By Carey Phillips


Western Carolina will conclude the fall portion of its COVID-19 impacted football schedule Saturday at North Carolina.

Kickoff time is noon in Kenan Stadium, and the game will be televised by the ACC Network.

UNC (6-3) is led by record-setting quarterback Sam Howell. He is the great-nephew of the late Babe Howell, who won five state championships in football and two in baseball while coaching at Sylva-Webster High School.

Howell ranks third nationally in passing yards with 2,631, according to the latest available NCAA statistics. He set school passing records with 550 yards and six touchdowns in a 59-53 come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest.

NCAA stats show the Tar Heels with two of the top nine rushing leaders nationally. Javonte Williams is fifth with 868 yards, and Michael Carter is ninth with 807 yards.

Top receivers are Dyami Brown (49 catches, 913 yards) and Dazz Newsome (40 catches, 519 yards).

Linebacker Chazz Surratt, a converted quarterback, is Carolina’s top tackler with 75, including six sacks. Smoky Mountain played multiple games against Surratt’s East Lincoln teams in football and basketball.

UNC is coming off a 31-17 loss to second-ranked Notre Dame.

The Heels have won the previous two meetings between the schools – 65-10 in 2017 and 49-26 in 2018.

The Catamounts have lost this year to Liberty (58-14) and Eastern Kentucky (49-17).

Coach Mark Speir missed the EKU game Nov. 21 after testing positive for COVID-19. He is expected back on the sideline Saturday.

Donnavan Spencer is averaging 67.5 yards rushing for the Catamounts.

Will Jones and Mark Wright have split time at quarterback. Jones has completed 19 of 38 passes for 201 yards and two TDs. Wright is 13 of 25 for 73 yards. They have both been intercepted twice.

Tight end Owen Cosenke has six receptions for 60 yards.

Linebacker Ty Harris and safety A.J. Rogers both have 15 tackles in the two Western games.