Sept. 12, 2010
Cullowhee, N.C. - Back-up quarterback Zac Brindise tossed a career-best four touchdown passes to four different receivers on Saturday night, but Western Carolina could neither find offensive consistency nor answer Tusculm's passing attack in dropping its home-opener. Pioneer quarterback Bo Cordell threw for 410 yards and four scores, adding a one-yard sneak for a rushing TD to lead Tusculum to the 54-30 win over the Catamounts at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
The Pioneers, which entered the game ranked 25th in this week's D2Football.com poll and were receiving votes in the AFCA/Division II ledger, raced out to a 27-0 lead and also rattled off 24-straight points in the second half.
"Hats off to Tusculum, they did a great job," said Western Carolina head coach Dennis Wagner during post-game comments. "We got outplayed and outcoached. It's an embarrassing loss, the worst of my career.
"We have to keep playing. There is still a lot of football to be played this season. We are going to meet tonight and figure out what we need to do for tomorrow and get started again," Wagner added.
Brindise, who transferred from South Carolina with just one collegiate game under his belt, came on for WCU starter Zack Jaynes midway through the second quarter and orchestrated the Catamounts' first scoring drive inside the two-minute drill just before the half.
Jaynes was just 4-of-10 passing for 92 yards including a long of 30 yards to Deja Alexander.
"We were going to play (Zac) Brindise tonight, but we played him a little earlier than we thought we would," said Wagner of the quarterback change. "He did some good things, scrambling well and keeping some drives alive. He is going to be a good quarterback for us. He just hasn't got a ton of playing time in the last couple of years, but the more he plays the better he will get."
Sophomore WR Jacoby Mitchell led WCU with a career-best 116 yards on a game-high eight catches including his first career touchdown, while redshirt junior WR Josh Cockrell hauled in four passes for a career-high 110 yards and a TD for the Catamounts in the loss. Redshirt freshman Deja Alexander made five receptions for 86 yards including a score with tight end Chris Everett catching Brindise's final scoring strike and two, two-point conversions for 10 points.
After the two teams traded punts on the first three possessions, Western Carolina appeared poised to put the first points on the new video scoreboard at Whitmire Stadium. Taking over at the Tusculum 34-yard line after a 16-yard punt return by Alexander, Jaynes connected with Mitchell for a 23-yard pass and a two-yard rush by Dion Wilson put the Catamounts at the Pioneer 11 yard line. However, a fumbled center-to-quarterback exchange was scooped up by defensive back Justin Arrington and returned 90 yards to pay-dirt and the 7-0 lead.
All told, WCU failed to produce points on its first eight offensive possessions including six punts, a missed field goal attempt and the first of two fumble recoveries for touchdowns by the Pioneers. Meanwhile, Tusculum got on track after punting on its first four possessions with three-straight offensive touchdowns including a 92-yard scoring drive to take a 27-0 lead just before the half.
Western Carolina (0-2) used two touchdown passes by Brindise, who threw for 304 yards on 23-of-39 passing, to get to 27-14 with 11:18 left in the third quarter. However, on the ensuing possession, Cordell answered with a 39-yard TD to Calvin Britt - his second TD reception of the day - and Jason Muehling scored on a 60-yard fumble return to push the lead to 30 (44-14). The Pioneers were led by Deonte Gist with six catches for 141 yards.
Cordell's 73-yard touchdown pass to Xzanvion Smith made it 51-14 with 9:50 left in the game.
WCU was able to tack on a pair of touchdowns through the air to Mitchell and Everett, with Tusculum adding a 21-yard field goal by Gareth Rowlands to provide the final tally, 54-30.
Defensively, redshirt freshman Randy Pressley led the team with nine tackles including five solo stops and 1.5 sacks, the first of his career since converting to defense prior to this season. Both Angelo Brown and Rock Williams recorded eight tackles apiece while Brown's secondary classmate Mitchell Bell finished with seven total hits.
Lineman Trey Selby recorded a game-high three tackles for loss, matching his career total from his first two seasons.
Saturday's game endured a 16-minute weather delay for lightning before officials at WCU made the decision based upon the projected forecast to end the contest with 2:39 still showing on the game clock.
Western Carolina hits the road to face Gardner-Webb next Saturday in Boiling Springs. The Runnin' Bulldogs are coming off an overtime win over Akron on Saturday and have won the last two meetings with the Catamounts including a 27-20 victory a year ago in Cullowhee and an overtime triumph, 26-20, in the last head-to-head meeting at Spangler Stadium.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 pm, and the game will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network with a 4:30 pm air time.