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Too Much Information: Western Carolina

MaconDawg has already guided you safely through Five Points, so I'm going to do what I can to drive you the rest of the way to Sanford Stadium. I gave you the short course on Western Carolina way back when, but it's time to begin looking at tomorrow afternoon's opponent in greater depth, so here goes:

The Catamounts compete---well, O.K., play---in the Division I-AA Southern Conference. The eight-team league also includes Appalachian State, Chattanooga, The Citadel, Elon, Furman, Georgia Southern, and Wofford.

Yes, they play in the same conference as that Appalachian State.

Western Carolina ranks eighth---dead last---in the SoCon in scoring offense (13.5 points per game), scoring defense (48.5 points per game!), rushing defense (319.5 rushing yards per game), total defense (504.5 yards per game!), first downs allowed (57), third-down conversions allowed (14 of 26), kickoff coverage (27.7 net yards allowed per return), turnover margin (-6), and sacks (two for five yards).

The Catamounts' forte---if, indeed, they have one---is a passing attack that ranks third in its league with 233.5 yards per contest. Adam Hearns and Todd Spitzer, each of whom ranks among the conference's top six passers, between them are completing 54.4 per cent of their pass attempts. Senior receivers Eddie Cohen and Mike Malone each averages 14.1 yards per catch. All of the team's league-low three touchdowns have come through the air. Nevertheless, Cat quarterbacks have thrown four interceptions in their first two games.

Western Carolina stands atop the Southern Conference in red zone offense, having scored on all three of the team's trips inside the opposition's 20 yard line. (The Catamounts tallied a touchdown and two field goals in that trio of deep drives.) W.C.U. has allowed 11 treks into the red zone, surrendering a half-dozen rushing touchdowns, a pair of T.D. tosses, and a couple of field goals. Here is where we should take 34hawk's advice to heart: Knowshon Moreno should be fed the ball with regularity, particularly when the 'Dawgs are nearing paydirt.

The Bulldogs have some history with the Catamounts, as the Red and Black kicked off the 1991 campaign against Western Carolina in the first game after the enclosing of the west end zone of Sanford Stadium and the fifth game of my ongoing 21-year-long streak of consecutive home openers attended.

It was very nearly a perfect game for the Classic City Canines, whose newfound commitment to the new-fangled forward pass was on full display in a 48-0 rout. The defense surrendered 62 first-half yards and posted the first shutout by a Red and Black squad since the 1982 Florida game, while Chuck Carswell returned a punt 71 yards for a score, but the "Air Georgia" assault from above was the story of the day in the Bulldogs' third season under Ray Goff, to whom the torch had been passed---or, rather, handed off---by Vince Dooley following the 1988 season.


Ah, ol' No. 10. . . .

Larry Ware took a screen pass from Greg Talley and turned it into a 65-yard touchdown scamper. In his debut as a true freshman, Eric Zeier connected on 15 of his 22 attempts for a pair of touchdowns and 172 of the Red and Black's 283 passing yards. Andre Hastings hauled in six receptions for 72 yards. Here's hoping history repeats itself.

Finally, although I hate to bring it up again, last Saturday's contest represented Georgia's 14th loss to South Carolina in series history. On the 13 previous occasions on which the 'Dawgs came up short against the Palmetto State Poultry, the Red and Black went 10-3 against the ensuing opponents on their schedules, including a 5-0 mark against teams other than the current members of the Southeastern Conference (by an average final margin of 31-6, with two shutouts) and a 6-0 ledger between the hedges (by an average score of 33-9, with the Classic City Canines scoring 34 or more points five times).

I think we're looking at a fairly crisp outing in which the offense will feel it has something to prove and the Catamounts will score late against a representative sample of Georgia's 2009 starters. Back when one Morris C. Lewis was the anchor of the Bulldog D, my uncle used to refer to the Georgia defense as "Big Mo and Ten Mo'." Tomorrow, I expect to see Two Mo'---Mohamed Massaquoi and Knowshon Moreno---be the stars of the show.

My Prediction: Georgia 41, Western Carolina 13.

Go 'Dawgs!