Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina unofficially closed its 2017 preseason fall camp on Saturday afternoon, holding its third and final scrimmage on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. The squad worked three different units with the bulk of the roster seeing action as the team clicked through close to 100 plays in the "Meet the Cats" scrimmage on a sunny, hot, and humid afternoon.
"This was more about getting everybody their final reps -- especially on our two's and three's -- to see who that 64 is that will get on the airplane to go to Honolulu here in two weeks," said sixth-year head coach Mark Speir following Saturday's scrimmage. "Today we saw a lot of twos and a lot of threes out there because this was our last (scrimmage) opportunity."
Speir stated that often times on Saturday, some of the players were on the field with teammates that they may not have worked with much this preseason -- quarterbacks throwing to receivers they weren't always accustomed to throwing to, switching up offensive linemen, etc., as both sides rotated a lot of players.
All seven quarterbacks saw action with four -- returning starter Tyrie Adams, Ray Smith, Wes Holcombe, and Nolan Beasley -- each wearing the protected red jersey. The remaining three freshmen QBs -- Will Jones, DJ Thorpe, and Tucker Woolum -- were all live during the scrimmage.
Adams completed 6-of-15 passes for 86 yards, adding close to 20 yards on the ground in the restricted conditions. He had a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Owen Cosenke called back due to a formation penalty. Smith was 5-of-10 for 31 yards while Jones finished 5-of-9 for 73 yards -- 44 of which came on a touchdown strike to Tyran Reynolds, the longest play from scrimmage on Saturday. Holcombe completed both of his pass attempts.
Nine different players recorded receptions in the scrimmage led by redshirt senior Terryon Robinson who caught two passes for 48 yards including a long of 40 on an over-the-shoulder grab in traffic from Adams. Cosenke ended up being the most targeted receiver, making five receptions for 47 yards.
Freshman running back Caleb Ferguson was impressive, rushing a combined 13 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. He also had a second scoring rush from 17 yards out negated by a penalty. Redshirt junior Corey Holloway rushed six times for 16 yards, adding a rushing touchdown in short-yardage, goal line situational play. Freshman Kenny Benton carried the ball twice for 11 yards.
Starting tailback Detrez Newsome also wore a protected red jersey and was used sparingly during the scrimmage.
Defensively, the Catamounts recorded a combined 12 defensive stops that included one missed field goal in special teams action. The unit combined for six pass break-ups from six different defenders, seven quarterback hurries, six sacks, and nine tackles for loss while also tallying a takeaway with a fumble recovery as 30 different players were credited with tackles -- 15 with multiple stops.
Highlighting the defense was Devarius Cortner who led the team with seven total tackles including two tackles for loss one of which was a sack. Linebackers Tahjai Watt and Mitchell Chancey both had five tackles apiece with Watt recording three sacks and a quarterback hurry while Chancey tallied two tackles for loss with a sack. Linebacker Ty Harris and defensive back JerMichael White were credited with four tackles apiece, both with a tackle for loss, while Kendall White had two tackles and a pass break-up with Jake Helms also recording two hits including a sack with two hurries.
Defensive lineman Holden Edwards recovered an offensive fumble for the only turnover of the scrimmage.
Two placekickers split the uprights on Saturday as Joel Poinsette connected from 36 yards out while missing on a 41-yard attempt wide right. Joshua Gibson made a 39-yard attempt with both kickers connecting on their lone PAT attempts.
Punter Destry Barnwell punted twice for an average of 40 yards, while Ian Berryman punted once during the scrimmage for 37 yards, downing the kick inside the receiving team's 20-yard line. Berryman was impressive in the mid-scrimmage special teams break, angling two punts that were downed inside the 10-yard line.
Western Carolina will conclude preseason fall camp on Sunday with a pair of meetings -- one in the morning to review Saturday's scrimmage and an afternoon meeting that will be followed by a special teams workout in shells on the turf. The team will enter its seasonal practice schedule the first of the week, taking Monday off for the opening of the fall semester.
"I thought it was a great preseason; it's been our best preseason so far," Speir said, reflecting over the past two-plus weeks. "Our guys, number one, came in in great shape. Coach (Evan) Barr and the strength staff did a great job having them prepared. We didn't have a lot of injuries, came out of it pretty healthy. And I thought every day, our guys came out with an attitude to get better. Every day wasn't a pep rally; I felt like we only had two bad practices. But for the most part, I thought our leadership was really good."
Western Carolina Athletics is scheduled for a special Facebook Live event on Monday, Aug. 21 beginning at 2:15 pm during the Great American Eclipse. Speir will be on-hand to talk about the 2017 preseason while also showcasing the eclipse and its near path of totality across the WCU campus. Catamount football will also unveil the special Blackout uniforms that will be worn during (Please note, with the expected influx of people to the western North Carolina area, there may be minor technical issues; if the event is unable to be shown live, it will be loaded as soon as possible on Monday).
Both season and single-game tickets for all five home dates of Western Carolina's 2017 football season are on sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center and online at CatamountSports.com. Fans can also call the ticket office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401.
Important Upcoming Dates in Catamount Football:
Monday, Aug. 21 - First day of fall classes; "Solar Eclipse Blackout Uniforms" Facebook LIVE event presented by Stanberry Insurance
Saturday, Sept. 2 - 2017 Catamount Football season-opener at Hawai'i -- 6 pm HT / Midnight ET
Friday, Sept. 8 - 13th annual Bob Waters Memorial Golf Tournament at The Maggie Valley Club
Saturday, Sept. 9 - 2017 Catamount Football home-opener vs. Davidson in Cullowhee, N.C.
Friday, Oct. 27 - "The Mutt" Catamount Football Golf Classic at the Laurel Ridge Country Club
Keep track of everything related to Catamount football and WCU Athletics through its social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Twitter (@catamounts, @WCU_FB), and Instagram (wcu_catamounts), as well as video updates on the department's YouTube channel (CatamountSports).