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Catamount Football Completes First Preseason Scrimmage

Defensive lineman Eric Banford (96) tracks down running back Shaun Warren (22) during Saturday's scrimmage. (Photo by Mark Haskett)

Aug. 11, 2012

Recapping Saturday in Cullowhee (VIDEO)

Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina held its first official scrimmage of the preseason on a sunny but mild Saturday afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. Both the offensive and defensive unit had bright moments during Saturday's scrimmage, the 11th practice of the 2012 preseason and the centerpiece of a busy day on the mountain campus.

Football Scrimmage Photo Gallery

"I liked the intensity; we got 140 plays in today and that is a big day," said first-year head coach Mark Speir. "I thought we were in great shape. I didn't see a lot of fatigue and that is important. Coach (Jeff) Pitman and his staff have done a very good job with conditioning and we are pretty good as far as our physical condition. Offensively, I thought we did some great things, but we just killed ourselves with penalties and mistakes. On defense, I thought we flew around today. I thought we hit people; we didn't give up many big plays and that is always a really big goal for us. Kicking was really good; our field goal kickers went out and did a really nice job, didn't miss an attempt. I'm really proud of those guys."

"Overall, I think we're on track. We've just got to clean it up. I keep beating a dead horse, but it's all about consistency, consistency, consistency. With that, we have a chance to be a very good football team," added Speir.

There were a combined 26 series with varying starting points during Saturday's head-to-head scrimmage. Of the 15 series prior to the halftime break, the defense scored eight stops while limiting the offense to success seven times including four field goals and just two touchdowns. After the break, there were 11 series with the offense scoring six touchdowns against five defensive stops - including four-consecutive to start the second half of the practice.

Three quarterbacks split the reps with the squad running just first and second team units. The trio of signal callers were each intercepted as the defense forced four turnovers on the day. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Eddie Sullivan had the best passing day, completing 16-of-29 passes for 152 yards and one interception. Sullivan added 75 yards on the ground including a long rush of 50 yards.

True freshman quarterback Troy Mitchell impressed the nearly 200 fans in attendance by finishing 10-of-14 for 96 yards and a pick, but amassing 69 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Redshirt freshman Jawan Simmons only threw one pass that was intercepted before suffering a lower leg injury that sidelined him most of the scrimmage. Simmons did rush for eight yards on three attempts, coming out after what was his third run.

Sophomore Shaun Warren rushed for a team-high 102 yards on 12 attempts with a pair of touchdown romps, while senior Michael Vaughn toted the ball a team-best 15 times for 59 yards and a score - a three-yard plunge to end the scrimmage. C.J. Goodman, who came to WCU as a quarterback before being converted to corner back and then wide receiver, made the third change of his young Catamount career by moving over with the running backs. The Mableton, Ga., native averaged 4.6 yards per carry, finishing with 51 yards on 11 carries. Classmate Darius Ramsey scored twice for the offense, finishing with 27 yards on 12 touches.

Listed as a wide receiver, Brandon Littlejohn recorded the longest rush of the day of 68 yards as he and Mitchell combined on an option rush to the left before being forced out of bounds at the eight yard line.

Combined, 14 different receivers caught passes on Saturday afternoon with junior Jamil James leading the way with five receptions. Senior Jacoby Mitchell finished four receptions for 40 yards while freshman Spearman Robinson also posted 40 yards receiving on three catches.

Defensively, WCU tallied four takeaways on the afternoon including three interceptions and one fumble recovery. Redshirt junior Randy Pressley dropped into coverage to intercept a Simmons offering early in the scrimmage for the first takeaway. On the ensuing possession, junior defensive lineman Brian Johnson pounced on a loose football in the offensive backfield recovering the fumble.

Freshman A.J. McKoy tallied the second interception as he dove to secure a tip by Pressley, with Terrence Green opened the second portion of the scrimmage with an interception of Sullivan. WCU's defense recorded four consecutive series stops to open the second half.

Three players led the team by recording nine tackles apiece during the just over 90-minute scrimmage on Saturday. Defensive backs Ace Clark, Ben Watkins and linebacker Nathaniel Sedergren paced the defensive unit. Two players were credited with seven tackles apiece in Pressley and Trevor Taylor. Pressley led the way with two of the team's nine tackles for loss during the scrimmage with Johnson recording four stops including the lone quarterback sack. Linemen Eric Banford and Caleb Hawkins were both credited with a quarterback hurry on the day.

On special teams, five different kickers contributed in the scrimmage. Richard Sigmon and Jarrod Couch both kicked off with Clark Sechrest and Blake Metcalf punting midway through the scrimmage. Sigmon knocked through field goals of 25 and 33 yards in the first half of the scrimmage, while Sechrest connected from 40-yards out for the long of the day. Couch also banged through a 20-yard field goal in the scrimmage. With newcomer Phil Fiebernitz joining the other kickers, the specialists combined to go a perfect 8-for-8 on PATs.

Saturday's football scrimmage culminated a full day of activities on-campus in Cullowhee that got underway with both Catamount volleyball practice in the Ramsey Center Auxiliary Gym and the "Catamount 101: Ladies Love Football" clinic. Over 75 participants took part in a mid-morning brunch and cocktails, fashion show and informative meetings with the WCU coaching staff.

Festivities continued with the Catamount Tailgate Kickoff as members of the Catamount Club participated in both a cookout on the Jordan-Phillips Field House porch and a tailgate parking selection process. Second-year head coach Chad Miller and the WCU women's soccer team also practiced skills on the turf with club members and fans alike looking on.

Catamount 101: Ladies Love Football Photo Gallery

"That Catamount 101 was a great time for our coaches and our wives to interactive with the community, alumni and Catamount Club members. Those ladies here today were awesome," said Speir.

Western Carolina's players, coaches and staff will enjoy their first off-day from the practice field since opening camp back on Friday, Aug. 3. The squad will hold a team meeting Sunday afternoon which will be followed by a breakdown of the film from the scrimmage. The Catamounts return to the field on Monday, Aug. 13, for the third two-a-day practice of training camp.

Catamount Football Injury Update: - Five defensive linemen and one linebacker started the day on the sidelines ... Pete Balthrop, John McBeth and Helva Matangulu did not dress, as well as Andre Shishkin who is nursing an elbow injury ... LB Impa Kasanganay was also held out of practice;

- Transfer Keensen Chambers did not participate in the scrimmage because Saturday was just his second practice of the preseason and by NCAA regulations ... he is not in full pads until after the fourth practice;

- Defensive lineman Adam Selby suffered an undisclosed injury during the scrimmage

- Offensively, only one player was held out at the start of Saturday's scrimmage as senior RB Michael Johnson did not participate in the session ... Johnson was joined on the sidelines by redshirt senior WR Gary Green as he suffered a lower leg injury early in the scrimmage as he was twisted up after making a reception in live action and did not return ... Redshirt freshman quarterback Jawan Simmons also suffered a lower extremity injury on a designed running play to his left midway through the scrimmage and did not return;

- All injuries will be re-evaluated through the Western Carolina Athletic Training Room on Sunday, the squad's off-day.