April 14, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina concluded its 2012 spring drills on Saturday afternoon, donning the game uniforms for a spirited intrasquad scrimmage in front of over 1,500 fans at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. Divided into offense versus defense, the Catamounts worked through over 120 plays on the afternoon with both sides showing flashes of brilliance.
WCU's offense combined to score eight touchdowns and a field goal, while the defense recorded two interceptions with one returned for a touchdown, while also taking away a fumble and recording a safety on the day.
"We were excited to have the opportunity to come out here in front of a great crowd," said first-year head coach Mark Speir. "The team competed today and they had fun; they were excited about today's opportunity. That will leave the team with a good taste going into summer that they are working for something and that people care about them, and that is what this game is about. It is about relationships, caring about your teammates, about your university and about Western North Carolina. I thought it was a great day."
Four quarterbacks split rotations on the day with junior transfer Eddie Sullivan seeing the most reps with the offensive unit. The Boca Raton, Fla., native rushed 13 times for 54 yards and a pair of scores while completing 17-of-27 for 207 yards with an interception and a touchdown. Sullivan finished the day 11-of-12 in the second half of the scrimmage including connecting on six-straight passes with his lone miss coming on throw away.
True freshman Michael Helms completed all three pass attempts for 13 yards while rushing for 27 on the ground. Redshirt freshman Jawan Simmons completed his lone pass for a 33-yard touchdown to Garrett Brown, with Brandon Pechlofffinishing 2-for-5 for eight yards through the air. Simmons rushed four times for 17 yards while Pechloff gained 38 yards on five attempts including a touchdown in goal line situational scrimmage.
A combined six different receivers and tight ends hauled in passes for the Catamount offense on the day led by Jacoby Mitchell with four catches for 74 yards. Deja Alexanderrecorded 51 yards on three receptions while Brown tallied 44 yards on three catches including the 33-yard TD.
WCU's three running backs combined for 40 carries and 249 yards on the ground with three scores, two of which coming in goal line scenarios. Including a long rush of 51 yards, Michael Vaughn carried the ball 13 times for 111 yards and a pair of scores. The Phoenix, Ariz., native added 40 yards receiving on three catches. Michael Johnson amassed 89 yards on 12 attempts and a TD while Shaun Warren49 yards on 15 carries.
After working through two series where the offense was backed up against its own goal line, Sullivan guided the first string offense to points on a 10-play drive that encompassed 75 yards. The signal caller completed a pair of passes for 36 yards on the drive before plunging in from one-yard out to cap the drive.
One drive later, Simmons found Brown for the scoring strike on a drive that included a 22-yard rush from scrimmage by Warren.
Helms orchestrated a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive on his first possession highlighted by a 19-yard romp by Vaughn. Helms rushed for 19 yards on the drive.
With all of the former WCU football players surrounding the back of the end zone, Saturday's scrimmage culminated with three goal line scenarios. The offensive unit scored three touchdowns in those scenarios as Vaughn, Pechloff and Johnson all posted scoring rushes.
Defensively for the Catamounts, Ace Clark was credited with team-high 11 tackles with linebacker Rock Williams recording nine including 1.5 tackles for loss. Linebacker Randy Pressley had seven stops including one for loss while Christon Gill and Pete Balthrop, Jr., both finished with six apiece. Reggie Williams finished with five tackles and three pass break-ups on the afternoon.
Defensive backs Elijer Martinez and Trevor Taylor both recorded interceptions with Taylor taking his pick back 27 yards for a touchdown. Taylor also forced a fumble. In addition to recording a quarterback sack for a safety, Andre Whitmire also forced and recovered a fumble to go along with his three tackles while Julian Johnsonpounced on Whitmire's forced fumble.
Saturday's spring game culminated a NCAA-mandated 15 days of spring practice. Speir was pleased with the effort his team gave throughout the season, but was quick to emphasis the road ahead.
"I think we made great strides (this spring). I think we've got a long way to go and I make no bones about that, but I think we've got a foundation set. As a team, we've established what kind of work habits we want to have; what kind of tempo we are going to have. What kind of demands we are going to put on them and we've established what it takes to be a champion."
He added, "We are not looking ahead at winning this many games or that many games. But instead, we are looking at going out and playing hard every game. We're going to play until someone kicks us off the field and we can't play anymore. Rome wasn't built in a day, but I think we've got good foundation established. We are looking forward to our new class coming in, signees I think will add to what we have here and I'm excited for the fall. August 1st can't get here fast enough."