Aug. 15, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina lined up for its second intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason on Wednesday afternoon, working right at two hours on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. All told, the team went through 22 separate drives with the line of scrimmage varying depending upon the situation.
Combined, the Catamount offense was successful on 10 drives including recording a pair of first downs on the opening two possessions and scoring eight touchdowns. The defensive unit came away with 12 total stops including one takeaway on an interception.
"Overall, I was very disappointed in our execution on both sides of the ball this afternoon. We had way too many penalties, gave up too many big plays and were just sloppy," said first-year head coach Mark Speir. "I feel like we missed an opportunity to get better today."
Three quarterbacks split the reps with redshirt sophomore Eddie Sullivan and true freshman Jonah Duggan seeing the bulk of the work in the backfield. Sullivan unofficially finished the scrimmage 13-for-24 for 225 yards, tossing both a touchdown and the lone interception on the afternoon.
Duggan completed 8-of-15 attempts for 85 yards, throwing and rushing for a touchdown. Freshman Troy Mitchell completed both of his pass attempts for 23 yards while rushing just once for six yards.
Eight different receivers caught passes on Wednesday afternoon with Karnorris Benson leading the squad with seven catches for a team-high 151 yards and two touchdowns, both on tosses from Sullivan. After five-consecutive defensive stops, the duo hooked up on a six-yard scoring strike for the first points by the offense. Senior Jacoby Mitchell caught four passes for 68 yards while Jamil James matched his catch output with four for 34 yards. Redshirt freshman Jeff Moore reeled in Duggan's TD toss as the rookie QB threaded the needle on a 21-yard scoring strike.
WCU's ground game unofficially chewed up 349 yards during the scrimmage with senior Michael Vaughn and sophomore Shaun Warren toting the load with backs Michael Johnson and C.J. Goodman sidelined. Vaughn carried the ball 25 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns while Warren rushed 17 times for 136 yards and a score on a 44-yard scamper.
Converted full back Joe Korac was pressed back into service in the backfield, carrying six times for 28 yards while the trio of quarterbacks added 38 yards and Duggan's rushing score. Freshman Seth Curtis also rushed once on offense.
Defensive highlights from Wednesday's scrimmage included junior linebacker Courtland Carson who was credited with a team-high tying seven stops including three tackles for loss while senior Rock Williams matched his counterpart with seven tackles, one behind the line. Redshirt sophomore safety Ace Clark tallied six tackles including one for loss with a pass break-up while senior Elijer Martinez came away with the lone turnover on an interception, adding another pass break-up on a play in the end zone. Redshirt sophomore Trevor Taylor also had six tackles for the defense.
In addition to Clark and Martinez, defensive backs Ben Watkins - who finished with five tackles - and freshman A.J. McKoy, as well as defensive lineman Eric Banford all posted pass break-ups. Defensive lineman Keensen Chambers posted five stops while frontline mates Brian Johnson and Bevans Robbs, as well as linebacker Randy Pressley all posted sacks.
As a group, WCU's defensive linemen recorded 20 tackles.
After surrendering consecutive first downs to the offense coming out from the three-yard line - including a 54-yard pitch-and-catch from Sullivan to Benson - the defense stiffened to force five-straight stops including the pick by Martinez. Sullivan then guided the offense on an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive again finding Benson, this time for a six-yard TD.
Following a three-and-out stop by the defense, Duggan moved the offensive unit 75-yards in eight plays where he found Moore on the spot-on post route for a score - the first of three-straight scoring drives for the offense. Mitchell guided the offense 60 yards for a touchdown capped by Vaughn with Duggan handing off to Vaughn and Warren for a second, 60-yard drive with Vaughn again plunging in for the TD.
All told, the longest offensive plays from scrimmage included Warren's 44-yard scoring romp, Benson's catches of 54 and 45 yards from Sullivan and a 36 yard catch by Jacoby Mitchell. Martinez returned his interception 27 yards before being brought down.
WCU's specialists were kept busy during the scrimmage as both punting and kickoff drills were sprinkled into the mix of offense-vs.-defense possessions. Richard Sigmon started the scrimmage a perfect 7-for-7 in field goals while Clark Sechrest was 4-for-5 prior to the opening snap. The unit finished 8-for-8 on PATs, rotating through five kickers on offensive scores with Sigmon and Sechrest both splitting the uprights twice while Jarrod Couch, Blake Metcalf and Phil Fiebernitz all punched through one apiece.
Western Carolina returns to the practice field on Thursday morning for a fully-padded practice scheduled to begin at 9:00 am. The next scrimmage session is planned for Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm.