Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina completed its 10th practice of its annual spring drills on Saturday afternoon, conducting a 122-play scrimmage as a part of the two-hour session on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. WCU's first string unit had nearly half of the snaps in the team's scrimmage under bright and sunny conditions with a gusting wind keeping temperatures mild.
"I thought it was a really good day. This was our fourth practice this week, so it's been a long, physical week," said WCU head coach Mark Speir following Saturday's scrimmage. "For our first big scrimmage of the spring, I felt that we took pretty good care of the football. I thought Corey Holloway ran the ball well, and all three quarterbacks did some really good stuff. We still don't know who is going to grab and take that job yet."
"On defense, I thought we tackled well, and didn't give up a lot of big plays," Speir added. "I thought our guys played aggressive. Overall, I thought it was a really good day."
Four different quarterbacks split the reps on Saturday with three in which Speir alluded to seeing the bulk of the action. Wes Holcombe completed 11-of-16 passes for 103 yards with a touchdown pass while Tyrie Adams completed nine passes for 87 yards, adding a rushing score on 71 yards on the ground. Kalen Whitlow finished 6-of-14 passing for 40 yards on the day, adding 38 rushing yards for the offense.
Nine different players caught passes on Saturday with tight end Michael Helms Jr., leading the way with six receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown. Terryon Robinson, returning from an injury that sidelined him in 2015, had a team-high 67 receiving yards on five catches while Spearman Robinson hauled in four passes for 57 yards. Jacob Robinson also had four receptions totaling 19 yards.
With returning starter Detrez Newsome held out of the scrimmage, Corey Holloway shouldered the bulk of the load on Saturday, carrying the ball 12 times for 61 yards and a score. Converted running back Skyler Matheson rushed 10 times for 25 yards with James Foushee matching the yardage on seven carries, adding two catches for 13 yards. Steffon Hill toted the football four times for 16 yards.
Defensively, DB Trey Morgan and LB Mitchell Chancey were both credited with 10 tackles apiece to lead the squad with Morgan tallying two tackles for loss and a pass break-up. Linebacker Coleman Cunningham tallied eight tackles including two for loss while A.J. Newman posted six stops and Jerod Walls had five. In addition to Newman, Fred Payne added a pass break-up to accompany his four stops with Shane Samuels deflecting a pass and recording a tackle for loss.
Pacing the defensive linemen was Sheldon Kinard with six tackles, while Myreon Bennett and Fred Mooring both finished with four tackles apiece. Tahjai Watt posted four stops including a sack and a PBU. Linemen Avery Worsham, Daniel Nash and Jay Gibbs, also tallied sacks. Defensive back Mikey White recorded an interception on a pass that sailed long.
Whitlow led the offense on a six-play drive that covered 73 yards for the first points of the scrimmage, completing two passes for 37 yards including a 27-yard hook-up with Terryon Robinson. On the ensuing play after the 27-yarder, Whitlow used a read option to scamper 31 yards to the one-yard line, nearly taking it in himself before falling just shy of pay dirt. Two plays later, Holloway plunged up the middle with a shove from Whitlow for the score.
The second offensive touchdown came while Adams led the offense from the 50-yard line. The Florida native captained a six-play drive that ended with him rushing the ball to the left for a 13-yard score. Adams opened the drive with back-to-back incompletions, but redeemed himself with a 12-yard scamper on third down to keep the drive alive. He followed that up with a nine-yard romp on first down before Steffon Hill took a reverse 16 yards down the far sideline to set-up the 13 yard scoring run by Adams.
Holcombe guided the third scoring possession for the offense, a four-play, 25-yard drive in the one-minute drill. Holcombe opened the drive with an eight-yard completion to Terryon Robinson before rushing for seven yards to make it first and goal at the 10. Foushee then rumbled to the six-yard line before Holcombe threw the lone TD pass of the day to Helms for the final score of the day.
Logan Howard connected on all three PATs on special teams while Ian Berryman and Destry Barnwell averaged 36.8 and 33.7 yards, respectively, on punts on the very windy afternoon. Berryman had a long of 47 while Barnwell had a 40-yard boot into the wind.
Western Carolina returns to practice for the first of three sessions next week, two ahead of the annual Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo, which is slated for Saturday, April 9. WCU will practice in shells on Tuesday, April 5 before a fully-padded practice on April 7. The Spring Game is scheduled for a 1:00 pm start (complete coverage information will be released next week).
Each WCU spring football practice is open to the public. It is respectfully requested, though, that spectators observe from the stadium seating area and avoid being either on the field or sidelines.
Season tickets for all five home dates in 2016 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, 2016. Fans can call the ticket office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401.
Upcoming 2016 Catamount Football Spring Practice Schedule:
(schedule subject to date/time change)
Practice #11: Tuesday, April 5 (shells) -- 4 pm
Practice #12: Thursday, April 7 (full pads) -- 4 pm
Practice #13: Saturday, April 9 -- Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo (full pads) -- 1:00 pm
Practice #14: Tuesday, April 12 (shells) -- 4 pm
Practice #15: Thursday, April 14 (shells) -- 4 pm