Oct. 1, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir took part in the weekly Southern Conference Football Head Coaches' Teleconference on Tuesday morning. He spoke about last weekend's road loss at Samford while looking ahead to the Catamounts' Southern Conference road game this Saturday evening at Chattanooga.
Kickoff Saturday (Oct. 5) is set for 6:00 pm ET in front of live television audience on My40, WMYA-TV, sister station to WLOS-TV in Asheville.
Saturday's game will also be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with an air time of 5:00 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.
"Obviously, it was a very frustrating loss for us last week at Samford. They've got a great football team. Coach (Pat) Sullivan and his whole staff, they do a tremendous job. And they've got really talented football players," Speir opened during his time on the call.
"It was a deal where we got down early and started getting a rhythm, making it a 14-10 ball game. We get a good kickoff, right where we wanted it to be and (Fabian) Truss took it the distance. We then went four-and-out and they scored again just before halftime. In the second half, some of our young players - and even some of our older players especially on defense - started to press a little bit. We lost our composure there in the second half; guys just trying to make plays and ended up making it worse," said Speir.
He added, "It was a very frustrating loss - but we talked to our team. As coaches and players, this is where our true character and integrity as a program and as individuals is going to show."
Speir turned his attention to the task at hand this week - another road game in SoCon play against a talented Chattanooga (2-2, 0-1 SoCon) squad at Finley Stadium. The Mocs are coming off a close, two-point road loss at Georgia Southern last Saturday, falling 23-21.
"We've got a tremendous challenge this week," said Speir on facing Chattanooga. "I think UTC, Coach (Russ) Huesman, they've done a tremendous job ever since he's been there. I know our staff has a lot of respect for their coaching staff. They're a physical football team. I've got a lot of respect for Chattanooga - preseason, I picked UTC high in our league. If felt like they're a team that'll be high in our league and will be playing for a championship."
A hallmark of a Huesman-coached Mocs team has been the defense. Chattanooga enters the weekend ranked second in the SoCon in fewest points allowed with 78 - which includes holding FBS-foe, Georgia State, to 14 points and non-conference foe Austin Peay to just 10.
"They're so sound on defense. It's hard to create big plays against them - they make you earn everything. You've got to drive the field on them. It's hard to score on their defense. They're strong, they're physical and play with a lot of composure and a lot of experience," said Speir.
Offensively, the Mocs rank fourth in the SoCon with an average of 405 yards per game and are third in scoring offense, averaging just over 31 points per outing. UTC is led by quarterback Jacob Huesman, who is a five-time SoCon weekly honoree - earning four Freshman of the Week plaudits and one Offensive Player of the Week honor a season ago.
"Their quarterback, Jacob Huesman - coach's son - what a competitor he is. He leads that football team, and manages the team very well," Speir said. "They don't turn the ball over; they've got weapons at wide outs. They're a complete team; they don't really have a weakness."
Western Carolina returned to the practice field on Monday for what Speir referred to as a "very spirited" practice to open preparations for Chattanooga. WCU has dropped four-straight in the overall series with the Mocs - and has losses in eight of the last 10 meetings with UTC dating back to 2003. The Catamounts look to halt a three-game slide in Chattanooga, last tasting a road win over the Mocs in 2005 - a 38-20 tally.
Last year in Cullowhee, Western Carolina led 24-16 at halftime and carried a narrow, two-point, 24-22, edge into the fourth quarter. However, 23 fourth quarter points as a part of 29-straight after intermission led the Mocs to the come-from-behind, 45-24, victory.
UTC outgained the Catamounts in total offense a season ago, 474-to-288 yards, including a 367-to-112 advantage in rushing yards, in erasing an eight-point halftime deficit en route to the win. WCU had 255 yards of offense in the opening half, but was limited to just 33 combined yards in the second. All told, the Mocs piled up 281 rushing yards in the second half with all 182 offensive yards in the fourth quarter coming on the ground. UTC only passed for 20 yards after intermission.
Kickoff of WCU's final night game of the season on Saturday evening is scheduled for 6:00 pm.
Here is an excerpt of quotes from Tuesday's teleconference:
Speir on regrouping and bouncing back after the Samford loss:
"As bad as the score was (at Samford), you can see a lot of positive things happening with this football program. That thing snowballed, got ugly. You worry about your team losing its confidence or doubting. And we've just got to do our very best coaching job this week to make sure we don't let our kids lose their confidence. With what they've done this year - even though the wins haven't come - we've progressed."
Speir on the maturation process of the Catamount football team:
"Every day, we're just trying to mature this football team and preach the same things. We've got to play with relentless effort, discipline and composure. When you've got a young football team like we do - and we've got some good players - but there's nothing like experience. Our players are getting are getting all kinds of experience and that's valuable stuff that's going to help us the rest of this season and as we move this football program forward."
"As I told them in the locker room (at Samford) and told our coaches on Sunday, it all starts with our staff. We haven't lost confidence - I love this team. We've got a bunch of guys who work hard and are going to be really good players one day. It all starts with how we handle it as a coaching staff. Our players are so impressionable - they feed off of us. We haven't lost our confidence one bit."
"As a staff, we're frustrated - and I'm probably the most frustrated man in America right now. But, that frustration causes you as coaches to look at how you're coaching, how you're teaching these guys. Sometimes we assume things are so easy. Our staff has never really been involved with a team that is this young. We're really looking at how we are teaching; things we think are easy might not be easy. I mean, a lot of these players, were at the prom six months ago. So, we're even trying to simplify our teaching techniques. Taking this frustration to even refine how we're coaching and what we're asking our players to do. And then, keep on building up these players. They know they can be good - it's just building on that consistently."
Speir on what getting first SoCon win would do:
"I've told a lot of people, it's a lot like teaching a young baby how to walk. After they take that first step, the second and third are a lot easier. We've just got to get them to take that first step. And it doesn't just happen. They all want the outcome - but there is a process to create that outcome. Doing the little things in practice, how you prepare mentally before a ball game; that extra time it takes to prepare for a game. But I love this team; they're a great group of guys. Their youth and enthusiasm a lot of times keeps us coaches motivated and going.
"Our fans - they're frustrated, too. But I've had so many E-mails, so many calls - everybody is pulling for this team. And it's going to happen. When it's going to happen, time's going to tell that. Until the process in how we practice and how we prepare. The process is going to create the outcomes and that's what we're focused on."
Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman:
About Western Carolina:
"We're playing a really good football team; a young football team. I was just looking at their depth chart, I think they're playing 13 true freshman and 14 sophomores out their two deep on both sides of the ball. The one thing I can see on film this year from them is their team speed is so much better. They're really well coached. They know what they want to do on both sides of the ball. We are going to have a tough time here this week because they do spread you out, and they've got some quality players."
On Western Carolina's offense differences this year:
"It's probably a combination of a lot of things. It starts with their quarterback position. I think both of those guys are really good, but Troy Mitchell, in my opinion, is very, very, very dangerous. He can run, he can make you miss and he throws it really well - he threw it well against us last year as a true freshman. They're playing with seven true freshmen in the two-deep on offense."
"They look so much more athletic on both sides of the ball since I've been here at Chattanooga. I think Mark Speir is doing it the right way. He's bringing in talented freshmen. Sometimes you take your lumps, sometimes they'll give up a big play. But you can see, they're fitting gaps correctly this year on defense; they're athletic on defense and they're athletic on offense. I've been very impressed with them on both sides of the ball, playing with young guys. And sometimes when you play with young guys, maybe a big play here or a big play there, but I think in the long run, their football team is going to get better each and every week. They've looked athletic, and I've been very impressed."