Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina football held its first extended scrimmage on Wednesday afternoon, following-up a 45-minute workout with a 92-play, intra-squad scrimmage under sunny and hot conditions on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
After working through nine periods that included position, unit and special teams drills, the offense and defense lined-up with most of the coaches off the field and Southern Conference officials on-hand for a game-like, progressive scrimmage.
Fourth-year head coach Mark Speir was pleased with his squad's first extended scrimmage session overall, especially with the play of the defense.
"I thought the defense flew around; they played hard and made some big plays today. Our offense made some good plays, but I was disappointed in their consistency -- we just weren't clicking offensively," said Speir.
All told on Wednesday, the Catamount offense scored 19 points with both a rushing and passing TD while also connecting on two field goals despite missing one field goal and a PAT. Defensively, the Catamounts tallied a total of 11 stops with one turnover coming on a mishandled snap with Tahjai Watt coming up with the loose football.
Four quarterbacks saw snaps during the scrimmage with the returning tandem of senior Troy Mitchell and sophomore Wes Holcombe seeing the bulk of the reps. Mitchell led the way with 11-of-19 passing for 136 yards and a touchdown while Holcombe connected on 8-of-13 passes for a combined 39 yards. True freshman Kalen Whitlow misfired on just one attempt (4-of-5) for 20 yards while classmate Tyrie Adams attempted just one pass attempt. Whitlow added a two-yard rushing TD in the scrimmage.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Karnorris Benson and redshirt junior Spearman Robinson both finished with four receptions apiece to lead 10 different players with catches on Wednesday. Benson paced the squad with 54 receiving yards, while junior tight end Tyler Sexton was second with 31 yards coming on just one catch -- a brilliant pitch-and-catch from Mitchell over the middle that spurred a scoring drive.
Robinson finished with 29 receiving yards while Gary Richardson caught three passes for 24 yards among WCU's leaders.
Two of WCU's top projected running backs missed Wednesday's scrimmage as both senior Darius Ramsey and redshirt freshman Corey Holloway were held out of practice for precautionary reasons. That turned the bulk of the ground attack over to four different backs, as well as the four QBs in the program's read option.
Transfer running back James Foushee carried the ball 11 times for 66 yards including an impressive long rush of 40 yards to lead the way, while sophomore Detrez Newsome rushed eight times for 48 yards. WCU additionally pressed receiver Steffon Hill into service in the backfield, and he turned some heads by toting the ball nine times for 30 yards. Rounding out the backs, freshman Jeremiah Young rushed twice for nine yards.
Defensively, junior linebacker Tyson Dickson and freshman defensive back Marvin Tillman were credited with a team-high seven tackles with Dickson tagging-off for a sack and two tackles for loss while Tillman posted a pair of TFLs. Redshirt sophomore Daniel Riddle and sophomores Chris Seaborn and Keion Crossen each recorded four tackles.
Junior corner Trey Morgan tallied a pair of tackles and led three players with pass break-ups with two, while redshirt freshman Shane Samuels and true freshman Bryce Wilson both broke-up one pass attempt.
On special teams, sophomore Destry Barnwell punted twice for 96 yards, averaging 48 yards per kick while Ian Berryman punted once for 37 yards. Freshman Logan Howard hit an 18-yard field goal with one PAT while Brett Metcalf split the uprights from 28 yards away to conclude the scrimmage.
WCU's defense tallied consecutive stops on the first six possessions of the scrimmage, forcing a three-and-out before stiffening after a nice drive by the offense that culminated in a field goal attempt that sailed just wide right on the first two offensive drives.
Mitchell broke that string by orchestrating a 10-play scoring drive that Logan Howard punctuated with a field goal to get on the board.
The offensive unit again responded under Mitchell two series later, moving 75 yards in 10 plays with Benson catching a slant-route TD pass. The drive was spurred by an 18-yard rush by Detrez Newsome and a 15-yard reception by C.J. Goodman. Newsome converted a third-and-three situation with a five-yard run to help set-up Mitchell's scoring pass from 18-yards out.
Other scoring in the scrimmage came on Whitlow's two-yard touchdown rush that was set-up by a 40-yard romp by Foushee, and Metcalf punching through a 28-yard field goal to cap a six-play scoring drive orchestrated by Holcombe.
Western Carolina is scheduled for a fully-padded morning practice on both Thursday and Friday, aiding with campus-wide freshman move-in day on the latter. The Catamounts will hold their most extensive scrimmage of preseason camp on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm. As a reminder, all of WCU's preseason football practices are 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 the sidelines for safety. Start times are subject to change.
Fans can keep track of preseason activities through the Catamount Athletics social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports) and Twitter (@catamounts), as well as video updates on the department's YouTube channel (CatamountSports), as well as online at CatamountSports.com.
Both single-game and season tickets for 2015 are on-sale now through the Western Carolina Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center. Fans can purchase a reserved adult season ticket for all five home games for just $125 with youth reserved starting at $65. Call the ticket office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401, or purchase any time online at CatamountSports.com.
2015 Catamount Football -- Upcoming Fall Practice Schedule:
Thurs., August 13: Practice #12 (full) -- 11:00 am
Fri., August 14: Practice #13 (full) -- 9:15 am
Sat., August 15: Practice #14 (scrimmage) -- 2:00 pm
Sun., August 16: Practice #15 (shells, special teams emphasis) -- 2:45 pm
Mon., August 17: First Day of Classes (OFF)
* Practice times are subject to change
Important Upcoming Dates in Catamount Football:
Friday, Aug. 14 -- WCU Freshman Move-In Day
Monday, Aug. 17 -- First day of classes for the fall semester
Saturday, Aug. 22 -- "Meet the Cats" -- scrimmage 3-5 pm; meet with WCU student-athletes
Friday, Sept. 4 -- 11th Annual Bob Waters Memorial golf tournament in Maggie Valley, N.C.
Friday, Sept. 4 -- Catamount Football Season Ticket Holder pep rally at Tuck's Tap & Grille in Cullowhee
Saturday, Sept. 5 -- 2015 Catamount Football season-opener vs. Mars Hill in Cullowhee, N.C. (Post-game fireworks presented by Ingles, 99.9 Kiss Country and Star 104.3)