In a rare late season FCS vs. FBS matchup, the Western Carolina Catamounts (6-3, 4-2) will travel to the Lone Star State as they take on the Texas A&M Aggies (6-3, 3-3) Saturday night. This will be the first matchup in the history of the two schools.
Western Carolina has won five of six after bombing Furman 48-10 at home on Senior Day last Saturday in Southern Conference action. Texas A&M lost for the third time in four games as they were dumped 26-10 at home by Auburn last week. The game kicks off from Kyle Field in College Station, Texas at 7:00 pm ET and will not be nationally televised. Texas A&M is currently a 36 point favorite with the over/under set at 62 points.
Western Carolina had little trouble dispatching Furman last week at home. The Catamounts led the Paladins 14-0 after one quarter and 31-3 at the half before easing off the gas. Western Carolina outgained Furman 581-315 and finished with 26 first downs to 20. The Catamounts lost the time of possession battle 34:07 to 25:53 but converted 10 of 16 third down attempts and ran for 276 yards while limiting the Paladins to 75 yards on the ground. Western Carolina finished with six sacks and scored 14 points off turnovers.
The Catamounts average 235.1 yards per game through the air and add an additional 186.9 yards per game on the ground this season; they average 5.1 yards per carry. Western Carolina puts up an average of 28.9 points per game while allowing 27 per contest on the year. Troy Mitchell is the starting quarterback for Western Carolina; he’s completed 167 of 266 passes for 1,872 yards with 11 touchdown passes and six interceptions while ranking second on the team with 449 yards and three scores on the ground. Wes Holcombe (16 of 28, 130 yards, 15 rushing yards) is the backup should Mitchell go down with an injury. Detrez Newsome is the Catamounts’ leading rusher as he has 143 carries for 857 yards and eight scores; Corey Holloway (53 carries, 239 yards, 4 TD) is the second back in the system. Karnorris Benson leads the team with 36 catches for 548 yards and five scores; Steffon Hill (31 grabs, 410 yards, 2 TD), Tyler Sexton (30 catches, 367 yards, 2 TD) and Spearman Robinson (21 catches, 290 yards, TD) are solid targets while Newsome has 25 catches out of the backfield. Logan Howard has booted 28 of 30 extra points and 10 of 12 field goal attempts on the year with a long of 46 yards this season.
Texas A&M has seen the wheels fall off the bus after a 5-0 start as they have lost three of four now. The Aggies led 3-0 early in the game but allowed the next 20 points and never got back in the contest. Texas A&M was outgained 443-303 in the contest while winning the first down battle by a 21-20 margin. The Aggies allowed Auburn to hold the ball for 33:57 to their 26:03 in the contest and turned the ball over three times while failing to record a takeaway. Texas A&M couldn’t slow Auburn until they were already in scoring range, which cost them in the game.
The Aggies enter this contest ranked 43rd in the nation in passing offense with 248.9 yards per game; they are 75th in the nation with 168.6 yards per game on the ground. Texas A&M is tied for 60th in the nation in scoring offense by putting up an average of 29.7 points per game while they currently stand 56th in scoring defense by allowing 24.8 points per contest. Kyle Allen was the starter at quarterback; he’s completed 121 of 213 passes for 1,625 yards with 14 touchdowns and six picks while running for 107 yards and two scores. Highly touted prospect Kyler Murray (50 of 82, 495 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT, 285 rushing yards, TD) started the last couple games at quarterback but is questionable here. If Murray doesn’t play, it could be Allen or Jake Hubenak (12 of 24, 92 yards, TD) running the offense. The run game is mainly centered around Tra Carson, who leads the team with 164 carries for 755 yards and five scores; Kwame Etwi is next in line with 16 carries for 128 yards. Christian Kirk is the team’s leading receiver with 54 catches for 706 yards and four scores; Josh Reynolds (32 grabs, 554 yards, 4 TD), Ricky Seals-Jones (34 grabs, 439 yards, 2 TD) and Carson (25 catches out of the backfield) are good options to look for in the passing game as well. Taylor Bertolet has booted all 28 extra points and 14 of 19 field goal attempts with a long of 55 yards.
Texas A&M gets a reprieve after slumping lately as they face a team that is 0-50 all-time against FBS opponents, including 0-17 against the SEC. The Aggies will have a question mark at quarterback if Murray can’t go but it shouldn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things against the Catamounts. Texas A&M needs to tighten up defensively but this is as good an opportunity as ever for this; the Aggies should win this contest.