Jeff Moore (83) - who led WCU with six catches - and Karnorris Benson (14) - who paced the Catamounts and leads the SoCon with 113 receiving yards - celebrate a touchdown in the season-opener at Middle Tennessee. (Photo by Mark Haskett)
Sep 3, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. -
Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir took part in the weekly Southern Conference Football Head Coaches' Teleconference on Tuesday morning. The conversation started with reflecting on the Catamounts' season-opener at Middle Tennessee before turning to this coming Saturday's game at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
Saturday afternoon's game will be broadcast on ESPN3 with John Sadak (play-by-play), John Bunting (color analyst) and Cat Whitehill (sideline) on the call. Fans can also follow the Catamount Sports Network broadcast with an air time of 12:30 pm across 11 stations and online at CatamountSports.com. Fans can listen to the game locally on WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 in Cullowhee; 540 AM WRGC in Sylva; 1050 AM WFSC in Franklin; 920 AM WPTL in Canton; 1150 AM WAVO in Charlotte/Rock Hill, S.C.; 1270 AM WCGC in Belmont/Gaston County; on ESPN Radio 1310 & 970 AM in Asheville/Canton; 1600 AM WTZQ in Hendersonville; and on CSN's newest affiliates, Country Legends 550 and 92.9 in Statesville.
"I thought at times against Middle Tennessee, we showed signs of a lot of improvement as a football team from last year," Speir began. "Obviously consistency was an issue and sometimes that youth that we had on the field showed up. But, that youth also made a lot of plays. We've just got to continue to focus on the Catamounts."
He quickly turned his thoughts to this Saturday's first meeting between Western Carolina and Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium.
Virginia Tech (0-1) represents the third-straight Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team the Catamounts have faced dating back to last season's finale at fourth-ranked Alabama. The Hokies, ironically enough, are coming off a date with the Crimson Tide in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, falling 35-10.
"We've obviously got a big-time task ahead of us this week, playing a team like Virginia Tech that played really well against the University of Alabama last week - especially their defense. I thought their defense was outstanding. They gave up 35 points, but two of those scores were uncharacteristically in the special teams and through a pick-six - so 21 of the points didn't occur against their defense," said Speir.
He added, "Obviously we've got a monumental task taking this team up to Blacksburg this Saturday. But our approach to it is, we can't worry about Virginia Tech - of course, we will schematically with what they do and how we best match-up against them - but we're taking the approach that it's all about us, getting that consistency we need that we showed at times against Middle Tennessee, and to just continue to get better and concentrate on ourselves. We've just got to get better in all three phases."
For a second-straight week, a portion of the teleconference centered around WCU's quarterback situation. Redshirt junior Eddie Sullivan earned the starting nod in the season opener with sophomore Troy Mitchell also seeing time in the Catamount offensive backfield. Mitchell was injured late in the season-opening game at Middle Tennessee and did not return, held out for precautionary purposes.
Speir addressed Mitchell's health and the starting QB job during the teleconference.
"(Troy's) healthy, yes," Speir began. "He did not have a concussion on Thursday night. We took him out precautionary-wise. He did not practice yesterday (Monday), and I think he's going to get a little bit today (Tuesday)."
Beyond Mitchell's health, Speir did not indicate which QB would get the starting nod on Saturday afternoon. He did reiterate, though, that sophomore tailback Darius Ramsey, who was sidelined for the opener with a foot injury suffered in the final scrimmage, was "questionable at best" for the game in Blacksburg.
"We did sustain some injuries at Middle Tennessee, but those are the two starters whose status is in question. There will be some guys that we've had to limit in some special teams because of some nagging injuries. And that's always the deal when you play FBS - you want to play well and get out of those games healthy. Next week - not looking ahead - but you start what for us is the real goal of a Southern Conference run, so, we've got to get out of this run (vs. FBS teams) healthy."
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 pm.
Here is an excerpt of quotes from Tuesday morning's teleconference:
Speir on the play of his special teams at Middle Tennessee:
"I think we didn't play particularly well - probably one of our worst outings since I've been here - in the special teams. I thought that we were really good at that last year. We did, in our opinions, a good job on special teams. A lot of that, we had a lot of youth on those special teams. A lot of those guys, shoot, six months ago they were at the prom and they're out there in their first game."
Speir on the eight FCS football wins over FBS in the opening week:
"There are a lot of great FCS programs and it's becoming more and more frequent - and there were some other seven-point ball games. I think there's still a difference when you start talking about SEC and some of your ACC schools, but there is a lot of great football in the FCS. Any Saturday - that's why you play these games."
"If you go play well, you can beat anybody. I don't want our team to take the approach, `hey, we're going to play in this huge stadium against a team that's been to 20 bowl games in a row.' It's about us - and I know that is what we did when we were at App. We didn't focus on Michigan; we focused on getting our team prepared to play against an opponent and don't bring all of the magnitude into it. Those players know who we're playing. We've got to get ourselves better and that's the approach we're taking. And I think that's what the good FCS programs do."