Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2018 Football Preseason Preview: ETSU

Throughout this preseason, Purple & Gold will preview all of Western Carolina's 2018 football opponents.

For the eighth game of the season, the Cats travel to Johnson City to face the Bucs of East Tennessee State University for the first time at the new William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium, in a game that has become known as the Blue Ridge Border Battle.

Two seasons ago, Western and the Bucs revived the series that started back in 1932, but abruptly ended in 2003 when the Bucs eliminated football. Adding to the newfound rivalry between the two mountain teams, the Bucs upset the Cats at the Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016.


When: Saturday, October 27 at 3:30 pm

Where:  William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium, Johnson City, TN

Radio: Catamount Sports Network

TV / video:  ESPN3 or ESPN+

The Series: This series stretches back to 1932, with the Cats holding a slim 24-22-1 lead.

Games that will be played by the Bucs this season prior to the WCU contest:  (8 games) ETSU kicks off their season at home against DII, Mars Hill, then travel to Knoxville to play the Volunteers a week later.  In week three of the season, the Bucs remain on the road as they travel to Lexington, VA to meet the Keydets, then return home to host the Paladins. The Mocs then visit Johnson City for the second of three straight home games, as Big South foe Gardner-Webb visits the Bucs for game six.  After 3 home games, ETSU goes on the road for two games prior to Western's visit, as the Bulldogs of the Citadel host the Bucs followed by Wofford the next week in games 7 & 8.

The last game played vs. ETSU:  October 14, 2017  - Defense, Spencer Key Strong Second Half in WCU's 49-10 Win over ETSU  - Redshirt freshman tailback Donnavan Spencer scored four rushing touchdowns while the defense and special teams units tallied scores of their own as No. 25/21 Western Carolina stormed past upset-minded East Tennessee State in the second half, winning 49-10, in Southern Conference action on Saturday afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. Western Carolina (5-2, 3-1 SoCon) created three takeaways including two John Brannon III interceptions - one returned for a touchdown with the second return setting-up WCU with a first-and-goal situation - with the third turnover coming on a muffed kickoff fumble recovery. WCU also blocked an ETSU punt with Tyran Reynolds scooping-and-scoring from 35 yards out as a part of a 42-point second half.-

Head Coach: Randy Sanders - Sanders was named ETSU football head coach on Dec. 17, 2017, becoming the 18th head coach in program history. Sanders, a Morristown, Tenn. native, has spent the last 29 years coaching on the Football Bowl Subdivision level, which includes stints as offensive coordinator at Tennessee, Kentucky and most recently Florida State. Sanders was the offensive coordinator when Tennessee won the 1998 BCS National Title and the quarterbacks coach at Florida State when the Seminoles claimed the 2013 National Championship. Sanders played a part in either coaching or recruiting a pair of No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft – Peyton Manning (1998) and Jameis Winston (2015). In his 29 years of coaching, Sanders has coached in 26 bowl games and his teams hold a combined record of 258-105-2.

Last Season's Record (ETSU):  2017 record -  4-7 overall,  4-2 home,  0-5 away,  2-6 SoCon

Offensive Formation: Spread

Defensive Formation: 3-4

Starters returning/lost: 18 /4

Offensive starters - Returning/Lost: 9  /  2

Defensive starters - Returning/Lost: 9  /  2

Specialist - Returning/Lost: 7  /  0
 Losses on 2 deep roster:  6

Significant losses:
Offense:  TB - Falon Lee; RT  Alex Rios
Defense: CB - Daren Ardis; SS - Paul Hunter

Top Returners:  QB Austin Herink, RB Jajuan Stinson

New head coach Randy Sanders returns a wealth of experience as the Bucs look to improve on a 4-7 record from last season. The Buck lost only 4 starters from the 2017 team. Sanders hired former Bucs wide receiver Marcus Satterfield as his offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Steve Brown his defensive backs coach and Matt McCutchan to oversee the offensive line. Sanders retained Billy Taylor (Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers), Mike Rader (Wide Receivers/Recruiting Coordinator), Gary Downs (Running Backs), Daryl Daye (Defensive Line/Special Teams), Dylan Lewellyn (Outside Linebackers) and Al Johnson (Strength and Conditioning) from the previous staff.

2017 ETSU Statistics
Rushing Offense: 1130 yards
Yards per game: 70
Yards per rush: 2.1 yards
Rushing 1st downs: 56
TDs rushing: 8
Passing Offense: 2216 yards or 201 yards per game
Avg. per pass: 12 yards
Passing 1st downs: 93
Passing Comp-Att-Int: 183-323-6
TDs Passing: 14
Total Offense: 2997 yards or 273 yards per game
Fumbles-Lost: 12-8
3d Down Conversions: 51 of 159 (32%)
4th Down Conversions: 5 of 14 (36%)
Field goal attempts: 14 - 18
PAT-Attempts: 21 of 21
On-side kicks: 0-0
Red Zone Scores: 20 of 24 (83%)
Red Zone Touchdowns: 13 of 24 (54%)
Punts - Yards: 68 - 2660 - Avg per punt: 36

Game prediction: Per the Massey Ratings, the Cats have a 70% probability of winning (31-24) over the Bears.

According to Massey, Western Carolina should be 5-3 after this game. I'm going to disagree, the Cats are 7-1 after this game.

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