Greenville, S.C. – Tyrie Adams tossed a career-high tying five touchdown passes including two apiece to Daquan Patten and Owen Cosenke while accounting for 472 yards of total offense on Saturday afternoon, but Western Carolina was unable to overcome a 21-point halftime deficit, falling to the Furman Paladins, 44-38, in Southern Conference action at Paladin Stadium.
Two fumbles inside the red zone thwarted would-be scoring drives for the Catamounts while the Paladins cashed in a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD and a blocked punt that led to a field goal in special teams in picking up their first victory of the season.
Adams just missed his career-high with 424 passing yards on 25-of-36 passing, adding 48 rushing yards despite missing the closing drive of the first half due to injury. He returned to the field without incident in the second half. Patten led two Catamount receivers with 100+ yard games, catching six passes for a career-high 159 yards with two scores while Jordan Mathis hauled in five passes for 100 yards. Nate Mullen matched his career-best with eight receptions for 61 yards while tight end Cosenke had two receptions including a one-handed grab to cap the opening drive as both of his catches went for scores.
WCU was limited to a season-low 131 rushing yards as Connell Young accounted for 52 yards on the ground while Adams ran for 48 despite being sacked four times. Young added four catches for 36 yards and a score through the air as the Catamounts were held out of the end zone on the ground for the first time this season after entering the game with seven rushing TDs.
After an opening-drive touchdown by the Catamounts that gave WCU what proved to be its only lead of the game, Furman (1-3, 1-1 SoCon) score 21-straight points including Dejuan Bell returning the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown as a part of closing the first half with a 31-10 advantage.
The two teams traded third quarter scores over the opening eight minutes of the second half as Adams found Patten on a 43-yard TD strike to make it 31-17, cashing in a Ty Harris interception after Furman received the second half kickoff. Kenny Benton, a wide receiver playing on special teams, helped continue the second half moment swing as he forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. However, three plays later and again in the red zone, WCU coughed up the football at the 11-yard line on a second fumble and Furman drove 89 yards to reclaim the 21-point cushion, 38-17.
Consecutive scores including the second TD passes to both Patten (49-yards) and Cosenke (9-yards) trimmed the deficit back to seven, 38-31, with just under nine minutes to play. Furman, though, managed a seven-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by a 50-yard scoring rush to keep the game at arm’s length, 44-31.
Inside the game’s final two minutes, WCU managed to light the scoreboard one more time as Young caught a seven-yard TD pass from Adams that provided the final tally. Originally ruled incomplete, replay overturned the call as Young managed to keep his feet inbounds on the near sideline at the pylon for the score.
WCU’s onside kick attempt was smothered by two-sport athlete, Deon Sanders, and the Paladin offense managed to run-out the clock despite the Catamounts’ using their complement of timeouts, gaining a first down on a third-and-four near midfield.
In addition to the special teams score, Furman tallied four rushing touchdowns by four different running backs while quarterback Harris Roberts was efficient in completing 9-of-11 passes with a touchdown and an interception in the win. Devin Wynn rushed for 98 yards for the Paladins, none bigger than a 13-yard option rush to the right side on third down of what proved to be the final possession of the game that allowed Furman to kneel twice to ice the victory. Roberts added 82 yards while Darius Morehead rushed for 74 yards.
Kealand Dirks, who rumbled for 199 bruising yards and a pair of scores in last year’s meeting, was held to just 40 yards on 12 carries with a score.
WCU senior LB Mitchell Chancey led the defense with 10 tackles, reaching double-digits for the fourth-time in four games this season. His classmate Jacquez Williams finished with nine stops including a team-best 1.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore Ty Harris came away with his first career interception, setting up the Catamounts for a third quarter score on Saturday afternoon.
Western Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SoCon) stays on the road next weekend as it travels to Birmingham, Ala., to face the Samford Bulldogs (1-4, 0-2 SoCon). Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 pm ET / 12:30 pm CT at Seibert Stadium.