Aug. 20, 2011
Related Links: Saturday Scrimmage Recap Video
Cullowhee, N.C. -
Through the first two scrimmages for the Catamount Football team during preseason camp, the offense with its new no-huddle, "pistol" formation held the upper hand over its defensive counterparts. The up-tempo flow and ability of the system to put the ball in the hands of the play-makers kept the defending 11 off-balance.
On Saturday afternoon, though, the ball bounced a different way with the defense seemingly holding the upper hand. Western Carolina's defensive unit limited the offense to just three touchdowns on 15 separate scenarios in the final preseason scrimmage held at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
"The defense had a great day today," said WCU head coach Dennis Wagner following his squad's 75-play scrimmage on Saturday afternoon. "I thought our tempo was still good on offense, but the defense has made some good adjustments and guys are used to playing at that pace which is what we wanted because now, when we get into a game, things will really slow down for them in regards of pace."
He continued, "Offensively, we've just got to be more consistent. We had a couple of turnovers today in fumbles that hurt us. There were some things that we did well, but we've got to continue to get better."
Saturday's scrimmage was moved up by two hours in an effort to avoid impending inclement weather that was forecasted for the early evening. The rain held off during the two-hour practice session with the skies opening up just 20 minutes after the squad had headed for the locker room after practice.
Working on red-zone scenarios from its own 25-yard line, the defense scored stops on the first two series. Junior transfer running back Michael Vaughn gained eight yards on a pair of carries, but the opening drive stalled when Elijer Martinez broke up Brandon Pechloff's pass attempt to Josh Cockrell.
On the second drive of the day, linebacker Marcus Stokes
pounced on a fumbled exchange in the offensive backfield, thwarting the would-be drive after just two plays.
Reset at the 25-yard line, Pechloff then guided the first touchdown of the day. Vaughn was the work-horse, carrying the ball on both first and second down before a defensive holding penalty on a third down pass attempt set the offense up at the 11-yard line. On the ensuing play, Pechloff found Vaughn on a swing pass out of the back for a touchdown.
Senior signal caller Zac Brindise and the offense capitalized on the score on the next possession, moving the squad 25-yards in three plays. Freshman running back Shaun Warren rushed twice for 20 yards including capping the drive with a 16-yard scamper for the score.
Pechloff finished 9-for-16 for 83 yards with a touchdown pass while Brindise was 4-of-9 for 16 yards and a scoring strike to freshman receiver Tyler Klipa. True freshman QB Jawan Simmons was the only other player to take snaps at quarterback, finishing 1-for-5 for 12 yards through the air.
Warren rushed eight times for a team-high 48 yards, while Vaughn ran for 40 yards on 13 touches and caught three passes for 21 yards and a TD. Redshirt sophomore running back Joe Korac also rushed nine times for 38 yards including a 13-yard romp on his first carry.
Eight different receivers caught passes on Saturday afternoon. Vaughn and senior Nate Harris both finished with a team-high three catches apiece, while Cockrell pulled in two for a team-best 33 yards. Redshirt sophomore Deja Alexander had one reception for eight yards while Gary Clark caught two offerings for 16 yards.
WCU's defense forced four three-and-outs and also came up with a fourth-down stop as defensive back Terrence Green scooped up a fumble on a fourth-and-short situation.
Other defensive highlights included tackles for loss by linebackers Nathaniel Sedegren and Austin Chambers and defensive linemen Pete Balthrop and Buddy Robinson. The latter duo also combined for a quarterback sack, joining line counterparts Brian Johnson, Tyler Smith and Isaiah Reupena who was credited with two sacks. Martinez, Stokes and lineman Andre Shishkin all posted pass break-ups.
Following Saturday's practice, the Catamount football team is off until Monday evening when it will begin its regular evening practice times. The squad will hold its annual Media Day on Saturday, Aug. 27.
Wagner added, "Our objective at this point is to now is to start focusing on Georgia Tech in practice; shifting gears and start our Georgia Tech preparation."
Western Carolina opens the 2011 season prior to the Labor Day holiday, visiting Georgia Tech on Thursday, Sept. 1. The Catamounts and Yellow Jackets - who are led by 1979 WCU graduate, Paul Johnson - will meet for the fifth time at Bobby Dodd Stadium with kickoff set at 7:30 pm.