Oct. 13, 2012
Charleston, S.C. - True freshman quarterback Troy Mitchell and senior tailback Michael Vaughn both rushed for two touchdowns apiece for Western Carolina on Saturday afternoon, but it was not enough as The Citadel's triple-option attack ground out six scores in handing the Catamounts a 45-31 setback in Southern Conference action at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
The loss was WCU's sixth-straight on the season while The Citadel halted a three-game slide.
"Hats off to The Citadel, it was a hard-fought ball game," opened WCU first-year head coach Mark Speir during post-game comments on the Catamount Sports Network. "Down the stretch, in the fourth quarter, they made the plays. We had a bad series there offensively where we self-destructed, and we couldn't get them off the field defensively. But our young men fought their butts off and played hard. We just got to learn to make the plays when it matters and learn to finish a ball game."
Western Carolina (1-6, 0-5 SoCon) had two backs go for over 100 yards in the loss as both Mitchell (117 yards) and classmate Darius Ramsey (118 yards) - who was making his return to the Catamount backfield - eclipsed the century mark as WCU rushed for 298 yards, its second-highest output of the season. Mitchell was also 9-of-14 passing with one interception for a combined 67 yards through the air.
Vaughn added 51 yards on the ground, twice finding the end zone for his second career two touchdown game - and the second in the past three games. Senior Jacoby Mitchell and freshman Spearman Robinson - who entered the game fourth in NCAA FCS Football in receptions among freshmen - both had three catches apiece.
The Citadel (4-3, 3-2 SoCon) compiled 378 yards on the ground led by Darien Robinson with 116 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Ben Dupree rushed for two scores to accompany his 96 rushing yards. Combined, the Bulldogs used eight different backs for 68 rushing attempts with six TDs, only throwing the ball six times (4-of-6 for 48 yards).
From the opening kickoff, the two squads put on an offensive show, both marching down the field on respective 15-play drives to light the scoreboard. Dupree gave the Bulldogs the early advantage on a 10-yard run while Vaughn plowed his way into the end zone to tie the game, capping a 90-yard drive on the first play of the second quarter.
Following a second Dupree scoring run, the Catamounts marched back into scoring territory before stalling at the five-yard line. Sophomore Richard Sigmon, who accounted for seven total points on the day, was called upon to punch through a 22-yard field goal making it 14-10 in favor of the home standing Bulldogs.
On the ensuing possession, WCU recorded its first stop on the potent Bulldog ground attack, forcing a three-and-out and a punt by The Citadel. Mitchell then drove the Catamounts 67 yards in eight plays, taking it in from 12 yards out for his first of two rushing touchdowns to hand WCU its first lead of the afternoon, 17-14, just minutes before the halftime break.
The Citadel added a 27-yard Thomas Warren field goal as time expired in the opening half to send the teams to the locker room deadlocked at 17 apiece.
After trading turnovers to open the second half, Western Carolina surged back in front on the strength of an eight-play, 82-yard drive to pull ahead, 24-17. Mitchell had a pass intercepted only to see Rock Williams strip Bulldog signal caller Ben Dupree two plays later to set-up the scoring drive. Spurred by a third-down completion by Mitchell to classmate Spearman Robinson for a 12-yard gain to keep the drive moving, Vaughn recorded his second scoring romp of the day, rumbling in from 24-yards out to hand WCU the lead back.
The Citadel went back on the march on its next possession, though, moving 75 yards in 12 plays with Aaron Miller plunging in from a yard out to again knot the game at 24 through three quarters.
The turning point in the otherwise equally played game was back-to-back WCU possessions of three-and-out by the Catamount offense - one late in the third quarter and the first offensive possession of the fourth. The Bulldogs countered with two scoring drives capped by a Rickey Anderson 11-yard run and a six-yard rush by Robinson to pull ahead, 38-24.
Western Carolina answered by capitalizing on a career-long, 31-yard kickoff return by freshman A.J. McKoy. The Catamounts moved 61 yards in just six plays with Mitchell again hitting pay-dirt with a five-yard score.
The Citadel recovered WCU's subsequent on-sides kick, adding a rushing touchdown to provide the final tally.
Playing against a triple-option team for the first time all season, WCU senior linebacker Rock Williams returned to the lineup and posted a career-high 24 tackles - nearly surpassing his previous career-best of 19 in solo stops with 17 on the day. Williams' performance was an opponent record against The Citadel, surpassing the previous high of 22. The Howell, Mich., native whose parents have since relocated to the South Carolina Lowcountry also forced and recovered a fumble for the Catamounts.
Junior Courtland Carson finished with nine tackles while both Ace Clark and Randy Pressley tallied seven stops apiece. Defensive lineman Bevans Robbs and back De'Von Richardson both tallied a tackle for loss.
Western Carolina remains on the road next Saturday as it travels to Elon, N.C., to face the Phoenix (2-4, 0-3 SoCon), which was idle this week. The Catamounts look to snap a six-game slide in the series with Elon, seeking their first road win in the series since 2004.