Oct. 12, 2010
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina head football coach Dennis Wagner spoke with members of the media on Tuesday morning on the Southern Conference Head Coaches Teleconference. He talked about last weekend's Homecoming loss to the Samford Bulldogs, and shifted his focus to this Saturday's road game at Wofford.
WCU travels down I-26 on to face the Terriers, which are ranked 14th in the latest The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 college football poll and are 17th in the coaches' tally, this coming Saturday, Oct. 16. Kickoff from Gibbs Stadium is set for 1:30 pm.
The game will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network with air time at 12 Noon across seven stations in North and South Carolina, as well as online at CatamountSports.com through Stretch Internet.
"We let things snowball us on offense and just couldn't get things going," said Wagner in reference to last Saturday's home loss to Samford during the teleconference. "We let them explode in the second quarter off of some turnovers including taking an interception back for a touchdown. Hats off to Coach (Pat) Sullivan and his staff; his guys were ready to play, they did a great job. But we let things get out of hand in the second quarter and then never recovered in the second half."
Looking to this weekend's opponent, Wofford - which is coming off a big road win over nationally-ranked Georgia Southern last Saturday - Wagner was very complimentary of what head coach Mike Ayers has done during his tenure in Spartanburg.
"Coach (Mike) Ayers has a great team. They've done a great job in getting their guys back. Last year was a tough year for them with all the injuries, but they're healthy now. They're playing hard, they run the ball well and they are very disciplined. They play very solid defense and they are a football team that you can't make mistakes against because they make you pay for it," said Wagner.
He added, "We're really going to have to play a great football game, take care of the ball and make some big plays on special teams to make sure we aren't giving them a short field."
The Catamounts will hope to draw some positive about facing another option offensive attack by the success the squad had in the 24-13 road win over The Citadel. WCU limited the Bulldogs to 198 yards on the ground, their second-lowest output of the season and the best amongst just FCS competition.
However, Wagner was quick to point out the difference between The Citadel, which re-installed the run-oriented offense prior to this season, and Wofford, which has used the Wingbone attack to help Ayers win 148 games with the Terriers in 23 seasons.
"(Wofford) is much more advanced," said Wagner when comparing Wofford to The Citadel. "They're installing the offense down at The Citadel while Wofford has run it for years. There's not a lot of defenses they haven't seen. They are able to go to all phases of the option game that they need to be successful."
Wagner called defending the option a "chess game for four quarters," with reference to both sides making changes to the way it attacks the other.
During the call, Wagner stated that he and his staff had not named a starting quarterback for this weekend's game at Wofford. He felt that both quarterbacks - junior Zac Brindise and true freshman Brandon Pechloff - both needed a week of practice to see which would be best prepared to best lead the team. Wagner confirmed a question about "wide open competition" for the starting job.
"Brandon (Pechloff) didn't perform to his ability and Zac (Brindise) came in and moved the ball, but again, he's got to do some other things. He'd be the first to tell you that he didn't play the perfect game either, so, we've just got to get better at that position," said Wagner.
Western Carolina (2-4, 1-2 SoCon) has won back-to-back road games, downing Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs before snapping a 16-game SoCon road winless skid with a 24-13 victory over The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. The Catamounts will look to end a couple of other skids on Saturday as WCU has lost four-straight to the Terriers overall and has lost six-straight at Gibbs Stadium - winless since the new stadium was constructed (0-6).
Western Carolina will also look to end a streak against nationally-ranked teams. The last time a WCU squad upset a nationally-ranked team came in 2006 with a come-from-behind victory over then-No. 19 Eastern Kentucky in Cullowhee. The drought for defeating a nationally-ranked team on the road is even longer, however, with the Catamounts last winning over a ranked foe on the road coming back in 1984, a 20-19 victory over then-No. 12 Furman.
All told, the Catamounts have dropped 13-straight against teams that graced the national rankings and 37-consecutive road games against a nationally-ranked opponent.
A year ago, Western Carolina nearly erased all of 21-point first quarter deficit, clawing to within two, 28-26, in the second half. However, Wofford held off the Catamount rally to pick up its first conference victory of the season, 35-26, in Cullowhee. WCU recorded four rushing touchdowns including two by Michael Johnson, but a late 42-yard punt return by Wofford's Justice Joslin set up what proved to be the game-winning score for the Terriers as Mike Rucker plunged in from three yards out to cap just a four-play scoring drive.
During his time on the teleconference, Ayers called Western Carolina a "big, physical team that is trying to find their identity."
"They've probably been their own worst enemy in some situations, but they have kids that can play," Ayers continued. "Defensively, I'm impressed with their size and their speed. They have a lot of great looking athletes who don't stay on blocks very long. They do a nice job with their scheme. You look at them offensively and they've got some guys that can hurt you. They've got some guys that can throw it and they've got some guys that can catch it - and a lot of times, those guys aren't really open but they'll go up and make a play.
"We'll have to play better than we did this past Saturday (at Georgia Southern), I'll tell you that," Ayers concluded.
Rain in Cullowhee forced all of the teams currently amidst practices indoors on Tuesday evening, including the Catamount football and baseball teams. The squad took advantage of the time indoors to work on the intricacies of the Wofford option attack, using the practice time as a teaching tool and to recall fundamental tendencies used to slow The Citadel's option attack two weeks ago.
Kickoff between the Catamounts and Terriers is set for 1:30 pm.
Catamount Club Tailgate at Wofford this Saturday:
The Catamount Club will be hosting a tailgate for Catamount Club Members at this weekend's game against Wofford in Spartanburg to support the Catamounts! If you plan to attend the tailgate prior to kickoff on Saturday, please RSVP with the Catamount Club Office at 828.227.3794 or email@example.com
Time: 11:00 am to 1:00 pm with kickoff scheduled for 1:30 pm
Location: By the Twitty Street Parking area; in the $10 parking area
Directions: From I-26 take Exit 15 to US 176; US 176 become I-585 / N Pine St.; Turn Right on Twitty St., it will be the second stop light after the Interstate ends (Starbucks will be on the right hand side)