Sept. 25, 2004
Boiling Springs, N.C. -
Nick Roberts hit Dan Swartz with a 20-yard touchdown pass on third down in overtime to lift Gardner-Webb to a 26-20 win over Western Carolina Saturday night in front of an electric crowd at Spangler Stadium.
Roberts was pressured heavily by the Western Carolina (2-2) pass rush on the play, but stepped out of harm's way and fired a strike to the back right corner of the end zone to put the `Dogs in front. The extra point was missed, leaving the door open for the Catamounts, but senior cornerback Allen Davis stepped in front of a Justin Clark pass at the goal line and picked it off - setting off a celebration for the 6,311 fans in attendance.
Gardner-Webb (2-2) needed a tough drive to pull even in the fourth quarter, after a pair of Tim Mayse field goals pushed Western Carolina's lead to 20-13 with 10:24 left in the game. The second of Mayse's field goals, a 38-yarder, was set up by a Primus Glover interception in the Catamounts' end zone. GWU had drive to the Cats' 18-yard line, but Glover took the ball away from a Bulldog receiver in the end zone and raced 63 yards to the GWU 37-yard line.
Gardner-Webb's defense continued to produce pressure, however, getting a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry from Bryan Thornburg to force the field goal attempt.
The two teams traded punts before GWU's game-tying drive, which started at the Bulldogs' 28. A 24-yard pass from Roberts to Vonzell Pittman got things going on first down and a 39-yard connection from Roberts to Aaron Richardson gave GWU first and goal to go at the Western five-yard line. Roberts kept on a bootleg on first down to cut the Cats' lead to 20-19, and Hunter Smith's extra point was just over the cross bar to tie the game, 20-20, with 5:57 to play.
GWU's defense held steady, forcing another Western Carolina punt that traveled 43 yards into Bulldog territory. Davis, a transfer from East Tennessee State, sidestepped a pair of Western tacklers and returned the punt to the Catamounts' 43. Gardner-Webb drove to the Cats' 28-yard line before stalling, and Smith's 49-yard field goal attempt was just wide right and low to leave the score tied with 2:05 to play.
Western Carolina wouldn't move the ball much on its final drive of regulation and, after a 35-yard punt, Gardner-Webb ran out the clock.
The Catamounts looked to be in control of the game early, sprinting to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, going 65 yards on 14 plays to open the game. Lamont Reid converted a fourth-and-goal from the GWU two with a bruising run for a 7-0 lead, then Francis Brown took a Graham Whitlock punt and bolted 83 yards untouched for a 14-0 lead with 5:08 to play in the quarter.
Gardner-Webb used some trickery to get on the board, as running back Jermaine Boston found Richardson open on a 30-yard halfback option pass to trim the Western Carolina lead to 14-7 with 1:49 to play in the first. Mayse missed a 48-yard field goal just before the end of the quarter, and GWU would use a Catamounts' fumble to set up a Smith field goal of 29 yards to cut the lead to 14-10 with 10:23 to play before the half.
The Bulldogs went 67 yards just before the end of the half to cut the lead to one, as Smith connected on a 24-yard trifecta to leave Western in front, 14-13 with 27 seconds in the second quarter.
The two Western Carolina field goals and Roberts' five yard run would account for all of the scoring in the second half.
Roberts finished the night with 294 total yards, completing 21-of-41 passes for 259 yards and a score, and rushing 11 times for 35 yards and another touchdown to pace the offense - which racked up an effective 367 total yards. Boston rushed 15 times for 31 yards, completed a 30-yard pass and caught three passes for 15 yards to finish with 76 all purpose yards, while Kory Alston caught six passes for 94 yards - and Richardson hauled in five passes for 84 yards and a score.
Senior Ralphell Goodson gave GWU solid field position, returning four kickoffs for a total of 120 yards (30 yards per return).
Gardner-Webb's defense, which had given up over 500 yards to No. 2 Furman last week, was strong Saturday night, holding an explosive Western Carolina offense to a season-low 181 yards (95 yards rushing). Mario Williams led the way again with 14 total tackles (nine solo) and two pass break ups, but the play of true freshman linebacker Brian Johnston (6-5, 243, San Diego, Calif.) and Thornburg carried the night - as GWU pressured the Western Carolina quarterbacks nine times and had three sacks.
Johnston, making only his third start, had 10 total tackles, three tackles for loss (-12), two sacks (-11) and two quarterback pressures for the `Dogs. Thornburg pitched in with six stops, two tackles for loss and a career-high four quarterback pressures. Tavoris Horton (eight tackles), Harold Wells (seven tackles, two TFL, forced and recovered fumble, 1 sack) and Donnie Thurman (six hits) also helped key an inspired defensive surge. Davis, one of the nation's best cover men early in 2004, had four tackles (three solo) three pass break ups and the game-saving interception in overtime.
Western Carolina was led by running back Nicholas Wishart, who carried 20 times for 73 yards on the night. South Carolina transfer Bennett Swygert was harassed into a 7-for-20 passing performance for 34 yards and an interception - before Gastonia, N.C., native Clark came on in relief.
Mayse was the most valuable Catamount for much of the evening, punting six times for an average of 42.8 yards (long of 51) and booting a pair of field goals. Jada Sullivan paced the Catamounts' defense with 11 tackles (seven solo), two tackles for loss and a pressure.
Western Carolina will stay on the road to face second-ranked Furman next week (Oct. 2) at 2:00 pm.
NOTES: Saturday's official attendance of 6,311 is the largest crowd to see a football game in Ernest W. Spangler Stadium history. Western Carolina is 1-3 all-time in overtime games.