Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina football looks to build off the momentum of last Saturday’s upset victory over #7/8 Samford as the Catamounts step out of conference to visit Eastern Kentucky on Saturday evening. Wearing their white jerseys for a third-straight week – twice coming in road games – the Catamounts kickoff against the Colonels at 6 p.m. on CG Bank Field at Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, Ky.
Saturday’s will be broadcast live on ESPN+ (paid subscription required). The game can also be heard through the Catamount Sports Network with the Pepsi Tailgate Show airtime at 5:00 p.m. Fans across western North Carolina can hear the broadcast locally on five CSN affiliate 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 Greatest Hits” in Asheville; and through 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 (1-1) seeks its fifth-consecutive victory against NCAA FCS competition with the last two wins coming against nationally-ranked opposition – ending the 2022 season with an upset of #15 Chattanooga and last week’s home-opening victory over #7/8 Samford. EKU plays its first home game of the year after opening the season against a pair of NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents.
Stemming from last weekend’s upset victory, WCU garnered weekly plaudits as the FedEx Ground FCS National Team of the Week with DE Jayelin Davis earning an honorable mention for the weekly national defensive award in the same release. Sophomore RB Desmond Reid, who rushed for 170 yards and a score against the Bulldogs, garnered his first career SoCon weekly award as the Offensive Player of the Week.
WCU’s offense was balanced and efficient in the win over Samford, rushing for 284 yards while QB Cole Gonzales completed 29-of-35 passes (82.9%) for 262 yards and two scores.
Eastern Kentucky (0-2) opened the season with consecutive road losses against NCAA FBS competition, falling at Cincinnati 66-13 on opening weekend before hanging tough in a 28-17 loss at Commonwealth-foe Kentucky, 28-17. Champions of the ASUN Conference last fall – and on the heels of the program’s 22nd NCAA FCS playoff berth – EKU was tagged as the preseason favorite among the nine teams participating in the inaugural season of the United Athletic Conference (UAC), which includes teams formerly in the ASUN and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
The Catamounts face one of the top quarterbacks at the NCAA FCS level and a conference offensive player of the year for a second consecutive weekend. Last week, the WCU defense sacked preseason SoCon Offensive Player of the Year QB Michael Hiers six times and forced a fumble for the lone takeaway. The Catamounts only surrendered an opening-drive touchdown to Samford before pitching a shutout the remaining three-plus quarters. Equally as impressive for WCU was that the defense limited Samford to just 46 yards on the ground, the fifth time the Catamounts have held the opposition to 100 or fewer yards under DC Chazmon Scales over the past two seasons.
This Saturday, EKU QB Parker McKinney poses the threat, pulling the strings in the backfield for the Colonel offense. McKinney – dubbed the UAC’s top offensive threat in the preseason who also dotted most every preseason All-America list – eclipsed the 10,000-yard career passing mark last weekend at Kentucky. He leads the NCAA FCS in active career passing yards. In the most recent meeting against WCU in the 2021 season opener, McKinney was an efficient 20-of-28 for 238 yards with a touchdown and interception.
McKinney is one of four different preseason All-America players on the Colonel roster. Running back Braedon Sloan was on two preseason lists, while OL Josiah Ezirim and DB Franky West Jr. both also appeared on one preseason honors list. EKU also has seven FBS transfers littered through its 2023 lineup.
Both teams enter the weekend receiving votes in the latest AFCA Coaches’ and Stats Perform FCS media polls. WCU earned five votes (38th overall) in the coaches’ poll and 81 votes (28th) in the media tabulation, while EKU got nine votes (35th) from the coaches and 36 votes (33rd) in the Stats Perform FCS media polling. The Colonels were just outside the Top 25 in the Preseason FCS Coaches’ poll, receiving 59 votes (27th).
Saturday’s meeting is the eighth all-time between the Catamounts and Colonels with WCU trailing in the all-time series, 2-5 including a 1-3 mark on the road. EKU has won the last two meetings coming in 2020 (49-17 in Richmond in the “Opportunity Bowl”) and 2021 (31-28 in Cullowhee) to match the longest win streak in the series. The most recent meeting was the first for WCU under head coach Kerwin Bell – and despite outgaining the Colonels 501-to-361 in total offense, EKU eked out the three-point win as a career-long 56-yard field goal attempt by Paxton Robertson fell just short.
Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
Game 3: Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023 • 6:00 pm
Location: Richmond, Ky. (CG Bank Field / Roy Kidd Stadium – 20,000)
Records: Western Carolina (1-1) at Eastern Kentucky (0-2)
TV Stream: ESPN+ (subscription required)
PBP: Greg Stotelmyer; Color: Jim Tirey; Sideline: Wes Chandler
Radio: Catamount Sports Network
PBP: Gary Ayers; Color: Daniel Hooker; Producer: Jeff Bryson
Sylva – 105.7 FM / 540 AM WRGC
Franklin – 104.9 FM / 1050 AM WFSC
Asheville – Rewind 100.3 WTMT-HD2
Keep track of everything related to Catamount football and WCU Athletics through its social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/CatamountSports) and Twitter (@Catamounts, @CatamountsFB).
Additional Game Notes:
SHARING CONDOLENCES TO THE EKU FAMILY: Western Carolina and Catamount football extend their heartfelt condolences to Eastern Kentucky Athletics on the passing of legendary head coach ROY KIDD on Tues., Sept. 12 at the age of 91 … An EKU graduate, Kidd led the Colonels from 1964 until 2002, winning two national championships and two national runner-up finishes;
STAY GROUNDED: Through the first two weeks of the regular season, Western Carolina LEADS the Southern Conference in both team rushing offense (174.0 yds/gm) AND team rushing defense (75.5 yds/gm; 7th in NCAA FCS);
GETTING OFFENSIVE: Western Carolina’s offense under coordinator Kade Bell has recorded 500 or more yards of total offense a combined 13 times – that includes 600 yards of offense in five games with a school-record 766 yards amassed in last year’s home-opener against Presbyterian.