Catamount Football Looking To Improve from 2006 Season

The crowd of 92,138 packed into Bryant-Denny Stadium to see the debut of new Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban as he prepared to take on Coach Kent Briggs’ Western Carolina Catamounts. The Crimson Tide did not disappoint their new coach, as they dismantled The Catamounts in their season opener 52-6. The loss marks the second in school history that the Catamounts have suffered to The Tide. In 2004, Alabama defeated Western 52-0 at Bryant-Denny. It also is the second time head coach Nick Saban has debuted against Western Carolina in his career; the first time coming when he was at LSU. Dating back to September 16, 2006, The Catamounts have lost 10 straight games. Their last win was against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels in a dogfight that took place in Cullowhee last season. The Colonels also happen to be the next opponent that The Catamounts play. However, this time The Cats are taking the bus to Kentucky to do battle with Eastern Kentucky. “I think gaining experience like we did in Alabama in front of 92,000 people really helped our team. Against Eastern Kentucky, we should see an increase in confidence, pride and enthusiasm,” said senior quarterback Todd Spitzer.Against Alabama, Spitzer finished the night 9-of-20 and compiled 90 yards through the air. A game changing moment occurred in the first quarter when Spitzer hit senior wide receiver Eddie Cohen with a 67-yard pass that led to a Catamount touchdown. However, a holding penalty against the Catamounts brought the play back and the touchdown was taken off of the board. The touchdown would have tied the game at 7 and could have been a huge momentum builder for The Cats. “Eddie did a great job of making a play after the catch. I think that having the play called back made a big difference in the game. When things like that happen, the key is to keep your cool and keep playing hard. And I think we did that. We didn’t quit, and it showed. I think we earned some respect against The Tide,” said Spitzer.The other quarterback for the Catamounts was sophomore Adam Hearns. He finished his night against Alabama 5-of-7 with 81 passing yards and 24 rushing yards. The Cats were held to a total of 247 yards for the entire game, while ‘Bama compiled a total of 575 yards. The only points from Western came from a pair of field goals by junior kicker Jonathan Parsons. At the 3:18 mark in the second quarter, Parsons completed a 34-yard field goal to make the score 14-3 early on in the contest. The Catamounts would not score again until the 13:40 mark in the fourth quarter, when Parsons nailed a 29-yarder through the uprights. Is this a sign of things to come for the Catamounts? Losers of 10 straight, picked to finished dead last in the Southern Conference, scheduling SEC teams like Alabama and Georgia, and having to travel to Boone to face arch-rival and the two-time defending Appalachian State Mountaineers makes things even tougher for The Catamounts this year. “I think we did some good things throughout the (Alabama) game, but some mistakes limited our success. My improvement is day to day. When I step on the field for practice, I try to make myself better along with the people around me,” said Spitzer. Some of the mistakes he is referring to are the six penalties that Western committed, the five fumbles that Western committed; two of which were turned over, the 35 first downs that Alabama was allowed to convert, and the 313 rushing yards that the Catamount defense gave up to the Crimson Tide. Things like that are going to have to be improved and worked on if the Catamounts want to win some games this season. Even though the scoreboard read 52-6, new Alabama head coach Nick Saban was very complimentary of the way the Catamounts battled against The Tide. He believes that the Catamounts played tough and well. “All in all, their players played hard and I have a lot of respect for them and how they played out there. Hopefully, they’re going to go on and have a great season,” said Saban. It does not get any easier from here for Western as they are on the road for their next two games. The Catamounts have to travel to Richmond, Kentucky to battle the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky. Following that they will travel to Athens, Georgia to battle SEC powerhouse, The Georgia Bulldogs. The Catamounts could very well open their season 0-3 before their home opener on September 22 against Presbyterian. Improving on the defense, cutting down on the penalties, and not turning the ball over are just small steps that The Cats need to make if they do not want to have another season like they did last year.