Friday, June 26, 2020

2020 Football Preseason Preview: Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs

Throughout this preseason, Purple & Gold will preview all of Western Carolina's 2020 football opponents.

In the Catamounts' third game of the 2020 season, the Cats return to Cullowhee to host the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs in Cullowhee for the second straight season.

Western faces Gardner-Webb for the 11th time overall on the gridiron, the two teams first met in 1932.

Game #3 - Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs

When: Saturday, September 19th at TBA
Where: E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field
Radio: Catamount Sports Network
TV/video:  TBA

The Series: In the 11th meeting between the two teams, the Cats own a 6-4 record overall against the dogs and enter the contest on a 1 game losing streak vs. Gardner-Webb. Last season's loss broke a four-game win streak over the Runnin' Bulldogs.

Last Game vs. Gardner-Webb (Oct. 5, 2019) - Late Field Goal Lifts Gardner-Webb over Western Carolina, 24-21 -   Cullowhee, N.C. – Gardner-Webb placekicker Kurt Everett nailed a 33-yard field goal as time expired to cap a 16-play, game-winning drive as the Runnin' Bulldogs downed Western Carolina, 24-21, in nonconference action in front of a Family Weekend crowd of 11,865 Saturday afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. GWU tailback Jayln Cagle patiently rushed for a game-high 138 yards including a crucial 14-yard gain on the game's penultimate play to transform a third-and-13 into a first down while also managing to get out of bounds to preserve five seconds of game clock to set-up Everett's game-winning boot. Despite a pair of timeouts taken by WCU to try and ice the kicker, the redshirt sophomore split the uprights to halt WCU's four-game series winning streak.

Last Season's Record (2019 - GWU): 3-9 overall, 2-3 home, 1-6 away, 1-6 Big South  (wins over NC Central, WCU & Hampton).

Games that will be played by the Bulldogs this season before the WCU contest: 2 games - Gardner-Webb opens the season with Limestone and Georgia Tech before traveling to Cullowhee.

Head Coach: Tre Lamb is in his first season as head coach at Gardner-Webb University. He was named to the position on December 14, 2019. “We are thrilled to have Tre Lamb agree to lead our football program at Gardner-Webb University,” said GWU President Dr. William Downs. “He quickly rose to the top of a large and distinguished list of interested coaches with his bold vision, his unmatched energy and his confident commitment to winning championships at GWU.

Offensive Formation: Spread Option
2019 Offense: 23.9 ppg. (85th in FCS)
Defensive Formation: 4-3
2019 Defense: 36.2 ppg. (111th in FCS)
Starters Returning/Lost:  17  /  5
Offensive Starters Returning/Lost: 8 / 3
Defensive Starters Returning/Lost: 9 / 2


Runnin' Bulldogs' junior receiver Izaiah Gathings was named to Hero Sports 2020 FCS Preseason All-America third team headlines the offense and All-Big South inside linebackers Darien Reynolds (6-0, 225, Sr.) and Cade Hamilton (6-1, 230, Jr.) headline the defensive returnees, along with All-Conference defensive lineman Janathian Turner (6-3, 306, Jr.). All-Big South mainstay, end John Singleton (6-5, 240, R-Jr.) is recovering from offseason surgery but hopes to return at full speed prior to the start of the season.

This season, new defensive coordinator Josh Reardon moves to a four-man front hoping to play to personnel strength with former linebackers Shai Thomas (6-2, 256, Sr.) and G'Marcus Freeman (6-2, 240, So.) moving down front to help improve a pass rush that produced only 10 sacks last season.

Returning quarterback Jordan Smith (6-1, 216, R-Jr.) is expected back at full strength after an injury, but reserve signal-caller Keegan Smith (6-1, 195, R-Jr.) and mid-year transfer Trayvon Bowers (6-1, 200, R-Jr.) will battle for the start if Jordan Smith is not available starting day.  Bowers is a transfer from Wake Forest and former Netflix series star, played in three games for the Demon Deacons last fall, and was a three-star recruit – as well as the top-rated quarterback in Pennsylvania.

Receivers led by All-America candidates Izaiah Gathings (6-4, 220, Jr.) and Devron Harper (5-10, 170, So.), each caught more than 50 passes last season. Gathings led the Big South with 71 catches for 1,046 yards – and 11 touchdowns last season. Harper had catches of 70 yards and 90 yards one game, while also returning two kickoffs for 80+ yards last season.

2019 Runnin' Bulldogs Statistics:
Rushing Offense: 1592 yards on 3927 attempts
Yards per game: 99.5
Yards per rush: 3.0 yards
Rushing 1st downs: 67
TDs rushing: 13
Passing Offense: 2666 yards or 222.2 yards per game
Avg. per pass: 7.2 yards
Passing 1st downs: 118
Passing Comp-Att-Int: 380-222-12
TDs Passing: 13
Total Offense: 3860 yards or 321.7 yards per game
Fumbles-Lost:  19 - 12
3d Down Conversions: 32.5%
4th Down Conversions: 44.4%
Field goal attempts: 5-5
On-side kicks: 0-2
Red Zone Scores: 30 0f 36
Red Zone Touchdowns: 24 of 36

Game prediction: Per the Massey Ratings, the Cats have a 59% probability of winning (31-28) over the Runnin. Bulldogs.