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Very Early Thoughts on the Western Carolina Game

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Since I have taken a look at Oklahoma State and another at Troy, I suppose I might as well cast a cursory glance at the third non-perennial foe on the Bulldogs' fall slate, Western Carolina.

W.C.U. . . . the directional Carolina school from which Emily Procter didn't graduate!

Let's not mince words here. Even by Division I-AA standards, the Catamounts are bad . . . so much so that W.C.U. is undertaking "a comprehensive review of the football program" in an effort to determine why the squad has had just three winning seasons in the last dozen years. However, the athletic director, Chip Smith, also stated:

[T]he review would not include a study of head coach Kent Briggs, who finished a 2-9 season in 2006 with nine straight losses shortly after Smith gave Briggs a three-year contract extension.

Yeah, good luck getting to the bottom of the problem there, Chip.

Although the Catamounts appear on S.E.C. schedules with embarrassing frequency, I am pleased to report that Western Carolina's only previous trip to Athens came in 1991, when the 'Dawgs hung a 48-0 whipping on W.C.U. in the season's first outing. Georgia hadn't scored that many points since the Red and Black's 1988 win over William & Mary and it was the first shutout posted by the Bulldog D since the Classic City Canines handed the Gators a 44-0 setback in Jacksonville in 1982. (Yes, you read that correctly. Post-1989 Gators-come-lately may not believe it, but Georgia used to own Florida.)

In 2007, as in 1991, the Catamounts have no business taking the field with the Bulldogs. Heck, not only does Western Carolina have no business playing Georgia, W.C.U. has no business playing Georgia Southern, which has beaten the Southern Conference also-ran in each of the last 12 seasons, often by such lopsided margins as 38-16 (2004), 30-7 (1997), 50-14 (2001), 45-7 (2005), 42-0 (1995), and 70-7 (1999).

W.C.U.'s first football coach was C.C. Poindexter, who remained the most famous of the Poindexters until his grandson, Buster, brought renewed celebrity to the family name. (Image from The Tralfaz Archives.)

Western Carolina began playing intercollegiate football in 1931, the year Georgia's 18th head coach (Harry Mehre) fielded his fourth Bulldog squad in a new venue (Sanford Stadium) that had opened two years previously. The Catamounts' less than illustrious gridiron history began with a 12-7 win over the Sylva Institute. I'm not at all sure whether Sylva's team consisted of expert tutors who were trained to help your child in a variety of subjects.

W.C.U.'s second game was a 7-6 road victory over the Cherokee Indians. That's what it says, right there in the record book: "at Cherokee Indians." The Catamounts evidently had to follow the Trail of Tears to get to their first away game; they must have been so proud.

Western Carolina's third outing was a 12-6 victory over Biltmore, which I'm pretty sure isn't a football team at all. If memory serves, it's a great big house in Asheville. After that, the Catamounts made the Cherokee Indians travel back to the Carolinas, where W.C.U. added insult to injury by beating the visiting team by a 20-0 margin on what had been the Cherokee's own lands.

After that blistering 4-0 start against a shameful schedule, Western Carolina finally met its match, suffering a 20-0 setback at Young Harris, which may or may not have been quarterbacked by Zell Miller. So ended one of the more impressive glory runs in the history of a football program that exists seemingly for the sole purpose of playing other teams' homecoming games.

Of course, it's not entirely impossible that Judge Young Loftin Gerdine Harris beat Western Carolina all by himself, despite his having died 37 years previously. (Photograph from The New Georgia Encyclopedia.)

The most accomplished head coach in W.C.U. history was Bob Waters, whose .550 winning percentage between 1969 and 1988 (116-94-6) earned him the distinction of being the only one of the Catamounts' 11 head coaches to have concluded his tenure there with a winning record. Western Carolina's postseason history is limited to a loss to West Liberty State in the 1949 Smoky Mountain Bowl, a 10-7 loss at Louisiana Tech in the opening round of the 1974 Division II playoffs, and an admittedly impressive run through the Division I-AA tournament in 1983, when the Catamounts won three straight playoff games by a combined 15 points before being trounced by Southern Illinois in the championship game by a 43-7 margin.

The Catamounts are 0-10 all-time against the S.E.C., having lost to Alabama in 2004, Auburn in 1986 and 2002, Florida in 2006, Georgia in 1991, L.S.U. in 2000, and South Carolina annually from 1986 to 1989.

Why are we playing these guys? I have absolutely no idea.

Go 'Dawgs!