Nov. 13, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina first-year head coach Mark Speir spent time Tuesday morning with members of the media on the Southern Conference's Head Coaches' Teleconference. Speir talked about how he and his team spent much of the bye week, and turned his attention to the task at hand of traveling to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to face the fourth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Kickoff from Bryant-Denny Stadium is scheduled for 12:21 pm ET / 11:21 pm CT and will be televised through the SEC Network (check local listings) with Mike Morgan, Chris Doering & Jill Montgomery on the call. The game will also be available online through ESPN3: Western Carolina at Alabama on ESPN3.
The game will also be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with airtime of 11:00 am ET / 10:00 am CT and can be heard on nine stations including 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.
"We took an opportunity last week for our coaches to get out on the road recruiting. A lot with our young players - and we've got a lot of them - we put the pads back on and kind of treated it like a spring practice. We went through a lot of fundamentals, just basically back to Football 101. Got some good work done last week," Speir opened during his time on the teleconference.
Western Carolina (1-9) and Alabama meet for just the third time in series history with the Crimson Tide having won both previous meetings in 2004 and 2007. However, the Alabama '07 victory had to be later vacated during the summer of 2009.
Current Alabama head coach Nick Saban has several ties with the Catamount program. Twice during his coaching career within the SEC, Saban has opened his tenure against WCU. In 2000, Saban guided the LSU Tigers to a 58-0 victory at Tiger Stadium in his bayou debut. Then, in 2007, he made his debut with the Crimson Tide with a 52-6 win over the Catamounts.
Additionally, current WCU defensive line coach Mark Rhea was a former defensive lineman for Saban at the Univ. of Toledo where the two won a share of the 1990 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship. Rhea went on to work on staff with Saban at Michigan State as a graduate assistant.
WCU - a member of the Southern Conference which gave rise to both the Southeastern (SEC) and Atlantic Coast (ACC) Conferences - is winless against current members of the SEC (0-13). The most recent meeting between the Catamounts and a SEC-foe came in the 2009 season opener at Vanderbilt, falling 45-0.
"Obviously, (Alabama) has got a great program and we're still building a program in the infant stages," said Speir when looking at the match-up. "Our big focus last week and this week has been more on Western Carolina than Alabama. We're trying to get our program better. We're going to go down to Alabama and try to play well, and have a good time with that experience."
Saturday's game also marks the final game for Western Carolina's senior class, which made its final home appearance in Cullowhee two weeks ago against Chattanooga. One senior in particular continues to climb the school's record charts in linebacker Rock Williams. The Howell, Mich., native has moved into seventh on the career hits chart with 316 tackles, and is just 12 tackles shy of moving into 10th on the single-season chart.
Here is an excerpt of the teleconference:
Western Carolina head football coach, Mark Speir:
On coming off the bye week and looking towards Alabama:
"This week, preparing obviously for a pretty good football team that got beat last Saturday. But they're still one of the best teams - if not the best team - in the country. Obviously that presents a huge challenge in itself. But, our big deal again is this week, just focusing on Western Carolina and getting our program better. We're going to scrimmage and do some things with our young players this week, as well as put in a game plan for Alabama. We want to go down there and play well, and try to get our program better."
On Speir's philosophy on playing money games:
"At our level, where our program is right now, it's something you have to do. You always like to play one; it's good for recruiting to be able to say that you're going to play the University of Alabama. A lot of young players, they like the thought of playing those games. You hate to play multiple big games, but early right now where we are with our program with this new coaching staff, it's certainly not something you want to do. But it's something I'm in agreement with because the bottom line this whole world is run on the almighty dollar and that's a way, when you go play those (money games), you can move your program forward with things that you need."
"We needed a brand new video editing system; we were archaic here - 20 years behind with our video editing system. As a result of what we're doing this year, we were able to go get state-of-the-art video equipment. Now, hopefully in my mind and Randy (Eaton's) plans down the road to get it to where you are only playing one a year. When you're still young in your program, it gives you some opportunities to go do some things. You get your programs, your players and your systems in that you want, and then you get it to where you're not playing as many (money games)."
On playing at Alabama after their loss to Texas A&M, toughness of playing Alabama:
"When I was at Appalachian, we ran off three-straight national championships. And it just gets harder and harder to win because you have a huge target. You get every team's very best shot. You get every trick play in the special teams, every trick play on offense. It's just hard to do what they've done for as long as they've done it without getting this type of loss late that can cripple a national championship title."
"The thing about Nick Saban, whether you like him or not, he's one of the best in the business all-time. And it doesn't matter if they'd won or not won; he's the kind of guy that it doesn't matter if he's going to play the Green Bay Packers, Western Carolina University or Smoky Mountain Middle School, he's going to prepare that team the very best he can. And that's why that program is where it is. I think (the loss) might have brought more focus and reality to their players, which is going to make it a little harder on us. But, the coaches were going coach as hard as they could anyway."