Cullowhee, N.C. - Under picture-perfect but windy conditions Saturday afternoon, the Western Carolina Catamount football team held its annual Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo, on-campus at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Freshman quarterback Tyrie Adams led five scoring drives including tossing three touchdown passes while classmate Kalen Whitlow threw two TD passes of his own as the Catamounts ran around 120 plays in its second intrasquad scrimmage during its 13th practice of the spring season. WCU's defense created a pair of turnovers on the day as Trey Morgan and Marvin Tillman both recorded interceptions in the unscored scrimmage.
"I thought the guys went out and played hard today," said WCU head football coach Mark Speir. "Overall, I thought that both sides of the ball shined at times today. It concerns you when one side of the ball completely dominates the other. But I thought the offense got off to a great start, and on defense, we're still learning. We're young on that side of the ball, don't have a lot of depth due to injuries. So, we are still very much in the teaching and learning phase because of so many new staff members."
He added, "It's fun being a part of the Catamount Nation right now. We had a great crowd today -- for all of the wind that we had. It was a great day for our fans -- we had a ton of former players back and that lets you know that there's a lot of pride in the program and it's great to see them come back.
Four quarterbacks saw time in the backfield with three splitting the bulk of the reps with the first two units. Adams completed 15-of-21 passes for 146 yards and the three TDs, adding 59 rushing yards on eight carries. Whitlow connected on 7-of-13 for 131 yards and a pair of scores with an interception, 12 yards on the ground. Wes Holcombe completed three passes for 20 yards and was picked off once. Freshman Nolan Beasley also saw snaps on Saturday, completing two passes for eight yards.
"It's exciting to watch those three quarterbacks go in there and compete to try and figure out -- come September, going down to East Carolina -- which one of them is going to be playing. They all had their moments; they all showed that they belong as a starting quarterback. And we may not even know until game week," Speir said.
A combined 12 different players recorded receptions on Saturday during the varying scrimmage scenarios. Tight ends Roderick Poag and Michael Helms Jr., were among the leaders, both recording receiving TDs. Poag caught five passes for 106 yards including a long of 64 yards, while Helms caught six passes for 50 yards with a score.
Multipurpose back Steffon Hill caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown, rushing three times on the day. Jordan Mathis caught a pair of passes including one for a touchdown while Spearman Robinson was targeted a couple times before making a one-handed touchdown grab in the goal line period late in the scrimmage.
On the ground, converted tailback Skyler Matheson toted the football a team-high 19 times for 83 yards with James Foushee rushing 14 times for a team-best 86 yards with a score. Corey Holloway rushed five times for 50 yards, averaging 10 yards per carry on the afternoon, while Darius Means also carried the ball seven times for 32 yards.
On defense, linebacker Tyson Dickson was credited with a game-high nine tackles with defensive lineman Zachary Greene and linebacker Mitchell Chancey both posting eight stops apiece. Greene secured three tackles for loss with a pair of sacks. Defensive back Trey Morgan tallied seven stops with a pass break-up and one of two interceptions with Marvin Tillman recording the other pick to accompany his six tackles. Linebacker Daniel Riddle finished with five stops while Coleman Cunningham forced a fumble for the defense.
Defensive end Tahjai Watt and defensive tackle Ezavian Dunn both recorded five stops apiece along the line. Watt was in the offensive backfield numerous times, credited with three sacks while Dunn posted a two as WCU finished with eight combined sacks all together.
Placekicker Logan Howard split the uprights on all six point after touchdown attempts on the afternoon, and connected on a pair of field goals including kicks of 45 -- one-yard shy of his career-best -- and 29 yards. WCU's two punters Destry Barnwell and Ian Berryman both split reps on punts, finishing with approximate 40.5 and 39-yard punt averages
Adams orchestrated the first of his five scoring drives early in the scrimmage moving 75 yards in nine plays, capped by an eight-yard hook-up with Helms. The drive was spurred by a 26-yard completion to Steffon Hill. He later mounted a 65-yard scoring drive in eight plays, finding Jordan Mathis for a 10-yard TD pass. The third scoring drive led by Adams was capped by a seven-play drive with a nine-yard TD rush by James Foushee before Logan Howard scored on a 29-yard field goal for his fourth. The final scoring drive Adams guided culminated in the 10-yard scoring strike to Mathis.
Following back-to-back stops by the defensive unit, Whitlow led an offensive scoring drive, moving 80 yards in 13 plays before finding Roderick Poag wide open after a third down play fake for the touchdown. Whitlow concluded scoring in the goal line scenarios, finding Spearman Robinson on the one-yard score for his lone catch of the scrimmage.
Western Carolina has two additional practice sessions this week -- one on Tuesday and the final on Thursday -- to conclude its annual spring drills. Both practices are scheduled for 4 pm starts and will be conducted in shells. Each WCU spring football practice is 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 sidelines.
Season tickets for all five home dates in 2016 are on-sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office and online at CatamountSports.com. Returning season ticket holders must renew their season tickets by mid-June, 2016. Fans can call the ticket office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401.