Cullowhee, NC – Western Carolina hosts chromatic rival Furman in Southern Convention soccer motion at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Area on Saturday afternoon with a 2:30 p.m. kickoff. And the royal shade of purple is not the one factor these two streaking squads share as each boast nationwide rankings getting into the highly-anticipated annual assembly on the gridiron.
Ranked 14th on this week’s AFCA Coaches Ballot and eighth within the Stats Carry out FCS Prime 25 to match this system’s highest rating in its NCAA Division I period, the Catamounts entertain Furman, which is ranked third and fourth, respectively, by the pollsters.
This yr’s showdown represents simply the fourth recreation between WCU and Furman when each groups carried numbers subsequent to their monikers – and the very best rankings because the ninth-ranked Catamounts avenged a tie earlier within the season by bouncing their second-ranked rivals from the 1983 NCAA I-AA playoffs in Greenville, 14-7. WCU is 2-1 in match-ups the place each groups are ranked, together with a 1-0 mark at house.
Saturday’s SoCon recreation in Cullowhee has been designated as “Heroes Day,” introduced by Higher Properties and Gardens Actual Property Heritage. WCU Athletics salutes all energetic navy personnel and veterans, in addition to all first responders with free admission when presenting correct identification on the ticket cubicles. It is also Youth Soccer Day with all space youth soccer gamers and cheerleaders ages 12 and beneath gaining free admission with their uniforms.
Followers are inspired to buy tickets and gameday parking prematurely both in particular person on the first-floor Athletics Ticket Workplace within the Ramsey Heart, by telephone at (828) 227-2401, or on-line at CatamountSports.com/BuyTickets. Additionally, make plans to reach on campus early forward of the two:30 p.m. kickoff to make the most of a full day of actions on campus.
Saturday’s recreation will probably be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with reside audio from the Catamount Sports activities Community starting with the Pepsi Tailgate Present at 3 p.m. Followers throughout Western North Carolina can hear the published regionally on 5 CSN associates frequencies: in Sylva, 105.7 FM and 540 AM WRGC “The River”; 104.9 FM and 1050 AM WFSC in Franklin; Rewind 100.3 FM “Carolina’s Best Hits” in Asheville; and free by way of reside streaming audio on-line at CatamountSports.com.
Followers may also comply with the sport with reside stats accessible on-line at CatamountSports.com and with well timed in-game updates on Twitter utilizing @Catamounts and @CatamountsFB.
The final time a Catamount soccer staff performed a recreation of this magnitude, Apple had simply launched the Energy Macintosh laptop; Invoice Clinton and Al Gore held the White Home and established the North American Free Commerce Settlement (NAFTA); Forrest Gump ran its method to the highest of the field workplace; an on-going work stoppage noticed the MLB World Sequence canceled marking the primary time the Fall Basic was not performed since 1904; and Dale Earnhardt received his seventh – and remaining – NASCAR championship, matching “The King” Richard Petty.
The yr was 1994. And two nationally-ranked NCAA Division I-AA – now NCAA FCS – squads clashed in Cullowhee, battling for the “Outdated Mountain Jug” and to maintain tempo with Marshall for the eventual SoCon crown. No. 12 Appalachian State slipped previous 18th-ranked Western Carolina and escaped Jackson County with the trophy and the Catamounts’ hopes for a convention crown with a 12-7 win.
Flash ahead almost 30 years and for simply the sixth time in stadium historical past, two nationally-ranked groups sq. off once more on Bob Waters Area at E.J. Whitmire Stadium on Saturday afternoon with the winner gaining the higher hand within the race for the 2023 SoCon soccer title.
Each groups enter the weekend driving successful streaks – WCU with five-straight victories since falling within the opener at Arkansas and four-straight wins for the Paladins since dropping its FBS match-up at South Carolina in week two. The 2 are each 5-0 towards NCAA FCS competitors this yr. The Catamounts have received eight straight video games towards NCAA FCS competitors together with six in a row in SoCon play, whereas the Paladins boast a nine-game successful streak towards convention opponents.
