published Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

WCU 1-4 but better with 'pistol' offense

WCU head coach Dennis Wagner talks with two offensive linemen in this file photo. (Mark Haskett, WCU Public Relations).
WCU head coach Dennis Wagner talks with two offensive linemen in this file photo. (Mark Haskett, WCU Public Relations).

After being stuck in the bottom of the Southern Conference in his first three seasons, both in wins and in the major offensive statistics, Western Carolina coach Dennis Wagner decided to make a change.

In the spring, the Catamounts switched to the "pistol" offensive formation, which is kind of a cross between the spread offense run out of the shotgun and the I-formation.

The formation, developed and popularized by Nevada, has certainly helped the Catamounts (1-4, 0-3) move the ball better. But the wins have yet to come.

Western Carolina will try for its first SoCon win of the season Saturday against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2-4, 0-3), which also is winless in league play.

"I still think we have a lot of room to go," Wagner said Tuesday. "We've left some plays on the field and we're not happy with the performance overall. We think we've got to keep getting better. Obviously our statistics are better and we're scoring more points and those kinds of things, but we can't leave points on the field."

From 2008 through 2010, the Catamounts ranked eighth or ninth in the SoCon in scoring offense, total offense and rushing. Last season, WCU averaged 16.5 points and 286.8 yards of offense per game.

Through five games this season, the Catamounts are averaging 29 points per game (fifth in the SoCon) and 403 yards (fourth).

"I don't think they're getting enough credit for how well they're playing offensively," UTC coach Russ Huesman said.

That's likely because the Catamounts' defensive numbers are among the worst in the Football Championship Subdivision. Out of 120 FCS teams, Western Carolina ranks last in rushing defense (330.4 yapg) and 119th in total defense (543.8) and scoring defense (46.2 papg).

The defense played better in last week's 38-31 loss to Elon. The Phoenix had 360 yards of offense, but also three turnovers.

"An offense's job is to score one more point than the other team, so if it takes 39 to win last week, that's what we had to get," Wagner said. "We had an opportunity and we didn't do it."

The Mocs, losers of three straight games by a total of four points, can relate to that. Western Carolina, meanwhile, has lost nine straight SoCon games. Its only win this season was against Division II Mars Hill.

Extra points

As injured starter B.J. Coleman looked on with his right arm in a sling, UTC redshirt freshman Terrell Robinson got about 90 percent of the repetitions at quarterback during Tuesday's practice. True freshman Jacob Huesman got most of the remaining snaps. ... Despite its prolific offense, Western Carolina is last in the SoCon in time of possession at 26:14 a game. UTC is third with 32:14.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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