Despite losses, Western Carolina's Catamounts keep believing

Despite losses, Western Carolina's Catamounts keep believing

October 3rd, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

J.J. Jackson of UTC runs against the Western Carolina Catamounts in 2012.

Photo by Contributed Photo

UTC head coach Russ Huesman, right, shouts from the sidelines in this file photo.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Wednesday was an anniversary of sorts for the Western Carolina football program, though not one the Catamounts would care to celebrate.

It was on Oct. 2, 2010, that Western Carolina defeated The Citadel, 24-13, in Charleston, S.C. It was the Catamounts' lone Southern Conference win in a disappointing 2-9 season.

In the three years since, the Catamounts have lost 24 straight SoCon games and, perhaps more stunningly, 30 straight against Division I opposition. Western Carolina (1-4, 0-2 SoCon) will try to end that painful run Saturday at Finley Stadium against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2-2, 0-1).

"We all feel the same way: we want to win and we believe," Catamounts senior linebacker Courtland Carson said. "Sooner or later it's going to turn around, and I just hope I'm a part of it when it does."

Carson is one of a few impact upperclassmen -- his 56 tackles through five games leads the SoCon -- on a very young team. The Catamounts may start as many as 11 freshmen and sophomores on offense and seven on defense. Mocs coach Russ Huesman said Western Carolina is young, but also talented.

"They look different this year," Huesman said. They look athletic; they can run -- I think [second-year WCU coach Mark Speir] is doing it the right way. I think he's going out and getting kids that can run, and they're coaching them up really well."

Western Carolina's lone win this season was against Division II Mars Hill, and the Catamounts had to score 20 points in the fourth quarter to rally for a 30-23 win.WCU's losses were to Middle Tennessee State (45-24), Virginia Tech (45-30), The Citadel (28-21) and last week at Samford (62-23).

Against Samford it was a 14-10 Bulldogs lead in the second quarter when Fabian Truss returned a WCU kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to spark a Samford surge to pull away for good.

"We haven't lost confidence -- I love this team," Speir said. "We've got a bunch of guys that work hard and are going to be really good players one day."

Losing has been a tough thing to handle for Carson, who came from one of the better high schools in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast, Independence High School in Charlotte. It's the school that produced former Florida quarterback Chris Leak, former Georgia quarterback Joe Cox and former Georgia wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi.

"You just have to keep your confidence up when things happen and keep your composure," Carson said.

The Mocs are coming off last week's disappointing 23-21 loss at Georgia Southern, another down-to-the-wire affair with the Eagles that ended badly for the Mocs. Quarterback Jacob Huesman said there's no chance of a letdown by UTC this week.

"It doesn't matter if we're playing the New England Patriots or Soddy-Daisy High School, we approach it the same way," Jacob said. "After a loss like that we're a little upset; we want to play angry, we want to play with a chip on our shoulder."

Huesman obviously doesn't want Western Carolina's streaks to end Saturday, but he thinks they will end soon.

"Western's going to win games this year," he said. "They're good enough, so they're going to win games."

Huesman has yet to lose to the Catamounts, winning the past four meetings, including a 45-24 victory last season.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.