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WCU survives tough schedule
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    With Western Carolina coming to town this weekend Georgia Southern finds itself in a position that is becoming all too familiar.
    For the fifth time in the last six years the Eagles find themselves looking up: as in the view from the bottom of the Southern Conference.
    With Chattanooga knocking off Georgia Southern, 45-38, in overtime last Saturday in the Southern Conference opener for both teams the Eagles once again find themselves fighting for their conference lives.
    Wofford, now one of the league’s elite teams, was responsible for three of those losses when the two teams began league play against one another.
    When league schedule makers did some tweaking prior to the 2006 season it looked as if Southern had gotten a break as it opened with Chattanooga, one the SoCon’s weakest teams.
     That backfired last year when Chattanooga squeaked out a 27-26 win, and then last Saturday the Mocs made it a Wofford-esque two straight wins. Like the Mocs the Terriers were a favorite Eagle whipping boy until that breakthrough win in 2002.
    And, now come the Catamounts (1-3, 0-0) at a time when the Eagles (2-1, 0-1) desperately need a victory. It is a well documented fact no one has won the SoCon with two league losses. Game time is 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by CSS.
    If anyone is thinking Western will be that much needed ‘W’ they should pay attention to Wofford Coach Mike Ayers.
    In assessing the strength of the conference the veteran Terrier coach issued a warning about anyone who may be taking Western for granted.
     “Western is a great team… no one knows it yet, but they’re a great team,” said Ayers. “Kent (Briggs) has had a tough schedule… a tough schedule. I think you’re going to see those guys do things.”
    Appalachian State opening at Michigan withstanding the Cats have had arguably the toughest pre-season schedule in the conference. Their first three games were on the road as they played at Alabama, Eastern Kentucky and Georgia.
    Western got its first win last weekend when it beat Presbyterian, 33-20, and that victory, coupled with the Eagles’ loss — their fifth in their last eight games at Paulson Stadium — have given the Cats a breath of life.
    “It gives you hope,” said Briggs of the Mocs’ win. “It shows if you go out and do the things you’ve got to do you can win any football game.
    “The win over Presbyterian was a fresh start,” said Briggs. “We approached last week that way. We didn’t want to make a big deal of it, but on the inside — our fans, players all knew the kind of stretch we went through.
    “We started a fresh season. We considered ourselves 0-0, and we wanted to get to 1-0. It helped our players get back on track.”
    Western’s team and individual stats, considering the quality of their opponents, are no indicator as to the Cats’ capabilities.
    Tailback Mike Malone leads Western in rushing with 214 yards, and quarterback Todd Spitzer is 43-for-82 for 483 yards and two touchdowns. Kicker Jonathan Parsons is the Cats’ leading scorer as he has made all seven of his extra point attempts and is 7-11 on field goals.
    Safety Chris Collins and linebacker Mordy Ornguze are among the leading defenders in the conference. Collins is averaging nine tackles per game.
    Briggs is also hoping the manner in which the Cats finished their win over Presbyterian will carry over to this week.
    “In the fourth quarter we were very strong,” said Briggs. “We had some opportunities to put the game away and we didn’t. When you haven’t won in a long time things slip into your head on what can go wrong. We stayed focused and finished the game.”
    Western, like Chattanooga, has never won at Paulson and has not beaten Georgia Southern since 1994.