Oct. 27, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina true freshman quarterback Troy Mitchell ignited a second half charge for the Catamounts on Saturday afternoon, but the sluggish start against 15th-ranked Appalachian State was too much to overcome as the Mountaineers held on for the 38-27 victory and retained possession of the "Old Mountain Jug" for the eighth-straight season.
Mitchell accounted for three of WCU's four scores on the afternoon, posting touchdown rushes of 27 and 40 yards and adding a two-point conversion rush to lead the Catamounts.
"I'm really proud of the fight in this football team. Boy, they battled," said first-year head coach Mark Speir during post-game comments with the media. "Sometimes, we were our own worst enemy as far as one guy breaking down. But, I'm just proud of this football team."
Coming on for injured starting quarterback Jamal Jackson on just the third offensive series, Appalachian State back-up quarterback Logan Hallock completed his first 20 passes including two for touchdowns in the win. Hallock finished 20-of-21 for 230 yards on the day while Jackson was 3-for-4 with a TD pass.
Running back Steven Miller rushed for 245 yards and a touchdown for Appalachian State while freshman wide receiver Sean Price matched his career-high with 10 catches for 142 yards and a score. Receiver Tony Washington posted two scores for the Mountaineers including a 32-yard reception in the first quarter and a 17-yard run on a reverse in the third that put ASU ahead, 31-13.
Western Carolina (1-8, 0-7 SoCon) sputtered offensively in the first half, running just 16 plays from scrimmage and managing only 100 total yards - 74 of which came on the longest scoring play of the year when Mitchell hooked up with Deja Alexander over the middle of the field for a touchdown. In the second half, though, Mitchell and the Catamounts ran 40 plays from scrimmage for 216 yards.
Mitchell finished with 91 yards rushing and the two touchdowns while completing 13-of-22 passes for 167 yards and one TD. Classmate tailback Darius Ramsey rushed for 41 yards, adding three catches out of the backfield. Freshman receiver Spearman Robinson also had three catches, but was limited to 19 total yards.
Alexander led the Catamount receivers with a season-high 82 yards while Jacoby Mitchell caught a pair of passes for 30 yards.
Appalachian State (6-3, 4-2 SoCon) ran out to a 17-point first half lead with two touchdowns and a Sam Martin 28-yard field goal. With time dwindling in the opening half, Alexander got a step on his man over the middle on a third-down play and hauled in the 74-yard pass for a touchdown to trim the deficit to 10 just before break.
However, the Mountaineers answered just before the half by driving 85 yards in nine plays in a drive aided by a costly pass interference penalty on a third and 10. Hallock capped the drive with an 18-yard touchdown strike in the right corner of the end zone with five second left on the clock before intermission.
The Apps carried a 24-7 edge into the break.
Out of the halftime locker room, Mitchell drove the offense 75 yards on WCU's first possession of the second half, finishing off the drive with a 27-yard touchdown scramble. All told on the drive, Mitchell accounted for 56 of the positive yards gained.
On the ensuing possession, WCU's defense stiffened and forced a three-and-out, giving the ball back to the offense but backed up to its own 10 yard line after a 51-yard Martin punt. Field position began to change in favor of the Black & Gold as the Catamounts were unable to find a first down, punting the ball back to ASU and setting up the Mountaineers on the right side of midfield.
Hallock and ASU took full advantage of the opportunity, moving just 41 yards in eight plays with Washington scoring on the reverse rush for the 31-13 lead. He wasn't done, though, as on the first play of the fourth quarter, Hallock handed his squad what proved to be an insurmountable lead with a 16-yard scoring strike to Drew Bailey for the 38-13 advantage.
Western Carolina was able to put 14-straight points on the board to close the final quarter as senior tailback Michael Johnson tallied his 14th career rushing touchdown on a one-yard plunge and Mitchell added a 40-yard TD romp to provide the final tally, 38-27.
Defensively for Western Carolina, senior linebacker Rock Williams just missed matching his career-high for tackles, credited with 23 stops including eight solo stops and three for loss. The Howell, Mich., native also forced a fourth quarter fumble for a defensive takeaway for WCU. Junior Courtland Carson and freshman Sertonuse Harris both finished with 16 tackles apiece with Carson tallying a sack and Harris finishing with 1.5 TFL and recovering the fumble.
For ASU, Karl Anderson tallied 10 tackles with Jeremy Kimbrough finishing with nine stops, four of which were solo and three quarterback sacks. Jamill Lott forced a Catamount fumble while Patrick Blalock intercepted a Mitchell pass under pressure from ASU's Joel Ross.
Western Carolina returns home next Saturday, Nov. 3, for its final home game of 2012 as it hosts the Chattanooga Mocs with a 3:30 pm kickoff on Hall of Fame Day. WCU will honor its three newest inductees into its Athletics Hall of Fame - Eric Johnson (Football, 1995-99), Laura Tieszen Kamarainen (Track & Field, 2002-05) and Bill Stanley (Football, 1964-69), while also honoring the senior student-athletes playing in their final home game in Cullowhee.