Nov. 7, 2009
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Cullowhee, N.C. - Elon's Brandon Newsome rushed for four touchdowns and a season-high 143 yards while its defense stiffened in the second half, limiting the Catamounts to just 41 yards of total offense as the sixth-ranked Phoenix handed Western Carolina a 42-17 set back in Southern Conference action at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Elon (8-1, 6-0 SoCon), which has won six-straight league games to keep pace with Appalachian State atop the conference standings, broke a second quarter deadlock with 21-consecutive points to stake itself to a 35-14 lead late in the third quarter. WCU was only able to muster a 39-yard field goal by junior Blake Bostic, with Newsome concluding scoring with his fourth TD scamper from 13 yards out to provide the final tally.
True freshman Michael Johnson rushed for a career-best 116 yards on 16 carries, nearly eclipsing the century mark in the first half with 93 of his 116 on eight rushes. The Decatur, Ga., native added a pair of receptions for 22 yards. However, WCU was held to minus-nine yards rushing in the final 30 minutes of play.
"I am really disappointed with our football team. I felt it was the first time this year that we quit. We didn't play hard in the second half and we acted satisfied with our first half performance," said WCU second-year head coach Dennis Wagner. "It's as much as my fault as it is theirs. I am extremely frustrated with the way we let it slip away in the way we did. We had something in our hand that would have been a big turning point in our program and we let that slip away."
The Phoenix broke a scoreless deadlock late in the first quarter as Newsome broke free on a third and short situation for a 26-yard rumble to give Elon the early, 7-0, lead. The Catamounts responded, though, with a seven-play, 72-yard drive at the end of the first quarter to knot the game. Red-shirt sophomore QB Zack Jaynes found tight end Chris Everett for the second-straight week, dancing in from nine-yards out to tie the game at seven after one.
The Jaynes-to-Everett connection represented WCU's first, first quarter touchdown of the season. Jaynes finished 15-of-21 for 140 yards and two TDs marking his first multiple touchdown game since Gardner-Webb.
Elon cashed in the game's only turnover in the second quarter, capitalizing on a muffed punt at the WCU 18, scoring two-plays later on Newsome's second tally of the game to pull ahead, 14-7. But Western Carolina again clawed back to knot the score on its next possession as Jaynes found Marquel Pittman on a 35-yard scoring strike as the Catamounts moved 67 yards in just four plays.
Pittman's TD ended a five-game scoring drought for the Maxton, N.C., native after he tallied a pair of scores at home against Gardner-Webb back on Sept. 12. He now has 12 career TD receptions and is just three shy of 10th-place on WCU's career charts.
After the Catamount scoring drive, Elon methodically worked down the field for the first of three-straight touchdowns, the first of which was a Scott Riddle pass to Terrell Hudgins with seven minutes remaining in the second half to give the Phoenix a 21-14 lead they would carry into halftime.
In the third, Elon added a three-yard rush by Jamal Shuman and a 35-yard scamper by Newsome to pull out to a 35-14 edge inside the final minute of the third quarter. Western added a 39-yard field goal by Bostic early in the fourth, but Newsome capped a 10-play, five-minute drive for the Phoenix to thwart any idea of a WCU comeback, providing the final tally, 42-17.
Riddle completed 20-of-26 passes for 228 yards on the day for Elon, with eight going to Hudgins for a game-high 153 yards and the lone passing score. Newsome led the Phoenix offense with 143 yards on the ground, with Shuman tallying 87 and a score in the win.
Defensively for Western Carolina, senior LB Adrian McLeod again reached double-digits, recording a game-high 16 tackles including four solo stops and two and a half for loss. Classmate Chaz Jackson recorded a career-best 12 tackles while seniors Antoine George and Chris Collins finished with 11 and 10 stops, respectively.
Western Carolina steps out of conference next week as it travels to Richmond, Ky., to face Eastern Kentucky with a 1:00 pm kickoff from Roy Kidd Stadium. Fans can follow all of the action on the Catamount Sports Network with the 90-minute pre-game show beginning at 11:30 am.