Cullowhee, N.C. – Quarterback Tyrie Adams accounted for 396 yards of total offense and his eighth-rushing score of the season, but a late interception again thwarted an upset bid by Western Carolina against No. 14/15 Wofford. The Terriers rallied from a 20-7 first half deficit, limiting the high-octane Catamounts to fourth-quarter field goal in keeping their conference title and postseason hopes alive with a 38-23 victory to spoil WCU’s Senior Day at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Trailing by eight, 31-23, with under three minutes to play in regulation, Adams marched the Catamount offense 71 yards out of his own end zone in search of the equalizing score. However, miscommunication with a wide receiver on an scramble play resulted in Wofford’s George Gbesee jumping an errant throw, returning the pick 66 yards to set-up Andre Stoddard’s second – and game-sealing – rushing touchdown.
For Gbesee, it was the second-straight year he closed a game against WCU with an interception, sliding under an Adams pass in the end zone in overtime a season ago to end the most recent meeting in Spartanburg, S.C.
Adams rushed for 167 yard – just the second, 100-yard rusher surrendered by the stingy Terrier defense, amassing the most yards from scrimmage on the ground of any player this season. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native threw for 229 yards, but was held out of the end zone through the air for a second-consecutive week since becoming WCU’s all-time passing TD leader with 53. Redshirt senior WR Jordan Mathis hauled in seven passes for 115 yards to lead the Catamounts, while Nate Mullen caught four for 41 yards.
Tailback Connell Young returned to the lineup on Saturday, spinning in for his second rushing score of the season on a four-yard plunge early in the second quarter as a part of 20-straight WCU points.
WCU’s offense tallied 414 total yards on Saturday, the second-most surrendered by Wofford this season – but were forced to settle for a trio of Will Horton field goals, establishing a single-game high for the second-year placekicker. Horton connected from 43, 36, and 21 yards on the day, two kicks coming at the end of grueling 11-play drives by the Catamounts.
Horton’s 36-yard field goal with just inside of four minutes in the first half gave WCU a commanding, 20-7, lead. However, the Terriers flipped the script with an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 32-yard touchdown pass from QB Joe Newman to Jason Hill to trim the margin back to six, 20-14, at intermission and seemingly grabbing momentum headed into the locker room.
Wofford took its first lead since early in the first quarter on the first of two Newman TD scampers, scoring on the option keeper from 38 and 4 yards out, respectively, to grab a 28-20 lead headed into the fourth quarter. But the Catamounts still had a chance in the final frame as Adams set-up the offense first-and-goal at the four after his game-long 32-yard run. But, WCU was held to just three points as Horton banged through the chip-shot field goal making it 28-23.
The Terriers got a 3-pointer of their own on the ensuing possession as Luke Carter capped a seven-play drive for the Terriers, splitting the uprights form 42 yards out to again provide the eight-point margin.
Midway through the fourth quarter, nursing the one-score advantage, the Terriers looked to be on their way expiring the clock by moving off their own 25-yard line into Catamount territory in 10 plays. However, a costly holding call on the heels of an eight-yard tackle for loss by Spartanburg native Michael Murphy forced Wofford to punt. Carter’s boot took a fortuitous bounce at the goal line for the visitors, pinning the Catamounts at their own three-yard line where Adams started his final push that ended with the Gbesee interception. On the final drive, Adams accounted for 43 of the 71 yards on the ground.
Gbesee was among three Terriers with six tackles apiece, while Jireh Wilson forced the only other turnover in deflecting a pitch attempt by Adams that set-up Wofford’s first score on the short field in the first quarter.
Murphy paced the Catamount defense with a game-high 12 tackles including two for loss, adding a forced fumble, while senior Mitchell Chancey kept his double-digit tackle streak intact with 11 stops, one for loss. Classmate Marvin Tillman finished with nine tackles while Jarquavius Wortham was credited with a forced fumble and Bruce Squires got a hand on a punt attempt in the fourth quarter for the Catamounts.
WCU held the triple option ground attack of the Terriers nearly 80 yards shy of their seasonal average at 259 yards rushing, off the average of 338.4 per game.
Western Carolina (3-7, 1-7 SoCon) closes its season next Saturday, Nov. 17 as it returns to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face the flagship school of the UNC system, the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-8, 1-6 ACC). Kickoff from Kenan Stadium is set for 3:00 pm in a game that will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra, a platform similar to ESPN3 and available through the WatchESPN app.