Cullowhee, N.C. - Under mostly sunny skies and hot, late summer temperatures, Western Carolina held its first true intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. In its 11th practice of the 2016 preseason, the Catamounts executed nearly 140 total plays during a two-hour session pitting the offense against the defense.
"I thought the guys came and played with a lot of energy. I thought our defense, in particular, really flew around and were real impressive with how they tackled today. They had a huge goal line stand and created some turnovers, so I thought it was an exceptional day for our defense," said WCU head coach Mark Speir following Saturday's scrimmage. "Offensively, I felt like our quarterbacks threw the ball well, but we didn't run it as good as I had hoped we would today."
"For the most part, I felt that it was a day that we can really build upon and get better -- we'll have a lot of teaching that will come off of today's film," Speir added.
Two quarterbacks split the most of the reps working with both the first and second string units. Redshirt freshman Tyrie Adams unofficially completed 15-of-24 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns and an interception, while junior Wes Holcombe finished 14-of-26 for 98 yards but was picked three times. Nolan Beasley saw action in two series at the end of the scrimmage, completing 1-of-2 passes, but looked impressive with several drive-extending scrambles though wearing the protective gold jersey.
Redshirt junior receiver Terryon Robinson led 13 different Catamounts to catch passes during Saturday's scrimmage. The Decatur, Ga., native hauled in six passes for a team-best 53 yards and a touchdown while redshirt senior tight end Michael Helms Jr., was second on the squad with four receptions totaling 23 yards. Redshirt freshman Brad Swan Jr., had the longest offensive play of the day on a 38-yard pitch-and-catch, finishing with two receptions for 44 total yards. Redshirt junior Hunter Jacobs caught the only other offensive touchdown pass on an eight-yard hook-up with Adams.
On the ground, five running backs shared the carries, combining for 142 rushing yards. Redshirt sophomore James Foushee rushed a team-high tying nine times for a team-best 43 yards while freshman Connell Young also touched the ball nine times for 33 yards. Junior tailback Detrez Newsome rushed for 38 yards on seven carries for the offense.
But much of Saturday's scrimmage belonged to the defensive unit under first-year coordinator, Dustin Landry. The Catamount defense limited its offense to four scores -- the two touchdown passes and a pair of successful field goals on five total attempts -- while forcing four takeaways in the passing game. The unit was also unofficially credited with six quarterback sacks and five quarterback hurries.
Redshirt senior linebacker Coleman Cunningham was credited with a team-best seven tackles while classmate Fred Payne posted six stops including a tackle for loss. A combined 2.5 of senior linebacker Tyson Dickson's five tackles were for loss with a sack, while defensive end Tahjai Watt had two sacks among his four tackles while also breaking up a pass and hurrying the QB.
Corners Trey Morgan and Keion Crossen combined for 10 stops -- five apiece -- both posting a pass break-up, while along the defensive line, freshman Jake Helms was impressive with five tackles including a sack while senior Daniel Nash was credited with two stops, two pass break-ups and a QBH.
In the kicking game, redshirt sophomore Ian Berryman boomed three kicks for an average of 55 yards including two boots over 50 yards in length with one touchback. Placekicker Logan Howard split the uprights twice on two field goals including a long of 47 yards and added two PATs.
Western Carolina returns to the practice field on Sunday afternoon for a short workout for the offense and defense with the bulk of the session to be spent around the special teams. The squad will hold its third two-a-day session on Monday before another scrimmage on Wednesday afternoon. As a reminder, all of WCU's preseason football practices are open to the public. It is respectfully requested that all spectators observe from the stadium seating area and avoid being either on the field or the sidelines for safety.
Both season and single-game tickets for 2016 are on sale now through the Catamount Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center, by phone at (800) 34-GOWCU, or online at CatamountSports.com. Western Carolina fans can also purchase tickets for the Sept. 3 season-opener at East Carolina in the designated WCU section through the Catamount ticket office.
Fans can keep track of all of WCU's preseason activities through the Catamount Athletics social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Instagram (wcu_catamounts), and Twitter (@catamounts), as well as video updates on the department's YouTube channel (CatamountSports).
Coleman Cunningham -- 7 tackles, INT
Fred Payne -- 6 tackles, 1 TFL, INT
Tyson Dickson -- 5 tackles, 2.5 TFL, Sack, QBH
Trey Morgan -- 5 tackles, TFL, PBU
Keion Crossen -- 5 tackles, PBU
Jake Helms -- 5 tackles
Tahjai Watt -- 4 tackles, 2 sacks, PBU, QBH
Marvin Tillman -- 3 tackles, INT
A.J. Newman -- 3 tackles, PBU
Daniel Nash -- 2 tackles, 2 PBU, QBH
Tra Hardy -- INT
2016 Catamount Football -- Upcoming Fall Practice Schedule:
Sun., Aug. 14 -- Practice #12 -- 3:45 pm -- 5:00 pm (shells)
Mon., Aug. 15 -- Practice #13 -- 10:00 am -- Noon (full); Practice #14 -- 5:15 pm -- 6:45 pm (shells)
Tues., Aug. 16 -- Practice #15 -- 3:30 pm -- 5:30 pm (shells)
Wed., Aug. 17 -- Practice #16 -- 3:30 pm -- 5:30 pm (full, scrimmage)
Thurs., Aug. 18 -- No Practice
Fri., Aug. 19 -- Freshman Move-In Day; Practice #17 -- 9:30 am -- 11:30 am (shells)
Sat., Aug. 20 -- Practice #18 -- 2:30 pm -- 4:30 pm (full, scrimmage)