Aug 17, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Both sides of the football showed signs of improvement on Saturday morning as Western Carolina held its final preseason scrimmage at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. WCU's offensive unit scored four touchdowns and converted three field goals while the defense came away with two interceptions and a fumble as a part of three takeaways in the 19th scheduled practice of the 2013 preseason.
Western Carolina will officially close its preseason camp on Sunday afternoon with a light workout - its 20th since August 2 - in helmets only with a major focus on special teams work.
"Today was a great way to finish out the preseason. Both sides got an opportunity to go out and shine, said Catamount second-year head coach Mark Speir following the scrimmage. "I'm really proud of these men; they've worked their butts off. This started back in January - this just didn't start in August. They were in winter gym at 5:30 am in the morning, through spring practice, and all of them staying up here this summer when they didn't have to. Then, just the way they've worked this preseason, it's been fun to watch this team grow, to bond, and just to see them coming together - starting to believe in each other."
He concluded, "We've had a tough, physical preseason. That part's over. Now, we've got to really polish up on the discipline and technique."
WCU's defense recorded 14 stops including the two picks and fumble recovery among the 23 combined series on Saturday. The defenders strung together six-straight stops at one point during the scrimmage - and successfully held the offense on 10-of-11 series at one point.
Offensively, the Catamounts were successful on nine of the various scrimmage scenarios, adding a 10th as Richard Sigmon and the kicking team successfully executed a 32-yard, last-second field goal in a hurry-up situation to end the practice.
Freshman tailback Garry Lewis shined on Saturday, rushing 14 times for a team-high 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns, adding one reception for 10 yards out of the backfield. The Fayetteville, N.C., native rattled off a long scoring run of 44 yards on the second series of the scrimmage and also scored from five yards out on a fourth-and-goal play. Lewis led the seven players who recorded rushes as the offense combined to run for 195 yards.
Three quarterbacks again split the bulk of the reps on Saturday with redshirt junior Eddie Sullivan finishing 12-of-25 for 113 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sophomore Troy Mitchell likewise tossed a TD pass with a pick, completing 7-of-12 attempts for 86 yards through the air while redshirt freshman Jonah Duggan completed his lone attempt for 12 yards.
Eleven different players caught passes on Saturday, two going for touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Karnorris Benson led the way with five catches for 55 yards including a three-yard touchdown. Redshirt freshman tight end Michael Helms Jr. was among five players with two catches, finishing with 23 yards and the other WCU passing TD coming on a 17-yard pitch-and-catch from Mitchell. Redshirt freshman Gary Richardson finished second on the day with 44 receiving yards on two catches while true freshman Willie Police tallied 33 yards on a pair of receptions.
Junior WR Garrett Brown hauled in what was a beautiful ball down the far sideline from Duggan for a 40-yard touchdown. However, the play was negated by a holding penalty. It was the only time Brown touched the ball.
Defensively, 11 different players recorded three-or-more tackles as the squad rotated through three different units. Backs A.J. McKoy and J.D. Polk paced the squad with six tackles apiece while freshman Fred Mooring was credited with five tackles including three for loss.
Clemson transfer Dante Stewart made four stops on the afternoon and came away with his first interception for the Purple & Gold on a ball that deflected off the intended receiver where he corralled it for the takeaway.
Redshirt freshman transfer linebacker Lee Pattillo - who returned to the mountains after spending last season on roster at North Carolina State - made one of the more athletic moves of preseason to secure the other defensive interception. The Bryson City, N.C., product made a leaping snare at the goal line to pick off a Sullivan pass attempt, reaching to his left to get both hands on the line-drive pass for the pick, preventing an offensive touchdown.
In addition to his three tackles, senior defensive back De'Von Richardson was credited with a forced fumble, jarring the football loose on an inside handoff. Classmate Andre Shishkin nearly came up with the bouncing ball, but deflected it to his right where freshman Andrew Mayton was able to pull it in for another defensive turnover.
For WCU's specialists, practice began with each kicker getting three reps from 38 yards out. Junior Richard Sigmon connected on all three of his attempts prior to the scrimmage before adding boots of 40 and 36 yards during the scrimmage. He capped the day by splitting the uprights from 32 yards out in a special timed, end-of-the-game scenario.
Dual kicker/punters Clark Sechrest and Blake Metcalf both finished 2-for-3 during the pregame special teams field goal segment. Backed to their own goal line, Sechrest punted three times for a 42.7 yard per punt average while Metcalf averaged 46.0 yards per punt on two attempts out of his own end zone. Metcalf hit his one field goal from 31 yards out during the scrimmage.
Fans can keep track of many of the preseason activities through the Catamount Athletics social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Twitter (@catamounts), YouTube (CatamountSports) and Instagram (wcu_catamounts). Additionally, CatamountSports.com will be updated throughout the 2013 preseason.
- Several players missed Saturday's final intrasquad scrimmage, mostly for precautionary or personal reasons ... WCU's defense was without linebackers Courtland Carson (ankle) and Marcus Stokes (knee), safeties Ace Clark (knee) and Sertonuse Harris (hip) and Brian Johnson (personal) ... the offense was without tailback Shaun Warren (back) and quarterback Jawan Simmons (toe);
- WCU remained relatively healthy during the scrimmage with just two offensive players suffering slight injuries during the scrimmage and did not return - running back Darius Ramsey (foot) and Karnorris Benson (hip pointer);
- All injuries will be re-evaluated through the Western Carolina Sports Medicine staff on Sunday prior to the final preseason practice session.
Garry Lewis - 14 carries, 122 yds, 2 TDs
Troy Mitchell - 9 carries, 11 yds
Darius Ramsey - 8 carries, 23 yds
Brandon Grady - 8 carries, 6 yds
David Giron - 6 carries, 8 yds
Eddie Sullivan - 5 carries, 31 yds
Jonah Duggan - 1 carry, (-6) yds
Karnorris Benson - 5 catches, 55 yds, TD
Gary Richardson - 2 catches, 44 yds
Willie Police - 2 catches, 33 yds
Michael Helms Jr. - 2 catches, 23 yds, TD
Brandon Grady - 2 catches, 10 yds
Steffon Hill - 2 catches, 4 yds
Terryon Robinson - 1 catch, 11 yds
Jeff Moore - 1 catch, 12 yds
Garry Lewis - 1 catch, 10 yds
Seth Curtis - 1 catch, 7 yds
David Giron - 1 catch, 2 yds
A.J. McKoy - 6 tackles
J.D. Polk - 6 tackles
Fred Mooring - 5 tackles with 3 TFL
Pete Balthrop, Jr. - 5 tackles
Tyson Dickson - 5 tackles
Stedman Lucas - 5 tackles
Dante Stewart - 4 tackles, INT
Ben Watkins - 4 tackles
Tahjai Watt - 4 tackles
De'Von Richardson - 3 tackles, FF
Andrew Mayton - 3 tackles, FR
Lee Pattillo - 1 tackle, INT
Richard Sigmon - 3-for-3 FGs (40, 36, 32) in scrimmage - 3-for-3 in pregame FG
Clark Sechrest - 3 punts, 42.7 yds/punt; 0-for-1 on PAT in scrimmage - 2-for-3 in pregame FG
Blake Metcalf - 2 punts, 46.0 yds/punt; 1-1 FG (31 yds) in scrimmage - 2-for-3 in pregame FG