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Notes from Tuesday's (Nov. 5) SoCon Football Teleconference

Western Carolina's Karnorris Benson enters the week ranked first in the SoCon in receiving yards per game (80.0 yds/gm) and tied for fifth with nine touchdowns - the most receiving TDs in the league.

Nov. 6, 2013

Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir took part in the weekly Southern Conference Football Head Coaches' Teleconference on Tuesday morning. Coming off the team's bye week following its first SoCon victory of the season - a thrilling, 27-24, overtime victory over the Elon Phoenix - Speir talked about this week's match-up with Georgia Southern and finishing the 2013 season strong.

Kickoff this Saturday (Nov. 9) is set for 2:00 pm from Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Ga.

The Last Meeting
Georgia Southern (Homecoming)45
Western Carolina13
October 6, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C.
Grounded Eighth-Ranked Eagles Rush Past Western Carolina, 45-13
Eighth-ranked Georgia Southern and its triple-option ground attack chewed up 664 yards of total offense including a staggering 614 on the ground as the Eagles powered past Western Carolina, 45-13, Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference action at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.

Saturday's game will additionally be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with an air time of 1:00 pm across 11 stations and online at 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.

Speir opened his time on the teleconference talking mostly about the bye week - which included practice on making his team better, but also using the extra, helpful time in prepping for the unique offensive style that faces his team this Saturday at Georgia Southern.

"I think this open date came at a really good time for us because we were a beat up and banged up football team, like most teams are this time of year. It gave us some time to get guys a little bit more healthy," said Speir. "Any time you're preparing for a double-slot, triple-option football team - something you don't see all of the time and with all of our young kids - (the bye week) has given us a little extra time to try and prepare. It's given our scout team extra time to try and simulate especially what our defensive guys are going to see this Saturday from Georgia Southern."



He added, "And also time academically, gave these guys a chance to catch their breath - we've been going since August 1st and haven't had much of a break at all. We needed it."

Western Carolina returned to the practice field on Monday night under the lights. Typically, the Monday practice is a helmets-only, hour-long session that consists mostly of running and working through formations, routes, etc. However, coming off the bye week, the Catamounts used the opportunity to hold a full practice both Monday and again on Tuesday.

The Catamounts head to Statesboro, Ga., on Friday in preparation for Saturday's final Southern Conference meeting with the Eagles. In a season that has seen the Catamounts halt a skid of 13-consecutive games with the victory over Mars Hill, as well as ending both a 33-game winless drought against NCAA Division I teams and a 26-game slide in league play with the overtime tally over Elon, WCU will again look to halt a pair of streaks this weekend. Western Carolina has dropped 18-straight games against Georgia Southern in the all-time series, and is winless in Statesboro in 11 tries all-time.

WCU's closest call in halting the current 10-game road slide at GSU came in 1993 in a 19-18 loss to the Eagles in southeastern Georgia. The Catamounts nearly ended the consecutive loss streak at 13 in 2008, leading GSU 31-to-3 in the fourth quarter in Cullowhee after former defensive lineman Gene Singletary rumbled 31 yards for an interception return for a TD. However, the Eagles rattled off 35 unanswered points including scoring on the first play of overtime in the 38-31 victory.

Last season, GSU's ball-control, grounded offensive attached chewed up over 600 yards of total offense while controlling the football for 40 of the game's 60 minutes in the 45-13 decision in Cullowhee on the Catamounts' Homecoming Saturday.

Things this year, though, have been tough on the Eagles, who along with Appalachian State are reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level and joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. A FCS national semifinalist each of the past three seasons, Georgia Southern is in unfamiliar territory - unranked with a 4-4 overall record and a 2-4 mark against SoCon opponents. The Eagles have dropped back-to-back games against league foes - and have suffered losses in three of their last four games including a 16-14 home loss to Furman last Saturday which snapped the Eagles' six-game home winning streak.

Critical injuries have hampered Georgia Southern this year - but haven't slowed the offensive machine in Statesboro. GSU ranks first in the SoCon in total offense (458.0 yards per game) including the league's top rushing attack at 349.0 yards per contest. The Eagle defense is limiting foes to just 171.9 yards on the ground in 2013 - tops in the conference - while ranking second in total defense at 381.1 yds/gm. Against SoCon teams, the Eagles rank third in the league in total offense (410.3 yds/gm) with the top rushing attack at 318.3 yards per game.

Kickoff at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Ga., is scheduled for 2:00 pm.

Here is an excerpt of quotes from Tuesday's teleconference:

Western Carolina head football coach Mark Speir:
On what was his squad's bye-week schedule, focus:
"We gave the team last Monday off after the Elon game and then we worked the rest of the week into a normal game week this week. Hopefully our guys have gotten a little bit refreshed and got a jump on an excellent Georgia Southern team that without a doubt is one of the flagship programs in the FCS."

"We're coaching ourselves and still coaching these young guys how to play football. And we're just doing things offensively trying to sustain drives. A lot of times, we've been our own worst enemy - dropping a ball or jumping offsides or holding. Or an offensive lineman having an execution error."

"We're such a young football team - and I know people are tired of hearing that - but our approach is a little different. Last week, I know on offense, we just still coaching - teaching routes, teaching blocking assignments, techniques and fundamentals of still developing players. With our defense, when you play an option team, you have to be so disciplined and assignment oriented. Trying to get your guys in a comfort zone of playing with patience and being disciplined and really trusting and counting on your teammates to do their job. So, that's what the open date and this week in practice, we're still trying to hammer home those issues in with our players."

"Our players have done a good job. Our last game was a victory so that was really important going into the open date. They've come to practice with some purpose and they're working on that process - and that's what we're talking about, creating that process that will dictate what your outcome is."

About the Georgia Southern Eagles:
"Their coaching staff knows what they want to do. They're a physical team; they've seen about everything that you can throw at them and they know how they want to adjust. They give you a formation on offense until they find where they feel they've got you outflanked and attack you."

"They've got a great offensive line. They come off the ball; they're nasty and aggressive."

"They've got an outstanding defense, no question about that. Sometimes your defense, when you've got such an extreme offense like Georgia Southern has, the defense gets left out of the conversation. But they've got an outstanding defense."

On traveling to Statesboro, Ga.:
"We know we're going to get Georgia Southern's very best football game because it's Senior Day, Homecoming, their last home game as a Southern Conference member. And they had a tough loss last week, so we're prepared and know that we're going to get their very, very best shot like a championship-style game. We're trying to prepare our kids for that and we're just excited to have the opportunity to go down and play such a good football team."

"It's always a hostile crowd down in Statesboro. They've got rabid fans that love their Eagles. So, we know we're stepping into a hornet's nest this Saturday and are trying to prepare our team for that. Hopefully the extra week will give us an opportunity."

Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken:
Looking ahead to Saturday's game against Western Carolina:
"We're playing a Western Carolina team that is as good of a Western Carolina team as I've seen in my entire tenure at Georgia Southern as a head coach or an assistant. Mark Speir is doing a terrific job. They're playing really tough defense; Coach Shawn Quinn was on our staff for two years here and he's doing a really nice job with their defense. I've been really impressed with some things that they're doing on offense - they're giving people some fits."

"(Looking at) their record, three of their losses are FBS programs - Auburn, Virginia Tech and Middle Tennessee. They had a one touchdown loss to The Citadel. They snapped the ball over the punter's head and that was the difference in the football game. They were inside the five against Wofford and certainly could have won that football game. They've played everyone tough including that overtime win over Elon two weeks ago - and they've had two weeks to prepare for us, so it's going to take a great effort on our part here at Paulson Stadium this Saturday."