BRISTOL, Tenn. - Junior tailback Detrez Newsome scored a career-best four touchdowns on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn't enough as Western Carolina dropped its 2016 Southern Conference football opener, 34-31, to East Tennessee State in front of an ETSU single-game record crowd of 13,863 at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Newsome tallied two TDs on the ground to accompany a pair of receiving scores in the loss. The Raeford, N.C., native moved into a tie for ninth-place in school history with his 22nd career rushing score, matching David Mayfield (22, 1984-86). Newsome finished with a combined 172 all-purpose yards including 32 yards rushing, 86 receiving yards on four catches, and 54 yards on kickoff returns.
WCU (1-2, 0-1 SoCon) built a 21-3 first half lead over the Bucs until a turnover inside the final two minutes of the second quarter swung the game's momentum. ETSU (2-0, 1-0 SoCon) capitalized on the takeaway, scoring with four seconds remaining before halftime to start the comeback. The Bucs scored on all four of their second half possessions including three drives of double-digit plays
All told, ETSU scored 24-straight points to erase WCU's 21-3 advantage and take a 27-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. And, in one of the game's deciding factors, ETSU monopolized possession in the third quarter, holding onto the football for 12:13 of the 15 minute frame.
Down by 10 inside the game's final two minutes, Newsome tallied his fourth TD of the game to give the Catamounts a glimmer of hope. Slipping out of the backfield, Newsome made a reception and weaved his way through the defensive-back laden ETSU secondary as he raced into the end zone from 45 yards out to pull WCU to within three. However, on the ensuing onside kick, WCU was unable to get fortuitous bounce as ETSU receiver Dalton Ponchillia collapsed on the football to ultimately end the game.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyrie Adams was again solid for the Catamounts, completing 26-of-39 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native added a team-best 37 rushing yards as the Catamounts were limited to just 100 combined yards on the ground.
Junior Terryon Robinson caught a game-high eight passes, just missing the 100-yard plateau with 96 receiving yards. Redshirt sophomore WR Jordan Mathis had six catches for 58 yards before leaving the game with a leg injury.
Defensively for the Catamounts, senior Trey Morgan led the way with nine tackles and a pair of pass break-ups, while classmate Fred Payne finished with eight stops. A.J. Newman was credited with seven stops including a sack and forced a fumble that was recovered by Kendall White. Defensive end Avery Worsham finished with two of WCU's seven tackles for loss, posting six stops on the day.
Quarterback Austin Herink completed 24-of-37 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns to lead the ETSU comeback, adding 30 rushing yards. Herink spread the ball around to 10 different receivers, led by Vincent Lowe with five catches for 31 yards and a score. Receivers Keith Coffee and Matt Thompson also hauled in scoring strikes for the Bucs, who were playing their first SoCon game since 2003. Tailback Jajuan Stinson rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown while J.J. Jerman booted a pair of field goals in the winning effort.
Western Carolina enters its bye week before returning to the friendly confines of E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field in Cullowhee for its first of back-to-back home dates Oct. 1 and Oct. 8. The Catamounts host the option attack of The Citadel on Oct. 1 for Family Weekend before hosting Wofford on Oct. 8 with a special postgame fireworks display presented by Ingles and iHeartRadio partners, 99.9 Kiss Country and Star 104.3.