Cullowhee, N.C. - The Western Carolina Catamount football team returned to the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field on Wednesday afternoon for a 13-period practice session that included a five-period intrasquad scrimmage with conference officials. The team went through regular practice drills for the first eight periods prior to the scrimmage.
On the heels of what third-year head coach Mark Speir referred to as "the best scrimmage since this staff has been here" - referencing last Saturday's two-hour session - Speir voiced his displeasure with Wednesday's session as a whole.
"I thought we came out and were very lethargic, very sloppy today," said Speir after addressing his troops on the turf. "I was very disappointed. Our coaches didn't coach very well - I didn't have them prepared. And our team didn't respond very well. But, we will see where this football team is because it is really the first bad practice we've had. We'll see how this team and how this coaching staff responds tomorrow."
Four quarterbacks took reps during the opening eight periods with just three seeing action during the scrimmage, each orchestrating scoring drives for the offensive unit on the day, all on four running plays. Senior Garrett Brown took most of the snaps with the first team unit while junior Troy Mitchell watched from the sidelines, providing insight to his counterparts - all by design from the coaching staff.
With the offense visibly working up-tempo, Brown led the QBs, unofficially finishing 11-for-16 for 149 yards. Freshman Wes Holcombe threw for 95 yards on 6-for-15 passing with 11 rushing yards and a TD on the ground while his classmate Jackson McDonald posted a 1-for-3 outing for eight yards, adding 11 rushing yards.
Including the quarterbacks - with Garrett Brown still wearing the protective gold jersey - nine different players recorded rushes in the scrimmage. Senior Shaun Warren led the way with 54 yards on three carries including a 30-yard touchdown run, while freshman Detrez Newsom toted the ball six times for 42 yards and an eight-yard scoring romp. Newsome added two catches for 53 yards out of the backfield including a shifty move near the line of scrimmage that resulted in a 36-yard gain on a fourth-down play during a seven-play scoring drive.
Junior Darius Ramsey carried the ball four times for 31 yards, adding two receptions for 25 yards. With freshman tailback Corey Holloway still out with an injury, tight ends London Richardson and Lee Pattillo got in on the rushing attack in the "jumbo" package. Richardson rushed four times for 22 yards including rumbling for an eight-yard touchdown in the red zone scenarios.
Including the aforementioned running backs, 11 different players caught passes with seven wide receivers and tight end Michael Helms, Jr., who led the offense with three catches for 70 yards including a long strike of 53 yards from that spurred a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive.
Three receivers recorded two catches apiece on the day with freshman Jordan Mathis finishing with 41 yards, redshirt sophomore C.J. Goodman tallying 17 and redshirt junior Karnorris Benson recording 13 receiving yards. Senior Jeff Moore added a 15-yard catch over the middle.
Western Carolina's defense earned a sack on the first play of Wednesday's scrimmage as linebackers Daniel Riddle and K.P. Hicks converged on Brown in the backfield. The unit then bent, but did not break as Brown guided the offense into scoring position, but a 41-yard field goal attempt sailed just wide left.
After two additional defensive stops, McDonald got the offense on the board by moving the unit 75 yards in nine plays, seven of which were rushes. Warren capped the drive with a 30-yard scamper off the right edge, using a caravan of blockers in to the freshly painted end zone on the field house side.
It was the first of back-to-back offensive touchdowns as Brown marched the offense 75 yards in five plays including the 53-yard pitch-and-catch with Helms on the second play. Ramsey hit pay-dirt from eight yards out to cash-in on the drive.
The Catamount defense again stiffened, though, with stops on the next four-consecutive possessions, three coming in the two-minute drill. Holcombe then snapped the drought for the offense with a seven-play, 68-yard march that was aided by Newsome's nifty reception and Mathis pulling down a 17-yard reception. Holcombe, who like McDonald was live in the scrimmage, punched it in from eight yards away on a read option keeper to the left side to successfully execute the two-minute scenario.
Three kickers combined to go a perfect 4-for-4 on PATs with Blake Metcalf (2-for-2), Richard Sigmon (1-for-1) and Tim Gawert (1-for-1) splitting the reps. During the early special teams kickoff drills, Sigmon and Metcalf did the kicking, both putting the football inside the five-yard line with each boot.
Defensively, 24 different players were credited with tackles with defensive backs Ace Clark, Fred Payne, and A.J. McKoy leading the way with seven stops apiece. Riddle and defensive back Damian Whitaker both finished with six tackles with three of Riddle's coming as sacks.
End Tahjai Watt and tackle Derrick Davis led the linemen with four tackles apiece with Watt and linebacker Stedman Lucas both swatting two passes. Watt added three quarterback hurries. Caleb Hawkins paced the short-handed defensive linemen with a pair of sacks.
The defensive unit also came up with two interceptions during skill work against the wide receivers just before the scrimmage session.
Nine players were held out of Wednesday's scrimmage session, most coming on the defensive side of the football. Defensive Linemen Dylan Sluder, Helva Matungulu, Tyler Junius and Andrew Mayton were out, as well as linebackers Sertonuse Harris and Trey Morgan who were also sidelined. Defensive back Bryson Jordan did not practice on Wednesday. On offense, tailback Holloway continues to be out with a hamstring issue, with wide receiver Tyran Reynolds not participating in practice.
Western Carolina will return to the practice field in full pads at 10:00 am on Thursday morning as the preseason continues.
2014 Catamount Football - Upcoming Fall Practice Schedule:
Thurs., August 14: Practice #16 - 10:00 am (full pads); Practice #17 - 5:25 pm (shells)
Fri., August 15: Practice #18 - 9:15 am (full pads); 2:30-5:30 pm, Help Freshman Move-In
Sat., August 16: Practice #19 - Scrimmage, 10:30 am (full pads)
Sun., August 17: Practice #20 - 2:00 pm (shells)
* Practice times are subject to change
Important Upcoming Dates to Remember:
Fri., August 15 - Catamount women's soccer vs. UNC Asheville (exhibition) (7:00 pm)
Sat., August 16 - Catamount football Intrasquad scrimmage (10:30 am)
Mon., August 18 - First day of fall classes at Western Carolina
Fri., August 22 - Catamount women's soccer vs. Eastern Kentucky (2014 home opener), 7 pm
Sun., August 24 - Catamount women's soccer vs. East Carolina, 2:00 pm
Mon., August 25 - Catamount Football single-game tickets go on sale
Fri., August 29 - Catamount cross country hosts the Western Carolina Invitational, 6:30 pm
Sat., August 30 - 2014 Catamount Football season opener at USF in Tampa, Fla.
Fri., Sept. 5 - 10th Annual Bob Waters Memorial golf tournament; Maggie Valley Club, Maggie Valley, N.C.
Sat., Sept. 6 - 2014 Catamount Football home opener vs. Brevard in Cullowhee
Fri., Sept. 26 - The Upstate Classic golf tournament; The Preserve at Verdae in Greenville, S.C.