I will admit when I was watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2005 and saw the University of Vermont Catamounts upset Syracuse in the first round, I didn’t have a clue what a catamount was. Perhaps it was the unique name of yet another designer ice cream created by Vermont’s famous ice cream duo of Ben & Jerry’s (Cherry Garcia; Chunky Monkey, etc.). In deference to our Head Coach Paul Johnson who graduated from our 2011 opening game opponent Western Carolina in 1979, I thought it appropriate to let everyone know; what is a catamount? It is a cat of the mountains such as; a lynx, puma (not the shoe company), or a cougar (not the aggressive middle aged two legged man hunter). Now that we all know about the mascot from Coach Paul Johnson’s alma mater, let’s discuss our opening game opponent.
Western Carolina is coached by Dennis Wagner who was the offensive line coach at Nebraska for a few seasons before becoming the head man of the catamounts. Prior to that he was the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Fresno State under Pat Hill for seven seasons. But here is a very interesting fact, after his first season at WC he was actually offered the head coaching job at the University of Kansas (our opponent in game # 3 this season), and TURNED them down to stay put at Western Carolina! Obviously a very loyal person to forgo a coaching job in a BCS conference. That says a lot about his character and commitment to getting the job done at Western Carolina.
The catamounts run a 4-2-5 defensive scheme and utilize the pistol formation on offense. The pistol is the invention of Coach Chris Ault at the University of Nevada who you might remember upset Boise State last season snapping a very long winning streak and costing them a trip to a BCS Bowl Game. The pistol is a one back offense with the running back lined up about 3 yards behind the quarterback who lines up 4 yards behind the center. This is a unique hybrid variation of the traditional shotgun or NCAA spread offense whereby the running back lines up adjacent to either side of the quarterback who sets up seven yards behind the center.
Western Carolina had a very difficult season in 2010 just like Georgia Tech, and wound up with a final record of 2 and 9 finishing at the bottom of the Southern Conference. In reviewing the roster of the catamounts they have a large influx of junior college players from California, which reflects the connections made by Coach Wagner when he was part of the staff at Fresno State. They have good size in the trenches and return 9 starters on offense including four offensive linemen. On the other side of the line of scrimmage they only return four starters.
However, by scheduling to play the Yellow Jackets at BDS on a Thursday night it is apparent that Coach Wagner also subscribes to the coaching attitude made famous by his mentor at Fresno State; Pat Hill whose philosophy is; Anyone, Anywhere! So Georgia Tech needs to be ready to play some football and show the cats from the mountain the business end of a Yellow Jacket beginning at 7:30 p.m. at BDS. For those out of town fans not able to attend this home opener, it is scheduled to be available for viewing on ESPN3 on your computer. Go Jackets!