Nov. 9, 2013
Statesboro, Ga. - Jerick McKinnon rushed for two touchdowns and threw for a third as Georgia Southern downed Western Carolina, 35-19, on Saturday afternoon at Paulson Stadium in the final Southern Conference meeting between the two squads.
Western Carolina (2-8, 1-5 SoCon) was unable to capitalize on four takeaways on fumbles, tossing a combined four interceptions that the Eagles turned into three touchdowns as GSU handed WCU a 19th-straight series loss while also keeping the Catamounts winless in Statesboro (0-12).
"This was a very disappointing loss," said WCU second-year head coach Mark Spier during post-game comments on the Catamount Sports Network. "Defensively, at times we played good and got them where we wanted them, but they capitalized on our mistakes. You'll never stop that offense but to create five fumbles ... I don't know if I've ever been in a game where we created five fumbles and lost."
Catamount quarterbacks Troy Mitchell and Eddie Sullivan combined to go 18-of-40 (45%) for 158 yards with both tossing a touchdown pass despite four interceptions. Mitchell completed 12-of-23 for 94 yards with three interceptions - adding a team-high 68 yards rushing - while Sullivan was 6-of-17 for 64 yards.
A tough-luck interception on the game's first drive for Western Carolina led to the game's first points for the Eagles. Mitchell's pass to freshman Terryon Robinson was caught but then slung forward as Robinson turned to move up field and landed in the opening arms of defensive back Lavelle Westbrooks. On the first official play from scrimmage, McKinnon found a seam off the right tackle and scored on a 23-yard rush.
Western Carolina responded midway through the opening quarter, driving 75 yards in 14 plays with freshman tailback Garry Lewis plunging in from one-yard out for his second career rushing score. The drive was spurred by a 20-yard reception by Robinson, and kept alive by a roughing the kicker penalty.
Lewis rushed just five times for nine total yards on the afternoon.
McKinnon struck again with a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Da'Quan Heard on a third and long situation, and a 36-yard touchdown rush on a fourth-down play to give the Eagles a 21-6 edge in the second quarter, carrying the 15-point lead into the halftime locker room. McKinnon finished with 68 yards on 14 carries
After the break, the Catamount defense got a stop on GSU's first possession. Then, after the offensive drive stalled, WCU capitalized on good fortune. Long-snapper Chandler Addertion forced an Eagle fumble that Damian Whitaker pounced on to give the Catamounts possession at the GSU 11-yard line. Three plays later, Mitchell tossed a jump-ball to Karnorris Benson who climbed the ladder to pull down for the 21-13 margin.
However, consecutive Eagle touchdowns capping drives of 12 and eight plays, respectively made it 35-13.
Back-up quarterback Eddie Sullivan lit the scoreboard for WCU in the fourth quarter, finding his brother, John, on an 11-yard strike to provide the final tally. It was the first scoring hook-up between the brothers from Boca Raton, Fla., and the first touchdown for John.
Benson and Robinson both finished with four receptions apiece with Robinson finishing with a team-high 45 yards while Benson was limited to 26.
On defense, WCU's Christon Gill led the Catamounts with seven tackles while four players - Gill, senior Courtland Carson, senior Ben Watkins and redshirt freshman Damian Whitaker -- each recovered a fumble while Gill, Carson and Chandler Addertion forcing fumbles.
For GSU, Westbrooks and his counterpart, Matt Dobson, both had two interceptions, with senior Kyle Oehlbeck tallying a game-high 14 tackles. William Banks rushed for a game-high 86 yards on 13 carries.
Western Carolina returns home for the final home game of the 2013 regular season this coming Saturday, Nov. 16. The Catamounts host the Furman Paladins, winners of back-to-back games - and three of their last four including upending 20th-ranked Samford this past Saturday.
WCU will "turn back the clock" to 1983 in commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Catamounts' run to the NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) National Championship game - the first SoCon team to appear in the title match-up. Prior to Saturday's game, WCU will also honor the senior members of the WCU football family in a special pregame ceremony. Also, the Southern Conference Champion Catamount baseball and track & field teams will be recognized during an in-game break.
Kickoff at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field is slated for 3:30 pm.