And although Furman has held the higher hand over the previous 10-to-15 years within the sequence, the final two contests have been video games for the ages. Western Carolina edged Furman 43-42 in the newest assembly in Cullowhee as QB Rogan Wells hit RB Kenny Benjamin out of the backfield for an 85-yard landing because the Catamounts twice erased 11-point deficits to attain the win. Final yr, WCU got here inside 5 yards of digging out of a 24-point fourth-quarter gap because the Paladins held on for a 47-40 win in Greenville.
The 2021 assembly set a sequence document for mixed factors scored in a WCU-Furman recreation (85), solely to be usurped by the encore in 2022 (87). Saturday marks the 51st all-time head-to-head assembly with the Paladins successful 35 and Catamounts claiming 13.
Saturday’s match-up pits the SoCon’s top-scoring offense – WCU at 41.8 factors per recreation, fourth nationally – towards the league’s top-scoring protection – Furman surrendering simply 22.3 factors per recreation to the opposition. The Catamounts enter the weekend main the nation in complete offense, one among simply two groups nationally to common over 500 yards of offense per recreation at 531.8 yards per recreation.
The highest two league squads in each dashing and dashing protection by way of yardage will battle it out on the turf as WCU’s prime dashing offense (222.0 yds/gm) challenges Furman’s prime dashing protection (100.5 yds/gm) that has held three opponents to beneath 100 yards on the bottom together with back-to-back video games. The Paladins rank second within the SoCon in floor manufacturing at 177.5 yards per recreation, whereas the Catamounts have held opposing offenses to simply 117.0 yards per outing to rank second within the convention.
Furman brings a veteran staff to Cullowhee as 17 of its 22 mixed starters on offense and protection listed on its two-deep are both redshirt seniors or graduate college students. The Paladins are skilled, having made the NCAA FCS Playoffs twice prior to now 4 seasons. Conversely, seven of WCU’s 22 are both sophomores or redshirt sophomores, with simply 9 seniors or graduates on its projected two-deep.
The Paladin offense is spearheaded by a graduate QB in Tyler Huff who was little-used however extremely efficient a season in the past, finishing seven of his 10 move makes an attempt with three touchdowns. Furman rode the legs of RB Dominic Roberto, a preseason first-team All-SoCon tailback, who ran 25 occasions for 252 yards with a pair of scores within the win.
As a real freshman, WCU’s Cole Gonzales almost led the Catamounts again in reduction a season in the past, ending 12-of-16 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, averaging over 20 yards per completion. Receivers To evaluate Lee and Raphael Williams mixed for 13 of WCU’s 30 catches, three touchdowns, and 266 of the squad’s 462 passing yards.
With all of the give attention to the offenses, one cannot overlook the 2 defensive items which have had their moments each in final yr’s assembly and 2023. WCU’s prime three tacklers from final yr’s street recreation at Furman – Every day Intervals, Andreas Keatonand Hayward McQueen Jr. – are all again this yr whereas the Paladins return their prime 10 tacklers from the sport a season in the past led by Evan DiMaggio (10 tackles) and preseason first-team picks CB Travis Blackshear (7 tackles, TFL) and S Hugh Ryan (4 tackles, INT).
On particular groups, WCU’s Richard McCollum hit 2-of-3 subject objective makes an attempt with one blocked final yr, whereas Furman’s Wayne Anderson Jr., opened a 17-point third-quarter scoring barrage for the Paladins with a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD out of the halftime locker room.
One of many prime three video games within the NCAA FCS nationally on Saturday, kickoff from Cullowhee is once more scheduled for two:30 p.m. on ESPN+ (paid subscription required).
Sport 7: Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023 • 2:30 pm
Location: Cullowhee, N.C. (Whitmire Stadium – 13,790)
Information: #3/4 Furman (5-1, 3-0 SoCon) at #14/8 Western Carolina (5-1, 3-0 SoCon)
Stay Stats – WCU’s Sidearm Stats
TV Stream: ESPN+ (subscription required)
PBP: Kyle Rush; Coloration: Jason Patterson
Radio/Audio: Catamount Sports activities Community
PBP: Gary Ayers; Producer: Jeff Bryson
Sylva – 105.7 FM / 540 AM WRGC
Franklin – 104.9 FM / 1050 AM WFSC
Asheville – Rewind 100.3 WTMT-HD2
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