third time in the last four weeks they have achieved their highest ranking since moving to Division I in 1978.
For Chattanooga, the focus is smaller picture than big picture. The Mocs are trying to take steps toward a SoCon three-peat.
They won at Wofford for the first time in 17 years this past Saturday, 20-17 on Henrique Ribeiro's game-ending field goal. The win wasn't a thing of beauty - neither was their 33-27 triumph at VMI a week earlier - but in building a school-record 11-game conference win streak over the last two seasons, the Mocs have learned to appreciate how it takes different ways to beat an opponent.
"We want to show up every week, play our hardest and continue to do that every week, to where hopefully at the end of the year we are at the point to where we need to be," senior defensive tackle Josh Freeman said.
Chattanooga, which won an FCS playoff game for the first time last season while advancing to the national quarterfinals, is in a tie for first place in the SoCon with The Citadel. Senior quarterback Jacob Huesman, the head coach's son, is leading the way again as he goes for his third straight offensive player of the year award, and the defense features one of the best secondaries in the FCS as well as one of its leading pass rushers in junior defensive end Keionta Davis.
The Mocs have won six straight games since their 23-20 loss to Jacksonville State to open the season.
After the No. 1 Gamecocks (6-1) handled Austin Peay 27-7 this past Saturday, they received 107 of the 160 first-place votes (66.9 percent) and 3,923 points to stay ahead of Coastal Carolina (7-0), which won at Monmouth 23-20 on a game-ending field goal and then received 33 first-place votes and 3,783 points.
Both teams face critical games on Halloween Saturday. In the Ohio Valley, there are three 4-0 teams in conference play, and two of them will meet when Jacksonville State hosts No. 14 Eastern Kentucky. In the Big South, Coastal Carolina will travel to No. 24 Charleston Southern in a battle of conference unbeatens.
Illinois State (6-1) received 20 first-place votes and 3,754 points in maintaining the No. 3 ranking.
After Chattanooga, the rest of the top 10 was Eastern Washington (5-2), Richmond (6-1), four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State (5-2), Sam Houston State (5-2), James Madison (7-1) and McNeese State (7-0). Richmond moved up an impressive five spots to No. 6 after posting one of the weekend's bigger wins, 59-49 at James Madison to take over first place in CAA Football.
With Richmond and McNeese State moving into the top 10, Fordham (7-1) dropped one spot to No. 11. The Patriot League leader was followed by Portland State (6-1), Eastern Kentucky (5-2), South Dakota State (5-2), Harvard (6-0), William & Mary (5-2), Montana (4-3), Northern Iowa (3-4), Montana State (4-3) and North Carolina A&T (6-1).
Rounding out the Top 25 were Indiana State (4-3), Dartmouth (6-0), Western Illinois (4-3), Charleston Southern (6-1) - which entered the rankings for the first time this season - and Youngstown State (3-4).
A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS Top 25. In the voting, a first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.
The Top 25 is released every Monday afternoon during the regular season, except for Sunday morning, Nov. 22, prior to the selection of the 24-team FCS playoff field. A final Top 25 will follow the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 9 in Frisco, Texas.