Nov. 5, 2008
Cullowhee, N.C. -
With Tuesday's national Election Day, the Southern Conference moved its Weekly Head Coaches Teleconference to Wednesday with Western Carolina head coach Dennis Wagner participating in the call-in, question-and-answer session. Wagner talked about last week's win over Chattanooga on Hall of Fame Day, as well as looked ahead to Saturday's game at No. 11 Elon.
Western Carolina, which snapped its 20-game SoCon losing skid with its 27-7 win last Saturday over UTC, has dropped two-straight to the Phoenix, losing at home, 38-36, a season ago. Prior to the two-game slide, the Catamounts had won four-straight over Elon - and eight-of-nine dating back to 1978.
The Phoenix (7-2, 5-1 SoCon) are the second-straight WCU opponent to be coming off its bye week. Elon last played on Oct. 25, falling, 55-20, to Wofford at home two weeks ago. It is also Western's fifth opponent this season that graces the national rankings - 11th in both the coaches Top 25 and The Sports Network poll.
Saturday's game, which is Elon's Homecoming, pits the SoCon's best passing offense in the Phoenix (258.2 yds/gm) against the Catamounts' league-best passing defense (172.7 yds/gm). Elon also counters with the second-best overall defensive unit, limiting opponents to an average of 21.3 points and 325.1 yards per contest.
Here is an excerpt from Wednesday's teleconference:
Western Carolina head coach Dennis Wagner:
On last Saturday's win over Chattanooga:
"Here at Western, any victory is a big victory for us as we try and change the culture and the program. I am just proud of the guys, the way they continue to fight; practice and play hard."
"In this conference, every game is so critical as you are trying to make a drive towards a conference championship. There is no weak link in this conference - every team is capable of beating you. Just as we did not make a big deal out of the losing streak, we are not going to make a big deal out of winning because the winning is the expectation here now. We are proud of it, but we need to act like we've been there before and move on to the next game and not rest on our laurels. Elon is going to be as good as any opponent that we have played to this point and we are going to have to be at our best."
On the Elon Phoenix:
"Elon has certainly had a tremendous season. We respect what we have seen on film; they seem like a very good football team. They are well coached and have great athletes. We are looking forward to the challenge as we make the road trip."
"This is a good football team we are going to play and they certainly have a lot at stake here and we can play the spoiler role. But, I don't think we take the approach that that's all that is left for us. I think we take the approach that we make ourselves better to build momentum headed into next season."
On freshman RB Levon Curtis:
"We have been pretty fortunate. Quan Warley has played most of the time for us at running back and he has had an injury on-and-off all season. In each game from around the fourth game on, Levon (Curtis) has had an opportunity to get in and get some playing time. When he got his first start (last Saturday), he took advantage of it and played well for us and we are going to need him to continue to play well as we develop these young players."
On what Levon Curtis did to warrant the start and number of touches last week:
"Well, first of all, it was because we didn't have a whole lot of other guys to hand it off to. But, (Levon) certainly deserved the handoffs. He has worked hard and learned the system. Because he has gotten into other games and gotten the opportunity to run the ball a little bit, he was the guy we wanted to go to. We always talk about that around here; if there is an injury or for some reason someone can't play, the next man has to pick up the flag and carry it to the top of the hill and Levon did that last week."
On the injury update:
"Injury status is really the same. You say that they are day-to-day, but those are the types of injuries that can be two weeks or six weeks. They are simply as tolerated. We are going to make sure that when they come back, they are at 100-percent. But as I mentioned earlier, the next guy in line has to pick up the slack and play. That's part of the game and that's what makes football the great sport that it is; it's a team game and everyone has to contribute in one way or another. You may start out third-or-fourth on the depth chart and by the end of the season, you may be the man carrying the load, so we have got to be prepared."
On facing a team coming off the bye week for the second-straight week:
"I think for each team it is a different situation. Personally, I don't like to have a bye week late in the season because I think that if you are starting to peak and are playing well, it might disrupt your timing and take away from that. On the other hand, if you are beat up and need to get healthy, it's good for you. So, for us right now, we could use the bye week to get guys ready for the last game. But I can't speak for Elon; they sure were playing great football. I know that they would probably like to have their last game back (L, 55-20, to Wofford) and I'm sure that they have told their kids that they've got us coming to town and have had a week to prepare for us and now this week is game week, so I'm sure they will be ready to go."
On junior CB Antoine George, who had two INTs versus Chattanooga:
"Antoine (George) made a couple of nice plays. But again, that is what is expected of him. He made the play when he was supposed to and that is what we are trying to tell our kids. It isn't that we are taking away from a great play, it's that we are trying to tell our guys that those are plays they are expected to make."
Chattanooga head coach Rodney Allison:
On last week's game at Western Carolina:
"I want to first congratulate Coach (Dennis) Wagner on getting his first conference win. They played better than we did and deserved to win. We didn't do what we needed to do to win the game and they did."