Oct. 24, 2009
Final Stats |
Cullowhee, N.C. -
Western Carolina nearly erased all of 21-point first quarter deficit, clawing to within two, 28-26, in the second half. However, Wofford held off the Catamount rally to pick up its first conference victory of the season, 35-26, in Southern Conference action Saturday night at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
WCU recorded four rushing touchdowns in front of the largest home crowd of the season (10,017), but a late 42-yard punt return by Wofford's Justice Joslin set up what proved to be the game-winning score for the Terriers.
"Tonight was real disappointing. We blew an opportunity. We had many chances to win this football game," said second-year head coach Dennis Wagner during post-game comments with the media. "We couldn't stop the fullback all day. When we got some momentum, when we needed a big drive, we didn't get it. We wasted an opportunity today."
Defending SoCon Freshman of the Week, red-shirt running back Dion Wilson, accounted for 122 total yards including a career-best 65 on the ground with two scores and 57 receiving yards. True freshman Michael Johnson equaled Wilson's two rushing tallies, accounting for 57 yards on the ground as WCU rushed for a season-high 175 yards and four TDs.
"We continue to get better. These freshmen running backs and this offensive line get better every week," said Wagner of his one-two rushing punch on Saturday.
Wofford (2-5, 1-3 SoCon) rushed its way to an early 21-0 advantage in the first quarter. Quarterback Mitch Allen opened scoring as the Terriers, who scored on four of their first five possessions, with a 23-yard scamper on the quarterback keeper for the early, 7-0, advantage.
Capitalizing on the first of two WCU turnovers on the day, Wofford drove a short field following an interception to go up by two scores. But the play was not without drama, though. On a first and goal play from the one-yard line, Terrier running back Michael Scott plunged forward towards the purple end zone, but had the ball jarred loose by the Catamount defense at the goal line. The ball was pounced on by Wofford offensive lineman, Ben Wilmoth, in the end zone for the score.
On its third possession, Wofford drove 81 yards in just seven plays, capped by a 12-yard run by quarterback Stev Davitte for the 21-point cushion in the waning moments of the first quarter.
Western Carolina (1-6, 1-4 SoCon) posted its first, first half touchdown of the season, reaching pay-dirt early in the second quarter. Freshman wide receiver George Richardson opened the second frame with a 21-yard scamper to the one-yard line where Johnson capped the scoring drive three plays later from a yard out, closing the gap to 14, 21-7.
Wofford countered with a 17 yard scoring run by Scott in the final five and a half minutes of the third quarter to regain the 21-point margin, which it appeared to be heading to the locker room with. However, on a third and seven play from their own 36 yard line, red-shirt sophomore quarterback Zack Jaynes found Wilson for a 50-yard run-and-catch on a screen pass.
Two plays later, Wilson slashed into the end zone for the rushing score to provide the halftime score, 28-14.
Jaynes finished the game 16-of-31 for 159 yards, but tossed a pair of interceptions and was held without a passing touchdown for the fifth-straight game. Wilson was WCU's top receiver with four catches for 57 yards while Marquel Pittman, who left the game injured in the fourth quarter, also caught four passes for 22 yards. Freshman D.J. McLendon had three receptions for 44 yards.
If the Terriers owned the opening rounds of Saturday's four-round prize fight, then the third decidedly belonged to the Catamounts. Controlling the ball for over 12 minutes of the 15-minute third quarter, the Catamounts limited the grind-it-out Terrier offense to six plays from scrimmage, scoring one touchdown and setting up another for the start of the fourth quarter.
After being forced to punt on its opening possession of the second half, Western Carolina came away with its first turnover of the game to breathe new life into the sidelines. Terrier QB Allen rushed right where junior Angelo Brown streaked through the line of scrimmage to pop the ball loose before classmate C.J. Johnson corralled the bouncing ball giving the Catamounts possession at the Terrier 24 yard line.
Three plays later, including an 11-yard scramble for Jaynes, Johnson rumbled for 13 yards for his second score of the day, closing to within a touchdown. However, the extra point attempt missed wide right, keeping the deficit at eight, 28-20.
On the ensuing possession, the Catamount defense again stiffened, forcing the lone Wofford punt of the game after just four plays. WCU then drove 80 yards in 16 plays, consuming the final 7:07 of the third quarter clock and six seconds of the fourth quarter as Wilson capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown rush. Trailing by two, 28-26, the Catamounts went for a two-point conversion, but Jaynes' fell incomplete.
Similar to a week prior, the Catamount defense delivered a stop on Wofford's next possession to give the ball back to the offense midway through the fourth quarter. The Terriers drove to WCU's 19-yard line before senior Antoine George broke up a would-be fourth-down pass play.
With the ball at their own 19, Western Carolina was only able to move to its own 38 before being forced to punt and play the field-position game. However, it was Joslin's 42-yard punt return that gave Wofford the ball in Catamount territory at the 42. The Terriers were able to drive the remaining 42 yards in just four plays, including runs of 22 and three yards by Mike Rucker, with the latter lighting the scoreboard for the game-winning score that put it out of reach for WCU.
Wofford edged Western Carolina in total offense, piling up 426 yards on 63 plays including 374 on the ground led by Scott with 92 yards and a touchdown. WCU tallied a season-best 175 rushing yards with 159 through the air for 334 yards of total offense.
Western Carolina returns to action next Saturday, Oct. 31, as it travels to Chattanooga to face the Mocs. Kickoff from Finley Stadium is set for 2:00 pm.