Cullowhee, N.C. – On the strength of back-to-back seasonal victories – and riding a wave of five-consecutive wins over NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opposition dating back to last season – Western Carolina football moved into the national rankings on Monday, landing at No. 23 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25, presented by FedEx Ground.
WCU also received votes in the AFCA Coaches Poll, garnering 26 votes to stand unofficially 27th as the second team with the others receiving votes designation this week.
The Catamounts received votes in both national polls a week ago, advancing into the Top 25 in the media tabulation for the first time since 2017. That season, WCU was among the Top 25 for six consecutive weeks from early October through mid-November, representing the longest span of WCU football earning a national ranking since 1994.
Also on Monday, two Catamounts were recognized as honorable mentions for the Stats Perform FCS national weekly awards. Sophomore running back Desmond Reid collected an honorable mention for the FedEx Ground FCS National Offensive Player of the Week, while senior defensive back CJ Williams garnered the honorable mention for the FedEx Ground National Defensive Player of the Week. It’s the second straight week that WCU had an honorable mention for the defensive award as Jayelin Davis collected plaudits back on Sept. 11.
Reid amassed 240 yards of total offense last week at Eastern Kentucky, rushing for a career-high 177 yards and a leaping one-yard touchdown while hauling in four passes for 63 additional yards out of the backfield. Williams tallied a career-best six tackles including four solo while also credited for three pass breakups and his first career interception.
Additionally, quarterback Cole Gonzales was selected as the Player of the Week by Our Esquina online in their weekly round-up. Our Esquina is a sports digital media company that amplifies Latino voices and stories in sports. Gonzales tallied 355 yards of total offense in the road win at EKU, passing for a career-best 340 yards and three touchdowns while rushing twice for 15 yards without being sacked for a second-consecutive week.
With wins over the defending SoCon champion Samford (30-7) and the ASUN champion – this year’s United Athletic Conference (UAC) preseason favorite – Eastern Kentucky, the Catamounts give The Southern Conference four teams in this week’s media Top 25. Furman (2-1) is the highest-ranked squad at No. 8 this week, with Samford (1-2) ranked 20th, Mercer (2-1) in 21st, and WCU at No. 23 in the national media poll.
A national media panel selects the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 Poll. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for appearing on a ballot in 25th.
WCU’s weekly football coaches show, “Catamount Football Weekly” with head coach Kerwin Bell continues on Monday (Sept. 18) night at 6 p.m. The show originates live-on-location at Innovation Cullowhee, located on the first-floor Noble Hall in the heart of the WCU campus. The show also airs on Facebook LIVE through the Catamount Athletics Facebook page (fb.com/catamountsports).
The best gameday atmosphere in the Southern Conference roars back to life this Saturday as the Catamounts return home to host the Charleston Southern Buccaneers on Bob Waters Field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium on Family Weekend. WCU will also celebrate its long-standing relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians with kickoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Tickets and game day parking passes for Saturday’s game and each of the four remaining home games in Cullowhee are on sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center. Fans can also purchase over the phone by calling (828) 227-2401 or online at CatamountSports.com/BuyTickets.
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).