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Grounded Eighth-Ranked Eagles Rush Past Western Carolina, 45-13

Shaun Warren (22) scored his first rushing touchdown of the season, one of two ground scores for WCU in Saturday's Homecoming loss to No. 8 Georgia Southern. (Photos courtesy of WCU Public Relations)

Oct. 6, 2012

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Cullowhee, N.C. - Eighth-ranked Georgia Southern and its triple-option ground attack chewed up 664 yards of total offense including a staggering 614 on the ground as the Eagles powered past Western Carolina, 45-13, Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference action at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.

The Eagles had three rushers eclipse the 100-yard mark as Darreion Robinson accounted for 124 yards, Dominique Swope had 117 and William Banks rushed for 101 yards, each scoring a touchdown on the ground. GSU added two passing TDs in handing the Catamounts their 18th-straight defeat in the overall head-to-head series. The 614 rushing yards by GSU were the most ever by an opponent at Whitmire Stadium as 10 different backs recorded at least one rush.

"We played a very good football team in Georgia Southern. All the turnover troubles they had been having, they didn't have one today," opened WCU first-year head coach Mark Speir during his post-game comments with the media. "I thought there were some positive things (for us) for three quarters, the guys played hard. I was very disappointed by the way we were played in the fourth quarter."

He added, "Defensively, we got wore down; guys started doing things to just try and make plays and that made it worse. Our guys have to learn to fight for four quarters. We aren't going to be a good football team until we learn to finish fourth quarters."

Western Carolina (1-5, 0-4 SoCon) got rushing touchdowns from true freshman Troy Mitchell and sophomore tailback Shaun Warren in the losing effort. However, the WCU offense was held to its lowest combined total output since 2010, mustering just a season-low 207 combined yards including 95 through the air and 112 on the ground.

Mitchell and redshirt sophomore starting quarterback Eddie Sullivan were just 8-of-17 passing combined, both with four completions apiece. Seeing time at both quarterback and a third running back, Mitchell had 13 rushes for a team-high 41 yards, also catching a pass in addition to his completions.

Five different receivers caught passes led by sophomore Karnorris Benson with three receptions for 66 yards including a long of 42 yards.

Georgia Southern (4-1, 3-1 SoCon) jumped out to a 14-point lead on first quarter scores by Robinson from 45 yards out and Swope on a five-yard rush. But the Catamounts found their groove offensively near the end of the opening 15-minute segment.

Mitchell and Sullivan shuttled in-and-out at the quarterback position as the squad marched 65 yards in nine plays, spearheaded by a trio of 12-yard receptions by Benson, Spearman Robinson and Jeff Moore, which was his first career catch. Mitchell then found pay dirt on an 11-yard weaving rush to put WCU on the board.

GSU lit the scoreboard for 10 points in the second quarter including catching the Catamount defense inching in to help stop the run as Jerick McKinnon found Kentrellis Showers on a 20-yard pass completion on their first attempt of the day for six points. The Eagles would add a 25-yard Alex Hanks field goal inside the final minute of the opening half to carry a 24-6 lead into intermission.

Despite Georgia Southern's defense holding the ball for nearly 11 minutes of the third quarter, WCU's defense did not allow an Eagle score until the 2:16 mark. Again GSU went to the air as McKinnon found Tray Butler on a go-route up the near sideline for a 30-yard score to stretch the margin to 31-6 through three quarters.

All told, GSU held onto the football for 40:28 of the 60-minute game, converting on 11-of-15 third down situations.

WCU managed to put together a five-play drive, capped by Warren's nine-yard rushing touchdown to pull back within 18 points, 31-13, midway through the fourth quarter. However, the Eagles' relentless ground game continued to press as GSU tacked on two late rushing scores from Banks from 13 yards out and a 43 yard run by James Dean to provide the final tally.

Defensively for the Catamounts, four players recorded double-digit tackles including three for career highs. Redshirt junior linebacker Randy Pressley had a career-best 16 stops to lead WCU, while Nathaniel Sedergren also a career-high with 15 tackles including five solo stops. Courtland Carson was one shy of matching his career-best performance, credited with 13 tackles including a team-best six solo hits, while De'Von Richardson tallied 12 tackles, his best performance for the purple & gold. Lineman Pete Balthrop, Jr., had a career-best nine tackles and also blocked an Eagle field goal attempt while linemate Brian Johnson had a career-high eight stops.

Combined, WCU had eight defenders set or meet their career highs for tackles on Saturday.

Western Carolina hits the road for its first of back-to-back road games in league play as it returns to the site of its last conference victory, Charleston, S.C. The Catamounts battle The Citadel Bulldogs (3-3, 2-2 SoCon) which has lost three-straight games since opening the year, 3-0, and entering the national rankings. Kickoff from Johnson Hagood Stadium is scheduled for 2:00 pm.