Cullowhee, N.C. - Redshirt freshman QB Tyrie Adams guided the Catamounts to 690 yards of total offense including career-highs of 427 yards through the air and 83 yards on the ground as Western Carolina pulled away from visiting Gardner-Webb for a 44-14 victory on "White Out" night at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Leading at halftime, 17-14, following a Logan Howard 38-yard field goal, Western Carolina outscored Gardner-Webb 31-0 in the second half to pull away and cruise to the home-opening victory. WCU has won seven-straight home games dating back to the 2014 season.
"Number one, I'm awful proud. You're happy when you get a victory. It's an awesome thing. You work so hard year-round and anytime we get a win around here we're going to celebrate; we're never going to lose that feeling of celebrating a win," said fifth-year head coach Mark Speir during postgame interviews.
Speir added, "I thought our defense played outstanding. After the first two drives, they got settled in with what they were doing. The defense holds them out [of the end zone], pitches a shutout in the second half. And that's what we've got to do to win ball games."
Adams spread the ball around to six different receivers with four finding the end zone as he threw five TD passes -- two to redshirt senior WR Spearman Robinson who led the team with a career-best 13 receptions for a game-high 157 yards. Terryon Robinson hauled in nine catches for 80 yards and a score -- the first scoring strike of Adams' career -- while redshirt sophomore Jordan Mathis caught six passes for a career-high 117 receiving yards.
The Catamounts were equally as efficient on the ground in the win with junior tailback Detrez Newsome quietly leading the way with 148 rushing yards, his seventh career 100-yard rushing performance. The third-year back out of Raeford, N.C., put WCU on the board with an impressive 52-yard romp just two minutes into the game. Newsome bounced like a pin-ball along the left side of the offensive line before finding clear running space on the outside, racing in for his 20th career rushing touchdown to move into a tie for 10th in program history.
When Adams wasn't tossing the ball around the gridiron on a career night, he was equally as impressive with his legs. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native rushed for a career-best 83 yards.
All told, the Catamounts ran 86 total plays and held a 690-to-357 yard edge in total offense.
Clinging to the three-point halftime lead late in the third quarter, Adams orchestrated a 14-play, 95-yard drive that was capped with a 17-yard pass to Spearman Robinson that handed momentum back to the home squad. Four and a half minutes later, Adams found tight end Michael Helms Jr., for a two-yard strike on the final play of the third quarter that left the Catamounts ahead, 30-14.
In the final frame, Newsome and Robinson reeled in scoring strikes of 10 and 15 yards, respectively, to add an exclamation point to the Catamount victory.
Senior Fred Payne secured a career-high tying 15 tackles to lead the way defensively for the Catamounts, while redshirt sophomore LB A.J. Newman also tied his career-best with nine stops, adding a forced fumble. Redshirt freshman DE Jay Gibbs tallied WCU's first sack of the season late in the fourth quarter.
For Gardner-Webb (1-1), dual-threat quarterback Tyrell Maxwell rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown while completing 11-of-25 passes for 86 yards, while tailback Khalil Lewis rushed for 121 yards and a second quarter score that knotted the game at 14.
Western Carolina (1-1) hits the road next weekend for the biggest game in program history -- at least in the biggest venue. WCU travels to the "Last Great Colosseum" -- the "World's Fastest Half Mile," Bristol Motor Speedway to face returning Southern Conference member, East Tennessee State. The two mountain schools will meet at the site of college football's biggest game where the all-time college football attendance record was broken Saturday night at 156,990.
Kickoff from Bristol Motor Speedway is scheduled for 1:30 pm.