Cullowhee, N.C. - For a second-consecutive year, Mother Nature wanted to put her stamp on Western Carolina'spreseason practice. The Catamounts bookended Wednesday's 16th preseason practice session with approximately 80 plays from scrimmage after enduring over a 90-minute weather delay at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Just after the fourth series of Wednesday's scrimmage, lightning flashed from threatening skies on the horizon just to the north of Cullowhee. As per NCAA regulations, the team sought shelter inside the Ramsey Center for the mandatory 30-minute delay. Though the storms -- minus a few stray sprinkles -- mostly stayed away from Whitmire Stadium, the team was forced to sit for just shy of two hours before returning to the field.
"We had a pretty good scrimmage. Guys got after it a little bit," said fifth-year head coach Mark Speir following Wednesday's weather-elongated practice session. "It's always frustrating when you get out here and then lightning hits -- and it just wouldn't go away, just one little cell hanging over practice. But it all worked out well -- we got about 80 plays with 40 for the first team and 40 with the second."
In a reversal of last weekend's first preseason scrimmage, it was the offense with the early upper hand in the rematch. WCU's offensive unit successfully executed its task on its first five-consecutive series including a pair of touchdowns and a 41-yard field goal by Logan Howard before the defense recorded its first stop.
All told, WCU's offense reached the end zone four times, adding the one field goal on the day. The second half of the scrimmage was more evenly played with the defense posting six-consecutive stops to end the day including a pair of interceptions that halted drives.
"Overall, I thought the offense did run the ball better than we did last Saturday," Speir added. "Both quarterbacks are still throwing the ball well and both of them are still doing a good job leading our football team -- I think our football team would rally around either one of them right now."
Those two quarterbacks Speir alluded to -- junior Wes Holcombe and redshirt freshman Tyrie Adams -- again split the reps equally on Wednesday. Both led two touchdown drives apiece with Holcombe adding the first scoring drive capped by Howard's field goal. Adams finished the scrimmage 12-of-23 passing for 142 yards with a touchdown, but was intercepted twice. Holcombe was very efficient, finishing 6-for-8 for 43 yards through the air, aided on two scoring drives by long rushes by his backs.
Including a 54-yard touchdown scamper up the middle, freshman tailback Donnavan Spencer paced the Catamount ground game with 63 yards on three carries as six different backs recorded rushes. Redshirt sophomore James Foushee, who paced WCU in its first scrimmage, rushed a team-high seven times for 49 yards, adding a nine-yard score. The Sanford, N.C., native additionally caught a seven-yard TD pass out of the backfield.
Freshman Connell Young of Greensboro added a rushing touchdown while returning backs Detrez Newsome and Corey Holloway combined for 58 yards on seven attempts. And even with the protective gold jersey, Adams was equally as lethal with his legs, scrambling for over 75 yards, excluding any yardage on plays blown dead for quarterback sacks.
Nine different players recorded receptions including six receivers, two tight ends, and a running back in Foushee. After being held out of the first scrimmage, redshirt senior WR C.J. Goodman Jr. paced the squad with four catches for 68 yards including a scrimmage-long of 38 yards. Redshirt sophomore WR Jordan Mathis hauled in two passes for 34 yards while TEs Michael Helms Jr., and Aubry Payne combined for four catches for 35 yards.
On the defensive side of the football, many of the younger players saw the field more than the returners as WCU continues to build its depth chart. Second-year defensive back Mikey White paced the squad as he was credited with nine tackles, while classmate Mitchell Chancey recorded eight stops including two sacks and his fellow linebacker Kendall White posted five stops. Defensive lineman Tahjai Watt finished with five tackles including a sack, and also intercepted a pass on his rush, leaping with his arms extended to essentially pull the ball right out of the air for the pick.
Redshirt freshman DB Bryce Wilson added a second interception for the defense on a diving stab over the middle to accompany a pair of tackles. Newcomer DB Terrance Wilson posted three stops and a PBU while DE Daniel Nash was credited with a pair of stops with a pass deflection and a quarterback hurry while his counterpart Fred Mooring had a two of the defense's eight sacks.
Western Carolina will break from practice on Thursday, spending much of the day in position, unit, and team meetings before returning to the practice field Friday morning at 9:30 am in shells. The team will then aid the Western Carolina community with the annual Freshman Move-In Day before holding the final preseason scrimmage on Saturday at 2:30 pm. 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. Lock-in your seat for all five home dates with Catamount Football season tickets today.
Western Carolina fans are also encouraged to purchase tickets for the Sept. 3 season-opener at East Carolina in the designated WCU section through the Catamount ticket office. Additional road game ticket information including links to WCU's game against ETSU at the iconic Bristol Motor Speedway are also available online at CatamountSports.com.
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).
Donnavan Spencer: 3 carries for 63 yards, TD
James Foushee: 7 carries for 49 yards, TD
Connell Young: 6 carries for 15 yards, TD
Detrez Newsome: 4 carries for 23 yards
Corey Holloway: 3 carries for 35 yards
C.J. Goodman Jr. -- 4 catches for 68 yards
Jordan Mathis -- 2 catches for 34 yards
Aubry Payne -- 2 catches for 20 yards
James Foushee -- 2 catches for 15 yards, TD
Michael Helms Jr. -- 2 catches for 15 yards
Hunter Jacobs -- 2 catches for 9 yards
Mikey White -- 9 tackles
Mitchell Chancey -- 8 tackles, 2 Sacks
Tahjai Watt -- 5 tackles, Sack, INT
Kendall White -- 5 tackles
Devarius Cortner -- 4 tackles
Bryce Wilson -- 2 tackles, INT
Fred Mooring -- 2 tackles, 2 Sacks
Myreon Bennett -- 2 tackles, Sack
2016 Catamount Football -- Upcoming Fall Practice Schedule:
Thurs., Aug. 18 -- No Practice
Fri., Aug. 19 -- Practice #17 -- 9:30 am -- 11:30 am (shells); Freshman Move-In Day, 2:00 -5:30 pm
Sat., Aug. 20 -- Practice #18 -- 2:30 pm -- 4:30 pm (full, scrimmage)