Cullowhee, N.C. – Two of the Southern Conference's top offenses will be on display Saturday afternoon at Samford's Seibert Stadium as Western Carolina visits the preseason favorite Bulldogs in league play in Birmingham, Ala. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 pm CT / 1:30 pm ET live on ESPN3.
WCU looks to bounce back from a six-point, 44-38, road loss at Furman last week – its first defeat of the season – while Samford is reeling after suffering its fourth-straight setback on the road at nationally-ranked Kennesaw State last Saturday. Among the Bulldogs' four losses is a 10-point defeat at the hands of ACC-foe, Florida State – a game in which Samford led inside the final five minutes of the fourth quarter – and one-possession games in league games against both Mercer and Chattanooga.
Western Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SoCon) leads the SoCon in total offense this season with the sixth-best national average at 521.8 yards per game. The Catamounts have done it with a balanced attack ranking third in the SoCon in rushing offense (247.8 yds/gm) and fourth in passing offense (274.0 yds/gm) – stats that rank the Catamounts 13th and 29th nationally, respectively. WCU also leads the conference in scoring, averaging 37.8 points per game.
On the other sideline, Samford ranks third in the SoCon and 26th nationally in total offense at 450.0 yards per game, the bulk of which comes through the air with a SoCon-leading 333.0 passing yards per game – fourth nationally.
Samford's roster boasts both the preseason offensive and defensive players of the year in the SoCon in quarterback Devlin Hodges and defensive lineman Ahmad Gooden. Hodges, who is chasing the NCAA FCS career passing yardage record held by Steve McNair (14,496 yards from 1991-94), enters the weekend with 11,922 career passing yards. He is also chasing the SoCon record held by former Elon gunslinger Scott Riddle (13,264 yards from 2007-10).
Hodges leads the nation in passing yards (1,639 yards) and SoCon in total offense with an average of 352.0 yards per game – just ahead of WCU's Tyrie Adams who is second with an average of 343.8 yards per game.
Hodges and Gooden were both named first-team preseason All-America by STATS FCS, and were joined by a third Bulldog teammate in WR Kelvin McKnight on the second team. McKnight averages a league-leading 9.2 receptions per game and ranks second in both receiving yards per game (118.0 yds/gm) and all-purpose yards (136.8 yds/gm).
The Bulldogs offense will challenge the Catamount defense which is led by senior Mitchell Chancey with a SoCon-leading 11.0 tackles per game. WCU also boasts two of the top four individuals in terms of sacks in LB Jacquez Williams and DL Solomon Clark, while three DBs – Ronald Kent Jr., Shamon Elliott, and JerMichael White – are the top three in pass break-ups to date this season.
Western Carolina trails Samford in the all-time series, 3-12, but has won two of the last three series meetings over the Bulldogs including a heart-stopping, 38-34, victory over the nationally-ranked Samford squad a season ago in Cullowhee. WCU looks for its first road victory over Samford since 1969 – the first series meeting – looking to end a seven-game road losing skid in the series (1-7). The Catamounts are also just 2-8 against the Bulldogs since Samford joined the Southern Conference.
In addition to the ESPN3 broadcast, Saturday's SoCon game will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network. Join “The Voice of the Catamounts,” Gary Ayers, Daniel Hooker, Greg McLamb, and Jeff Bryson on the call beginning with the Pepsi Tailgate Show at 12:30 pm ET. Fans can follow all of the action this Saturday on 105.7 FM / 540 AM WRGC in Sylva; 104.9 FM / 1050 AM WFSC in Franklin; WISE Sports Radio 97.3 FM / 1310 / 970 AM in Asheville/Canton; and WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 in Cullowhee over the air, as well as online streaming audio at CatamountSports.com.
Game 4: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 • 12:30 pm CT / 1:30 pm ET
Location: Birmingham, Ala. (Seibert Stadium: 6,700)
Western Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SoCon) at Samford (1-4, 0-2 SoCon)
Online Video Stream: ESPN3 (cable/satellite subscription required)
PBP: Curt Bloom; Analyst: Chad Pilcher; Sideline: Macy Marin
Radio: Catamount Sports Network
PBP: Gary Ayers; Analyst: Daniel Hooker; Sideline: Greg McLamb; Producer: Jeff Bryson
- Cullowhee – WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5
- Sylva – 105.7 FM / 540 AM WRGC
- Franklin – 104.9 FM / 1050 AM WFSC
- Asheville – WISE Sports Radio 97.3 FM / 1310 AM
- Canton – WYSE Sports Radio 970 AM
- Online: CatamountSports.com
Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir looks back at the road game at Furman from last weekend before previewing this Saturday's road game against the Samford Bulldogs in the latest installment of "Catamount Football Weekly."