Sept. 20, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina returns to the gridiron on Saturday afternoon as it hosts mountain-foe, the Mars Hill Lions, at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field with the kickoff scheduled for 3:30 pm. Saturday's football game is part of WCU's Family Weekend activities.
Tailgating on campus Saturday begins at Noon, three and a half hours prior to the announced start time, with the gates opening 90 minutes prior to kickoff at 2:00 pm.
The game will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network (CSN) with an air time of 2:30 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; and on ESPN Radio 1310 & 970 AM in Asheville/Canton, as well as 1150 AM WAVO in Charlotte/Rock Hill, S.C.; 1270 AM WCGC in Belmont/Gaston County; 1600 AM WTZQ in Hendersonville; and on CSN's newest affiliates, Country Legends 550 and 92.9 in Statesville.
Fans can additionally catch the game online at CatamountSports.com with live GameTracker (free), live streaming audio (free) from CSN through Stretch Internet and live video streaming through Catamount All-Access (subscription) which also includes audio commentary from CSN.
Western Carolina and Mars Hill meet for the 21st time on the football field with Saturday representing the 17th meeting in Cullowhee. The Catamounts lead the all-time series, 14-5-1, and have won 14-straight games in the series that dates back to 1931 including last year's 42-14 home victory over the Lions - the first win for WCU head coach Mark Speir. This is the third-straight year the Catamounts and Lions meet in football, matching the second-longest such streak in series history.
Speir talked during Tuesday's Southern Conference Football Teleconference about turning attention from last week's tough home loss to The Citadel to what he termed "an excellent football team" in this week's opponent, Mars Hill.
"Coach (Tim) Clifton has been there a long time. They've got good players," opened Speir in talking about the Lions. "We've just got to continue to get the Catamounts better and try to get a win this Saturday."
"It's not any different than any other week; it's a big week for our football team to get better and to go try and find a `W,'" Speir continued. "We've just got to play disciplined, hard-nosed football, block and tackle, and give ourselves an opportunity. Any week is big to get a win."
Western Carolina (0-3) looks to build upon a strong close to the second half in last weekend's home and SoCon-opening loss to The Citadel. After watching the Bulldogs hold onto the football for 19 minutes in the first half, WCU's offense got rolling after the break. The Catamounts compiled 244 total yards including 137 on the ground and 107 through the air while scoring 21 points despite coming up seven short on the scoreboard.
The Catamounts welcomed back sophomore tailback Darius Ramsey a week ago. The sophomore tailback rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries and found the end zone twice, matching his career total of touchdowns in one outing. He and classmate Troy Mitchell both eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards as the WCU QB gained a team-high 106 yards.
In last year's meeting against Mars Hill, Ramsey rushed for a career-high 120 yards with Mitchell accounting for two of WCU's four rushing scores, finishing with 38 yards on the ground and 149 yards passing in the victory. Two seasons ago against the Lions, tailback Shaun Warren spearheaded a team 328 yard rushing attack with a career-best 203 yards and four rushing TDs in the win.
Mars Hill (1-1) had an extended week of preparation after picking up its first victory of the season over Shorter College, 41-30, on the road last Thursday (Sept. 12). The Lions opened the season with a 10-point home loss to West Georgia, 31-21.
The Lions are led by junior running back Shaikel Davis who is averaging 138.5 yards rushing per game including a season-high 165 on 31 carries at Shorter. Davis has both of Mars Hill's rushing TDs. At wideout, junior Dimitri Holmes also has a pair of scores, averaging 147 yards receiving per game and a combined 153 all-purpose yards per outing.
"They're a good, solid football team with a really good running back. They've got a very large offensive line and like to run the ball and play-action pass. They run a lot of `I' formation and this day, that's a foreign formation. Defensively, they're just solid. They're a sound football team, a traditional team," said Speir on the Lions.
But he was again quick to point out that a lot of Saturday's game boils down to the Catamounts.
Speir said, "As it's been the first three weeks, it's about us getting ourselves prepared. When we are doing things right, playing with discipline and playing with technique, we played well against Middle Tennessee and Virginia Tech. But when we don't, it doesn't matter who you play. So, we've really focused a lot this week on cleaning up the Catamounts and know that we've got to play a really good ball game to beat Mars Hill at home."
Saturday marks the last home game for the Catamounts until returning to Cullowhee in mid-October for consecutive home games in SoCon play against Wofford (Oct. 19, Hall of Fame Day) and Elon (Oct. 26, Homecoming).
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 pm. For advanced tickets, contact the WCU Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401, or purchase online at CatamountSports.com.
