Nov. 1, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Saturday's Southern Conference showdown at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field represents a "changing of the guard" of sorts. Western Carolina will honor its seniors prior to the game that pits two of the top freshmen quarterbacks in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) with kickoff at 3:30 pm.
The game will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard 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. Fans can also tune in online at CatamountSports.com.
Two of the top three candidates for this year's SoCon Freshman of the Year plaudits - WCU quarterback Troy Mitchell and Chattanooga's Jacob Huesman - will be on display, leading their respective offenses. Entering this week, the two are the only rookies to earn the SoCon's Freshman of the Week honor twice which in theory has them just ahead of another front-runner - Appalachian wide receiver, Sean Price.
A spark-plug for the Catamount offense this fall, Mitchell has rushed for eight touchdowns on the year - the most by a Catamount quarterback since at least 1967, according to available records. The Houston, Texas native has also thrown for three scores, completing 61-percent of his passes for 656 yards on the season.
On the other sideline, Huesman - the son of UTC head coach Russ Huesman - has four rushing scores and tossed 10 passing TDs. He has accounted for 597 rushing yards and 1,142 passing yards, completing 66-percent of his passes.
Chattanooga (4-4, 3-2 SoCon) is coming off a tough, triple-overtime loss at home to this week's No. 1 team in the nation, Georgia Southern, last Saturday. The loss snapped a three-game win streak for UTC which is holding onto an outside chance at both a SoCon title and a potential playoff berth - needing help for both. The Mocs' three-straight wins came over The Citadel, Furman and Samford, with the first two coming on the road.
Huesman, who has a UTC freshman record 118 completions on the season, has taken over the Mocs offense from sophomore Terrell Robinson, who continues to find a way to contribute offensively both as a running back, wide receiver and occasionally at quarterback. Robinson has thrown two TD passes, while rushing for two and catching three on the season.
Otherwise, UTC's favorite target is 6-5, 240-lbs., tight end, Faysal Shafaat who has 31 catches for a 260 yards and a team-high four touchdown catches.
Defensively, linebacker Wes Dothard, who was named to the 2012 Buck Buchanan Award Watch list, leads the stingy Mocs defense with 66 tackles, averaging 8.3 per game. Sophomore defensive lineman Davis Tull has a SoCon-leading eight sacks on the year - four coming in his last three games.
On the flip side, Saturday represents Western Carolina's last opportunity this season to snap its conference losing skid that has hit 21-straight games following last weekend's home loss to Appalachian State in the annual "Battle for the Old Mountain Jug."
WCU also has its headlining linebacker in senior Rock Williams who paces the SoCon - and ranks second nationally - with 14.14 tackles per game. With 310 career stops, the Howell, Mich., native has already moved into ninth-place on the school's career tackles chart - and is on pace to finish inside the all-time top 10 in WCU history.
Offensively, behind Mitchell's team-leading eight scores on the ground, Western Carolina has rushed for 21 touchdowns - the most for a Catamount football team since also rushing for 21 TDs in 2002. It is the 13th-time since 1967 that WCU has 20-or-more rushing scores in a season, and this year's squad is just three ground scores shy of the school record of 25 set during the 2001 season.
Conversely, the Catamount offense has only thrown for seven touchdown passes to day, the fewest for a WCU offense since tossing six in 2005.
Kickoff Saturday is set for 3:30 pm. Prior to the game, WCU will honor its senior members and those appearing in their final home game at Whitmire Stadium / Waters Field. During halftime there will be a special on-field recognition for WCU's three newest inductees into its Athletics Hall of Fame - Bill Stanley (Football, 1964-69), Eric Johnson (Football & Baseball, 1995-99) and Laura Tieszen Kamarinen (Women's Track & Field, 2002-05).
WESTERN CAROLINA VS. CHATTANOOGA - THE SERIES:
Western Carolina trails Chattanooga in the all-time series, 16-22, including having lost three-straight meetings overall and three of the last four at Whitmire Stadium / Waters Field since 2004 ... the all-time series between the two in Cullowhee is tied, 9-9 ... All told, WCU has lost five of the last six in the series - and seven of the last nine since winning three-straight from 2000-02 ... Since 2000, the head-to-head series has been very close with WCU trailing the Mocs, 5-7, with three home victories.
CATAMOUNT FOOTBALL ON HALL OF FAME DAY:
Since 2000, Western Carolina is 4-8 in games played on Hall of Fame Day in Cullowhee ... WCU has won three of the last seven games on Hall of Fame Day - last winning against Chattanooga, 27-7, back in 2008 ... the Catamounts have dropped three-straight Hall of Fame games including 42-24 to ninth-ranked Wofford last year, 28-6 to Georgia Southern two seasons ago and 42-17 to Elon in 2009.
WCU VS. UTC - FAMILIAR FACES:
- Chattanooga offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield spent a year at Western Carolina ... He joined former head coach Kent Briggs' staff in Feb. of 2005 and coached through the 2005 football season before going to Tennessee-Martin and later Chattanooga;
- Chattanooga senior LB Shane Heatherly is from nearby Waynesville, N.C., and a graduate of Tuscola High ... He was teammates with WCU senior kicker, Leo Gamez.
CATAMOUNTS LOOKING FOR STREAK SNAPPERS:
WCU looks to snap several streaks on Saturday afternoon including a 21-game winless drought in Southern Conference play that dates back to 2010 ... WCU's current stretch of 21-straight losses in SoCon play is the longest ACTIVE losing skid for one team in its respective FCS conference (Austin Peay, Idaho State and Savannah State have 12-game droughts) ... WCU's conference losing skid is the longest at the NCAA Division I level - Kansas has dropped 17-straight in Big 12 play at the FBS level ... WCU has dropped eight-straight games on the 2012 season, the fourth-longest current losing skid in FCS (Rhode Island & Austin Peay have lost 10-straight to tie for the longest active).
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 can take place at any of the entrances to E.J. Whitmire Stadium. 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 ... There will be ticket sales available at Gate 2, it is just not open for entry ... 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.