Sept. 24, 2011
Statesboro, Ga. - Western Carolina's junior tailback Michael Johnson rushed for two scores in his first action of the season while redshirt sophomore wide receiver Deja Alexander finished with 143 yards receiving, but it was not enough to upend Georgia Southern as the Catamounts dropped their Southern Conference opener, 52-20, Saturday night at Paulson Stadium.
The top-ranked Eagles racked up 694 yards of total offense including 634 yards on the ground - the most ever allowed by WCU to an opponent in a single-game - en route to handing the Catamounts their 17th-consecutive loss in the head-to-head series, while also keeping WCU winless all-time in Statesboro (0-11).
Western Carolina (1-2, 0-1 SoCon) answered an early Georgia Southern score with a nine-play, 80-yard drive early in the first quarter to knot the game at seven, quieting the near capacity crowd. Johnson, who missed the first two games of the year due to a shoulder injury suffered during preseason practice, stretched the final inches of a three-yard run to find the end zone to put the Catamounts on the board.
WCU managed to limit the Eagles to a 23-yard field goal midway through the first quarter, but failed to capitalize on opportunities to climb on top. The field goal opened a string of 24-straight points for the Eagles that included a 75-yard touchdown run by Jerick McKinnon and was capped in the third quarter by a 14-yard McKinnon scamper for a 31-7 GSU edge.
Johnson would add a two-yard rush for a score midway through the third quarter to close it to within a 31-14 margin, but it was as close as the Catamounts would get. Johnson finished the game with a team-high 53 yards on 16 carries. True freshman Shaun Warren continued his strong start, rushing for 43 yards against the league's top rushing defense and adding his fifth rushing score of the season.
WCU return man George Richardson piled up a game-high 191 all-purpose yards including 165 yards in kickoff returns, recording both a 52 and career-long 60 yard return. Alexander led eight Catamount receivers with a season-high 143 yards on eight catches, one shy of his career-best for receptions and just eight yards short of his career benchmark.
Defensively, junior linebacker Rock Williams finished with a game-high nine tackles including a sack while Ace Clark tallied a career-high eight tackles including six solo stops.
For the Eagles (3-0, 2-0 SoCon), 11 different backs recorded rushing yardage in the winning effort including three over the 100-yard mark. Ezayi Youyoute rushed four times for a game-high 119 yards and a touchdown, while J.J. Wilcox (6-for-115 yards) and McKinnon (10-for-114 yards) both tallied two rushing scores apiece in the victory.
Western Carolina returns home for the first of back-to-back home games next Saturday as it hosts the Furman Paladins at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field in Cullowhee on Family Weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for under the lights at 6:00 pm.