CATAMOUNT QUICK SLANTS:
WCU has yet to scratch the scoreboard in the first quarter this season ... Entering Saturday's game, the Catamounts have been outscored in the opening quarter, 42-0;
Last week, quarterback Troy Mitchell accounted for 242 yards of total offense ... however, after rushing for a WCU quarterback record eight touchdowns a season ago, Mitchell has yet to find the end zone on the ground in 2013;
Junior WR Karnorris Benson recorded the first career 100-yard receiving game of his WCU career, tallying a career-best 113 yards on four catches with a TD at Middle Tennessee ... It was WCU's first 100-yard receiver in four games dating back to the Elon game on Oct. 20, 2012 and only the fourth player in the past three seasons to eclipse the 100 yard mark;
WCU has rushed for over 300 yards against Mars Hill in the last two season meetings in both 2011 and 2012;
For the first-time this year, WCU had a 100-yard rusher as both quarterback Troy Mitchell (106) and tailback Darius Ramsey (102) eclipsed the century mark in the home loss to The Citadel ... It's the first time since the same duo rushed for 117 and 118, respectively, against The Citadel a season ago that WCU had two, 100-yard rushers in the same game ... Mitchell carried the ball 17 times for 117 yards and Ramsey rushed 20 times for 107 yards with a career-best two touchdowns in last Saturday's loss;
For the first time this season, Western Carolina had multiple players with double figure tackles against The Citadel ... WCU had four players with double figure tackles: Sertonuse Harris (16), Courtland Carson (12), Andre Shishkin (10) and Christon Gill (10);
WCU's Ace Clark blocked a field goal attempt by The Citadel at the end of the first half ... it was the first blocked FG by a Catamount since Pete Balthrop Jr., swatted a would-be triple against Georgia Southern last season (Oct. 6, 2012) ... WCU has now blocked a kick on special teams in 13-STRAIGHT seasons dating back to 2001 ... During that span, the Catamounts blocked a high of five kicks in both 2003 and 2008.
CATAMOUNTS LOOKING TO SNAP SKID ON SATURDAY:
WCU's current 13-game losing skid that dates back to last season is the LONGEST winless drought in the NCAA Division I FCS football after Rhode Island snapped its 15-game losing streak last weekend with an overtime victory over Albany ... the 13-game slide ranks THIRD among ALL of the NCAA Division I football programs behind Southern Mississippi (15) and New Mexico State (14).
WESTERN CAROLINA VS. MARS HILL - SERIES HISTORY:
Western Carolina and Mars Hill meet for the 21st time on the football gridiron on Saturday afternoon in Cullowhee ... WCU leads the all-time series against Mars Hill, 14-5-1, and has won 14-straight in a series that dates back to 1931 ... the Lions won five of the first six meetings with one tie coming between in 1937 ... WCU has won all 10 meetings (10-0) played at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field since 1982;
WCU amassed 663 yards of offense against Mars Hill in the 2011 home victory over the Lions - just 18 yards shy of the Whitmire Stadium record (681 vs. Lenior-Rhyne in 2000) ... WCU just missed the 500 yard mark last year with a season-high 491 yards of total offense including 342 yards and four TDs on the ground and 149 through the air;
Mars Hill starting tight end, Paul Gilmore, was originally recruited to Western Carolina before transferring to Mars Hill ... Also, three players on both squads are products of East Henderson High - and coached by former WCU standout, Brett Chappell - WCU's Steffon Hill and Tyler Sexton and Mars Hill running back, Shaikel Davis.
WESTERN CAROLINA VS. MARS HILL - THE 2012 MEETING IN CULLOWHEE:
Troy Mitchell was one of two Catamounts to rush for a pair of touchdowns apiece while tailback Darius Ramsey racked up a career-best 120 yards on the ground as Western Carolina pulled away from Mars Hill, 42-14, in the 2012 season opener for both squads at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field;
Last year's win snapped a nine-game losing skid for WCU that dated back nearly a full year, and extended the Catamounts' winning streak in the head-to-head series to 14-straight. But overall, the night seemingly belonged to the new faces as then first-year Mark Speir earned his first collegiate win as a head coach;
WCU tallied 17-straight points in the fourth quarter to stretch what was just a 10-point lead through three quarters out to the final score - the largest margin of victory for a WCU squad since 2008;
Troy Mitchell completed 20-of-29 pass attempts (68.9-percent) for 149 yards to accompany his two rushing scores in his collegiate debut, earning Southern Conference Freshman of the Week accolades after the game ... He found eight different receivers including all four running backs.
WCU VS. CURRENT MEMBERS OF THE SOUTH ATLANTIC CONFERENCE:
Western Carolina is 68-67-5 all-time versus current members of the South Atlantic Conference ... Most of the games occurred prior to 1976 when WCU moved to NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) ... the most recent games between WCU and a SAC-member school came a year ago against Mars Hill ... Current members and series records: Brevard (1-0); Carson-Newman (17-15-1); Catawba (8-18-2); Lenoir-Rhyne (15-24); Mars Hill (14-5-1); Newberry (10-4); Tusculum (4-1-1).
CATAMOUNT PLAYERS / STORY LINES TO WATCH:
WCU'S RUSHING ATTACK - The Catamounts have amassed over 300 yards on the ground in the last two meetings with the Division II Lions ... Darius Ramsey rushed for 120 yards a season ago with WCU tallying four rushing TDs (Troy Mitchell, Michael Johnson both with two) ... Two seasons ago, Shaun Warren racked up four rushing TDs and a career-best 203 yards as WCU rushed for 328 yards as a team;
MARS HILL DEFENSE - The Lions rank fifth in the most recent NCAA Division II rankings having only allowed 89 yards passing this season against both Shorter College and West Georgia ... Both teams MHU has faced, though, have been rushing offenses;
Courtland Carson (Sr., LB) - Enters the game leading the Catamounts with 34 tackles on the season after recording double-digit stops in his last two outings ... His 34 total hits ranks second in the SoCon while his 11.3 tackles per game average ranks tied for third.