Nov. 19, 2011
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina scored three touchdowns through the air on Saturday afternoon in the first-ever meeting with Coastal Carolina on the football gridiron. However, the Catamounts were unable to score a victory for their 14 seniors - four of whom were forced to the sidelines by injury - in the final game of the 2011 season, falling to the Chanticleers, 45-21, at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary threw three touchdown passes to a trio of receivers, while also adding a rushing score to lead the Chanticleers past WCU in the regular season finale for both squads. Hillary threw for 213 yards on 15-of-25 passing with one interception.
"It was an emotional game," said Western Carolina interim head coach Mark Rhea during post-game comments. "I told the kids when one door closes, another one opens up. This chapter is closed. It's not the way we wanted to finish it. We wanted a storybook ending, but it didn't finish up that way."
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Pechloff completed 14-of-26 passes for 229 and three scores for the Catamounts. But, the Glenn Ellyn, Ill., native tossed a costly interception from his own end zone that the Coastal's Johnnie Houston returned for a touchdown that turned a 10-point deficit into a 24-7 hole late in the second quarter.
With its wide receiving corps., embattled with injuries to its top three producers on the year, Pechloff managed to find four different offensive teammates including three receivers and junior running back Michael Vaughn for his 14 completions. George Richardson led the foursome with five catches for 43 yards while Gary Green paced the squad in total yardage with four catches for a career-best 86 yards.
Senior Nate Harris led the squad with 107 total all-purpose yards including a touchdown receiving.
With a program-record tying seven sacks by the Chanticleers, WCU was reduced to just 32 yards on the ground marking the second-straight week the Catamounts failed to reach the 50 net yard average. It was also the fifth time this season WCU was limited to under 100 yards of rushing offense. Sophomore Shaun Warren carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards while Vaughn added 15 yards on the ground.
Western Carolina's defense stood strong on Coastal's opening possession of the game, stopping the Chanticleers on a fourth-and-long play after they had driven 41 yards into the red zone. The Catamount offense appeared to return to old form as it moved down the field on its first possession including a 20-yard pass-and-catch between Pechloff and Green on an end-around, toss-back pass play that had the Chanticleer defense turned nearly inside out.
The Catamount drive stalled, however, at the Chanticleer 21-yard line where Clark Sechrest had a line-drive field goal opportunity blocked that would have handed WCU the early lead. Coastal Carolina (7-4) proceeded to drive 62 yards in eight plays to take the lead on a Hillary to Jamie Childers touchdown pass on a tight end streak.
Grant Clayton banged through a 26-yard field goal to culminate an 11-play, 69-yard drive for the Chanticleers for a 10-0 advantage early on the third play of the second quarter.
Western Carolina answered, though, as Pechloff orchestrated a quick-strike drive that covered 75 yards in just three plays. Vaughn hauled in his career-long reception of 45 yards on the first play of the drive with Warren rushing for nine yards on the second. After an offsides penalty whistled against Coastal, Pechloff found Richardson in the end zone from 16 yards out to put the Catamounts on the board and trim the deficit to three, 10-7.
Looking to keep the positive momentum, the Catamounts tried to pull a fast one on Coastal with an on-sides kick after the score but were unable to cover the bouncing ball near mid-field. The Catamount defense, though, held strong and forced a quick three-and-out with the offense taking over at the 22 yard line.
Unfortunately for the Catamounts, momentum quickly swung back to the visitor's sideline as Warren fumbled on the first play of the drive, giving Coastal the ball in scoring position. WCU's defense made the 27-yard scoring drive tough as the Chanticleers needed eight plays to reach pay-dirt, but eventually did so on a two-yard rush by Hillary to reclaim the 10-point edge.
Special teams then played a big part in helping Coastal Carolina add some distance on the scoreboard. Chanticleer punter Austin Cain - the younger brother of WCU senior punter Blake Cain - pinned WCU inside its own one-yard line on a perfect pooch punt.
After a near-miss on a safety as Warren was corralled just after crossing the one-yard line, Pechloff stepped out of a would-be sack in the backfield for what would have been a two-pointer, but forced a pass to a teammate where Houston intercepted and stepped across the goal line for the interception and a 24-7 Chanticleer advantage.
Just before intermission, Harris made a spectacular reception around Buck Buchannan Award candidate, Josh Norman, for a career-long, 49-yard touchdown for the halftime score of 24-14.
Coastal Carolina added a pair of third quarter touchdowns including a three-yard Travis Small rush and a 58-yard TD pass from Hillary to Matt Hazel to surge ahead, 38-14, entering the fourth quarter. Then, on just the second play from scrimmage in the final frame, the Chanticleers added their final score as Hillary found Akeem Wesley for a 24-yard scoring strike to lead, 45-14.
Small rushed 18 times for 109 yards and the score, while Hazel and Wesley both had two catches apiece for 69 and 42 yards, respectively.
On the ensuing drive after falling behind by 31, Pechloff guided the final scoring drive of the season for the Purple and Gold. The offense moved 71 yards in eight plays with Green hauling in his third touchdown pass in the last four games. The Fayetteville, N.C., native caught the 26-yard strike just before going out of the back of the end zone for the score to provide the final tally.
Three Catamounts finished with double-digit tackles including a career-high 15 for sophomore Courtland Carson, who made the start for injured senior Brandon Vaught. Carson added one tackle behind the line of scrimmage and his second career interception. Leading tackler Rock Williams finished with 13 tackles in the game and 115 on the season to just miss the single-season top 10 list.
Western Carolina honored its 14 football seniors, three Catamount cheerleading seniors and 54 members of the "Pride of the Mountains" Marching Band during Saturday's Senior Day.