Sept. 11, 2004
Cullowhee, N.C. -
Western Carolina sophomore running back Nicholas Wishart rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns as the Catamounts (2-0) defeated No. 28 Nicholls State (1-1) 28-7 Saturday afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field. It marks the first time since 1996 the Catamounts have started 2-0 and just the fifth time since 1970.
Western Carolina used an impressive first half to jump out to a 21-0 lead, putting up 213 yards of total offense, holding Nicholls State to just two first downs and allowing the Colonels just 45 yard of total offense.
Late in the first quarter, Wishart broke a 30-yard run off the left side of the line to give the Catamounts a 7-0 lead. The Toronto, Ontario, native had all 44 yards in Western's scoring drive with rushes of six yards, eight yards and the 30-yard TD. After forcing the Colonels to punt on the ensuing possession, sophomore Bennett Swygert found an open Xavier Godard for a 55-yard touchdown pass, putting the Cats up 14-0.
The teams traded punts on the next four possessions. With just over five minutes left in the half, Nicholls State gained their first down of the game on an eight-yard Yale Vannoy pass to Marcus Richardson. However, two plays later, WCU corner back Francis Brown picked off Vannoy, giving Western the ball on the Colonel 33 yard line. After a 15-yard Lamont Reid run and an 11-yard Godard run, Wishart registered the second of his three TDs, running untouched off left tackle for a seven-yard score and giving Western its 21-0 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the Colonels offense started to click. On their second possession of the quarter, Colt Colletti started the drive with an 18-yard run. Nicholls State would work the ball down the Catamount nine yard line, having first and goal. After a gain of four, a gain of two and a rush with no gain, the Colonels elected to go for it on fourth and goal from the WCU three. Catamount senior Darvin Coffin forced Vannoy to pitch to David Plaisance on the option and WCU senior safety O.J. Owens was there waiting to make the tackle at the two yard line to keep the score at 21-0.
The Cats, backed up deep in their own territory, were unable to move the ball much and, after an eight-yard Plaisance punt return, the Colonels had the ball on the WCU 41. After a short gain, Richardson took the ball on a reverse and ran untouched for a 36-yard touchdown. Jay Jones added the point after to make the score 21-7.
Western's defense came up with another big play as the fourth quarter began, facing fourth and six on the Catamount 22, Nicholls State came on to attempt a field goal. A bad snap forced the holder, James Wilcox, to attempt to make a play. Wilcox would fumble and Western's Andre Brown came up with the recovery. Western then worked to ball down to the Colonel 12. However, Tim Mayse, who was 4-of-4 on extra points and averaged 39.3 yards on seven punts, missed a field goal.
On the next play, WCU sophomore corner back Mitchell Dukes forced a Vannoy fumble, which Conklin recovered. With 6:58 left in the game, Wishart had two carries in the Cats' 20-yard scoring drive to provide the final 28-7 margin. Nicholls State punted on their ensuing possession and the Cats ran out the final 4:52 on the clock for the win.
Offensively for Western, Wishart led the way with 23 rushes for 92 yards. Swygert was 12-of-24 passing for 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Michael Reeder led WCU with four receptions for 64 yards, while Godard had 89 receiving yards on three catches. Defensively for the Cats, Shelton Gaffney had eight tackles, while Lamar Barnes added seven.
Nicholls State, who was held to its lowest rushing total in at least two seasons with just 134 yards, was led by Broderick Cole's 55 yards on 16 attempts. Vannoy was completed all four of his 11 passed for 62 yards to Richardson. Defensively, David Willis led the way with eight stops and an interception. Cory Vavala added eight tackles as well.
Western Carolina returns to action next Saturday (Sept. 18), playing Southeastern Conference member Alabama. Kickoff in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is set for 6 pm (CT).