Nov. 13, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir took part in the weekly Southern Conference Football Head Coaches' Teleconference on Tuesday morning. Speir talked about the road loss at Georgia Southern before quickly setting his sights on this week's challenge as WCU hosts the Furman Paladins on Senior Day, the final home game of the 2013 regular season.
Kickoff this Saturday (Nov. 16) is set for 3:30 pm from E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field in Cullowhee.
Saturday's game will additionally be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with an air time of 2:30 pm across 11 stations and online at CatamountSports.com. 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.
"It's always tough to go down to Statesboro, Ga., to play. Coach (Jeff) Monken and those guys do a great job," Speir opened his time on the teleconference. "It was a tough-fought ball game. I thought our defense, at times, played really well and gave us an opportunity to be in the ball game. We gave up a couple of big plays and that always kills you - there were about three or four big plays that we gave up on defense."
He added, "We had a point-after blocked early in the game, but came back to create two turnovers in the kicking game and that's always big. I thought offensively is where we really struggled Saturday. We just never got into a comfort zone or a rhythm, and that's a credit to Georgia Southern."
Speir then turned his focus to this week's game against the resurgent Furman Paladins, who have won two-straight including upsetting nationally-ranked Samford last weekend - and have victories in three of their last four games on the season. The one loss during that span was a highly competitive showing against then 13th-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge, La., falling 48-16, after only trailing at halftime by four, 20-16.
"Obviously this week against Furman, it's our last home ball game, senior day here - and we're looking forward to it," said Speir. "Furman's got an outstanding football team. I don't know that I've seen a team get better in one year like this Furman team has. You watch them early in the year and they're an average football team. Here this last month, they're as good as anybody in the league right now. They're playing with a lot of confidence."
Much like the Catamount squad at the beginning of the season, Furman has utilized a two-quarterback system this fall. Sophomore Reese Hannon has started all seven of the appearances he's made while Terry Robinson - a second-year player who is listed on the roster as a QB/WR - has been in the backfield in all 10 games to date, and is utilized in the "Wildcat" formation mostly.
"You have to prepare for a lot of different stuff with them offensively. And they run the ball well and can hurt you in the passing game. So we've got a tremendous challenge ahead of us this Saturday. We know we're going to have to play our very best game to have an opportunity to win it."
Saturday's game is the final for several members of the Catamount football team, WCU Dance Team and the "Pride of the Mountains" Marching Band. There will be a special pregame recognition, as well as a halftime honoring of all the seniors taking part in their final game at Whitmire Stadium / Waters Field.
"They're a great group of men; good student-athletes, every one of them is going to graduate," said Speir of the members of this year's senior class. "They've had a tough go at it. I told them, when you sign that National Letter of Intent, you're dreams are to go off and win Southern Conference Championships, National Championships. And that hasn't happened for this group. But they can be proud of what they've done, taking the beginning steps of turning a program around."
Western Carolina will honor the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Catamount football team which made an improbable run to the NCAA Division I-AA National Championship game in Charleston, S.C., which included defeating Furman in the national semifinals. Reunion participants will have a special pregame social and tailgate before being recognized during a special on-field ceremony during halftime.
Also, both the 2013 Southern Conference regular season champion Catamount baseball team and the SoCon Men's and Women's track & field teams will be recognized for their championships.
WCU will celebrate Youth Football day with the region's youth football players admitted free with a paying adult. There will also be a special recognition for the four champions of the 2013 Cracker Bowl, the youth organization's playoff system.
"It's going to be a special day in Cullowhee. These seniors last ball game at E.J. Whitmire Stadium. We're just excited about this group and want to send them out the right way and celebrate what they've done here for four years," said Speir.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 pm.
Here is an excerpt of quotes from Tuesday's teleconference:
Western Carolina head football coach Mark Speir:
On scouting the Furman Paladin defense:
"They've got confidence going on; they're flying around on defense and they're playing really hard. Defensively, their front four and when they do bring pressure, they're effective with it. I know watching the Samford game last week on film, (Andy) Summerlin (Samford's quarterback) was never in a comfort zone. They were bringing a lot of pressures in four-man. Furman's defense did a great job."
"One of the biggest things they are doing is creating turnovers. I know they are tops in our conference - and probably one of the top nationally. I know they've done a good job at creating turnovers with their defense and holding on to the football offensively. And that's the biggest stat in football. Usually the team that wins the turnover battle usually is going to win that game."
On scouting Furman on offense:
"Offensively, they do a great job at just sustaining drives - they move the chains. And then they've got a couple of trick plays every ball game that they've done really well in capitalizing on them and creating some big plays."
More on the 2013 senior class:
"They can be excited about the time they spent here at Western Carolina, what they did for this football program and the lessons they've learned. Life's not always going to be exactly the way you think it's going to be and you've got to persevere and you've got to be a part of the solution in creating change and not just accepting it. So this is going to be a special group. We're excited for them."