Johnson City, Tenn. – Redshirt junior QB Tyrie Adams became Western Carolina’s all-time touchdown pass leader on Saturday, tossing four TD passes in accounting for five total scores as the Catamounts’ upset bid against No. 25 ETSU came up two-points short, falling 45-43 in triple overtime on a rainy afternoon at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium.
Needing a two-point conversion following Owen Cosenke’s second receiving score of the game, Adams was pressured off the right side on the ensuing required two-point attempt. ETSU’s Austin Gatewood chased Adams out of the pocket to the right where his contested pass attempt to Daquan Patten short-hopped at the goal line, setting off a wild celebration for the Bucs who took possession of the trophy in the inaugural “Blue Ridge Border Battle.”
Adams accounted for 397 yards of total offense including a game-high 168 yards rushing and 229 yards on 20-of-29 passing on Saturday in the loss. He currently has 53 career touchdown passes, by-passing former mentor Troy Mitchell (2012-15) who held the previous school benchmark with 50.
Cosenke caught six passes for 66 yards and matched a career-high with two touchdown receptions while Donnavan Spencer rushed a touchdown and 76 yards in the loss. All told, WCU’s offense rattled off 502 total yards, its fourth, 500+ yard output of the season, despite only having one first quarter possession as ETSU consumed 13 minutes of the 15-minute frame.
ETSU (7-2, 5-1 SoCon) overcame a 15-point fourth quarter deficit as the Catamounts pulled ahead, 30-15, on a highlight reel, one-handed 29-yard catch by Daquan Patten from Adams with the extra point making it 30-15 with 14:20 remaining in the game. However, the Buccaneers scored 15 points over the final five minutes, forcing overtime inside the game’s final 10 seconds by scoring at the end of a 15-play drive. Herink plunged in from five-yards out to make it a one-score game at the five-minute mark before connecting with Nate Adkins from a yard out on the final play of the 15-play march before again using his legs to tack on the game-tying two-point conversion.
On the opening possession of overtime, WCU seemingly had the game in the bag as Michael Murphy collected a pass that was thrown behind and careened off Adkins for WCU’s second interception of the day. However, with the ball spotted at the 10-yard line on a rainy, blustery night, the Catamounts’ game-winning field goal attempt just pushed wide left forcing a second OT.
The Catamounts rebounded quickly, though, as Adams found a streaking Cosenke over the middle for a 25-yard TD strike in the second overtime with Will Horton’s PAT making it 37-30. ETSU went back to its ground game on the ensuing alternating possession with freshman Jacob Saylors toting the ball three times to amass all 25 of the necessary yards and J.J. Jerman tying the game at 37 with his PAT.
To start the third overtime, freshman DL Adam Henderson used a perfectly-timed swim move to allude his blocker and drop Herink for a nine-yard loss. Two plays later on a fourth-and-1, the Buccaneers decided to forego the field goal and go for it. With Saylors bottled up around the line of scrimmage, the patient rookie running back popped outside and went uncontested into the end zone from 16 yards away with Herink again carrying the ball in for the required two-point try.
Backed-up to the 30-yard line with a third-and-15 on WCU’s next possession, Adams dropped a dime to Nate Mullen who slid under a back-shoulder throw at the five-yard line to keep the drive alive and set the Catamounts up, first-and-goal. Two plays later, Adams found Cosenke at the goal line where the second-year tight end powered through a would-be tackler for his second TD of the game, pulling the Catamounts to within the two-point try of knotting the game and setting-up what proved to be the final play of the game on WCU’s failed attempt.
After falling behind 9-0 over the first quarter and first play of the second, Western Carolina responded by outscoring ETSU, 13-to-3, to close the first half and carried a one-point, 13-12, advantage into the halftime locker room.
On Saturday afternoon, Western Carolina’s defense came away with three sacks and three turnovers including interceptions by Marvin Tillman, John Brannon III, and the aforementioned pick by Murphy. The Catamounts were a +3 on the day as the offense did not commit a turnover. Tillman paced the squad with a career-high 16 tackles while senior LB Mitchell Chancey reached double figures for the eighth-straight game, finishing with 10 stops. Freshman DB Ronald Kent, Jr., finished with a career-best nine stops, adding three pass break-ups on the day.
ETSU’s Austin Herink threw for 294 yards and the touchdown that ultimately helped tie the game, adding 45 yards and a score on the ground. Herink also rushed for a pair of two-point conversions including the game-tying run in regulation and game-winning margin in the triple overtime. Saylors rushed for 123 yards and two TDs including the 16-yard romp in the third overtime that pushed ETSU ahead for good, just ahead of Herinks game-winning effort on the two-point conversion.
Western Carolina (3-5, 1-5 SoCon) returns home next Saturday to host The Citadel (2-5, 2-4 SoCon) for Homecoming. Tickets for the annual Homecoming game are available in advance by calling (800) 34-GOWCU or logging on to CatamountSports.com.