Sept. 21, 2012
Related Link: Catamount Gameday Central
Cullowhee, N.C. - After back-to-back road games, Western Carolina returns home to the friendly confines of E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field for the first time since its season-opener back on August 30 as it host the Samford Bulldogs in Southern Conference action. Kickoff of the first home league game of the season is scheduled for 3:30 pm Saturday as a part of WCU Family Weekend festivities.
WCU (1-2, 0-1 SoCon) is coming off consecutive road losses at Football Bowl Subdivision - and former SoCon-member - Marshall, and last Saturday's defeat at ninth-ranked Wofford. Samford enters the game riding a 3-0 start for the first time since 1995, and won its SoCon opener for the first-time since joining the league in 2008.
Saturday's game will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network with air time of 2:30 pm across nine 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; on ESPN Radio 1310 and 970 AM in Asheville/Canton; 1600 AM WTZQ in Hendersonville; 1150 AM WAVO in Charlotte/Rock Hill, S.C.; and 1270 AM WCGC in Belmont/Gaston County.
"After last weekend at Wofford, we've come back and tried to get ready for a really good Samford football team coming to Cullowhee this weekend," said WCU head coach Mark Speir during Tuesday morning's SoCon Head Coaches Teleconference. "They're 3-0 and playing well and with a lot of confidence. Coach Pat Sullivan and that staff do a great job. It doesn't get any easier in this league, and we know that - but we're excited about having another opportunity at home in Cullowhee this weekend."
Western Carolina and Samford meet on the gridiron for the 10th time in series history on Saturday afternoon. Despite claiming the first ever series meeting back in 1969, the Catamounts have not found much success against former Florida State head coach, Bobby Bowden's, alma mater. The Bulldogs have won the last eight meetings in the series including all four previous games held in Cullowhee.
Samford, which has wins over Furman, West Alabama and Gardner-Webb this season, boasts one of the nation's top all-purpose backs. Junior Fabian Truss leads the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with over 208 all-purpose yards per game, while also scoring five touchdowns.
"He's a tremendous football player," said Speir of Truss. "He has been a good football player since he came into the league. He's been a playmaker and is very explosive. He can take the ball the distance as a running back and as a kick returner. He's a guy that they get the ball into his hands, and rightly so. In one play, he can change the outlook in the game, so we've got to do a great job of our defensive fits and rally to him and swarm and gang tackle him. He's a strong back and has the speed to go to the house. He's going to be a tremendous challenge."
Western Carolina will try and snap several different ominous streaks on Saturday afternoon including the eight-game slide to Samford. WCU also looks to put the clamps on a 15-game SoCon losing skid that dates back to 2010 with its last league victory coming over The Citadel in Charleston, S.C.
Speir and the Catamounts plan to continue using the running back by committee with Michael Johnson, Darius Ramsey, Shaun Warren and Michael Vaughn splitting carries, while both quarterbacks - projected starter Eddie Sullivan and freshman back-up, Troy Mitchell - are expected to play. Sullivan is coming off a 300-yard passing effort at Wofford last Saturday, while Mitchell added his team-leading third rushing touchdown in the loss.
Senior wide receiver Jacoby Mitchell continues to lead the SoCon - and rank 16th nationally - in receptions per game, averaging 7.7 per outing including WCU's lone receiving TD to date this fall. With 23 catches for 214 yards, the Decatur, Ga., native is on a career pace through the first three games of the year as he is already just 16 catches and 227 yards shy of his career highs.
Defensively, WCU anticipates the return of both senior linebacker Rock Williams and redshirt sophomore defensive back Ace Clark to the lineup from injury that sidelined them a week ago at Wofford. Both were limited in practice sessions throughout the week to aid in the recovery.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 pm.
Things to know before you go:
- Gates at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field open 90 minutes prior to kickoff for all home games ... On Saturday afternoon, fans can enter the stadium for pre-game beginning at 2:00 pm ... Tailgating with alcoholic beverages is permitted three and a half hours prior to kickoff, beginning at Noon;
- Game day ticket sales and Will Call for Saturday's game will take place at the Northwest Ticket Booth (Gate 1, main stadium entrance) beginning at 10:00 am;
- Fans can avoid the lines on game day by printing Will Call tickets online at CatamountSports.com;
- Western Carolina has a no re-admittance policy to the stadium ... Also, umbrellas, coolers and alcoholic beverages are not allowed inside the stadium;
- Gate 2, which in years past has served as the main student entrance, WILL NOT be open for entry throughout the 2012 season ... Students and fans need to use Gate 3 at the top of the stairs or Gate 4 along Forest Hills Drive to gain access to the East Side stadium.
Here's an excerpt of Tuesday's Southern Conference Football Coaches Teleconference:
Head Coach Mark Speir
SoCon Weekly Teleconference
"Going into the game last Saturday, we knew that Wofford has a tremendous football team. That team showed up. Coach (Mike) Ayers gave us a nice introduction into the Southern Conference. It was a hard fought ballgame. I thought our players at times played well. We made too many mistakes in some techniques and assignments on defense."
"We're playing some young players and some players that, at times, I thought were playing hard and running to the ball, but we were a little off in our assignments and techniques. When you do that against a really good football team like Wofford, they're going to make you pay. To Wofford's credit, they did."
"Offensively, we moved the ball well at times, but we couldn't finish drives with points. Our kicking game struggled a little bit, which had been our strong suit the first two games, so we had come back, take a look at the film, evaluate ourselves, take a good look at ourselves."
On Samford's offensive weapons:
"They've got really good skill players. Their wide receivers compare with anybody's in the league. Their quarterback does a great job, so it's a ballgame where you're not playing the option and assignment, but you're playing a lot of good skill players. We've got to do a great job defending those guys."
On finishing drives with points:
"On Tuesday's, we always have a third and short period and we always do a four-minute red zone period versus our defense so that's something we're consistently focusing on. Bottom line, throughout the course of the game, a lot of its confidence and a lot of it is how you practice. We're still learning how to practice how to be a really good football team and you have to have a Monday through Friday solid effort. If you don't practice well on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, a lot of times those same mistakes show up on Saturday.
"With this league, it's gotten to be games of inches and good football teams like we're playing are going to expose you. So, yes, we are addressing those issues, but the bottom line is we're addressing ourselves and how we practice and how that's going to relate and show up on Saturdays."