Wide receiver Karnorris Benson caught three touchdown passes in Saturday's Spring Game scrimmage. (Photo by Mark Haskett)
April 21, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina's offense scored seven touchdowns and two field goals while the defense tallied 14 combined stops including forcing a fumble and blocking a field goal attempt on Saturday afternoon in the annual Spring Game held at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Divided into offense versus defense in the scripted scrimmage, the Catamounts worked through over 130 plays that spanned around an hour and 45 minutes.
Four quarterbacks split rotations in the offensive backfield on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore Eddie Sullivan and freshman Troy Mitchell wore the protected gold jerseys, while redshirt freshman Jawan Simmons, coming off a leg injury that sidelined him in the 2012 season, and true freshman Jonah Duggan took snaps as live participants.
Sullivan led the four QB's in passing, completing 11-of-14 passes for 149 yards and tossing three touchdowns. Duggan threw 13 passes with eight finding receivers for 99 yards and a TD, while Simmons finished 5-of-8 for 78 yards. Mitchell was just 1-for-5 with a 17-yard pitch-and-catch, adding 12 yards on the ground.
Eight different receivers caught passes for the Catamounts on Saturday afternoon with four hauling in touchdown receptions. Sophomore Karnorris Benson finished with a team-high seven receptions for 90 yards and three TDs while freshman C.J. Goodman caught six passes for a team-best 94 yards. Freshman Seth Curtis, a product of Murphy, N.C., caught three passes for 56 yards while also rushing four times for 11 yards with transfer wide receiver John Sullivan matching with three catches for 47 yards and a 28-yard touchdown reception.
On the ground, the Catamounts had three running backs tote the pigskin on Saturday afternoon, led by converted tailback David Giron. He rushed a team-high 23 times for 107 yards including a 15-yard TD rush in the second half of the scrimmage. Freshman Darius Ramsey rushed 10 times for 30 yards while Shaun Warren recorded three carries.
Quarterback Eddie Sullivan orchestrated the longest scoring drive of the afternoon on the first series of the scripted scrimmage. The offense moved 65 yards in nine plays, culminating with a 36-yard scoring strike to Benson.
After that initial scoring drive by the offense, the Catamount defense stepped up with eight-straight stops including four series that went three-and-out for the offense. Duggan led a drive that broke that string of stops, capped by a 32-yard field goal by freshman kicker, Blake Metcalf. The Asheville, N.C., product connected on both of WCU's field goals, adding a 36 yarder.
The defense then recorded consecutive stops with one drive halted by a quarterback sack by Brian Johnson and a second stalled by a K.P. Hicks sack, forcing a long field goal attempt that missed the mark. Sullivan then again jumpstarted the offense with an eight-play, 60-yard drive that ended with another long strike to Benson, scoring from 25 yards out.
Simmons put the offense back on the scoreboard in the second series after the scrimmage's halftime break, connecting with John Sullivan from 28 yards out. Sullivan came back to haul in the near perfectly-place, underthrown football amidst defensive pressure in the end zone.
On the ensuing possession, freshman defensive end John McBeth forced the game's only turnover, jarring the football loose from Benson after a short gain with Damian Whitaker emerging from the scrum with the ball.
The offense would add four more touchdowns after the break. Giron sliced in from 15 yards out with Simmons finding tight end Phillip Chavis on a 12-yard strike. Sullivan again hooking up with Benson in a first-and-goal scenario from the nine-yard line with Duggan connecting with freshman Chisolm Okolie for an 11-yard strike.
Defensively, the Catamounts were credited with eight sacks and 11 quarterback hurries on the afternoon. In addition to his one sack, Hicks paced the defense with 11 tackles with Coleman Cunningham amassing eight tackles including one for loss and a sack. A Southern Conference All-Freshman team selection a year ago, Sertonuse Harris finished with eight tackles with Caleb Hawkins finishing with seven stops including one for loss and three sacks - the most among the defensive line. Ace Clark finished with five tackles and broke up a pass play.
Both Brian Johnson and Pete Balthrop Jr., finished with six stops with Johnson tallying three sacks and a pass deflection and Balthrop sacking the QB once.
Saturday's spring game event culminated the NCAA-mandated 15 days of spring practice for the Western Carolina football team.