AUBURN, Ala. — Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir took part in the Southern Conference coaches’ teleconference on Tuesday.
Here’s what Speir had to say during his call with reporters, which lasted a a little more than six and a half minutes:
"It was a tough-fought ballgame down there in Chattanooga. They've got a great football team and they showed up and made a lot of big plays, especially in the first half. They've always been known for their defense, and they created three turnovers in the first half. I think on the day their average starting position for the game was the 50-yard line.
"Our offense did not play very well. It was the first time (Western Carolina quarterback) Troy (Mitchell) really didn't make a lot of good decisions early on. He's usually been a pretty poised and calm guy. In the first half, he just didn't make some good decisions. And we had three turnovers, which, shoot, really put our defense in a bad position and they got up on us. Then in the second half, the offense got going a little bit and got us some points on the board.
"But you can't spot a team like Chattanooga 21 points at the half and expect to come out of there with a win. But I was proud of the way our guys fought. I think our guys are playing hard. We're getting better each week.
"I thought our defense played pretty good considering the field position that we gave them. We fit better. We didn't tackle particularly well. We've been tackling pretty decent all year and we missed some big third-down tackles that could have got us off the field, but we're maturing and growing up every week as a football team.
"We've got a monumental task this week going down to Jordan-Hare (Stadium) to play Auburn out of the SEC. They are playing really well and had a big win last week against Ole Miss. They're sitting at 4-1, and (it will) be a hostile environment. Our players will be excited to go down there and play — they always are when you get that opportunity. We're taking especially a pretty beat-up defense down there. It's always a question of, with five SoCon games remaining, how do you manage the game? At what point do you look down the road? Our goal is always to go down there and play well and get better as a football team and come out of the thing healthy. This is our third FBS opponent this year and (I'm) glad it's going to be our last one of the year."
On the challenge Auburn presents offensively and defensively:
"Coach (Gus) Malzahn does a great job there. He's going to throw a lot of formations (at you). They're going to run the ball and establish the run, and they've done a nice job of that. The quarterback (Nick Marshall) is a dual-threat guy. He can run the ball and runs it really well. He's done a great job throwing the ball, and I think they've got a stable of backs that are really good. (They've got) a huge offensive line. They're bigger than Virginia Tech, which we played earlier in the year. Defensively, they're playing really well. I know that had been a little downside of them the last couple of years. But shoot, they're playing really well on defense. Obviously, it's a huge task for us. We just want to get ourselves better this week and go down there and play well. "
On how facing FBS opponents helps the Catamounts when they gets back into Southern Conference play:
"Out of the first two games — Middle Tennessee and Virginia Tech — we took some real positive things out of those games. You know, they can get ugly. Even in the Virginia Tech game, it's 21-0 at halftime. We had actually outrushed Virginia Tech at halftime and our offense had thrown a pick-six, so our defense had only given up 14 points. We moved the ball pretty well against Middle Tennessee State and did some good things in the kicking game that created some momentum for us. So even with a loss, you can always take some positives.
"And if you can create some confidence — I know coming out of the Virginia Tech game, our defense had some confidence. Just because at times during that game, their depth and their size and strength overwhelmed us there in the fourth quarter. But for about two and a half quarters we stood toe-to-toe with a Virginia Tech team. So those things can create confidence. You're just always worried (about injuries). Everybody in the country is beaten up, banged-up. You had a big depth chart at the beginning of the year that has dwindled. That's the thing playing an FBS school this late with five SoCon games remaining after it, that you want to come out of this game healthy. But you always take positives out of a game like this."