• Daniel Hooker

Catamount Football Hosts VMI on Family Weekend, EBCI Day


Western Carolina football returns home to the best fans in the Southern Conference to both open the month of October and play its first league home game on Saturday (Oct. 1) as the Catamounts and a WCU Family Weekend crowd host the VMI Keydets at Bob Waters Field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium. Kickoff of Saturday’s game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

In addition to recognizing Family Weekend, WCU is also celebrating the history, tradition, and long-standing relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) at Saturday’s game, presented by B.H. Graning Landscapes and Supply, Inc.

With an ever-improving weather forecast locally in western North Carolina, a large crowd is expected to descend upon Jackson County for the Family Weekend and EBCI Day game. Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets and game day parking in advance by calling (828) 227-2401 or to buy online at CatamountSports.com to avoid lines on game day.

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 (cable subscription required) with Kevin Gehl and John Mount Shoop on the call. The game can also be heard through the Catamount Sports Network with the Pepsi Tailgate Show airtime at 2:30 p.m. Fans across western North Carolina can hear the broadcast locally on seven CSN affiliates: in Sylva, 105.7 FM and 540 AM WRGC "The River"; 104.9 FM and 1050 AM WFSC in Franklin; WISE Sports Radio 1310 AM and 102.9 FM in Asheville; and 970 AM WYSE in Canton, with live streaming audio online at CatamountSports.com.

Fans can also follow the game with live stats accessible online at CatamountSports.com with timely in-game updates on Twitter using @Catamounts and @CatamountsFB.

Western Carolina (2-2, 0-1 SoCon) continues to boast the top offensive unit in the Southern Conference despite being held out of the endzone a week ago at nationally ranked Samford. The Catamounts amassed 456 yards of total offense including 310 yards passing and 156 on the ground but were limited to a career-best four Richard McCollum field goals which landed him his second SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week accolades.

On the year, the WCU offensive unit leads the SoCon – and ranks SECOND nationally in the NCAA FCS – in total offense with an average of 557.0 yards per game that includes the conference's top passing attack at 349.0 yards through the air and the second-best ground game at 208.0 yards per game. The Catamounts lead the SoCon in scoring offense, averaging 39.5 points per game – the third-best scoring offense in the NCAA FCS.

On the other side of the football, the Catamount defense enters the week with a SoCon-best 17 sacks – the most by any team in the NCAA FCS to date this season while ranking tied for fifth overall with an average of 4.25 sacks per game. Eleven different Catamounts have recorded sacks this season with Chris Morgan leading the team and tied for the SoCon lead while also ranking tied for 11th nationally with 3.5 sacks.

VMI (1-2) comes to Cullowhee following its bye week looking to shake a home loss to Cornell its last time out, falling to the Big Red, 28-22, despite a furious 20-point, fourth-quarter rally behind backup quarterback Collin Ironside. The second-year signal-caller is expected to get the start at QB for the Keydets on Saturday afternoon. He guided VMI to a 31-21 victory at Wofford last season in his first collegiate starting action. Saturday’s game represents the league-opener for VMI.

Two of the top wide receivers will be on display Saturday as WCU’s Raphael Williams and VMI’s Chance Knox share the field. Williams ranks tied for third in the SoCon with 4.8 rec/gm and fifth with 60 receiving yards per game while Knox is tied second with 6.0 catches per game and is eighth with 53.0 receiving yards per game.

Western Carolina leads the all-time series against VMI, 24-4, including a 13-1 record in games played in Cullowhee all-time. However, the one Keydets victory came in the most recent meeting at Whitmire Stadium as VMI halted both a 17-game series winless drought and the 13-game road skid by scoring its first-ever win over the Catamounts, grinding out a 30-7 victory.

Kickoff is scheduled for just after 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Cullowhee.

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