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Western Carolina Football Falls at Virginia Tech, 45-3

Damian Whitaker (40) fell on the loose football on a muffed punt that set up WCU's score Saturday afternoon at Virginia Tech. (Photo by Mark Haskett)

Sep 7, 2013

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Blacksburg, Va. - Western Carolina dropped its third-straight game to a NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent as Virginia Tech outscored the Catamounts, 24-3, in the second half en route to a 45-3 final Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium / Worsham Field. Virginia Tech's Detrick Bonner returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and Trey Edmunds ran for two scores in the win.

WCU (0-2) ended the 2012 season at fourth-ranked Alabama before opening 2013 with back-to-back road trips to Middle Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

"First off, congratulations to Virginia Tech and Coach (Frank) Beamer. They've got an excellent football team, school, program and fans," WCU head coach Mark Speir started during his post-game press conference. "I'm proud of our guys. I thought we fought hard; I thought we played hard, chasing the ball. But offensively, we just killed ourselves throwing three interceptions."

"We can take some positives away. That's our third-straight FBS school we've played. We're ready to get back in to Southern Conference play. This is an invaluable experience for our younger players just to be able to play against the type of players Virginia Tech has," Speir added.

Western Carolina struggled to find rhythm in the passing game on Saturday as starting quarterback Eddie Sullivan finished just 4-for-14 for 51 yards and three interceptions. He found four different receivers including redshirt freshman tight end Michael Helms Jr., for his first career reception totaling 15 yards. Classmate C.J. Goodman also hauled in a 15-yard pass to match the team high.

WCU rushed for 111 yards in the loss with freshman tailback Garry Lewis - who made his first career start - leading the way with 45 yards and Sullivan adding 41 including a long of 19 yards. Combined, seven Catamounts recorded rushes on Saturday.

Virginia Tech (1-1) cracked the scoreboard first, but the tally came on defense as Bonner returned an interception 37 yards just under 10 minutes into the first quarter for the early, 7-0, advantage. The Hokies added to their lead early in the second quarter as Edmunds capped a 16-play drive with a one-yard plunge to push the home squad ahead by two scores.

The Hokies scored once more before intermission as quarterback Logan Thomas found D.J. Coles for a 19-yard pitch-and-catch for a 21-0 halftime margin. WCU's defense played very tough over the opening 30 minutes with two Catamounts - freshman Trey Morgan and junior Christon Gill - coming up with the first two interceptions of the season - both in the end zone and halted potential Virginia Tech scoring drives.

After the two teams traded punts to start the second half, the Hokies got a big play from running back Chris Mangus who took a toss to the left, avoided pressure in the backfield and broke free for a 76-yard touchdown romp.

WCU scratched the scoreboard midway through the third quarter, capitalizing on a third Hokies turnover. Redshirt freshman Damian Whitaker recovered a muffed punt to set the Catamount offense up with perfect field position. Despite not being able to advance the ball against the Hokies defense and the hostile crowd, junior kicker Richard Sigmon was able to split the uprights from 28-yards out to make it 28-3.

Over the final quarter and a half, Virginia Tech added three more scores including Edmunds' second rushing TD, a 13-yard run by Joel Caleb and a 30-yard field goal by Cody Journell after the WCU defense held on a third and nine from the 13 yard line.

"I will say this, I think you give Western Carolina a lot of credit today. I'm familiar with the Southern Conference - I coached in it. I think they've got some good athletes," Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said."They have some good players that came in here and played hard and played tough. I give them credit and wish them luck in their Southern Confernece play. I think Mark (Speir) is building a good program and he knows what it takes, so I wish him good luck."

Senior Courtland Carson led the short-handed Catamount defense with a season-high 14 tackles, including eight solo stops. The Charlotte, N.C., native tallied 10 of his game-high tackles in the first half. Linebacker Tyson Dickson and defensive backs Jaleel Lorquet and Trevor Taylor all finished with six stops apiece with Lorquet breaking up two passes, nearly coming up with an interception.

WCU played without preseason All-SoCon safety, Ace Clark, and saw sophomore Sertonuse Harris sidelined with an injury midway through the game.

All told, the WCU defense recorded five total stops including the two interceptions.

Western Carolina returns home next weekend for both its home and Southern Conference opener as it welcomes The Citadel Bulldogs to E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm.