Growing pains

The Western Carolina football team dropped its third straight game to open the season as they fell 28-21 to the Citadel Bulldogs this past Saturday at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.


This was the first Southern Conference loss of the season for the Catamounts.  Sure, it’s only the first conference game, but losing is becoming all too familiar.

People know the team is living in the SoCon cellar, but how bad could it be?

Here are the facts.

The Catamounts haven’t won a SoCon home opener since 2005 when they upset Furman 41-21.  The team is currently on a 13-game losing streak dating back to last season, which ranks fourth among all NCAA Division I football programs.

That bad, huh?

Unfortunately, that is the better part of the bad news.

Try this one on for size: Western was on a 22-game conference skid entering last Saturday’s matchup.  TWENTY TWO!!  That was and still is the third longest losing streak in conference history.

No, the Taylor Swift song of the same name has nothing to do with football and isn’t very relevant here, but no one can deny that it does have a catchy tune – twenty two….In this context, it is the wrong kind of catchy.

What was then 22 is now a 23-game slide thanks to the Citadel.  Between the hashes, Western still searches for its identity.

WCU head coach Mark Speir reacts to his team against the Citadel. WCU Photo/ Mark Haskett.

They constantly put themselves in losing situations-slow starts, penalties, turnovers.  Maybe with a few breaks here and there, this team can change its fortunes.

Second-year head coach Mark Speir understands the maturation that has to come with a young team and knows that righting the ship is a day-by-day process.

“My opinion of this team has not changed. We are going to be a good football team, no question about it.  We just have to continue to teach these young men the game of football, ” Speir said in his comments after his team’s loss to the Citadel. “They are hurt . I told them we have five more Southern Conference games. All of our goals are still ahead of us.”

Building a program from the ground up takes time.  Taking this team from the cob webs to a SoCon championship won’t happen over night.  But, this team has shown improvement.

The Catamounts are starting to compete, but you don’t get any credit for competing.  You get credit for winning.

When the band is drawing more buzz than the football team, something has to give.

And the only solution is to win.

Chancellor David Belcher, his wife Susan, and WCU students look on during the game against the Citadel. This fan base is looking for wins. WCU Photo/ Mark Haskett.

The season isn’t over for Western.  Sure, they are taking the road less traveled, but all is not lost.

Twenty-three game conference losing streak?  That isn’t something that happens every day.  A reversal of fortune is in order.  Will it come this year?  Probably not.  Saying otherwise would be pushing the absurd.

The Catamounts haven’t heard good news in a long time.  The fan base wants this team to win just as bad as the team wants to win.

This Saturday could set things in motion.  Mars Hill rolls into town and there is no reason Western shouldn’t pull out a victory.  They are 2-0 against the Lions the past two seasons and have won 14-straight in the series.

This isn’t do or die time for the Catamounts, but it’s as close as it comes.

A win Saturday would help.


Information from the Catamount Athletics Website was used in this report.