Cullowhee, N.C. - Detrez Newsome rushed for a pair of touchdowns for the first team offense while Keion Crossen came up with two of the four defensive turnovers including an interception returned for a touchdown as Western Carolina conducted its annual Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo, on Saturday afternoon on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Pitting the first and second team offensive and defensive units against like competition on Saturday, the Catamounts ran just over 100 plays in a scrimmage that lasted an hour and a half. The first team offense edged its defensive first team counterparts, 29-27, while the second team defense was strong in a 35-0 victory of bragging rights over the second team offensive unit as scores were kept independently for the two tiers.
"I thought it was a very productive scrimmage; not a lot of penalties which is something I'm always looking at," said WCU head coach Mark Speir following Saturday's scrimmage. "I thought both sides had their high spots today. I thought the defense flew around and created some turnovers which is always big for them -- but it was something that really hurt our offense. I told the offense that they've got to take care of the football -- when they did, they were very productive and scored points."
Speir added, "I'm really proud of our defense -- they've come a long way, dealt with injuries, but they're picking up the scheme really well. And they're playing fast. This was day 12 -- just the 12th time they've heard some the terms in this new scheme. They're playing fast, a lot of people are playing."
Newsome rushed seven times for 23 yards and a pair of TDs from four and three yards out, respectively, while James Foushee toted the football a team-high nine times for 38 yards. Tailback Corey Holloway rushed eight times for 34 yards with the first string while Donnavan Spencer matched Holloway with eight touches and 23 yards on the day.
Returning starting quarterback Tyrie Adams threw for 272 yards on 17-of-29 passing with two interceptions and a pair of touchdown passes, connecting with tight end Aubry Payne from five yards out and a 34-yard strike to Steffon Hill. Despite being in the protective gold jersey, Adams added 34 rushing yards including a scrimmage-long 22-yard rush on a scramble. Transfer QB Ray Smith finished 7-of-14 for 22 yards with an interception for the second team offense.
Hill led eight different players who caught passes on Saturday with five receptions for 108 yards and the touchdown, while Tyler Mitchell hauled in four passes for 96 yards including a scrimmage-best 47 yard catch-and-run to set-up a score. Payne pulled down a team-best six catches for 60 yards with a score, while Daquan Patten caught three passes for 17 yards. WCU's leading receiver from a season ago -- returning redshirt senior Terryon Robinson -- only caught one pass for four yards on Saturday.
Defensively, Crossen tallied two interceptions, returning one 60 yards for a touchdown as a part of 87 yards in returns on the day to accompany an additional pass break-up. Linebacker Chris Seaborn picked off a pass and returned it 50 yards while also finishing with three tackles including one for loss.
Safety Marvin Tillman led the defensive unit, credited with six total tackles including one stop for loss and a pass break-up while also recovering a fumble for a fourth takeaway. Transfer linebacker Jacquez Williams made his presence be felt early with five tackles including four tackles for loss including a pair of sacks. Mitchell Chancey tallied four stops and a quarterback hurry, while Kendall White twice flushed the QB to accompany a pair of tackles. Also, defensive back Devarius Cortner was credited with four stops including one for loss with a pass break-up, while Mikey White tallied four tackles to rank among the team leaders.
Ian Berryman boomed two punts of 50+ yards, averaging 53.5 yards per kick to lead the specialists, while Destry Barnwell sailed a punt 49 yards on the day in addition to holding on placekicks. Berryman split the uprights on three PATs while also connecting on a 31-yard field goal, while Joshua Gibson hit both of his PAT attempts and added a successful field goal in the scrimmage.
Speir feels that his squad has had 12 productive practice days to day, and the squad has three remaining practice dates next week to wrap-up its annual spring drills. WCU will hit the practice field on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons next week with a focus on option football, according to Speir.
A reminder that WCU's football practices are open to the public, but it is respectfully requested that fans avoid being on the field or sidelines and watch from the stadium seating area for safety purposes.
Catamount football season tickets for all five home dates in 2017 are on-sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office and online at CatamountSports.com. Returning season ticket holders must renew their season tickets by mid-June, 2017. Fans can call the ticket office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401.
Fans can keep track of Catamount football and spring practice through the Catamount Athletics social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Instagram (wcu_catamounts), and Twitter (@catamounts), as well as video updates on the department's YouTube channel (CatamountSports).
Upcoming 2017 Catamount Football Spring Practice Schedule:
(schedule subject to time/date changes)
Practice #13: Tuesday, March 21 (full pads) -- 4:30 -- 6:30 pm
Practice #14: Thursday, March 23 (shells) -- 4:30 -- 6:30 pm
Practice #15: Friday, March 24 (helmets) -- 4:00 -- 6:00 pm