April 13, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina's Gold Squad capped a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a touchdown in the closing moments Saturday, then held off the Purple team's last second bid for the game-winning score to claim annual Catamount Football Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo, by a count of 16-14 at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
The Gold Squad, comprised of the second team offense and first team defense, raced out to a 10-0 first half lead only to see the Purple team (first team offense and second team defense) rally with back-to-back second half touchdowns to pull ahead, 14-10, to set up the fourth quarter finish.
"I think it was a fun game this afternoon," said head coach Mark Speir on the turf following the Spring Game. "It was good to get out and divide into teams with the coaches splitting up - it was the first time we'd done that. And for it to come down to a shoot-out with both sides having an opportunity to win it, that's what you want for these fans."
He added, "It was a great spring for us. All spring, I've been proud of the way we were able to run the ball on offense. Defensively, we've been very sound and tackled well. I've just been proud of how this football team has grown - the strength staff did a phenomenal job in getting us stronger and faster. I think we're right on track."
Linebacker Bryson Jordan opened the game's scoring in the first quarter, scooping up a fumble and racing 52 yards for a touchdown for the Gold Squad. Gold added to its lead in the second quarter, putting the finishing touches on a 13-play, 53-yard drive with a 22-yard Richard Sigmon field goal. The drive was keyed by a 19-yard reception by tight end Roderick Poag and a fourth down conversion on a six-yard rush by freshman tailback Detrez Newsome.
After intermission, the Purple Squad had an early opportunity to score but could not find the end zone. Defensive back A.J. McKoy gave his offense the football inside the 10-yard line after an interception and 21-yard return. However, the Gold Squad stiffened forcing a field goal attempt which was blocked by Fred Payne to maintain the shutout.
On the ensuing possession, Terrence Green came up with the first of two takeaways for the Purple Squad defense, giving the offense the ball back near midfield. Three players later, Troy Mitchell hooked up with Terryon Robinson for a 34-yard scoring strike to close to within a score at 10-7.
Green's second turnover came on the first play of the fourth quarter as he pounced on a loose football punched free by K.P. Hicks to give the Purple team possession at the 34-yard line. Mitchell then struck again as he found tight end Michael Helms Jr., for a 16-yard TD pass to make pull ahead, 14-10.
Quarterback Eddie Sullivan orchestrated the game-winning drive as he moved the Gold Squad 75 yards, spurred by a 49-yard completion over the middle to freshman tight end Tyler Sexton. Sullivan moved the ball inside the 20 with a nine-yard rush before tossing the game-winning TD to C.J. Goodman from 15-yards out.
A low snap on the point after left the margin at just two points, giving the Purple Squad life for a win needing just a field goal. Mitchell completed passes over the middle to Karnorris Benson for 13 yards and Spearman Robinson for 10 to move to midfield. Shaun Warren hauled in a toss out of the backfield for a nine-yard gain, but a pass break-up by Ace Clark and a fourth down sack by Christon Gill ended the game.
All told, the Purple Squad came up with five total turnovers on the afternoon including the two takeaways by Green and interceptions by Tommy Tate and McKoy. Freshman Ja'Kari Golden also picked off a pass in the special overtime session. The Gold Squad got the fumble takeaway by Jordan and Payne's blocked kick.
Sullivan finished 9-for-23 for 118 yards and a touchdown, but tossed three interceptions on the afternoon for the Gold Squad. He added eight rushes on the day. Mitchell completed 15 of his 26 pass attempts for 156 yards and two TDs, carrying the ball nine times for 29 yards on the ground.
Karnorris Benson led all receivers on both sides with six catches totaling 34 yards. Spearman Robinson caught three passes for 36 yards with Terryon Robinson making two catches including the 39-yard TD and Helms' 16-yard strike. Also tallying receptions for the Purple Squad were Shaun Warren, Darius Ramsey and Aaron Pridemore.
For the Gold Squad, Sullivan targeted eight different receivers with Jeff Moore leading the way with two catches totaling nine yards. Sexton paced the team with his one catch for 49 yards. Also recording receptions were Goodman with a TD with Poag, Steffon Hill, Gary Richardson, Jarred Hill and Garrett Brown each making one catch apiece.
On the ground, Newsome led all running backs with 39 yards on 14 carries, fumbling once while Garrett Brown had four rushes for 16 yards for the Gold. For the Purple Squad, Shaun Warren rushed nine times for 29 yards while Darius Ramsey rushed seven times for 28 yards and scored a touchdown in the special overtime, non-scored session held just after the halftime break.
Defensively, linebacker Avery Worsham was credited with a game-high seven tackles for the Purple Squad. Andrew Mayton and Kelvin Ume had four tackles apiece along the defensive line with both McKoy and Tate adding four stops to their interceptions.
Gold squad defensive lineman Helva Matungulu finished with four tackles including two for losses while Fred Mooring was credited with six total stops with three sacks. Caleb Hawkins and John McBeth both tallied four tackles apiece. Trey Morgan and Tyson Dickson each had six tackles with Jordan finishing with four stops to accompany his defensive touchdown on the fumble return.
Western Carolina is scheduled to conclude its 15-days of spring practice on Monday, April 14 with a helmet-only practice.