Oct. 1, 2011
Cullowhee, N.C. - Redshirt senior wide receiver Josh Cockrell caught two touchdown passes and George Richardson put on a show with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as a part of 183 yards on special teams, but it was not enough to overcome three costly turnovers as Furman upended Western Carolina, 47-21, Saturday night in Southern Conference action at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Furman (3-1, 2-0 SoCon) converted two interceptions and a muffed punt into 21 points while piling up 537 yards of offense including 269 through the air to hand WCU its seventh-consecutive defeat in league play and a sixth-straight loss in the head-to-head series.
Cockrell became the third Catamount receiver to go over the century mark receiving in a game this season, hauling in a career-best eight passes for a career-high 118 yards to lead the team. One week after setting his career-high for kickoff return yards, Richardson again raised the bar with four returns for 183 yards in returns, averaging 45.8 yards per return.
Paladin quarterback Chris Forcier finished 14-of-17 for 237 yards and four passing touchdowns. Receiver Colin Anderson caught two of Forcier's offerings for scores, with Tyler Maples and Tony Caldwell hauling in the other pair of scoring strikes. Anderson finished with 87 yards receiving on five catches while Maples had 105 receiving yards on four catches with the score.
Furman used one play following the first Catamount turnover to take a lead it would never relinquish midway through the first quarter. Mitch McGrath stepped in front of a Pechloff pass to give the Paladins the ball in positive field position and Forcier went up top to Colin Anderson for a 29-yard touchdown, the first of two scores on the night for Anderson.
The Paladins added a pair of second quarter scores including a 42-yard pass from Forcier to Tyler Maples and a nine-yard Jerodis Williams rush to carry a 20-0 lead into the halftime break.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Richardson back-pedaled to his own one-yard line to take the Ray Early kickoff. The speedy redshirt sophomore then found a seam up the middle before breaking towards the left sideline, out-running the defenders to to the end zone to put the Catamounts on the board, 20-7.
It was WCU's first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2007 when Mike Malone accomplished the feat also against Furman in the season-finale.
Furman responded, though, with an 11-play, 67-yard drive that consumed over six minutes of the third quarter clock. Forcier rolled to his right on a third and goal play, firing into the end zone just before the Catamount defenders could get to him for a one-yard strike to Tony Caldwell and a 26-7 advantage.
Trailing 33-7, Pechloff orchestrated a 10-play, 82-yard scoring drive to end the third quarter, finding Cockrell for his first touchdown on a 16-yard pass play. The drive was spurred by two completions to Deja Alexander and was aided by a facemask penalty flagged against Furman.
Pechloff again found Cockrell in the closing seconds of the game on a 14-yard strike in the back of the end zone to provide the final tally. Pechloff struggled early, completing just three of his first 11 passes with two interceptions including one off a pass deflection. He finished the game 17-for-31 which included 8-of-11 in the third quarter alone and a combined 14-of-20 in the second half.
Western Carolina (1-3, 0-2 SoCon) only managed a season-low 26 rushes with senior Nate Harris leading the way with 43 yards on two carries including a 31-yard rush on the first offensive play from scrimmage. Junior Michael Johnson, who got the start in the backfield, carried the ball 10 times for 40 yards with Shaun Warren and Michael Vaughn combining for 19 yards on six carries.
Defensively for the Catamounts, freshman Christon Gill led the way with a career-high 11 tackles with junior Rock Williams recording 10 in the loss. Linebacker Marcus Stokes and defensive lineman Andre Shishkin both finished with a career-best nine stops including a sack by Shishkin.
Western Carolina remains at home next weekend for the second of back-to-back home games as it welcomes Elon (3-2, 1-1 SoCon) to Whitmire Stadium / Waters Field for a 3:00 pm kickoff.