Charleston, S.C. - Senior running back Detrez Newsome broke Saturday's third tie with an 81-yard touchdown romp to cap a one-play scoring drive that gave No. 24 Western Carolina a lead it would never relinquish as the Catamounts scored a 31-19 Southern Conference road victory over The Citadel Bulldogs in Southern Conference action at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
Redshirt sophomore QB Tyrie Adams threw for three touchdowns - two to redshirt senior WR Terryon Robinson - and Newsome rushed for 197 yards as the Catamounts picked up their seventh victory of the season - fifth in league play.
WCU's defense forced five turnovers in the road win including three interceptions against the run-oriented triple-option attack of the Bulldogs - two that thwarted would-be scoring drives for the home squad. The Catamounts added a pair of fumble recoveries as WCU scored its first road win over the Bulldogs since 2010. Marvin Tillman came up with two interceptions to pace the strong defensive effort.
All told, four defenders finished with double-digit tackles with linebackers Daniel Riddle and A.J. Newman finishing with 13 apiece with Riddle intercepting a third pass in The Citadel's end zone. Linebacker Kendall White recorded a career-high 11 and lineman Nate Link likewise set a career-best for a second-straight week as he finished with 10 stops.
Adams connected with four receivers including six completions to Robinson to finish with 133 yards through the air on 14-of-21 passing. He added 50 rushing yards with Robinson posting a 71-yard receiving day. Newsome carried the ball 24 times for 197 yards, moving to 933 rushing yards on the season to move to within 67 yards of his third-consecutive, 1,000-yard rushing season.
Despite being tied three times, Western Carolina never trailed in Saturday's crucial road win. The WCU offense was impressive on its opening drive, moving 75 yards in 10 plays with Adams connecting with Connell Young on an eight-yard touchdown to open scoring. Young, a converted running back, made a one-handed snare on the reception before diving for the left pylon for the game's first points.
The one-score lead lasted into the second quarter before the Bulldogs capitalized on the first of three blocked WCU punts. Following the deflected kick, The Citadel moved just 25 yards where quarterback Dominique Allen connected on a two-yard touchdown pass to Keyonte Sessions to knot the game at seven.
The two teams then traded field goals as a Catamount drive stalled before Josh Gibson split the uprights from 39 yards away to again push WCU in front, 10-7. The Bulldogs drove to the Catamount one-yard line before a third-down stop set up a fourth-and-goal. However, a false start penalty backed the Bulldogs up to the six where they elected to kick the game-tying field goal with Jacob Godek connecting from 23-yards out, officially.
Perhaps the biggest turning point came on the ensuing three possessions. Taking over with 2:28 remaining in the quarter, the Catamounts coughed up the football four plays into a productive drive with The Citadel recovering. On the very next play, the Bulldog passing game struck over the middle for what was ruled a touchdown on the field. However, before Cam Jackson crossed the goal line, WCU's Tra Hardy caught the streaking back and punched the football loose for an apparent fumble that was recovered by Keion Crossen. Though ruled a TD initially, the play was reviewed by instant replay where it was deemed the fumble came before the runner crossed the plane of the goal line, giving the ball back to WCU.
The Catamounts didn't initially take advantage of the turnover, though, punting three plays later. But again, as fate would have it, the run-oriented Bulldog offense again took to the air where Allen's pass sailed over its intended target and Tillman played center field for the interception.
Starting just shy of the midfield stripe with 47-seconds remaining before the half, Adams orchestrated a 55-yard scoring drive that was capped as Robinson hauled in a 32 yard touchdown pass to end the wild back-and-forth close to the first half with WCU carrying a 17-10 lead into halftime.
The Bulldogs (5-4, 3-4 SoCon) responded with a 67-yard drive coming on three rushes out of the locker room to knot the game at 17. However, on the ensuing possession, Newsome provided an explosive play with the 81-yard rush up the middle for the go-ahead score, and WCU never trailed again.
Combined, The Citadel blocked three punts on the day - one going for a safety as the ball ricocheted 20-plus yards on a bounce out of the back of the end zone for a safety that made it 24-19. WCU put the game out of reach with a seven-play, 71-yard drive with Adams again finding Robinson for a six-yard score to provide the final tally.
With the Bulldogs driving late, Riddle intercepted an Allen pass in the end zone as the Bulldogs saw their first and last trip into the red zone end with a turnover. It was also their third giveaway at the goal line including two interceptions and a fumble.
Boasting the SoCon's top rushing attack - second in all of NCAA FCS football - The Citadel ran for 367 yards, but were limited to just one score on the ground. Quarterback Dominque Allen led the way with 116 yards and the score for the Bulldogs, while both Cam Jackson and Brandon Rainey both rank for 60 yards apiece. Allen was hampered in the passing game, though, finishing just 2-for-7 with the three interceptions.
Western Carolina (7-3, 5-2 SoCon) returns home next Saturday for its final regular season home game, hosting the Mercer Bears (4-5, 3-4 SoCon) at E.J. Whitmire Stadium Bob Waters Field. WCU will honor the 21 senior members of the Catamount football team in a special pregame ceremony. WCU will also recognize all of the senior members of the WCU Dance Team, the Catamount cheerleaders, and the "Pride of the Mountains" Marching Band. In addition, WCU will recognize its newest inductee into the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame, former Catamount football player and coach, Don Powers.
Tickets for Saturday's regular season home finale are on sale online at CatamountSports.com, as well as Monday through Friday through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office on the first floor of the Ramsey Center and by phone at (828) 227-2401. Kickoff for the home finale is scheduled for 2:00 pm.