Friday, August 11, 2023

Preseason Previews: Game #10 - East Tennessee State Buccaneers

Throughout this preseason, we will preview all of  Western Carolina's 2023 football opponents. For the tenth game of the season, the Cats return to Cullowhee for the annual grudge match, the Blue Ridge Border Battle with the East Tennessee State Buccaneers. Not only is this the Blue Ridge Border Battle, but will be Hall of Fame Day as well.  

Seven seasons ago, Western and the Bucs revived their series that started back in 1932 but abruptly ended in 2003 when the Bucs eliminated football. The Cats own a 3-4 record against the Bucs since their return to the Southern Conference.

      Game #10 
                 ETSU Bucs
When: Saturday, November 1, 2021
Time:  1:00 pm (EST) 
Where: Bob Waters Field, EJ Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC
Radio: Catamount Sports Network
   -announcers Gary Ayers,  (play-by-play); Daniel Hooker (color)
TV/video:  ESPN+
Live StatsWCU Live Stats
Game Notes:       Western Carolina      -      ETSU  
Fan Message BoardBuccaneer Nation

The Series: This series stretches back to 1932, and Western owns a 26-25-1 record overall in the series. Since the return of football at ETSU, the Cats are 3-4 going into the 2023 contest. Adding to the rivalry between the two mountain teams, the Bucs pulled off a 2-point, 3 overtime win, 43-45 in the initial Blue Ridge Border Battle trophy contest held in Johnson City in 2018. The Cats are 13-11 in games played in Cullowhee overall. The Cats broke a two-game losing streak to the mountain pirates last year in Johnson City. This game also marks the sixth showdown of the "Blue Ridge Border Battle" with the Bucs capturing three of the first five games in this newly created trophy game.

The Trophy: The two campuses are separated by just 112 total miles and share a common border through the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2018 the mountain rivalry was dubbed the “Blue Ridge Border Battle”, consisting of a trophy that includes a two-tiered wooden pedestal adorned on opposite sides by the two school’s respective logos and the moniker of the football rivalry series. Atop the trophy is a rock that was taken from the Appalachian Trail on the North Carolina – Tennessee border in the heart of the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains. This will be the fifth battle for the Blue Ridge Trophy.

The last game played vs. ETSU:  Nov. 12, 2022 - McCollum’s Walk-Off Field Goal Leads to Rivalry WinJohnson City, Tenn. –Richard McCollum punched through a game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired on Saturday afternoon as Western Carolina reclaimed "the Rock" traveling trophy in the Blue Ridge Border Battle with a 20-17 road win over Southern Conference rival ETSU at Greene Stadium.

Head Coach: George Quarles - On Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, George Quarles was introduced as the 19th Head Coach in Buccaneer football history. Quarles arrives in Johnson City from the staff at Furman, serving as the Associate Head Coach. In addition to operating as the Associate Head Coach, Quarles has also held the Offensive Coordinator slot and the Quarterbacks coach each of the last four seasons. During his time with the Paladins, Quarles oversaw two FCS Playoff appearances in both 2017 and 2019, in addition to a share of the regular-season SoCon Championship in 2018.

George Quarles's record vs. WCU:  0 - 1
Kerwin Bell's record vs. ETSU:  1 - 1

Last Season's Record (ETSU):  3-8 overall,  1-4 home,  2-4 away,  1-7 SoCon. 
Offensive Formation: Multiple
Defensive Formation: 3-4

In preseason voting by the coaches and media, the Bucs were picked to finish sixth in both polls. ETSU had a total of six players honored. Redshirt senior wide receiver, Will Huzzie; redshirt junior tight end, Noah West; junior defensive back, Sheldon Arnold II; redshirt junior defensive lineman, Max Evans; redshirt sophomore punter, Trace Kelley; and sophomore long snapper, Ryan Phillips were all preseason SoCon second teams. 

The Bucs lost a total of 26 players to the transfer portal since the season ended last year, including many of their most productive players (including 4 All-SoCon players and the starting QB). Added to these difficulties, the Bucs are carrying only 100 players on their active roster this season, due to Title IX difficulties identified by the school. 

Prominent ETSU portal transfers after the 2022 season: Alijah Huzzie (DB) - to North Carolina; Blake Austin (OL) - to Troy; Tavon Matthews (OL) - to Troy; Chandler Martin (LB) - to Memphis;  Rodney Wright Jr. (DL) - to Eastern Kentucky; Tyler Keltner (K) - to Florida State; Erek Campbell (DB) - to Mississippi Valley State; & Davion Hood (LB) - to Temple. 

2022 ETSU Statistics (11 games)
Rushing Offense: 1864 yards
Yards per game:  170
Yards per rush:  4.7 yards
Rushing 1st downs: 96
TDs rushing: 20
Passing Offense: 2109 yards or 192 yards per game
Avg. per pass: 12.6 yards
Passing 1st downs: 90
TDs passing: 15
Passing Comp-Att-Int: 168-321-15
Total Offense: 3973 yards or 361.2 yards per game
Fumbles-Lost: 12 - 3
3d Down Conversions: 43 of 142 (30%)
4th Down Conversions: 7 of  16 (44%)
Field goal attempts  17 - 23
PAT-Attempts: 38 of 39
On-side kicks: 0 - 0
Red Zone Scores: 27 of 34 (79%)
Red Zone Touchdowns: 17 of 34 (50%)
Punts - Yards: 88 - 1050 - Avg per punt: 40.6

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