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Catamount Football Drops Season Opener at Middle Tennessee, 45-24

Sophomore quarterback Troy Mitchell (10) threw for 161 yards and two touchdowns against Middle Tennessee on Thursday night. (Photo by Mark Haskett)

Aug 30, 2013

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Murfreesboro, Tenn. - After spotting Middle Tennessee a 28-point first half lead, the Western Carolina Catamount football team closed its first, first half of the 2013 season with a scoring frenzy as sophomore quarterback Troy Mitchell tossed a pair of touchdown passes just 11 seconds apart for a 15-point swing and a 31-18 halftime margin.

However, the early deficit was too much to overcome as the Blue Raiders leaned on the youthful Catamounts on a hot and humid night in the second half to pull out the 45-24 victory at Floyd Stadium in the season-opener for both squads. MTSU's William Pratcher rushed for two touchdowns and a combined 71 yards as the Blue Raiders won their first game as a member of Conference USA.

Mitchell finished 7-for-15 with scoring strikes to junior Karnorris Benson and freshman Terryon Robinson and an interception, accounting for 161 of WCU's 257 passing yards with 38 yards gained on the ground. Redshirt junior Eddie Sullivan, who earned the starting nod and finished the game after Mitchell was sidelined in the fourth quarter, threw for 96 yards on 12-of-21 passing, also tossing a pick and was sacked three times.

Mitchell did not return for precautionary purposes with concussion-like symptoms, according to the WCU Sports Medicine staff. He only complained of a slight headache after the game and will be re-evaluated by the medical staff throughout the weekend.

Benson and Robinson both finished with four catches apiece in Thursday night's loss with Benson collecting his first career, 100-yard receiving game with 113 yards including a long of 56. Redshirt junior Jeff Moore tripled his career output in one game, leading all receivers with a career-best six catches for 49 yards.

Jordan Parker ran for a 65-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, sparking the Blue Raiders to the 28 unanswered points before WCU's Richard Sigmon kicked a 21-yard field goal for Western Carolina in the second quarter. Parker finished with 156 yards on 22 carries, and quarterback Logan Kilgore was 12-for-18 and threw one touchdown.

Trailing 31-3, Mitchell threw two touchdown passes within 11 seconds for the Catamounts, first connecting with Benson on a 39-yard touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, senior Ben Watkins jarred the football loose on the return with Sigmon pouncing on the football. Mitchell found Robinson from 35 yards out on the very next play, making it 31-18 at the half.

In addition to his 78 yards receiving, Robinson added a seven-yard punt return to record 85 all-purpose yards on Thursday in his Purple & Gold debut.

The two squads traded punts before the Blue Raiders used their size to chew up 73 yards in 13 plays - seven of which coming on the ground - to pull ahead by 20 points, 38-18, on a 10-yard touchdown scamper by back-up quarterback, Austin Grammer.

Pratcher slipped up the middle for a second score from 38 yards out before the Catamounts concluded scoring with a one-yard Shaun Warren touchdown rush. Warren's seventh career rushing score capped a 14-play, 77-yard drive orchestrated by Sullivan.

Warren finished with a team-high 55 yards rushing while freshman Garry Lewis posted positive yardage on all five carries for 25 yards on the ground.

Preseason All-Southern Conference defensive back, Ace Clark, led all players with a game-high 11 tackles for the Catamounts. The redshirt junior added a fumble recovery early in the second quarter that set up WCU's first score of the day on a 21-yard Sigmon field goal. Senior Courtland Carson finished with nine tackles including one of WCU's three sacks on the day. Sophomore defensive lineman John McBeth, who tallied a career-high seven stops, added a sack while true freshman Fred Mooring posted the third sack as a part of a two-tackle day.

Western Carolina (0-1) returns to action next Saturday, Sept. 7, as it travels to Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., to face its second-straight, NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) squad, Virginia Tech. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 pm.