Cullowhee, N.C. – Amidst one of the hottest days of the 2019 preseason camp, Western Carolina held its first preseason scrimmage on Saturday afternoon, working out for just over two hours while amassing over 100 plays on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
“I thought that both sides had their moments today. We’ve just got to go watch the film and correct some things,” said WCU head coach Mark Speir during the preseason Facebook LIVE special held following Saturday’s scrimmage. “I thought at times, we really ran the football well. I felt that Tyrie (Adams) threw the ball well. And over on the defense, there were some licks laid. Some of the big plays, the big runs came from one guy being out of his gap or missing an assignment, but I don’t remember many missed tackles.”
All told, Western Carolina’s offense found the end zone seven times on Saturday with three rushing and four passing TDs. The Catamounts had four scoring drives of three-or-fewer plays. The defensive unit was credited with 20 total stops with roughly 10, 3-and-out situations, coming up with one takeaway on a Reggie Jones interception and scoring a safety on a tackle for loss by Devlin Olawumi early in the proceedings in a scenario where the offense was backed-up against its own goal line.
Unofficially, linebacker Ty Harris was credited with a team-high eight tackles including a pair of sacks with Darrius Smith tallying seven tackles with two for loss including a sack. Defensive lineman Ricky Palao posted six tackles, as did seniors JerMichael White and Jarquavius Wortham, the latter recording three sacks on quarterbacks in protected jerseys.
Redshirt senior Tyrie Adams and redshirt sophomore Will Jones saw the most action as four quarterbacks split the reps in the preseason’s first scrimmage. Adams paced the four signal-callers, finishing 16-of-24 for 262 yards and each of the four aerial touchdowns. Jones was 4-for-11 for 29 yards through the air, while redshirt freshman Bubba Williamson and true freshman counterpart Malik Richardson combined for a 1-for-4 showing in the passing game.
Seven different players recorded receptions on Saturday with returning starters WR Nate Mullen and TE Owen Cosenke pacing the team with five catches apiece. Cosenke scored two receiving touchdowns – both of 25-yard or more – finishing with 110 total receiving yards. Including a 40-yard catch late in the scrimmage, Mullen finished with 60 yards receiving and a score from four yards out. Also among the highlights was a 55-yard scoring strike from Adams to WR Kenny Benton who finished with two total catches on the day.
Despite expected starting running back Connell Young being held out of Saturday’s scrimmage, the offensive unit looked impressive at times in the run game as the running backs by committee racked-up 205 yards on the ground. Redshirt junior Donnavan Spencer led the group with 91 yards on 10 carries including a 60-yard scoring romp on the first play of a drive, while freshman Syheam McQueen impressed with 55 yards on 12 carries, delivering a punishing 30-yard run before capping the scoring drive with a four-yard TD.
Freshman RB Graham Brinker from Jacksonville, N.C., recorded 47 yards on 13 carries with a nine-yard touchdown. Returners Christian Yarborough and Caleb Ferguson also received multiple touches as the coaching staff rotated players through.
On special teams, three kickers split the reps during the early-practice with both Will Horton and Richard McCollum connecting on their two, 27-yard field goal attempts. Julian Pletz added a 39-yard field goal during the scrimmage. However, WCU did have a PAT attempt blocked by freshman Darrius Bell and Ronald Kent swatted a 43-yard field goal attempt.
Punters Jacob Enns and Brandon Dickerson split reps early in practice with Dickerson averaging right at 40 yards on a couple of kicks and Enns hitting one at 35 yards before being run into on his second attempt.
As the Catamounts reach the mid-point of preseason camp prior to school starting on August 19, Speir stressed consistency – but that he was proud of where his squad has gotten to during fall camp.
“I’ve been proud of our energy level, our effort, and our leadership – we don’t just have one guy; we’ve got a group of guys that have taken on the leadership of this football team. And that’s been positive. Our guys have really stressed the effort and the ‘strain’ at which we play,” said Speir. “Overall, I’m extremely pleased with where our football team is.”
WCU will pause its preseason practice on Sunday to take part in the first-ever “Victory Day” on the field beginning at 2:00 pm. Camp resumes on Monday morning with a practice in shells. All of WCU’s preseason football practices are open to the public. It is respectfully requested, though, that spectators observe from the stadium seating area and avoid being either on the field or the sidelines for safety. Practice times are subject to change.
Both single-game and season tickets for all six home dates in 2019 are on sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center or by phone at (800)34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401. Fans can also purchase season tickets online by visiting CatamountSports.com. Tickets for the home and season-opener against Mercer – the “Purple Out” that includes postgame fireworks presented by Ingles and iHeartMedia partners 99.9 Kiss Country and Star 104.3 FM – are going fast!
2019 Catamount Football Preseason Practice Schedule:
Sun., Aug. 11 – Victory Day – 2:00 – 3:45 pm
Mon., Aug. 12 – Practice #9 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (shells)
Tues., Aug. 13 – Practice #10 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (full pads)
Wed., Aug. 14 – Practice #11 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (shells)
Thurs., Aug. 15 – Practice #12 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (full pads)
Fri., Aug. 16 – No Practice – WCU Freshman Move-In Day
Sat., Aug. 17 – Practice #13 (scrimmage) – 1:00 – 3:00 pm (full pads)
Sun., Aug. 18 – Practice #14 – 1:45 – 3:15 pm (shells)
Mon., Aug. 19 – No Practice – First Day of Classes
* Practice times are subject to change
Keep track of everything related to Catamount football and WCU Athletics through its social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports) and Twitter (@catamounts, @CatamountsFB), as well as video updates on the department's YouTube channel (CatamountSports).
Additional Important Upcoming Dates in Catamount Athletics / Catamount Football:
Fri., Aug. 16 – Western Carolina University Freshman Move-In Day
Mon., Aug. 19 – First day of classes for the fall semester
Fri., Aug. 30 – 15th Annual Bob Waters Memorial Golf Tournament at the Waynesville Inn – Golf Resort & Spa
Sat., Aug. 31 – 2019 Catamount Football season and home-opener vs. Mercer; Purple Out! Postgame fireworks presented by Ingles, and iHeartMedia partners, 99.9 FM Kiss Country and Star 104.3