Cullowhee, N.C. – The Citadel used a pair of third-quarter blocked punts to erase a 14-point halftime deficit and a defense that pitched a second-half shutout, forcing three turnovers as the Bulldogs upended the Western Carolina Catamounts, 38-24, to spoil Homecoming at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Back-up quarterback Brandon Rainey, who earned the starting nod for The Citadel on Saturday afternoon, rushed for 188 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs (3-5, 3-4 SoCon) while Clay Harris scored twice in rushing for 126 yards in the winning effort.
All told, The Citadel ground out all 421 yards of total offense in the running game with four touchdowns, attempting just one pass which fell incomplete.
Donnavan Spencer rushed for a pair of first half TDs for the Catamounts including a career-long 75-yard scoring scamper, and Michael Murphy scooped-and-scored on one of two fumble takeaways in the first half as the Catamounts built a 24-10 halftime lead. However, the Bulldogs toughened in the second half, blanking the high-powered Catamount offense over the final two frames to score their third road victory of the season.
Dual-threat quarterback Tyrie Adams threw for 184 yards on 12-of-21 passing with an interception, adding 74 rushing yards despite being sacked a season-high five times. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native spread the ball to just four receivers with redshirt senior Jordan Mathis catching a team-high five passes for 70 yards while redshirt sophomore Daquan Patten caught three balls for 80 yards. Junior transfer Nate Mullen finished with three catches for 34 yards and Spencer caught one pass for no gain.
Trailing 31-24, the Catamounts were seemingly clawing back into the game when Adams found a streaking Patten down the left sideline for a 48-yard pitch-and-catch that at worst would have set WCU up inside the 5-yard line if not scored. However, Bulldog DB Ronald Peterkin recovered on the play, tracking Patten down and punching the football loose. The Citadel recovered, thwarting a would-be scoring drive for the WCU offense.
With the game still hanging in the balance, The Citadel used a 59-yard end-around rush by WR Raleigh Webb on a third-and-six play that pushed the game out of reach in providing the final tally, 38-24.
On the ensuing possession, the Catamounts again marched into the red-zone – an area in which they had scored touchdowns 61-percent of the time entering Saturday’s game – with a first down at the 12-yard line after a pass interference call. However, four plays later at the 4-yard line, Adams’ was pressured and his pass out of the grasp of a Bulldog defender fell just out of reach of Mathis.
Senior LB Mitchell Chancey continued his run of double-digit tackle performances, credited with a career-high 19 stops in Saturday’s loss. Sophomore DL Ricky Palao was involved in 11 total hits as was his classmate LB Ty Harris. Murphy finished with nine tackles and the 48-yard fumble return for a score with Jacquez Williams tallying six tackles and a fumble recovery. From his defensive back position, John Brannon III was credited with a pair of tackles for loss and a forced fumble on Saturday.
Defensive lineman Bradley Carter tallied a pair of sacks and blocked a punt for The Citadel while five total Bulldogs – Peterkin, Aron Spann III, Russell Hubbs, and Willie Eubanks III – each tallied five tackles apiece. Eubanks recorded two takeaways with a fumble recovery and an interception.
Western Carolina (3-6, 1-6 SoCon) wraps up the home portion of its regular season schedule next Saturday, Nov. 10 as it hosts the nationally-ranked Wofford Terriers (6-3, 5-2 SoCon) at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.