Aug. 18, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina wrapped up its preseason fall camp on Saturday afternoon, practicing for right at two hours on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. The 20th scheduled practice was mostly held under scrimmage situations, and like when drills began on August 3, they were concluded with a welcomed but brief summertime rain shower.
"I thought we came out today with a lot of intensity and I felt like both sides did some really nice things. They were both upbeat; the offense had a good tempo and the defense was flying around. There were a lot of really good licks hit today," said first-year head coach Mark Speir on the turf following the scrimmage.
Speir was quick to point out some of the areas he still wants to see improvement though, stating "we've still got the overriding theme of penalties. We've got to get those cleaned up and once we do, I think we've got the chance to be a really solid football team."
The practice opened with team stretch and individual position drills before 10 different scripted, game-like situations from various down-and-distance and included special teams on kickoff and punt, as well as returns. The opening session ended with a nine-second drill where the offense had to run off the field to give way to the field goal unit.
The scrimmage portion of Saturday's practice featured over 100 plays and 21 total drives with the defense scoring eight stops including two turnovers on interceptions with the offensive unit recording success on 13 drives including seven touchdowns and five field goals. Six of the TDs came on the ground with freshman tailback Darius Ramsey rushing for two scores, while backfield counterparts Shaun Warren and Michael Vaughn also posted one rushing touchdown apiece.
Vaughn led the team with 89 yards on the ground on 10 carries while Ramsey accumulated 75 yards on 12 rushes. Warren led the way with 17 touches, finishing with 70 yards on the ground. The trio of running backs also hauled in five passes out of the backfield combined.
Three quarterbacks split the series on Saturday afternoon during the series, combining for 139 yards passing. Redshirt sophomore Eddie Sullivan completed 6-of-13 passes for 36 yards and one interception, adding 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Freshman QB Jonah Duggan connected on 6-of-11 for 88 yards with Troy Mitchell finishing 3-for-5 with a pick for 15 yards and the lone passing score of the scrimmage. Mitchell also rushed for 19 yards and a score.
Ten different receivers caught passes on Saturday afternoon with sophomore wide out Garrett Brown leading the way with three catches for 62 yards. The Asheville, N.C., native turned in the longest play from scrimmage during the drill on a 54-yard pitch-and-catch from Duggan. Senior Jacoby Mitchell caught two passes on the day while converted receiver Michael Helms Jr., pulled down a five-yard touchdown pass from Troy Mitchell.
Defensively, the Catamounts came away with a pair of takeaways as freshman corner Jaleel Lorquet picked off Sullivan and linebacker Jeff Lucas stepped in front of a pass over the middle by Mitchell. Linebacker Courtland Carson was credited with nine tackles and a quarterback hurry to lead the squad, while Ace Clark and Rock Williams both finished with seven stops. Clark had one tackle for loss while Williams forced a fumble and broke up a pass on the afternoon.
Seeing his most extensive time of the preseason, freshman Sertonuse Harris recorded six stops while Ben Watkins had five. Four different linemen recorded sacks as transfer Keensen Chambers posted four stops including one on the quarterback with Bevans Robbs, Eric Banford and Pete Balthrop, Jr., all sacking the QB.
WCU's defense scored stops on three of the first four possessions of the scrimmage. After a break near the midpoint of the scrimmage, the defensive unit posted three-straight stops before limiting the offense to a field goal on its fourth possession after the stoppage.
On special teams, WCU connected on five field goals and were 7-for-7 on point after touchdown attempts. Junior Clark Sechrest booted three field goals of 42, 40 and 24 yards while connecting on his lone PAT attempt. Sophomore Richard Sigmon hit two field goals of 44 and 42 yards and was 2-for-2 on PAT kicks. Kickers Jarrod Couch (2-for-2), Blake Metcalf (1-for-1) and Phil Fiebernitz (1-1) all kicked extra points.
With classes starting in Cullowhee on Monday morning, Saturday's scrimmage concludes the training camp portion of the 2012 preseason. Speir reflected on the 16 days he and the staff have spent
"It didn't start here today or with this camp; this started with our off-season weights and the 5:00 am running. But, overall, I think it's been a productive preseason," said Speir. "Our whole deal was to change the mindset, change the culture. And I think our staff has done a great job of setting the foundation. What that'll relay in wins and losses, I have no idea. But what I do know is I am as proud as I can be of these young men. They've been through a brutal preseason. I told the guys to be proud of themselves."
"I've been a part of a lot of championship teams and a lot of good football teams, and this has been a tougher preseason by design. They stepped up to the challenge. I think we've got a great foundation; (the game on) August 30 is just the beginning of the transformation of this football program," he concluded.
Western Carolina now turns its attention to its 2012 season opener, scheduled for Thursday, August 30 in a pre-Labor Day date with the Mars Hill Lions. Kickoff of the special mid-week mountain tilt is scheduled for 8:00 pm. To purchase either season or single-game tickets (with the exception for the Appalachian State game) call (800) 34-GOWCU or log-on to www.CatamountSports.com.